Moonee Valley Racing Club chief executive Michael Browell says the club's decision to stage a Friday night meeting for the first time prior to the running of the Cox Plate will not affect the track for Saturday's weight-for-age championship of Australia.
With rain forecast for Melbourne for both Friday and Saturday, there are concerns the MVRC's decision to stage the Group One Manikato Stakes meeting on Friday night could result in a chopped up track for the club's most important meeting of the year - Cox Plate Day on Saturday.
The Cox Plate won't be run until 5.15pm on Saturday and will be the 16th of 17 races to be staged on the track inside 24 hours as the MVRC this year decided to stage its own carnival of more than one race meeting in much the same way as Caulfield (three) and Flemington (four) stage multiple meetings during their spring carnivals.
Browell told racing radio station RSN on Thursday that the rail would be in the true position for Friday night's eight race program and then be moved out three metres for Saturday's nine race Cox Plate program.
"It means we can make sure the horses on Saturday get fresh ground to race on so everyone will get a fair chance on an even racing surface on Cox Plate Day."
The MVRC has endured a difficult build-up to its premier meeting after failing to secure an international runner for the Cox Plate, being forced to change the starting time of the Cox Plate at the last minute to fit in with Channel Nine's broadcasting demands while Saturday's main support races have also attracted disappointingly small fields.
While the Cox Plate will have a capacity field of 14 for the second year in a row, the Moonee Valley Cup has attracted just 11 runners, the AAMI Vase for three-year-old just seven runners and the Crystal Mile just seven runners.
In particular the MVRC has copped flak over the small field for the Group Two Crystal Mile, which has regularly attracted fields of 12 to 14 runners in the past and was so often the best betting race on Cox Plate day.
The small field is being blamed on the club's decision to change the conditions of the race from a handicap to weight-for-age.
Browell accepted the criticism but defended the decision.
"There is definitely a difference between seven and say 10 runners both from a wagering and spectacle point of view, we won't deny that," he said.
"But there are not a lot of weight-for-age races over a mile (1600m) in the spring with the other big 1600m races in the Toorak and Emirates Stakes at Flemington both being handicap races.
"So we won't make a rash decision on whether to take the Crystal Mile back to a handicap just based on one year of attracting seven runners at WFA compared to the 12 or 14 we often had in handicap."
Browell also defended the failure of the MRVC not to attract an international runner for the Cox Plate despite foreign trained horses having already lined up in much less lucrative races such as the Geelong Cup and Herbert Power Handicap.
"There is no secret of the challenges the club face and the Cox Plate is the hardest race to sell to overseas runners when it's run on a (tight) track like the Valley, particularly when the international middle distance program at weight-for-age is so strong," he said.Browell said the club would also put measures in place to ensure there is no repeat of this year's row over the starting time of the Cox Plate after the club learnt just four weeks ago that Channel Nine wanted the race moved forward from its original starting time of 5.35pm so it could finish its coverage of the meeting by 5.30pm to enable it show popular travel show Getaway as the lead-in to its news service.
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