Ellerslie's refurbished racing surface has passed the test that so many New Zealand race tracks have failed in recent years.

And while ARC bosses aren't surprised, it gives them plenty of reason for confidence heading into their massive Christmas carnival.

Jockeys have been full of praise for Ellerslie since the track re-opened in late October after extensive drainage work over the winter.

While it has provided fair racing and a nice cushion during a busy start to December, the real test of whether the surface was improved was always going to be when there was significant rainfall on race day.


Ellerslie got that on Sunday and it wasn't without some initially nervous times.

"When it rained mid-meeting it was very heavy for a while and you could see a few of the jockeys staring out at the track looking a bit worried," admits Ellerslie chief executive Paul Wilcox.

"But I was talking to Vinny [Colgan] and he said as soon as he got out there for the next race you could feel the horses getting their toe into the track and not slipping so any concerns they had disappeared straight away.

"So while it is never great to get rain on race day we knew that was a test we needed and we passed it.

"I'm not surprised but we still had to see it proven and now it has been."

Senior jockey Leith Innes is one of the game's hardest markers and he said the improvement was obvious.

"The bottom line is this, we had a lot of rain on a dry track and it didn't become slippery or unsafe," says Innes.

"Which meant we could get through the race day safely and the racing pattern still seemed fair.

"They have good track staff there. Jason [Fulford] and his team have done a really good job."

After three meetings in eight days, Ellerslie has this week off before the rail returns to the true position for Boxing Day, providing almost 10m of inside track that hasn't been raced on for over two weeks.

With one weather question answered, the Auckland Racing Club is now hoping a different type of forecast will turn up for the middle of next week as they are already looking at a huge Boxing Day crowd.

"We have had big pre-sales in a lot of our hospitality areas, with the usual ones selling really well," says Wilcox.

"But our biggest growth has been in The Paddock, the area aimed more at the younger crowd on the infield. We had 400 there last year and have already sold 900 for that area.

"We have plenty of general pre-sales too and while it will be strong, the biggest determinant for a really big crowd will be the weather on Christmas Day and Boxing Day itself. That is when we can see the crowd get right up.

"But already we are looking at a really, really big day."

The club will also move to welcome leading apprentice Corey Campbell to Ellerslie for a debut meeting there next month after copping some flak for leaving him out of the apprentice's team for last Thursday's World Jockeys Cup.

It was decided not to ask Campbell to make his Ellerslie debut against some of the best riders in Australasia, even though he leads the national apprentice's premiership by four wins over Ryan Elliot, who ironically won the Jockeys World Cup.

"We decided, after taking advice from some experienced ex-jockeys, that it was a bit much to ask Corey to come into that environment for his first look at Ellerslie because it can be a tricky place to ride," explains Wilcox.

"But we recognise what a great job he is doing and we want to support him so we are going to pay his expenses to come up and ride at a meeting that suits his schedule, maybe out January 13 fixture.

Meanwhile, Saturday's Waikato Cup winner Mongolian Marshal has been re-handicapped 2kg to 55kg for the January 1 City Of Auckland Cup.