The Canterbury Jockey Club and New Zealand Police have rushed to deny alcohol will be banned at Riccarton for the club's sensationally successful NZ Cup Day in November.

Reports were released on Thursday declaring pressure has forced the police to prohibit the consumption of liquor for the day.

What is accurate is that the CJC and the police are in negotiations regarding the raceday, which has attracted extremely large crowds in party mood in recent years.

Tim Mills, general manager at Riccarton and Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite, manager of Alcohol Harm Reduction for the police, late yesterday issued a joint statement: "Patrons attending 'Cup Day' this year will be able to purchase and enjoy alcoholic refreshments on course in a similar manner as past 'Cup Days'.


"The Canterbury Jockey Club and the New Zealand Police are currently working closely together to improve the event experience for all this year and reduce alcohol related harm." The cynical view of this would be that the more police can put the lid on major events the less work they are faced with.

But there is more to it than that. Managing 25,000 to 45,000 on a raceday is no easy task, regardless of how many police are deployed.

Lives can be at stake. On Boxing Day at Ellerslie a year and a half back police stepped in and closed the racecourse gates at 3pm to all but those with pre-purchased tickets. As someone heavily involved in working that day, that was a smart move. The crowd density was chaotic on some parts of the course.

One accompanying measure was doubtful. Police insisted in the packed Birdcage Bar that only two drinks be served to any individual. What that created was that for four-people tables two had to attend the bar rather than one, doubling the crowd at an already critically crowded area.

That may have slowed the consumption although some of the sights suggested not.

This is catch 22. Racing needs its big days the same as cricket, rugby and rugby league do. What is needed is total agreement and foresight between the venue producers and those charged with law and order.

This column knows of a number who have stayed away from Boxing Day at Ellerslie and Cup Day at Riccarton because of the crowded, jostling atmosphere. That's a crying shame.

There is no quick fix outside common sense.

Let's hope there is plenty around the table when the CJC and Alcohol Harm Reduction sit down for the pow-wow.