Race­course pro­posal is dis­ap­point­ing

Stratford Press - - News - By ILONA HANNE

A rec­om­men­da­tion Strat­ford race­course be sold is “dis­ap­point­ing,” say both the pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent of Strat­ford Rac­ing Club.

“It’s def­i­nitely sad for Strat­ford, not just for the train­ers, track work rid­ers and ground­staff who use the course, but for the com­mu­nity as a whole, who all ben­e­fit from hav­ing the fa­cil­ity here,‘says the club’s vice pres­i­dent, Vaughan Kee­gan.

Strat­ford was one of 20 race­tracks rec­om­mended for culling in a re­port by Aus­tralian rac­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor and breeder, John Mes­sara.

The re­port, re­leased last week, also iden­ti­fied Ha¯ wera as a track to be sold, while the New Ply­mouth, Waver­ley and Whanganui clubs are not on the list.

Strat­ford Rac­ing Club pres­i­dent John Gray says he is not only con­cerned about rac­ing in Strat­ford but Taranaki in gen­eral.

“The pro­posed changes have both Strat­ford and Ha¯ wera race­courses be­ing sold, both free­hold prop­er­ties and it’s sug­gested both clubs train­ers and horses move to the leased fa­cil­ity at New Ply­mouth. I can’t un­der­stand the logic of putting money into a track that is leased and, as I un­der­stand, one that doesn’t have a lease in place with the coun­cil yet, what hap­pens if in five years time the after all the money is sunk into that course that there is a change of coun­cil and along with it at­ti­tude to­wards rac­ing in New Ply­mouth, where does rac­ing go from there?”

Vaughan says while the rec­om­men­da­tion was not nec­es­sar­ily a sur­prise, he feels it will be a great loss for Strat­ford should the the rec­om­men­da­tion be acted on.

“Strat­ford has con­sis­tently at­tracted large crowds to the race­days, how­ever this de­ci­sion isn’t about fi­nan­cials or num­bers it is about cen­tral­i­sa­tion.”

The loss to the Strat­ford com­mu­nity isn’t just about horse rac­ing.

“The worst part is the rec­om­men­da­tion the land and build­ings be sold. That would cost a lot of peo­ple their liveli­hoods here.”

Vaughan says there are up to 12 horse train­ers who use the track, and the sale of the track would cause prob­lems for them.

“Lots of the train­ers bring the horses here to use the gal­lops for ex­am­ple. So even if the trainer doesn’t work from the track, they use the track reg­u­larly as part of the train­ing sched­ule.” Most train­ers aren’t one man bands ei­ther, says Vaughan.

“So the clo­sure won’t just im­pact the train­ers them­selves, but also their staff. it will have a knock-on ef­fect to other peo­ple as well such as far­ri­ers, feed mer­chants, vets, trans­port com­pa­nies, all sorts of peo­ple who will be im­pacted in­clud­ing horse own­ers who will face ad­di­tional costs.”

As well as host­ing gal­lop race days for horse rac­ing, Vaughan says there is an an­nual har­ness rac­ing event at the track.

“Not to men­tion the com­mu­nity groups and schools who use the track at times. Lots of schools hold their cross coun­try events at the track, so they will lose the use as well. It’s a big blow to the com­mu­nity for this to be lost.”

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