The announcement from the Racing Industry Transition Agency confirming no race meetings for Waipā Racing Club has come as a shock to members, according to club president Doug Hurrell.

He says the Te Awamutu club understands the downturn in the industry in general, coupled with the effects of Covid-19, meant there needed to be some rationalisation, but had expected their submission would have a better result.

Earlier this year the agency proposed a calendar which showed no meetings in Te Awamutu for the 2020/21 season.

Doug and his team swung into action, but with Covid-19 and the lockdown, had only a short time to make a case.

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However, Doug says they had some confidence after working so hard over the past year to make the track fit for purpose.

Now they have to resign themselves to no race meetings and turn their attention to doing what they do best — providing a good grass track for training and trials.

"Waipā Racing Club owns the Te Awamutu racecourse and facilities without debt," says Doug.

A concern is that under Racing New Zealand rules the national body can take surplus facilities off clubs, sell them and put the proceeds into the consolidated fund.

Doug says the mission is to maintain a fit-for-purpose facility and keep it open.

"We owe it to our members, our track users and our community to make it available for training, racing and other suitable events.

"Reconditioning of the track is completed and we have offered the industry a number of trial dates."

Doug says members are vitally aware that the Te Awamutu track keeps a number of people employed.

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Waipa Racecourse on-course racing stables owner Stephen Ralph on Red Russian (left) and newly licensed apprentice (from August 1) Yas Roy Coonee on Taharoa Heights having a hit-out yesterday morning.
Waipa Racecourse on-course racing stables owner Stephen Ralph on Red Russian (left) and newly licensed apprentice (from August 1) Yas Roy Coonee on Taharoa Heights having a hit-out yesterday morning.

"We have 61 people who earn a living through the training that takes place here every day," he says.

"Te Awamutu is the fourth largest training facility in New Zealand.

"Every day between 130 and 150 horses are worked on our track and at our complex.

"We are in the centre of the region with the largest horse population in New Zealand," he says.

The club is also looking to work with Te Rapa and Cambridge for dates when it can run its premier races, especially the Te Awamutu Cup and John F Grylls Memorial Classic, which Doug describes as too important and too sentimental not to run.

And they are proud of their facilities and track.

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Doug says artificial tracks have advantages, but there are disadvantages as well.

He says it is hard to better a good grass track, and that is what they will strive to continue to continue to offer.

"This is important to us," says Doug.

"There's too much history and too much to lose."