With massive bushfires continuing to cause havoc on the north coast of NSW, it becomes a waiting game to see whether the scheduled race meeting at Port Macquarie can be staged this Thursday.
The grave situation which developed last Friday left racing officials no alternative but to cancel the balance of the Kempsey Cup program due to safety concerns for participants and patrons with the prevailing conditions around fires, smoke and road accessibility.
It is hoped that a change in weather conditions and control of fire activity in the immediate area will ensure the meeting can be conducted.
Port Macquarie Racing Club president Greg Delaforce echoed the thoughts of all racing participants in expressing his deepest sympathy to those who have lost loved ones, property, pets and livestock in the tragic events unfolding.
Delaforce acknowledged the tireless efforts of the firefighters, support staff, associated personnel and volunteers who have assisted so magnificently in controlling the blazes with the successful staging of the program set to provide a great boost for the local area at this time.
The Carlton Dry Open Handicap is the feature event on the program with Chief in Command looking well placed following a solid fourth in similar company when beaten just over a length by Shauquin at Doomben some three weeks ago.
The well-travelled son of Churchill Downs returned to the stables of Donna Grisdale and was responsible for a sound fourth in the Untamed Sprint at Lismore on Cup day following a resumption from a long spell.
A recent Wyong placing followed by the Brisbane effort provides plenty of positives for Team Grisdale in the chances of Chief in Command for the Coffs Harbour trained galloper's feature assignment.
Golden Comet is the obvious danger for the event with the Strategic Maneuver gelding possessing a wonderful overall record of seventeen starts for six wins and four minor placings.
With an almost fifty percent winning strike rate at Port, a last start victory in the Jacaranda Prelude at Grafton under his belt and the recent success being enjoyed by the Margaret De Gonneville stable, there is great confidence around the chances of Golden Comet.
Other hopes include the last start track winner, Salad Dodger, who has the limit weight and is stepping up in class but is gaining confidence with every start following recent victories while The Pharoah is looking set to capitalise on his recent Nowra success.
Interstate arrivals to the district have proven successful in recent times and there will be plenty of interest surrounding the Alan Hayden trained gelding, Another Option, in the opening event on the program.
The Master of Design gelding transfers from Victoria with creditable runs on grass and synthetic surfaces and the benefit of a good second behind Mr Magoo in a recent barrier trial should provide a forward showing.
Betting operations should be followed closely in the event as the flashy chestnut from the Jenny Graham yard, Manly Hanover, is debuting in the race with a recent Beaumont trial under his belt.
The stable also have a live chance later in the program when Magnalane contests the Class 1 following a Muswellbrook placing in record time before a useful effort at Grafton behind Moonhawk.
The Benchmark 66 provides an intriguing challenge with the clash of last start winners, First Time Lucky, Our Girl Babs and Greenskeeper while there will be plenty of interest surrounding Jeremy Sylvester's decision whether Dukes County takes part in the following race or elects to run the gelding at the corresponding card at Quirindi.
The seven-race program will commence at 1.50pm.
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