ATR reveals plan of attack following Ellerslie abandonment

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  • April 12, 2024
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ATR reveals plan of attack following Ellerslie abandonment


In the wake of the abandonment of Wednesday’s race meeting at Ellerslie Racecourse, Auckland Thoroughbred Racing (ATR), in conjunction with New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR), have undertaken a comprehensive investigation, resulting in an agreed plan of action that will be implemented to address safety concerns and ensure future racing success.

Wednesday’s race meeting was abandoned after race three due to safety concerns arising from a slip on the newly-installed StrathAyr track.

“We are disappointed in relation to having an abandonment. In upholding our commitment to excellence, instances like these are regrettable as they fall short of our standards,” ATR chief executive Paul Wilcox said.

“We also understand the disappointment yesterday’s abandonment would have caused to participants, stakeholders, and fans. (We) also want to emphasise that the safety and wellbeing of horses and jockeys is paramount and accept that this was the right decision under the circumstances.”

Wilcox said there are similarities between this incident and the one encountered at the TAB Karaka Millions meeting in January, acknowledging that yesterday’s issues stemmed from the interface between the root matting and the sand profile.

“This incident bears resemblance to the issue presented at the TAB Karaka Millions earlier this year.  We acknowledge that the root layer at the 10m rail position was not broken up to the extent of other used areas of the track – something that effectively formed a sponge that then held moisture near the surface. That’s what caused the issues,” he said.

“Addressing this issue effectively is paramount to ensuring the safety and integrity of our racing surfaces moving forward.”

Following a meeting on Thursday morning between the Club, NZTR and RIB (Racing Integrity Board) representatives, along with Frank Casimaty of StrathAyr and Chris Hay from Elwick Racecourse which has a StrathAyr track, an immediate plan of action is being implemented to address the issues created by the root mass and to also utilise the sand in the track to dust the surface and reduce any surface greasiness.

“The Club, along with NZTR, are grateful for the advice received – particularly that from Chris Hay – as we continue to find the best process for preparing the track for raceday,” Wilcox said.

“From installation through to the return to racing at Ellerslie, we have worked closely with StrathAyr to ensure the highest standards. Our next steps will help restore confidence of our jockeys, owners, trainers, and punters in our racing surface at Ellerslie.”

ATR commenced vertidraining the track earlier this week and will continue this process with additional coring of the track to a depth of at least 100mm. This action is aimed at bringing the sand from these cores to the track’s surface.

Machinery will be utilised to break up these cores and spread them over the track’s surface, with any remaining grass tufts to be removed. This work will be undertaken over the remainder of the week and into the weekend.

NZTR chief operating officer Darin Balcombe is pleased about the steps being taken.

“After our discussions with Chris Hay this morning, we are confident that the additional coring and breaking up of those cores will alleviate the issues with the surface,” he said.

“We will continue to work closely with ATR to ensure the track continues to improve with racing.”

ATR has ordered a corer machine to help ensure the ongoing track surface will continue to improve with further racing and, after the conclusion of the season on May 25, will undertake a heavy renovation on the track to include removing the matting to prevent similar issues in the future.

“As we move forward, our focus remains unwaveringly fixed on ensuring the highest standards of safety and excellence,” Wilcox said. “We are fully committed to implementing comprehensive measures to address the issue swiftly and effectively.

“Looking ahead, we are optimistic that with the planned renovations and diligent maintenance efforts, our track at Ellerslie will not only be stabilised but also optimised to deliver impeccable racing conditions and an exceptional racing experience for all participants and enthusiasts alike.”

Prior to returning to racing, trials will take place this coming Monday 15 April. These will need to be completed satisfactorily with the rail in the raceday position for racing to resume as scheduled on Easter Handicap Day, next Saturday 20 April.

NZTR have instigated the Abandonment Review Protocol and will review all events and track preparation leading up to the partial abandonment of Wednesday’s raceday.


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