Hospice Cup runs its course

By Iain Hyndman

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JOCKEY CLUB: Bret Field (left) from Wanganui Jockey Club and Valda Brechmanis, from Hospice Wanganui with a bunch of the public submissions in favour of retaining the Hospice Cup Day. PHOTO/FILE
JOCKEY CLUB: Bret Field (left) from Wanganui Jockey Club and Valda Brechmanis, from Hospice Wanganui with a bunch of the public submissions in favour of retaining the Hospice Cup Day. PHOTO/FILE

Every story has an ending and sadly the final chapter in the Hospice Cup book has been written.

The partnership between the Wanganui Jockey Club and Hospice Wanganui lasted more than a decade and raised tens of thousands of dollars for the cause.

However, circumstances have intervened and the relationship has ended, although the door remains firmly open for any future joint endeavours.

The fundraising campaign involved a thoroughbred race meeting that featured the Hospice Cup. A donation at the gate and numerous on-course activities during the meeting helped raise funds and provide the community an avenue to contribute to a worthy cause.

Originally the day was a Saturday in October at Labour Weekend.

It was a date even non-racing people knew, understood and enjoyed.

Two years ago Racing New Zealand altered the programme and Whanganui lost the October date.

The club was forced to rebrand the popular race meeting using a new February date despite a huge community drive to retain the October Saturday date. Two years ago that date was a twilight Thursday meeting that lent itself to attracting racegoers keen on an evening of fun after work.

Last year, the timing of the meeting was altered and while it was a late afternoon start much of the meeting still fell within working hours.

Wanganui Jockey Club operations manager Bret Field said ultimately the rebranding exercise did not work as well as hoped. "It was decided the time had come, Hospice Cup day had run its course," Field said yesterday.

"We still enjoy a good relationship with hospice and the door is always open for any ways we may be able to help in the future."

Club president Stu Watts said the focus was now firmly on upgrading facilities and plant at the Purnell St racecourse in anticipation of a possible change of track status within NZR's master plan.

"Currently we are rated a 'supporting' club, but there is a real chance we could be ungraded to 'significant' and with that comes substantial benefits for the club in the form of higher venue funding on race days and NZR tends to invest more in the higher rated tracks, especially when health and safety is involved," Watts said. "An example of that is the new safety plastic running rail we need to install at a cost of around $65,000, new overhead starting gates for our jumpouts [unofficial trials] and, of course, earthquake proofing of the buildings.

"That affects every business and so will the changes to the Health and Safety Law Reform Bill set to be introduced in April."

Hospice Wanganui chief executive Karen Anderson said while the final chapter in this story may have been written, the door was open for a sequel.

"We have had such a great relationship with the Jockey Club over many, many years and we will continue to look for ways to work together again in the future. The change in date from October didn't help, especially the change from a Saturday to a weekday," she said.

Meanwhile, the upcoming race meeting on Thursday, February 18 has yet to be allocated a timeframe as the TAB juggles other meetings, including in Australia, scheduled for the same day.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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