Tracking towards a new future

Roger That, ridden by jockey Trudy Thornton, winning at Te Awamutu in 2018. The horse won the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) earlier this year. Photo: Kenton Wright (Race Images)

The 105-year-old Waipa Racing Club looks set to continue as a training track with trial dates despite being excluded from next season’s racing calendar.

President Doug Hurrell has told to the News four trial dates have been proposed for the venue between now and Christmas.

He said it would remain viable to continue to operate the facility – which the club owns freehold – as long as they could secure six or seven trial dates a year and continue to train about 145 horses a month.

Racing dates are set by the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) and Mr Hurrell described the club’s exclusion as entirely unexpected.

After having initially planned for races there up until February this year, he said club officials learned in May of a proposal to change the racing calendar – and they weren’t on it.

They filed an unsuccessful submission in an attempt to have the club’s exclusion over-turned.

“It was of course very disappointing,” Mr Hurrell said. “And I have to admit it was a bitter pill to swallow.

“Of course, our biggest concern is for the roughly 60 people who work here and rely on the club for a living – if you like, they are the nuts and bolts of the racing industry.”

Mr Hurrell said they have essentially been finding out the next steps in the process from news releases.

“We’ve literally had no news, no official word on the decision. You could say communication is key, but it has certainly been a little bit lacking.

“We do abide by the rationale of RITA I have to say we’re delighted to now be given some trial dates.

“Since the news of our exclusion, we’ve just had to scramble, put our heads down and crunch the numbers and see what we can do to make sure we keep operating viably and economically.”

All told, there’s actually been no racing at the club, New Zealand’s fourth biggest training centre, for about 18 months after an area just before the 300m straight on the grass track required repairs.

“It’s been a long process as we re-seed the grass and wait for it to take properly,” Mr Hurrell said.

Waipa Racing Club’s course proper is a 1650m grass track and Mr Hurrell confirmed discussions had been had about whether some irrigation could be added to the currently un-irrigated track as the club looks to sure up its future.

“We haven’t been sitting on our hands at all, we’ve been working away while we’ve had no news,” he said.

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