Racing clubs winning back 'lost generation'

Katrina Dunlop (20), of Dunedin, pours a drink for Luke Dillon (26), of Auckland, while waiting...
Katrina Dunlop (20), of Dunedin, pours a drink for Luke Dillon (26), of Auckland, while waiting for the start of race three at the Waikouaiti Racing Club's New Year's Day meeting yesterday. Photo Gerard O'Brien.
Country race meetings in the South have been a runaway success this summer, and yesterday's Waikouaiti Racing Club's New Year's Day event played its part, with the biggest crowd in seven years.

Gallop South CEO Andre Klein noted that, since August, meetings at Cromwell, Dunedin, Invercargill and Gore had all set records for on-course attendance and turnover.

The Waikouaiti crowd numbered 7500 and wagered $174,311 - an increase of $25,586, but with one extra race on the card.

Mr Klein said there were several reasons for increased on-course attendance, including free entry for those under 18, better entertainment for children, improved facilities and higher standards required of food and drink vendors.

The programme at Waikouaiti included nine races and also live music, a ferris wheel, pony rides, wine tasting and a "Super Jockey Challenge" in which jockeys competed in a shot put event and in sack races.

Horse trainers spoken to by the Otago Daily Times were delighted that more young people were attending race meetings.

Paul Harris, who had five Rangiora horses at Waikouaiti, referred to a "lost generation" who had turned away from racing.

He believed the South should consider building on the public enthusiasm for events like Wingatui's Melbourne Cup Day by instituting a Dunedin "cup week" similar to those in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.

Wingatui trainer, Steven Prince, agreed.

He credited former racing minister, Winston Peters, with breathing new life into the industry.

Mr Prince said that all eyes would be on the Karaka yearling sales late this month to see what effect the credit crunch was having on the racing industry.

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