Racing future in doubt in West Auckland

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  • October 12, 2023
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By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

A dark cloud has come over racing in West Auckland, with its future in doubt following New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s (NZTR) announcement that no further trial meetings will be held at Avondale Racecourse for the foreseeable future.

There have been growing concerns relating to track safety at Avondale, which escalated following the abandonment of the Avondale Jockey Club’s (AJC) September 6 meeting due to the unsafe nature of the track.

With the subsequent breakdown in communication between the two parties, NZTR decided it was in the best interests of its stakeholders to cease trials at the track and enter discussions with TAB NZ to revoke the allocation of race dates to the AJC for the current season.

“Avondale haven’t really engaged since the abandonment in September. We needed to bring it to a head, we couldn’t keep going around in circles,” NZTR chief operating officer Darin Balcombe said.

“We have got obligations to stakeholders in terms of race meetings and to give surety to everyone as to where they are going to trial and where they will be racing.

“We have tried to make contact (with AJC) several times since the abandonment and we have had one response, which was pretty underwhelming.

“We have had our regional track advisor, Jason Fulford, on course carrying out testing of the problem area.

“They (AJC) unfortunately don’t have a track manager at the moment and don’t seem to want to accept any support to prepare the track.

“We have got to the end of our tether, and we have got no faith that they can provide a safe racing surface, and that is why the decision had to be made.

“The decision was all about a safe racing surface and we can’t have our industry participants going all the way to Avondale and have meetings called off.

“Currently we can’t race any distance over 1350m there and have no surety that the club has a plan to remedy that.”

NZTR are now working with the Northern programming chair and other clubs to look for alternate venues for the affected trials and race meetings.

“It (decision to revoke trials and race meetings) is for the foreseeable future until we can gain some comfort and some surety that they (AJC) have the right people and practices in place,” Balcombe said.

“We are in the early stages (of discussions with the TAB) and we are starting to look at what our options are as far as alternate venues.”

Avondale Jockey Club has refuted its lack of cooperation with NZTR and are engaging legal advice.

“The Club is going to its lawyers because NZTR’s media release of today is inaccurate regarding alleged lack of cooperation by the Club,” AJC president Tracey Berkhahn said.

The Club did not want to make any further comment.

Avondale’s next race meeting was set to take place on Wednesday, November 8. – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

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