Rac­ing clubs trot out rea­sons to keep tracks open with Na­tional MPs

The Southland Times - - News - Jamie Searle

Amid prepa­ra­tions for what could be its last race meet­ing at home, Win­ton Jockey Club of­fi­cials have met with Na­tional MPs to dis­cuss the threat of their track clos­ing.

The club holds its an­nual race day to­mor­row, but a re­port, re­leased in Au­gust by Rac­ing Min­is­ter Win­ston Peters, rec­om­mends the Win­ton gal­lop­ing track close at the end of this sea­son and the club’s race meet­ing moved to As­cot Park in In­ver­cargill.

Pres­i­dent Howard Clarke said the club was build­ing a strong case in an at­tempt to quash moves to close the track. Twenty New Zealand gal­lop­ing tracks, in­clud­ing Gore, are ear­marked for clo­sure in the re­port by New South Wales rac­ing ad­min­is­tra­tor John Mes­sara.

It rec­om­mends all thor­ough­bred race meet­ings at Gore be shifted to In­ver­cargill’s As­cot Park in the 2024-25 sea­son. Clos­ing tracks and cen­tral­is­ing race days would help the ail­ing rac­ing in­dus­try re­gain prof­itabil­ity, Mes­sara said.

Na­tional MPs Hamish Walker (Clutha-South­land) and Ian McKelvie (Ran­gitı¯kei, Na­tional’s spokesman for rac­ing) met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Win­ton Jockey Club, Gore, Ta­panui and Wyn­d­ham rac­ing clubs and in­dus­try stake­hold­ers at Win­ton and Gore this week. The Ta­panui and Wyn­d­ham clubs race at Gore.

The clubs with tracks fac­ing clo­sure have un­til next Fri­day to make sub­mis­sions to the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs on why they should stay open.

A fac­tor favour­ing both the Gore and Win­ton tracks was that their race meet­ings pro­vided em­ploy­ment and gen­er­ated in­come for their com­mu­ni­ties, McKelvie and Walker said.

McKelvie said the re­port had a mix­ture of good and bad parts.

‘‘It’s go­ing to need a lot more talk in the in­dus­try . . .

‘‘The con­cern down here, and in lots of other parts of New Zealand, is the ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion of race­courses and the man­ner in which he [Min­is­ter of Rac­ing Win­ston Peters] pro­poses to un­der­take it, which is cer­tainly not sat­is­fac­tory.’’

The re­port rec­om­mends the free­hold land hous­ing the tracks ear­marked for clo­sure be sold with the pro­ceeds put to­wards main­tain­ing and up­grad­ing the cour­ses re­tained.

The Gore Rac­ing Club owns the Gore race­course and says it will not race at other tracks. Pres­i­dent Jus­tine Aber­nethy said if the club can’t race at Gore it would dis­band and the prop­erty sold. Money from the sale would be given to the eastern South­land com­mu­nity,

If sold, it would be a ma­jor blow to one of the club’s ten­ants, the Gore Har­ness Rac­ing Club, which holds six race days a sea­son.

Win­ton race­course can­not be sold be­cause it is on a re­serve.

Clarke and Aber­nethy were pleased Walker and McKelvie took time out to lis­ten to their con­cerns.

‘‘It’s not just a race­track ... it’s a com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity with many other users,’’ Clarke said of the Win­ton race­course.

Aber­nethy said the Gore race course had a good busi­ness plan with a large part of in­come de­rived from its farm­ing op­er­a­tion and ten­ants. The Mataura Li­cens­ing Trust is a long­stand­ing fi­nan­cial sup­porter of the club.

‘‘We’re self-suf­fi­cient.’’ Mean­while, the $25,000 Win­ton Cup is the fea­ture event on the eigh­trace card at Win­ton to­mor­row.

Clarke said he would speak at the cup pre­sen­ta­tion about Mes­sara’s rec­om­men­da­tion to close the Win­ton track.

‘‘The club’s stay­ing pos­i­tive and we’re car­ry­ing on as nor­mal.’’

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