Excitement builds as Eagle Farm passes big test
Eagle Farm moved a step closer to a December 22 return on Tuesday morning, with the new turf on the course proper tested under gallops for the first time.
A round of applause rang out from the small crowd assembled when Tony Gollan's pair Coldstone and Galtero completed the very first gallop, with the turf hardly marked.
It was in stark contrast to the huge divots that were taken out of the ground the morning Buffering galloped on the previous return to Eagle Farm in 2016.
A total of 13 horses galloped on Tuesday morning and jockeys gave the surface a big tick of approval.
The gallops were done in the middle of the course, with next week's trials to be conducted closer to the rail.
Jim Byrne, who had reservations about the previous track right from the outset, said he was ecstatic with how it felt after he galloped Of The Day.
"There's no kick back. They're bouncing off the grass roots. They don't appear to be getting into it at all," Byrne said.
"The way the track has galloped this morning, there's nothing but positivity.
"The only scuffing we are doing is of grass. There's no cutting into the grass, no lifting of the grass. It's nice and clean underfoot."
Racing Queensland Chief Executive Brendan Parnell said the trials/jumpouts scheduled for next Tuesday will be the deciding factor on racing returning on December 22, but all the signs were good.
"It will be a great Christmas present to have Eagle Farm back," Parnell said.
"We want to test the whole track. We will go further in for barrier trials and then close to rail true for the return to racing.
"How the track reacts to barrier trials, where there's bigger fields, a wider expanse of the track being used and then between Racing Queensland and the BRC we will lock in December 22.
"There is relief this morning. It's very encouraging and it's great for participants to feel that spring in their step, there was a cheer in the grandstand and that was fantastic.
Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said it's too early to say the mission is completed, but today's gallops were a most encouraging start in the evolution of the Eagle Farm track.
"Let's be cautious, let's be careful, but I'm really excited about the prospects of a return to the home of racing," Hinchliffe said.