Track in good shape for the 2023 Cox Plate meeting

Moonee Valley track staff freely admit that preparing the course for the double-header Cox Plate Carnival is a challenge, and the plan for Friday night’s meeting is for a firmer track.

Since the final Moonee Valley meeting of the 2022/23 season back in March, their focus has all been about providing the best surface for the club’s showpiece weekend.

Moonee Valley is the only track to hold back-to-back meetings with the Flemington four-day carnival spread over a week as is the Caulfield three-day meeting.

Track staff spent four months rejuvenating Moonee Valley after the final March meeting, but there were howls of protest over how the track raced in the return meeting in late July and again in August.

It has raced better in recent meetings and the rail will be back in the true position for the Moonee Valley Cup eight race program on Friday night before the 10 race Cox Plate card on Saturday.

Track manager Marty Synan said a firmer surface for Friday night’s meeting will be followed by the track being given a ‘drink’ overnight to have the surface with a little give for Saturday’s card.

Synan said he and track staff would keep a weather watch with some light rain predicted through the middle of the week which would determine how much water is needed later.

Track staff continually monitor the moisture content across the course and can adjust their watering accordingly.

What Synan does not want to see is a repeat of last year’s fiasco when a thunderstorm dumped 36mm of rain on the course overnight.

Synan said he thought the Cox Plate meeting was lost at 11am, but the rain stopped, and the water was able to seep through and drain away.

The Strathayr track was laid in 1995 and is due to be replaced when the course is reconfigured after the running of the 2025 Cox Plate.

When laid, Moonee Valley was expected to handle between 700mm and 900mm an hour, not that Synan said there had ever been that amount fall at Moonee Valley.

However, over the past 28 years there has been a build-up of 150mm of organic matter on top of the Strathayr profile that has slowed the dispersion of rain, meaning water is held in the surface.

So, rain during a meeting fills divots made by horses which can lead the track to becoming unsafe.

Synan said if the top 150mm layer was removed and the track renovated, the surface would revert to the old Moonee Valley when Strathayr was first laid.

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