Racetracks' futures in doubt

Brian Anderton, of White Robe Lodge, at North Taieri, with horses Tommy Tucker (left) and Patrick Erin. Photo: Linda Robertson
Brian Anderton, of White Robe Lodge, at North Taieri, with horses Tommy Tucker (left) and Patrick Erin. Photo: Linda Robertson
A leading Otago horse trainer says it will be a great shame if small racetracks across Otago are abandoned over nationwide concern some tracks are not being properly maintained.

This comes after the thoroughbred racing industry admitted it did not have enough money to maintain all the country's racetracks, but said moves were afoot to address the problems.

It follows earlier criticism from the New Zealand Trainers' Association, which said small, poorly maintained tracks were to blame for the number of abandoned or postponed race meetings since New Year's Day. Six race days were either postponed or abandoned, including meetings at Waikouaiti, Ellerslie and Thames.

Most were cancelled when rain fell on parched tracks, making them slippery and dangerous to horses and jockeys.

The Omakau races were rescheduled after a malfunctioning sprinkler caused a section of the track to become unsafe.

Trainer Brian Anderton, of White Robe Lodge, at Wingatui, said it would be a shame if small racetracks were abandoned.

''I think the small tracks have got their place and they are the backbone of racing in lots of ways,'' Mr Anderton said.

He said the small meetings, including at Cromwell, Kurow, Omakau and Waikouaiti, all had ''a good following'' and were an important part of the racing calendar.

''Quite often you will see bigger crowds there than what you would at metropolitan tracks.

''It's nice to see each club having their day in the sun.''

Trainers' association president Tony Pike said New Zealand had too many small, underused tracks, and the industry could not afford to keep them up to scratch.

''We've got too many racecourses here in New Zealand to maintain up to a sufficient standard; 52 in total,'' Mr Pike told RNZ yesterday.

''Where the horse population is based, is probably where the money needs to be spent.

''Six or eight of our major racecourses, if we could get them up to international standard, would be fantastic long-term,'' he said.

NZTA Otago sub-branch executive delegate Jim Burns agreed, and said there was likely to be a need for centralisation across New Zealand.

At present, there were too many cancellations, including several meetings at Waikouaiti in the past decade, Mr Burns said.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry said there had been a lack of investment in the country's 52 racetracks.

Club representatives, integrity officers, trainer and jockey representatives were due to meet yesterday to discuss short-term fixes.

''I want to make sure our policies and procedures have been followed and are there any learnings that we need to update and learn from what's happened over the last 10 days,'' he said.

In the longer term, a venue plan was needed to make sure the investment was centred on the right tracks, to ensure racing remained safe and economically viable.

Mr Saundry said while it was too early to say whether the country had too many racecourses, he said funding them all was a ''monumental task''.

- Additional reporting by RNZ

Add a Comment