Race meeting cancelled

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The Oamaru racecourse, known by many racegoers as the best winter racecourse in the South Island, has cancelled this year’s 2014 Winter Festival.

The Oamaru Jockey Club has been forced to abandon the meeting, which was set for Thursday, due to poor underfoot conditions.

With the amount of rain which has hit the region since December 1, the track was checked by both club officials and the Racing Integrity Unit (RUI) who deemed the track too water-logged for racing on Thursday.

Three years ago, the racecourse had to be irrigated due to ground conditions being too hard. Now with the wet weather, that has come back to hurt them.

Oamaru racecourse track manager Greg Stuart said the track had dried very little since April.

“We had seven days in April which didn’t rain and since then there have been very few days suitable for drying the track.”

Since December, 521ml of rain has fallen in Oamaru. In December 112 ml of rain fell, but April had 145ml of rain which never dried, and there has been 24ml of rain so far this month.

Mr Stuart said they would have loved to have been able to host the eight-race meeting, but conditions just didn’t allow.

“We just couldn’t hold the races. There is about a 600m stretch of the course from the 1700m mark to the 1100m mark which is just too wet. My feet sink in easily standing here, so imagine a horse running on the track.”

Oamaru Jockey Club president Bevan Crombie said it was disappointing the event could not go ahead.

“We will lose around $2000 to $3000 from advertising, but punters and people who enjoy a bet will be most disappointed, with around $400,000 made from off-course betting and $15,000 to $18,000 made from on-course betting, so from that point of view, it’s a bit upsetting.”

Mr Crombie said in an ideal world, the racing community would love to see at least a week of nor-westerlies to dry the track out.

“That’s what we would love to dry the surface, but I don’t know how many other people would.”

The track has five weeks to dry ahead of the Oamaru Jockey Club’s biggest event of the season, the Winter Race meeting, scheduled for July 21.

There was an option for the meeting to be held in Ashburton or Cromwell, but the club decided against it, due to a lack of association with North Otago and weather conditions.

Mr Crombie said other racecourses around the South Island were suffering the same problem.

By BRAYDEN LINDSAY

PHOTO: BRAYDEN LINDSAY

TOO WET: Bevan Crombie and Greg Stuart inspect a sodden gallops track following a decision to cancel Thursday’s winter race meet.