Rain 'gutting' for race club

Rain kept the punters and horses away from the Boxing Day races at Wingatui yesterday.

Otago Racing Club chief executive Andre Klein said the ''persistent rain'' had resulted in fewer horses racing - with 45 scratchings - and fewer punters attending.

''It's pretty gutting.''

The annual race meeting usually attracted high quality racing and huge crowds.

The trackside marquee village housed a dozen ''brave'' punters but the wet conditions foreced most ''villagers'' to relocate to the grandstand.

The annual race meeting was ''easily the wettest'' for the nine years he had attended the race meet, he said.

TAB operator Christina Crockie, of Dunedin, said when the tote closed for race two last year she had placed about 180 bets for punters.

When the tote closed for race two yesterday she had placed 30 bets.

Hotdog saleswoman Caroline Brown (70), of Dunedin, said the food caravan had sold six hotdogs by the second race yesterday.

At the same time last year, more than 300 hotdogs had been sold, she said.

''It's usually chocker. It's such a shame.''

Some racers enjoyed the heavy track conditions.

Mini jeep operator Josh Alexander (21), of Dunedin, said because there were fewer children than in past years there were no queues for the free jeep ride, allowing the drivers more time on the muddy circuit.

As the jeeps jostled, some Auckland retirees made hay while the rain fell.

Bryan (67) and Lynne Osborne (64), of Snells Beach, were two of the five people sitting in the public stand waiting for race two to start.

Mrs Osborne said they were ''grey nomads'' on a three-year caravan trip around New Zealand.

''It's not a holiday - it's a lifestyle.''

They had travelled around the North Island for two years and started a year of South Island travel in September.

They both punted $1 each way on each race yesterday, which easily beat sitting in their caravan at the A&P Showgrounds in Mosgiel.

The couple had ''beginners' luck'' on the first race winning more than $20 between them.

''We are working up to buying a coffee now,'' Mrs Osborne laughed.

Tourist Jan Friman (50), of Finland, watched the second race from the railing and took the blame for the rain.

''I brought the weather.''

When he left his hometown of Turku they had wind, rain and 4degC temperatures.

He enjoyed watching the gallops yesterday as trotting was the dominant form of racing in Turku.

He was in Otago visiting friends and family for Christmas, which included Charlie Crowell, of Milton.

Mr Crowell said the car park on the grass on the finishing straight at Wingatui was nearly empty yesterday.

''It's usually packed with cars. It's shocking. I feel sorry for the club.''

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz


Cover charge

I wonder how many people were tossing up whether to go but were put off by the exorbitant gate fee of $15. Isn't it better to get more people on the course in the first place?

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