Turn it up! Where to next for Forbury Park?

Catering services workers at Forbury Park Trotting Club are worried.PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Forbury Park Trotting Club.PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
The future of the Forbury Park Trotting Club was hotly debated on social media last week.

It was like groundhog day when the club announced a near quarter-of-a-million-dollar annual loss, last Wednesday.

The club had previously bucked a trend and had looked to cement its future by posting a modest profit the year before.

It is difficult not to question the future viability of the club, especially under a bulk-funding model in which harness racing participants seemingly have a claim to some kind of ownership of the club's funding.

The same model is used in Southland and that province is thriving, utilising a similar number of horses and people in the sector.

The Forbury Park club has failed to secure its own future by stopping a haemorrhaging flow of expenses. Its most recent foray in to the hospitality business looks disastrous.

It should be noted that the club's personnel were put under extremely trying circumstances last year. And the current management has only recently been at the helm and cannot be blamed for historical losses.

Any examination of the viability of the club should come with measured consideration.

What chance did the club have of producing strong results with the hand it was dealt by the racing calendar last year? It has, in my opinion, the worst dates of any club harness racing club in the country.

How would any club that takes those dates over in its place fare?

Harness racing's place in the tri-code and international New Zealand betting scene means Thursday-night trots need to happen somewhere in the country. But is Forbury Park simply taking the fall in order for Southland and Canterbury clubs to be successful? They have the more favourable Friday nights and the sunny Saturday and Sunday afternoon dates.

Look at last night's meeting. It would be impossible for any club to make a profit from a night like that with seven races. But the club went ahead for the good of the game.

Where else would the Forbury Park class of horses race and where else would Thursday-night racing in the South be held? And which clubs will be putting their hands up to hold races on Thursday nights in the middle of July, which attract only a minority watching or betting?

What is the industry doing to support the Forbury Park club?

The Messara report was completely lacking in direction for harness racing. But the debate about the future of thoroughbred venues means harness venues are naturally going to be talked about.

The club's balance sheet does not tell the whole story. I hope a sensible approach can be taken and the impact of the club on the wider region can be taken into account.

Can harness racing afford to move out of another major city? What impact will any changes have on harness racing in all of Otago?

Perhaps the real question is who will be the South's next fall guy?

Happy trails

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