Racing has always been an integral part of the rural community, with many country racing clubs boasting history back to the era of the horse and cart, huge crowds and family outings to the races a highlight.

Modern racing times have meant a decrease in people venturing on course, with the stretched entertainment dollar and many other gambling opportunities on offer.

Country clubs say they have always provide a great day out for their community. The recent reports instigated by the industry have highlighted the way forward is to rationalise resources and upgrade the infrastructure at other venues.

The local racecourses affected by these changes are Waipukurau, Wairoa and Woodville, and Kirsty Lawrence is one racing fanatic who is keen to ensure racing remains rurally, but also recognising the need for change.


"I can identify with the issues in the industry. I am an owner, a trainer, a business owner, a sponsor and a local committee member. The issues in each area create problems for another. The clubs all wish to remain," Lawrence says.

"Owner numbers and horse numbers have decreased as returns to owners have remained stagnant, costs have increased and clubs nationwide struggle to attract horse numbers and sponsors have become more scarce."

Lawrence says she has immense pride in the Waipukurau Jockey Club and she is the first to acknowledge the support of local sponsors and the volunteer committee that runs the race days.

"I love being a part of the Waipukurau Jockey Club. I have trained all of my winners on the track and I proud of the contribution that the local racing club has made, hosting not only four race days last year, but the Hatuma Marathon, the NZ Army, Arran Station and A&P horse accommodation, all with the support of some amazing local sponsors and a volunteer workforce," Lawrence says.

So what does the future hold for the Waipukurau Jockey Club, with both recent reports suggesting closure after 160 years racing on the track?

"The committee is working on the submissions to the board on retaining racing in the local communities," she says.

"It is an important part of our racing identity that these country meetings remain. The closure of tracks is a small part of the overall restructure of racing, and there are other initiatives that will benefit the industry in the short term," says Lawrence.

"We want nothing more than to remain racing here, but any closure is still five years away and requires a major development plan to be undertaken nationally before us. I am not panicking - I will keep training on the track, hoping to get a few more winners and supporting the committee to make our race days better than ever," she says.


Waipukurau has recently enjoyed success with the Lawrence-trained Pep Torque winning back to back over the Wellington Cup Carnival and Tony and Penny Ebbett having a great season with stayer Royal Ruby.

"There is always a handy horse trained out of Waipukurau from a small base of owners and trainers. That is something to be proud of. There have been some more than handy horses over the years trained here - Intransigent, Belfast Lad, My Astron all racing at Open Handicap level.

"To highlight the need for our local track to remain, we need people on course, supporting the meetings. Bring the family and enjoy a day out, and we are always looking for more committee members or sponsors to get involved," Lawrence says.

The Waipukurau Jockey Club meets for Waipukurau Cup day on Thursday March 28.