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BIG changes for Auckland racing


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From the Herald

 
SPORT

Exclusive: Massive changes for Auckland racing with Avondale track set to cl

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Winter Race Day at Ellerslie Race. Photosport

NZ Herald
 

Auckland's thoroughbred racing is set for its most dramatic and progressive change in a century in a move that will see Ellerslie upgraded to a world class facility with enormous stake increases.

The Herald understands the Auckland Racing Club and Counties Racing Club are planning to merge, which will be outlined to members today.

And while the Avondale Jockey Club will not be merging but instead retain their identity, their committee is now asking members to agree to close the West Auckland track in 2026 and thereafter race at Ellerslie.

All three clubs will stress to members that proposals are not finalised and the memberships will be widely consulted before plans are actioned.

But in the case of the ARC and CRC it is hard to see the majority of members not agreeing to plans that could double the new merged club's income in five years, which will enable them to double Ellerslie's current average race stake of $50,000 to $100,000 inside.

A new merged Auckland-Counties club, which could be called the Auckland Turf Club, would look to install a new StrathAyr racing surface at Ellerslie which would allow at least 40 race days a year at the central Auckland track.

The installation of the StrathAyr track would likely see no racing at Ellerslie for at least one year, probably longer. That would mean keeping Avondale open would be crucial for racing in the city and the northern region.

One of the other key goals, with club bosses believe are very achievable, is staging 10 races a year worth $500,000 and three $1million races.

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The Auckland Racing Club already holds three $1million races but only one $500,000 race so that would mean some huge jumps in feature race prize money.

The benefits of a merger between the two clubs, including the dramatic stake increases, are confirmed in an independent report from Deloitte.

"Amalgamation will deliver significantly better returns to the industry than the two clubs continuing independently, hence we recommend the amalgamation proceeds," states the report.

Under the raft of changes across the industry, the Avondale Jockey Club will still exist as a separate club but will race at Ellerslie from 2026 with their West Auckland track to be potentially sold or developed with some money used for the benefit of thoroughbred racing in the region but some retained to keep the AJC alive and, ultimately, far better off.

General view of Avondale jockey club and race course. Photosport General view of Avondale jockey club and race course. Photosport

An Avondale Jockey Club committee's recommendation to members says they will ask AJC members to support "in due course a comprehensive asset-sharing plan between the clubs whereby the AJC site (Avondale) is ultimately to be closed."

That is the first public suggestion from the AJC bosses they are looking at closing their historic facility as was initially suggested in the Messara report and even before.

Powers that could have ultimately forced Avondale's closure were reinforced in the new Racing Act and the AJC were facing an increasingly difficult task to stay open and retain their racing licences issues by NZTR.

If the members support the AJC committee's recommendations then the AJC name will never be lost and they will have plenty of money in the bank but be able to race at the world class facility Ellerslie is expected to become.

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The prospect of Ellerslie doubling stakes in five years and potentially tripling them in less than 10 years is an enormous shot in the arm for the ailing racing industry which badly needs dramatic stake increases to make racing normal horses even remotely economic.

For the last decade our leading trainers have salivated over skyrocketing stakes in New South Wales and Victoria and while they can aim their best horses at the major carnivals, that is of little help to owners of average New Zealand-trained horses who will only ever race domestically.

Now real change, with a real bottom line boost, could be imminent, coming as a synthetic track at Cambridge is being completed and one at Riccarton started.

Finally there is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that has been much of New Zealand's domestic racing away from the carnivals in recent years.

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Amazing, the racing industry working together, that is great news, and a Strathayr track at Ellerslie.

May not be everyone's piece of cake, but it does appear to be the benchmark for turf tracks world wide, and that is what you have to do to become world class.......no pulling your pud thinking otherwise.

Let's hope it is taken a step further, and that Avondale, once they fulfill the role of a back up track, sell, and amalgamate with the other 2 at Ellerslie in some form.  The money will truly make Ellerslie world class, if they do it right 

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I guess the other 2 thing about a Strathayr track, that I have not seen mentioned before, is

1.  When we get unseasonal rain affected tracks and mass scratchings, like at Te Aroha today, that should not happen at Ellerslie, so fields sizes are not decimated, along with betting turnover

2.  Asian punter confidence, because Sha Tin and Happy Valley are both Strathayr

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3 minutes ago, Hesi said:

I guess the other 2 thing about a Strathayr track, that I have not seen mentioned before, is

1.  When we get unseasonal rain affected tracks and mass scratchings, like at Te Aroha today, that should not happen at Ellerslie, so fields sizes are not decimated, along with betting turnover

2.  Asian punter confidence, because Sha Tin and Happy Valley are both Strathayr

I think you are drawing a long bow.

