One third of the way into his grand final as SAJC track manager, it’s ‘so far, so good’ for Ian Ricardo – given what happened leading up to Oaks Day.
Morphettville was inundated with rain in the week before last Saturday’s 2020 Adelaide Autumn Racing Carnival opener, meaning the soft 7 rating was a pleasant surprise for many punters.
Ian admits he had one eye on the weather forecast all last week, and he has undoubtedly been doing the same this week, ahead of SA Derby day.
“Five or six years ago, 40mm or 50mm on this course proper for the week and we’d be in trouble,” Ian says.
“But it’s going okay. We’ve changed some practices and we’re applying fertilizers and wetting agencies and those things when we think it’s the right time. So far, so good, but you’re up against Mother Nature.”
In recent weeks, Ian and his team have been diligently preparing for the ‘COVID carnival’. However, the unique situation of major race days without crowds has had zero impact on their work.
“Yes, it’s very weird, but the boys still take a lot of pride in the place,” Ian says.
“The track’s great, the garden’s great, we’ve just got nobody here, but it doesn’t drop off.
“We only have four Group 1s a year and people are keen to present Morphettville as best they can. The boys are doing a great job.”
Ian has been with the South Australian Jockey Club for nine years, and is into his fourth year as track manager. Prior to that he spent 24 years at Moonee Valley, working in both facilities management and track management.
In recent years Morphettville’s two tracks have largely avoided the bias debates that occasionally engulf the eastern states’ carnivals. Ian attributes this phenomenon to the local tracks’ quality, and says this year’s decision to stay away from Morphettville during January has also helped.
“We had January off and that just gave us a few weeks for these tracks to recover after we do our renovations at the end of the year,” he said.
“We still have grass gallops and jump outs around the outside, but it was nice to have three quarters of the track untouched for two or three more weeks. It really put us in good shape for when we were back racing…
“Because if we’re not racing on one, we’re working on one, with our Tuesday gallops and so forth.
“Overall these tracks do a lot of work and they stand up pretty well. The Parks track for mine is one of the best wet-weather tracks I’ve been involved with.
“The StrathAyr at Moonee Valley was an excellent draining track and this Parks track is the same. It drains just as quickly, but it has a better foundation.
“We feel the course proper has lifted its game in the past few years too. We think it’s doing a good job at the moment.”
Heading into Saturday’s Group 1 meeting, Ian knows all he can do is cross his fingers that predicted rain holds off around Morphettville.
“From now on I’m in the lap of the gods,” he says.
The opening three races on Saturday’s card on are on The Parks circuit, while the remaining six are on the course proper.