9 Jan 2018

'We haven't got the money to sustain 52 race venues'

2:56 pm on 9 January 2018

The thoroughbred racing industry admits it doesn't have enough money to maintain all the country's racetracks, but says moves are afoot to address the problems.

Stock image of horse racing

Stock image of horse racing Photo: 123RF

It follows earlier criticism from the national horse trainers' association which said small, poorly maintained tracks were to blame for the number of abandoned or postponed racing meets in the last week.

Last week, six race-days were either postponed or abandoned, including meetings in Waikouaiti, Ellerslie and Thames.

Most were cancelled when rain fell on parched tracks, making them slippery and dangerous to horses and jockeys.

New Zealand Trainers' Association president Tony Pike said New Zealand has too many small, underused tracks, and the industry couldn't afford to keep them up to scratch.

"We've got too many racecourses here in New Zealand to maintain upto a sufficient standard, 52 in total," Mr Pike said.

"Where the horse population is based, is probably where the money needs to be spent. Six or eight of our major racecourses, if we could get them upto international standard would be fantastic long-term," he said.

Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry said there'd been a lack of investment in the country's 52 racetracks.

Tomorrow club representatives, integrity officers, trainer and jockey representatives will meet to discuss what can be done to fix these issues in the short term.

"I want to make sure our policies and procedures have been followed and are there any learnings that we need to update and learn from what's happened over the last 10 days," he said.

In the longer term there needed to be a venue plan to make sure the investment was centred on the right tracks to ensure racing remained safe and economically viable.

Mr Saundry said while it was too early to say whether the country had too many racecourses, he said funding them all was a "monumental task."

"We haven't got the levels of revenue that we'd like to think we've got, to sustain 52 venues. I've got a view that all our clubs can play an important role whether that's via the community or clubs hosting many race meetings a year in accommodating thousands of horses across both the north and south island and that's a discussion that we want with our clubs, the government and with the New Zealand Racing Board to set up a sustainable model for the future,' he said.

"We haven't got the money to sustain 52 race venues, how we then fix, that I've got to do in a collaborative sense with our clubs, with the government, with the New Zealand Racing Board and our participants."

"I'm not saying, I've got the solution, there are many people around New Zealand that are now calling for much work to be done in this space and the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing is committed to doing that work," he said.

Clubs are funded through revenue from betting at the TAB.

But Mr Saundry said they were hopeful of increasing revenue this year with a new law allowing New Zealand racing to collect levies for customers in Australia who are betting on races in this country, which is expected to bring in an extra $3-$5 million a year.

In addition, the New Zealand Racing Board and the TAB had a plan to increase revenue by growing the number of customers engaged in the racing industry by 5-6% a year and he was confident they would meet that target.

Mr Saundry said that money would be spent on prize money, infrastructure and growing and developing the sport.

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