Future of Shoalhaven racing under a cloud

Tessa De Mestre and former jockey John Letts at Shoalhaven City Turf Club Nowra in 2008 when the Melbourne Cup was on tour. Picture: MELANIE RUSSELLShoalhaven City Turf Club cheif executive officer Lynn Locke has questioned the future of racing in the Shoalhaven after another local meeting was cancelled on Easter Sunday.

The club was to stage a seven-race meeting, including the $25,000 Greenwell Point Cup, but the race day was called off before a horse could even be taken onto the course.

This time it was the jockeys who made the decision not to take to the track.

It’s been a horror time for the local club, which hasn’t raced since December 31 last year.

The Archer layout underwent $250,000 worth of drainage work following that meeting and had to reschedule one February meeting until June and lost another to a fellow race club within the south east region to allow that work to be undertaken.

It had already lost three race meetings for the season.

It’s previously scheduled race day on March 15, the Hats and High Tea Race Day was also cancelled.

“Sunday was perhaps one of the most disappointing race days when prior to the first race the jockeys decided to call off the races,” Mrs Locke said.

“I really wonder what the future holds for the Shoalhaven City

Turf Club and racing in the Shoalhaven.”

Mrs Locke said all the correct protocols were followed to ensure the track was safe for racing.

“Racecourse manager David Sharp worked up to 15 hours a day the week prior to the meeting to ensure that the return to racing would not only be safe but a great experience for all concerned,” she said.

“A track gallop was undertaken on Saturday and again on Sunday morning, after 12mm of rain on Saturday, just to ensure the racing surface was up to standard.

“The Sunday morning gallop was supervised by stewards and it was agreed by all that racing could safely return to Nowra, albeit on a heavy track.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to have the jockeys decide to call off the races without even racing on the track for one race.

“Obviously jockey and horse safety is our paramount concern and we would never jeopardise anyone’s safety.

“I’m unsure how we proceed and move forward from here.”

Mrs Locke said it would be a long road back for the club.

“Not only is the club struggling to make ends meet but it is now in a position where it needs to win back the confidence of trainers, owners and all participants,” she said.

“The board are all voluntary and spend many hours at the club, not only on race days but throughout the year ensuring it continues to offer a great racing venue to the community, visitors to the area and of course industry participants.”

On Sunday the club refunded entry to those who had come to enjoy a day of racing and despite there being no action on the track the many other attractions that had been advertised including the farmyard nursery, magician and jumping castle went ahead.

The club is scheduled to race again next Tuesday, April 14.


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