Cambridge will be the home of New Zealand's first synthetic horse racing track with a near $7million grant from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund.

The Herald understand Minister for Racing Winston Peters could announce the approval for the new track surface as early as tomorrow when he opens a thoroughbred sale at the Karaka sales complex at 9.45am.

It is believed the PGF will provide around half of the around $13million needed to build a synthetic, or all-weather, track over the next year which can be used for racing minor meetings but more importantly for training and trialing racehorses.

The Cambridge training track is New Zealand's largest racehorse training facility with the horse racing industry a huge employer in the area.

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But New Zealand's wet winters and the up to 1200 horses that use the current training facility in spring have created enormous wear and tear on the main grass surface there and can affect trainer's ability to prepare their horses.

The racing industry, from trainer to punters, have also been crying out for a more consistent and safe racing surface in winter when extremely wet tracks and cancellations of meeting have cost the industry tens of millions of dollars.

The synthetic track mooted for Cambridge would replace the main grass track used there at the moment for training and trials with a track that isn't affected by the weather.

The Herald understands one of the key factors in the PGF agreeing to the grant was that the new track could also be used for race meeting, not just training and trialing horses.
That would make it the first synthetic racetrack in New Zealand.

Synthetic tracks are popular in many overseas racing jurisdictions and have recently become more common in Australia but are viewed as alternate options to the usual grass surface for thoroughbred racing.

But with Waikato being the hub of New Zealand racing, a synthetic track could provide a regular venue for the less glamorous mid-week meetings, which often attract small crowds but are crucial for turnover and giving horses racing opportunities.

The Cambridge track presently has limited public facilities but even a small, clubhouse-like area with a viewing platform could suffice for minor meetings, where the main audience is the punters who watch the races on television both here and overseas.

Work on the synthetic track is unlikely to start this winter but expectations are it should be in place by next year.

Cambridge was one of three areas mooted for synthetic tracks in New Zealand, with others potentially at Palmerston North and in Christchurch.

The synthetic tracks and their ability to provide sustainable racing are one of the key initiatives signalled by Mr Peters in his role as Minister for Racing.

He also commissioning a broad-ranging report into the future of the industry, the Messara report.

The logistics, practicalities and in some cases legalities of that report are currently being investigated by a Ministerial Advisory Committee who will make recommendations on the future direction of the industry.