Spectators shun Sensational Sunday

HORSE RACING

The Illawarra Turf Club were left scratching their heads at a perplexing Sensational Sunday crowd, but don't expect a date change any time soon for Kembla Grange's biggest race day.

A crowd of just on 2000 people meandered through the gates last weekend - a far cry from what many ITC powerbrokers had hoped for.

It couldn't be blamed on the promotion for the event, which well and truly let the Illawarra public know about the day.

One drawcard even included giving away a car valued at $20,000 to a lucky patron just for bringing a coupon with them on course.

Maybe the adverse weather conditions on Saturday night kept some people away, but the following day was a belter to be at the track.

What is for certain is that the Illawarra Mercury Keith Nolan Classic (1600m) has very little flexibility in the racing calendar if it's to still be considered a serious Australian Oaks (2400m) stepping stone.

"To keep the integrity of the race it needs to be at this time of year," ITC chief executive Peter De Vries told The Punt. "They won't let us race on a Saturday in opposition to a carnival meeting at the ATC and you really have very little else you can do with it.

"It sits precariously on that position for advancement."

The ITC board will convene next month, with the Sensational Sunday crowd to be high on their agenda.

What might be a little more pleasing is the quality of racing on the day. Zanbagh, the Keith Nolan Classic winner, will almost certainly add a G1 victory to her resume in either the Vinery Stud Stakes (2000m) or Australian Oaks.

It would be another trigger for organisers to lobby for the race to be elevated to Group 2 status.

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