A Message from NZTR COO, Darin Balcombe – Racing Operations Update

18 May 2023

On behalf of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, I would like to provide a timely racing operations-based update on track, surface and infrastructure developments as we head into the latter end of the racing season.

With wet weather encroaching as we head into the winter months, it is pleasing to see the number of nominations for Cambridge Synthetic on Wednesday with 10 races and Riccarton Park’s synthetic race meeting on Thursday 18 May, with 140 acceptances over 10 races also at the time of writing.

The support for Riccarton Park’s synthetic track has been very positive, which is heartening given the raceday is run at feature stake levels.

The course proper reconstruction project planning continues at Awapuni, with decisions on profiles and drainage being finalised.

Tender documents are now out with contractors with the close off mid-June, with work scheduled to take place from October this year and grass sown by April 2024.

Manawatu Racing Club held its inaugural synthetic track meeting at Awapuni on Sunday 7 May, with a total of six races completing the card.

Feedback on the surface has been positive, with confirmation that the track raced well and it was pleasing to see horses winning from the back of the field, as well as on pace runners through the day.

As the turf tracks now feel the effects of Autumn and Winter’s inevitable wet weather, NZTR believes synthetic tracks will become a much greater asset for New Zealand racing, while becoming a vital racing and training tool for industry participants in all three regions.

Disappointingly, Racing Te Aroha was unable to hold its scheduled trials on Thursday 4 May after a horse slipped during track work the morning prior to the meeting.

It has subsequently been identified that the grass length and wet weather had caused an anaerobic layer to be formed in areas of the track. This created wet and greasy areas on the track, making it unsafe.

NZTR and Racing Te Aroha have come to a mutual agreement on an action plan to rectify the situation. However, given the time of the year and increasingly wet conditions, the remedies required to repair the surface will take time and be reliant on reasonable weather.

The track will now aim to resume racing at the beginning of the 2023-24  season.

On a positive note, the Ellerslie track is still on target for a January 2024 resumption despite the weather setbacks. A return to racing timeline will be developed closer to the return date.

A raceday has been scheduled for Sunday 14 January, required to be run in order to gain confidence for participants heading into the 2024 Karaka Million Twilight meeting held on Saturday 27 January at Ellerslie.

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