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Hesi

Stratford Racing Club - this is all so poorly conceived

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Stratford loses traditional Christmas period event to New Plymouth Raceway

Jane Matthews07:58, Dec 09 2019
 
The Stratford Racing Club has lost its only race day to New Plymouth, to the disappointment of vice president Vaughan Keegan and president John Gray.
SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF
The Stratford Racing Club has lost its only race day to New Plymouth, to the disappointment of vice president Vaughan Keegan and president John Gray.

For 100 years it's been the much-loved Christmas event for the town of Stratford - now they've lost it to their northern rivals New Plymouth.

The Stratford Racing Club's annual December meeting is its only race day. It has been held for almost as long as the club has been operating and sees thousands of people from the Taranaki region come to town.

While the club has not officially lost the race day, they've lost permission to hold it at their raceway and it will instead be run at the New Plymouth Raceway on December 29 as part of the Interislander Summer Festival. 

"Losing this race day is like losing Christmas day," Stratford club president John Gray said.

 
 

The Stratford Racing Club's future is already up in the air following last year's controversial Messara Report. It is one of 20 racecourses that will close if the report's recommendations are adopted.

Gray said he didn't know what the next 12 months might bring for his club but giving their one raceday to New Plymouth - which already has four events in December alone - was "ludicrous".

The club celebrated 125 years in 2017.
SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF
The club celebrated 125 years in 2017.

"To me it's just another raceday at New Plymouth. I'm absolutely gutted for our district."

He claimed there had been no satisfactory explanation from NZTR for the decision despite him requesting a detailed analysis. 

"There's no logical reason for it."

Taranaki Racing CEO Carey Hobbs said it was important to the province's racing infrastructure that the race day wasn't lost to Taranaki.
GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF
Taranaki Racing CEO Carey Hobbs said it was important to the province's racing infrastructure that the race day wasn't lost to Taranaki.

Taranaki Racing chief executive officer Carey Hobbs could not be contacted on Friday to discuss the impact of the decision on racing in Taranaki. 

However he had earlier said in an email that from a provincial point of view it was important to the province's racing infrastructure that the race day wasn't lost to Taranaki.

New Plymouth's raceway is the biggest racing track in Taranaki. It has a public stand and a member's stand and is within walking distance of the CBD.

Crowd numbers at the race day meetings often number in the thousands, especially during the week between Christmas and New Year. 

The race meeting is a hugely popular local event.
SIMON O'CONNOR/FAIRFAX NZ
The race meeting is a hugely popular local event.

Gray said the event in Stratford was a "traditional day" that club members poured their "heart and soul into". Last year 4500 people attended. 

He said the club had come up with an action plan to make the day a success, as requested by the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR), but that plan did not stop NZTR giving the day to New Plymouth. 

It was a perfect day for racing at Stratford Racing Club's December 31 race meeting in 2016.
SIMON O'CONNOR/FAIRFAX NZ
It was a perfect day for racing at Stratford Racing Club's December 31 race meeting in 2016.

Gray said the decision was explained as one of cost saving.

But he said it doesn't cost anything more to have the race meeting in Stratford. 

While the race track is used every day, the club always looks forward to its only race day.
SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF
While the race track is used every day, the club always looks forward to its only race day.

Gray said it would not be the end of the club. They still have other sources of income. And the club was still be entering horses at race meetings around the country.

NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry said Stratford was one of seven clubs across the country which didn't get their venue's race day license this year.

Saundry said they could still host a race day, it just couldn't be at their home track due to the cost.

"We can't sustain all of them," Saundry said. "Revenue isn't increasing."

Saundry said ultimately it was about making decisions, like choosing New Plymouth Raceway over Stratford.

"New Plymouth can run more race meetings in the longer term."

He said the loss of the race day didn't mean Stratford was on the track to lose its land.

But the club president wasn't sure - he just wants a future for his club.

"I'd love to see the day returned," president Gray said.

"All we can do is hope."

 

Stuff

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Just a few points

At 4,500 people, that is more than they get at Ellerslie on Boxing Day and NYD, these days

It is not a cost saving exercise, and if it is, why will no one step up and say just how much money is saved by racing at New Plymouth.

It is about closing 20 tracks, that can then have their land transferred to NZTR, so they can then sell and generate the 190 mil in the Messara report to upgrade the facilities and racing surface at the remaining 28 tracks, which in itself, will not generate more revenue

This whole land transfer thing is very much up in the air and likely to be contested, right through to the Supreme Court/Court of Appeal, which could take several years.  In the meantime, NZTR will have withdrawn licences to race at the various courses concerned, just as they have done with Stratford

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But of those 4500 people,how many were from Remuera,and how many were guzzling glasses of Champers like there was no tommorrow,and how many were giggling and having a right royal time on the grass,and how many didn't know the front of a horse from the backside of a horse.

They are the good lookers we want at our race meetings.

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Nothing is ever considered in light of what will actually resolve their issues. The whole land biso is a sure way to alienate rather than embrace.

Things like the POC do the same - alienate punters as the odds setters simply pass on the charge to their customers. The notion highlights how stupid the people are - as if they think the people are just going to be happy fronting up with more and more losses, each time they come up with another idea to increase the charges to them.

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Yes. Both those strategies are a complete waste of time, energy and money, quite likely for no net return to the industry. That they are proceeding with the land business despite the warnings from the DIA with respect to the legal implications is just nuts. The PoC tax likewise when the predictions are that there may well be no net gain or a possible net loss. And as you point out Mardi, there can be no gain unless it somehow inspires punters to lose more or increases the customer base both of which seem highly unlikely propositions to me.

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Exactly right Mardi

Not issuing new licences as with Stratford, and initiating legislation to allow land to be transferred to NZTR ownership will not only alienate the part of the industry affected, but be very divisive, especially when a club like Stratford gets probably the same attendance on it's 1 race day, that is only exceeded by any of the Auckland clubs on Boxing/NYD

The strategy should have been to get the industry into sustainable shape(costs and outsourcing the TAB for a start), prove they could do this, and that it would generate revenue, before the more contentious issues were addressed.

Anyway, this 'land grab', is purely to generate 190 mil for the refurbishment of the remaining 28 courses, which in itself, is needed, but will short term, not generate more revenue....how could it.

How do you tell a club like Stratford that has one race day, that has 4,500 locals attend, that it saves money racing at NP, where many of the locals will not bother

If NZTR put up some figures to justify this, then people might be more accepting, but I doubt they can.

Here's a scenario, the 3 Auckland clubs combine to form a single entity, and with the funds generated from the sale of land and assets, build a new complex somewhere in the  South Auckland region, incorporating other means of generating income(not just racing), 365 days of the year, but away from suburbia.  Avondale 200 mil, Counties ??, Ellerslie 500 mil plus??

 

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I agree Hesi and particularly with Mardi's alienation comment. These strategies and the way they are being brought about just push people into fight or flight mode. Then they complain about the lack of cooperation and collaboration. The DIA RIA noted the lack of consultation with respect to the land business, especially in light of wide ranging dissenting comment in response to the Messara report. It would be hard to write a better recipe for disaster.

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Yet Saundry and NZTR claim that there was widespread consultation, and these closures of courses has to happen to save costs.  He says this every time he is on his weekly Trackside radio slot.

Where are the figures and worksheets that show what/where are the savings.  You would be very hard pressed to convince the Stratford community that racing at NP is going to save money.  I presume, as per most rural clubs, that most of the input is voluntary or sponsored by local businesses, which will not happen at NP

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