IN WHAT he describes as a positive sign for the Clarence River Jockey Club and the local economy, CRJC executive officer Michael Beattie praised crowds and celebrated the numbers following this year's much-anticipated and highly successful July Racing Carnival.
Following on from last year's disappointing numbers, Mr Beattie said crowds were up every day on 2012 over the entire carnival, as much as 70% on Grafton and Maclean Cup days.
"The club is extremely happy to attract back the support lost last year," Mr Beattie said. "I believe the board's decision to roll back the entry price to 2009 levels was well-received and people voted with their feet and accepted the invitation and we're very happy about that."
But Mr Beattie also acknowledged last year's event coincided with the looming Grafton Jail closure, which he believes was a big factor affecting attendance at the time.
"It was difficult to celebrate the carnival in those circumstances," he said.
"At the time I believe the people of Grafton were not in the mindset to come and enjoy the day."
Praising the "very, very well-behaved crowds with hardly any incidents", Mr Beattie said he was happy with the choice of security and their local knowledge, as well as public transport to and from the event, helping the carnival to run smoothly.
"This year we were careful about the security we chose; the bulk of security were from local people... with local expertise," he said.
"Busways and Grafton Taxis were moving more people to and from the race course; it was seamless," he said.
"It was a wonderful co-operation between public transport operators."
Set against a backdrop of fine July weather, everything appeared to conspire this year to make the July Racing Carnival one of the best on the Australian racing calendar.
"Grafton Cup is undoubtedly one of the top three country race meetings in NSW, and in the top five in Australia. It's clearly the best racing event north of Sydney, there's no argument about that," Mr Beattie said.
"Now we as a club need to strive to maintain that position and get back to the major carnival status.
"We recognise the carnival provides a significant economic stimulus to the Valley and we need to be conscious not to lose sight of that."
"From a racing perspective we attract interest because of the quality of the product over a long, long time."
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