Loss of Waikouaiti meeting ‘a total bolt from the blue’

The Waikouaiti Racing Club has been left scratching its head.

Last year, it was granted more than $50,000 to put in a new running rail at its track.

It had been named the best meeting of the summer carnival series a few years ago.

Now it is gone. In the new draft racing calendar its sole date, January 1, has been allocated to the Riverton club.

Waikouaiti Racing Club president Andy Denham is still struggling to come to terms with the decision.

"It was a total bolt from the blue. They rang me about four hours before the decision went out. There was no real consultation. We survived the Messara report (commissioned by the Government) and had been told we had through to 2025 at least. But now we have this," he said.

Denham said the family picnic meeting at the course on New Year’s Day was popular and attracted crowds of up to 6000.

He was told small fields at Waikouaiti was one of the reasons its one date had been taken away but he said small fields were a fact all over the country.

The club had gained $55,000 from the racing safety development fund last year to build a running rail and had ordered the rail. The club was also named top meeting during the summer holiday carnival three years ago.

The meeting was popular with all ages and a good way to introduce the sport to youngsters, he said.

Denham said a lot of work had gone into upgrading facilities at the club.

The land for most of the course had been given to the community more than 100 years ago.

The club’s committee was due to meet next week and would look at putting in a submission about the draft calendar.

Meanwhile, Otago Racing Club general manager Rebecca Adlam said the club was satisfied with the dates it has been allocated.

It had retained the Melbourne Cup day date, Boxing Day, the Cromwell date in late November and the White Robe Lodge date in early February.

It had nine dates next season at this stage.

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