Vow to continue Omakau gallops

Clem Cosgrove, Marty Johns, Faye Cosgrove, Desna Johns and Ashley Johns (5), all of Dunedin.
Clem Cosgrove, Marty Johns, Faye Cosgrove, Desna Johns and Ashley Johns (5), all of Dunedin. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Central Otago Racing Club president Tony Lepper. Photos: Pam Jones
Central Otago Racing Club president Tony Lepper. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Becks twins Meg and Charlotte Kirk (both 7), enjoying some candy floss.
Becks twins Meg and Charlotte Kirk (both 7), enjoying some candy floss. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Stacey Poole, from Invercargill, and Pedro the horse.
Stacey Poole, from Invercargill, and Pedro the horse. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

It might have been the last one, "if Winston has his way".

But the Central Otago Racing Club would keep fighting hard to keep its annual Omakau gallops race meet, club president Tony Lepper said at the races yesterday.

The annual picnic race day attracted a crowd of more than 1000 who watched more than 100 horses in eight races.

The Central Otago club was one of those earmarked for closure in last year's report from Australian administrator John Messara, who recommended seven tracks from Timaru south should stop holding thoroughbred race meetings.

But Mr Lepper said the Omakau gallops organisers were confident the meet would continue.

"It could be our last meeting, if Winston [Racing Minister Winston Peters] has his way, but I don't think it will be ... We're planning on racing next year. The minister may have different ideas, but we're planning on carrying on."

Mr Lepper said the Central Otago club had made a submission on the Messara report and a working group charged with analysing all the submissions was expected to report back to Mr Peters in February or March, about the same time as the 2020 racing calendar was set.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing would then decide which clubs would close, based on advice from Mr Peters and the working group, Mr Lepper said.

But Mr Lepper said country racing was vital to Central Otago and the broader racing community.

"It would be stupid to get rid of this meeting.

"This is where people are in the summer, they come up to Central . . . But more importantly, a lot of locals are involved in owning horses, and for a lot of people coming to the races in Central is their one and only experience at the races . . .

"This is where people get their love of racing, and that's why country racing is important.

"As long as the trainers are prepared to come up here with their horses and we're prepared to do our voluntary work to prepare the track, then this [race meet] should always continue into the future."

Yesterday's race day included the prestigious annual White Robe Lodge/F.Track Clare Memorial Gold Cup, which was won by Yamato Nadeshiko, owned by Jackie and George Burrows, of Rolleston, and ridden by Tanya Jonker, of Rolleston.

The Clare Cup is so valuable it is kept under lock and key all year, being taken to the races to be handed only briefly to the winner, then taken back and a substitute trophy presented.

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