Investigation underway after Ellerslie abandonment

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  • April 11, 2024
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Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

An investigation is set to commence tomorrow morning (Thursday) into the abandonment of Ellerslie’s Wednesday meeting as a result of safety concerns following a slip on the venues newly installed StrathAyr track.

A decision was made to abandon the mid-week meeting following senior jockey Opie Bosson’s report of his horse, The Storyteller, slipping near the crossing following race three, which the Stephen Marsh-trained gelding won.

“Following race two we had concerns raised by a few of the jockeys in regards to the surface around the home turn,” Stipendiary Steward Lauren Selvakumaran said. “We convened a meeting with those jockeys and on the films it wasn’t apparent that there was any concern. At that time, they (jockeys) also agreed with that and were happy to keep riding.

“Post race three, concerns were raised again. We convened a meeting with jockeys, club officials, Stewards and NZTR (New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing) representatives in which Mr Bosson outlined he slipped near the crossing, so we went and had a look at the track and identified a slip mark where Mr Bosson had stated it had happened. We also drove around to the 450m mark and observed a few marks around that area.

“We weren’t satisfied with the surface being safe to continue.”

Selvakumaran said the idea of moving the rail was floated, but it was decided that wasn’t feasible given the time it would take.

“The rail was out 10m today which was the first time the rail has been at that position, so that may have played a part,” she said.

“It was suggested a possible rail move, but we just don’t have the time for that as it would take five-plus hours, so we would run out of daylight.”

Auckland Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Paul Wilcox was disappointed in the outcome and said the Club is working hard with relevant parties to rectify the issue.

“Naturally we are disappointed in relation to having an abandonment. We pride ourselves on doing things right, so we let ourselves down when this happens,” Wilcox said.

There were initial reports of horses slipping on Karaka Millions night in January, just the second meeting on the new surface, however, there have been no reports of such issues in subsequent meetings at the venue until Wednesday.

“From what we can ascertain, it is the same issue where the grass is matted and joins the sand profile, which is causing the slipperiness. We thought we had that under control and we obviously didn’t,” Wilcox said.

“All of those races subsequent to Karaka Millions night have been run without issue and all the jockeys have been happy with the surface. Today with the rail out 10m, which is ground that hasn’t been raced on, it has caused the same issue we experienced on Karaka Millions night.”

The track is set to undergo further renovation over winter, however, Wilcox said the club will meet with NZTR and StrathAyr representatives on Thursday morning to discuss the issue and work out a plan to try and rectify the issue ahead of their next meeting in 10 days’ time.

“After the last race meeting here (this season), which is the 25th of May, it (StrathAyr track) will get a heavy renovation and that will be focussing on removing that matting to ensure going forward that that can’t cause any issues. This time next year, it will be settled and hopefully racing perfectly,” Wilcox said.

“We have had a discussion with NZTR and we have got another meeting with them in the morning to work out a plan of attack so that we can have the confidence of our jockeys, owners, trainers and punters in our surface.”

NZTR chief operating officer Darin Balcombe feels for the participants affected by Wednesday’s abandonment and said the three parties will be working hard on Thursday to identify a remedy.

“We had a quick catch-up late this afternoon on the abandonment. We are going to meet again tomorrow morning and we have got StrathAyr coming over from Australia,” Balcombe said.

“We are going to have a look at what we can do going forward into next week and whether it is still viable to run that meeting next Saturday.

“We have got to do better. We can’t have these issues coming up and we have got to make sure that we get these fixes and make sure the tracks are improving.

“I am pretty gutted for the owners that would have gone to the course today and had to go home again without a race. I really feel for them.

“We will work through the issues and come up with a plan going forward and we will get that out to the industry at some stage tomorrow.”

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