The issues with Strathayr and with AWTs is that we now have people pro one and anti the other. Yet neither have had any cost benefit analysis on what they will actually do for racing in NZ.

Strathayr may well be the greatest thing here - but who actually knows. It is rarely used in winter in Oz. HK racing shuts down for the wet season. In cold climates, it has met with some negative views. Launceston don't race on their one pretty much at all during winter.

The Kensington track that was much maligned at Randwick is Strathayr. And Moe has had numerous issues with their Strathayr surface.

People have formed an opinion on one versus the other - but no actual study that I am aware of can be reliably consulted that details what benefits will be achieved. 

Isn't suggesting NZ should have put in Strathayr instead of AWTs as knee jerk as the decisions made to put in AWTs?

 

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8 minutes ago, curious said:

Reportedly there was an analysis of the Auckland merger by Deloittes which informed the decision, presumably including the pros and cons of the Strathayr.  Not that I have seen it yet.

I'm not sure which part of Deloittes would be able to begin to understand the benefits or otherwise of Strathayr for NZ racing, or be cognisant of any possible/likely issues of a Strathayr implementation in NZ. Why didn't they just fix the track they already have?

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16 minutes ago, curious said:

Reportedly there was an analysis of the Auckland merger by Deloittes which informed the decision, presumably including the pros and cons of the Strathayr.  Not that I have seen it yet.

They did the report commissioned by NZTR for outsourcing the TAB, which was put to one side by NZRB

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5 minutes ago, mardigras said:

I'm not sure which part of Deloittes would be able to begin to understand the benefits or otherwise of Strathayr for NZ racing, or be cognisant of any possible/likely issues of a Strathayr implementation in NZ. Why didn't they just fix the track they already have?

They did

Didn't they spend several million on radial drains every 5m the full circumference of the track

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Well who knows what standards are in racing, it's not run by a world body

Other sports for instance are, so if you want to be considered world class, then you have to meet the standards

eg, Rowing with the course, cycling with the velodrome, canoeing with the course

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6 minutes ago, Hesi said:

I guess the point is, people in Aus and Asia, know Strathayr, so confidence in the track is likely to be more likely

But there isn't a lot of confidence in Strathayr in Australia. One track, Moonee Valley, seems to be the one raved about. And Australian climate is massively different to NZ's.

To think this is going to be some sort of magic bullet is just like those thinking AWT tracks will be some sort of magic bullet. I can't see it making any difference than an AWT. I wouldn't have been putting in either, without fully understanding the supposed benefits of either.

Didn't Ellerslie have an inner track in the past? 

Edited by mardigras
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Just now, Hesi said:

 

Even after the remedial work?

How does this happen then, lack of expertise in NZ?

When was the remedial work completed? I'm not an expert in turf management, so I don't know. But if you compare the consistency across the track of Ellerslie with Flemington, there is no comparison.

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If you look at the Strathayr system, there is only one thing unique about it, compared to a turf track, that being the plastic square mesh elements that are incorporated into the top turf layer, as it is grown at Strathayr, before being relaid.

The rest really just includes a comprehensive sub drainage system, that you would expect a properly qualified drainage contractor to be able to put in.

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53 minutes ago, mardigras said:

I'm not sure which part of Deloittes would be able to begin to understand the benefits or otherwise of Strathayr for NZ racing, or be cognisant of any possible/likely issues of a Strathayr implementation in NZ. Why didn't they just fix the track they already have?

Well, knowing the competence behind these kind of decisions here it possibly didn't happen but I would have thought that Delloites would have commissioned independent (including of Strathayr) experts in consideration of that matter and that would have been insisted on in the brief from th clubs concerned. To fix the existing track, I'm picking they need to fully re-lay it and install new base and drainage etc. Whether the top is Strathayr or conventional is probably a small part of that overall exercise.

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3 minutes ago, curious said:

Well, knowing the competence behind these kind of decisions here it possibly didn't happen but I would have thought that Delloites would have commissioned independent (including of Strathayr) experts in consideration of that matter and that would have been insisted on in the brief from th clubs concerned. To fix the existing track, I'm picking they need to fully re-lay it and install new base and drainage etc. Whether the top is Strathayr or conventional is probably a small part of that overall exercise.

The members of each club would then surely have the report and the analysis behind the proposed options, that have now become decisions? Are there no members of those clubs on here?

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I saw that Nerula was asked for the report on another channel when he posted the letter that it was attached to but I haven't checked back. Someone must be able to post it here or somewhere you would think if it has gone to all members. I'll follow up when I have a chance.

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