Report proposes sale of racecourse share

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Sale proposal . . . A racing review recommends that the Canterbury Jockey Club sells its share in Rangiora's racecourse. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By SHELLEY TOPP

A major racing industry review recommends that the Canterbury Jockey Club (CJC) sell its majority share in Rangiora Raceway.

The report proposes that the sale of the CJC’s 7/12 share proceed in 2020/21.

However, it will be business as usual in the meantime for the raceway’s main user, the Rangiora Harness Racing Club, despite the proposal, which would likely see the proceeds going toward a synthetic racetrack at Riccarton Park

The review of the New Zealand Racing Industry was commissioned by Racing Minister Winston Peters and released last week.

It was written by Australian thoroughbred racing administrator John Messara, a prominent thoroughbred breeder and owner in New South Wales.

His brief was to conduct an independent assessment of the state of the New Zealand domestic thoroughbred racing industry and make recommendations for change.

Mr Messara’s 86-page report concluded that “the New Zealand racing industry is in a state of serious malaise and requires urgent reform”.

Reducing the number of existing thoroughbred racing venues, many of which support both thoroughbred and harness racing, from 48 to 28 during the next six years was a central recommendation.

He also proposed the construction of three synthetic tracks, two in the North Island, at Awapuni and Cambridge, and another at Riccarton Park (to be constructed by the 2020/2021 season).

The Rangiora Raceway is owned by the Rangiora Harness Racing Club in partnership with the Canterbury Jockey Club, which races at Riccarton Park in Christchurch.

The harness club holds 11 race meetings a year at the raceway and, as far as president Greg Wright is concerned, Mr Messara’s recommendations are not something to be concerned about in the meantime.

He doesn’t expect the review to bring about any changes for the next three or four years.

“The harness club has a right of purchase agreement. If the report is adopted there will be negotiations over what the future will hold, but at the moment it is very much a case of take a deep breath and wait and see.”

The Rangiora Raceway has not been used for thoroughbred race meetings since jockey Judy Lawson was badly injured in a race fall on the track in 2006.

However, it remains a busy raceway, with the track still used for galloping trials and “jump outs”.

The Amberley Trotting Club also holds its annual meeting at the raceway on the grass track and, in addition to the Rangiora Harness Racing Club’s 11 race meetings each year, there is a busy schedule of harness racing workouts and trials held on its all-weather track.

There are also a large number of harness racing and thoroughbred racing trainers based at the facility.

The Canterbury Jockey Club chairman, Gordon Fulton, who lives in Swannanoa, attended last Thursday’s meeting, held by Mr Peters in Hamilton.

Mr Fulton said everybody at the meeting would have agreed that “something had to be done”.

However, the 86-page report was kept under wraps until the meeting and Mr Peters gave only a relatively brief review of what it contained. This meant that, although time was made available for questions, few were asked and many uncertainties about its contents remain.