Otago races move to Oamaru

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Tuesday, April 14

The Otago Racing Club’s April 22 meeting has been moved from Wingatui Racecourse to Oamaru after a horse slipped during a race at the club’s meet last week.

On Thursday, the final two races of an eight-race programme at Wingatui were abandoned after a horse lost its footing in race six, while another horse was reported to have been unsure in its footing in the same race.

Otago Racing Club president Dean Lawrence said the decision was made to abandon the meet after a track inspection and a meeting between jockeys, club officials and stipendiary stewards.

Mr Lawrence said the cause of incident was not yet known. Track conditions were fine and there had been no rain.

“We had five races without incident on Thursday and in the sixth a horse slipped for no apparent reason at about the 800 metre mark. The decision was made to abandon the last two races.”

He confirmed the club’s next meeting, scheduled for April 22, would take place at Oamaru Racecourse because of the uncertain nature of the Wingatui track.

In the meantime, an investigation in to the integrity of the surface at Wingatui will take place and is likely to start today.

“We’re moving to Oamaru because the independent investigation of the track is only just commencing, so its findings won’t be complete until sometime in late April.”

Nominations for the April 22 meet are due by April 17, meaning there’s no possible way Wingatui can host the meet.

“At the club we have more to lose than gain by racing at Wingatui until the outcome becomes known,” Mr Lawrence said.

“From the club’s point of view, we want to make sure everyone is confident in the track.”

Racing was also abandoned at Wingatui on March 7. Mr Lawrence said a subsequent New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing investigation failed to pinpoint the reason why a horse slipped on that occasion.

A meet went ahead at the track on March 23 without incident.

Mr Lawrence said April 22 would not be the first time Oamaru has hosted an Otago Racing Club meet.

“Off the top of my head, the last time would probably be four or five years ago, when all of Wingatui’s winter races were transferred because of work being done on the corner going out to the straight.”

Oamaru Racecourse has a reputation of being one of the best winter tracks in the South Island, one Mr Lawrence was confident it would live up to come racing next Wednesday.

The outcome of the investigation into the Wingatui track may result in further races being moved to Oamaru.

“As far as Wingatui goes, we’ll have to assess the result of the independent evaluation of the track. If it’s found significant remedial work is required, Oamaru is potentially a consideration moving forward.”

The next meet scheduled to be held at Wingatui takes place on May 31.

By Daniel Birchfield