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Racing will return to the Oamaru Racecourse next season, although other tracks face uncertain futures.

The number of venues allocated meetings in the Racing Industry Transition Agency’s (RITA) draft calendar for the 2020-21 season has been slashed.

A statement from RITA said the key principle of the proposed changes was to have more meetings closer to where horses and greyhounds were trained.

The Oamaru Harness Racing Club has been allocated permits for September 20, October 18 and November 21 this year, and February 10 and March 10 next year, a reduction of two meetings.

Forbury Park, Waimate and Waikouaiti have disappeared entirely from the draft racing calendar for the 2020-21 season which starts on August 1.

The Waikouaiti Trotting Club will hold two meetings in Oamaru in February and March, but the Waikouaiti Racing Club’s New Year’s Day meeting, which attracts crowds of up to 6000 people, was left without a date.

The Waimate Trotting Club has been allocated a race day at Oamaru Racecourse on March 28, while the Waimate Racing Club will meet at Timaru on June 13.

The Kurow Jockey Club has retained its popular December 30 meeting, but the Kurow Trotting Club, which races at Oamaru, has also not been allocated a date for the season.

Oamaru Harness Racing Club president David Heffernan said the Kurow Trotting Club could possibly take over one of Oamaru’s dates next season, if it wanted to.

Now the draft calendar had been released, it gave the Oamaru Harness Racing Club some confidence to go ahead with planned upgrades to the grandstand and stables, Mr Heffernan said.

The key to Oamaru surviving the cuts was its location between the large horse populations in Southland and Canterbury, he said.

“Oamaru has always been seen as strategically placed.

“No-one wants it to be their track [that has no racing] . . . but the whole industry is in agreement there needs to be rationalisation of tracks.”

While the racing industry was struggling, it was not through any fault of clubs, which were largely run by volunteers, he said.

“It’s been the corporate level which has put the industry into the red.

“The grassroots level is run on voluntary labour, and the broom is going through at that level, which is absolutely ridiculous.”

The Oamaru Jockey Club has two meetings scheduled for next year, on June 18 and July 25.

Club president Nigel Rooney said he was relieved to get two meetings, but the club would miss out on races that were scheduled for this year.

He felt for the clubs that had not been allocated a race meeting next year.

“I know a lot of those guys at other clubs and they will be devastated they are not going to have races at their own course,” Mr Rooney said.

“Some of these guys put years and years into it and they are all volunteers,” he said.

“The whole racing industry is on tenterhooks at the moment.”

The Tuapeka Harness Racing Club, which has previously raced at Forbury Park, has also been given a permit to race at Oamaru on October 26.

Submissions could be made on the calendar by the middle of June and the final decision will be made on July 3.