Three tracks given reprieve under NZTR Venue Plan

Following an extensive consultation process New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) has reduced the number of racing venues to close from the 2019/20 season to seven.

The NZTR Venue Plan consultation document, released in January, proposed 10 venues would close but the Blenheim, Wairoa and Reefton tracks have received a reprieve.

“The NZTR Board carefully considered feedback from nine regional meetings and the 75 written submissions received and decided that these three venues should remain, at least for the 2019/20 season,” NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry said.

“The Board focused solely on the 2019/20 season at this stage and those venues which were listed to close from the 2024/25 season onwards will be considered later in the year.”

There was an element of geography which came into the reasoning behind retaining each of the three tracks. This was particularly relevant in the case of Wairoa where its distance from other alternative venues on difficult roads was a concern.

“The club also demonstrated that it had strong community and wider industry support, however there are still issues with the standard of the venue’s facilities,” Saundry said. 

“The decision to allow the club to race at Wairoa is contingent upon some work being undertaken before NZTR will continue to support racing there in the future.”

The continuing need for a transport hub for horses travelling between islands played a significant part in the NZTR Board’s decision to retain Blenheim.

“The club will keep its traditional two-day meeting in April in the 2019/20 season and this will enable the club to hold its centenary meeting at its traditional venue,” Saundry said.

“As with Wairoa, there is work which needs to be undertaken by the club to secure its future at Blenheim.”

While it was initially recommended that both Hokitika and Reefton tracks be closed and the clubs relocate to one of the two other West Coast tracks, the NZTR Board saw merit in retaining three tracks on the Coast.

“The Board saw the benefit of Reefton for the time being as it provides additional accommodation for horses on the Coast circuit,” Saundry said. 

“While it is the smallest track in the country and does need work to improve it as a racing venue, it does provide us with potentially better track conditions and an alternative venue if there is significant rain on the Coast during the traditional circuit.”

The clubs which will relocate from the 2019/20 season are Dargaville RC; Thames JC; Stratford RC; Westland RC; Waimate JC, Winton JC and Wyndham RC. Four of those – Dargaville, Thames, Waimate and Wyndham – have all recently raced at other venues.

“The decision we have made does not reflect on the efforts the very dedicated volunteers have put into these clubs over the years, but instead on the state of the industry and the significant issues it is facing,” Saundry said.

“NZTR is committed to working alongside those clubs which will be racing at alternative venues to ensure that their transition goes smoothly,” he said.  “We will also be working with those clubs who are remaining at their venues to assist them in achieving the standards we have set for them.”

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