Turn It Up! NZTR gets venue plan right

What a weird and wild ride the last two weeks in racing has produced.

From a Southern perspective, it has been plain sailing compared to what has gone on elsewhere.

In fact, it has been better than that.

It seems New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) has taken a common-sense approach with its suggestions for the future of Southern racetracks.

The post Messara-report chitter-chatter, whining and complaining has reached tipping point for me.

Change must be effected soon, and that applies to every area Messara has suggested the New Zealand racing industry can do better in.

Many whom I speak to think those changes cannot come soon enough.

From a national perspective - it has been unfortunate that their voices have been drowned out by the lunatic fringe.

Meaningful calls for change have been drowned out by a chorus of cries calling for a ``saviour'' for some tracks.

There were certainly strong arguments to keep some of the tracks Messara suggested be shut down.

However, the arguments to keep them were again drowned out by the cries to save worthless, rundown and nearly useless courses in other locations.

That seemed to be driven by a desperate approach stirred by National MPs who had previously shown almost no interest in racing.

In the case of Clutha Southland, it seemed just another bandwagon for Hamish Walker to jump on.

In the lower South Island, NZTR has suggested the Gore and Oamaru tracks should be retained and the Riverton and Waikouaiti tracks are closed.

The latter two join Kurow, Waimate, Omakau and Winton tracks on the blacklist.

No matter how you shuffle them or trade one for another there will be disappointment.

I wonder how much of that disappointment will be driven by self-interest.

Perhaps that self-interest could be put aside for the betterment of racing?

The counterclaim to closing tracks is that many do not cost the industry money.

That is a nice theory, but not one I can agree with.

Where do these clubs think their stake money comes from?

The more compelling part of any argument to keep these tracks open is the risk of losing racing interest in each area.

That is certainly a possibility.

However, the Beaumont Racing Club offers hope for those clubs.

I read in the NZTR Future Venue plan the familiar story - that I had the pleasure of telling previously in the ODT - of how that club has continued to race and operate successfully without a racetrack.

Racing has become a television-based sport and is less reliant on the communities around racing clubs.

To put it bluntly, heavy gamblers are more useful than small communities to the racing industry.

Their turnover goes a long way further than the measly on-course turnovers bet these days.

The history of past generations will be lost when Southern tracks shut down.

And that could be considered sad.

However, I would be more inclined to point the finger directly at those generations for leading the industry to need to change.

This is the generation that couldn't sustain the nation's interest in racing.

This is the generation that got rid of the broodmare in their back paddock and stopped breeding horses.

This is the generation whose kids are off playing PlayStations and doing yoga when the races are on.

It is simple - fewer horses means fewer tracks.

So get over it.

Happy trails.

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