Calm approach urged over tracks

Brian Anderton
Brian Anderton
Veteran trainer Brian Anderton is calling for a calm approach to the rationalisation of southern racetracks.

Otago and Southland thoroughbred trainers could face the prospect of a vastly different southern racing circuit if recommendations from the recently released Messara report, including the closure of seven courses in the lower South Island, are implemented.

In a report prepared for the Government, Australian John Messara recommended thoroughbred racing cease at the Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Omakau, Winton and Gore tracks.

Anderton said he hoped the industry would band together to form a common-sense response.

''We have got to get rid of some tracks, but a lot of common sense is going to have to prevail.

''The closure of some tracks is necessary if thoroughbred trainers will be granted the rises in stake money they desperately seek.

''If we want to double our stakes then some of the tracks will have to be closed and the money will have to go into the tracks we have got.''

Anderton did not support the closure of the Gore thoroughbred course.

It already undergone a mini rationalisation of its own in recent years.

The Wyndham and Tapanui racing clubs had stopped racing at their own tracks and moved to Gore.

''My observation is that Gore took in Wyndham and Tapanui and things were going well there,'' Anderton said.

''I think they have got a damn good track there that can take a bit of racing - Gore should be protected.''

Any closure of the Oamaru and Timaru tracks would result in more trips to Christchurch for southern thoroughbred trainers.

It was too far to expect Otago and Southland trainers to continually go to Christchurch, Anderton said.

''We can do Timaru nicely in a day, but if you're going to Riccarton you have two nights' accommodation and transport costs on top of that and it gets too expensive for owners.''

Wingatui trainer Terry Kennedy agreed that a trip to Christchurch for a run-of-the-mill race meeting was financially tough on owners.

If more local opportunities were available after courses were closed and their race dates were reallocated it would mean fewer trips to Christchurch.

''If we are going to have a lot more feature or tier-two days in Otago and Southland then it is not so bad, but it depends on how they are going to structure the [racing] calendar.''

Constructing an all-weather track in Christchurch, as the Messara report suggested, was not the silver bullet for the South Island, Kennedy said.

He did not write off the concept, but said southern racing community should see how an all-weather track worked in another area first.

''Let's see if an all-weather track works in Cambridge then build one here, but if it doesn't we would be better to put the $10million it is going to cost into upgrading our grass courses.

''It is not going to take a lot to upgrade the inside track at Wingatui to give us winter and summer grass tracks there.''

Kennedy said one of the most surprising aspects of the report was the decision to keep the Waikouaiti track, ahead of better courses such as Oamaru.

''I am definitely not a fan of Waikouaiti.

''For one meeting a year, that has been abandoned several times in the last few years, it was a very, very strange choice to keep [it].''

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