The Avondale Jockey Club will go to war to retain racing in West Auckland and says even if that doesn't happen their track is not for sale.

And in a dramatic point of difference to recommendations in the Messara report, senior New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing officials accept they would struggle to take control of the racetrack and therefore profit from its suggested sale.

AJC officials have remained silent on the Messara recommendations last August to close their track, sell it for an estimated $200 million and that money to go to NZTR. Until now.

AJC committee member Bruce Cleland, who has been empowered to make the first public statements on the future of the club, says they are 100 per cent against selling their racecourse and it is not even being entertained by the committee.


And that includes if NZTR takes away their racing licences and or even if the track is forcibly closed and sold by the Government.

"We don't think that will happen but whatever does there is no way we see any money that would be gained from a forced sale of the property going to NZTR," Cleland told the Weekend Herald.

"But we are a long way from that. We want to stay racing at Avondale and improve the facilities.

"We have a plan, which would include selling two smaller parcels of land on the track and using those to develop our facilities."

The Avondale racing surface is one of the better ones in the north but their old public stand is one of the great eyesores of New Zealand racing.

Cleland says the asbestos-laden stand will be pulled down and other developments could be funded by the land sales, including even a synthetic track if it was deemed Auckland needs one.

Cleland says rather than closing Avondale the AJC wants to promote a regular racing circuit in Auckland, with Ellerslie, Pukekohe and Avondale working together to create more metropolitan racing in New Zealand's largest city.

But so far there has been very little working together.


AJC officials have only attended one meeting with Ellerslie and Pukekohe and have adopted a siege mentality over the suggested closure of their track.

Ellerslie boss Paul Wilcox says his club are working with Pukekohe on the future of racing in the Auckland region but they would welcome the AJC back to the table.

The sale of Avondale was one of the silver bullets suggested in the Messara report, the Winston Peters-commissioned review of the New Zealand racing industry tabled last winter.

The report states: "Without the vesting in NZTR of the ownership of freehold racecourse land, the sale of freehold land from closed venues ... the proposed racecourse consolidation plan we recommend cannot proceed."

But even one of the Messara report's strongest supporters, NZTR chairman Alan Jackson, has admitted to the Weekend Herald the section of the report on track closures is flawed.

NZTR has already agreed other tracks slated for closure by the Messara report should be left open as part of their future venues plan and those at the highest levels of NZTR realise they would struggle to gaining legal footing to force racetrack closures and even more so to secure money from subsequent sales.

Cleland says the AJC doesn't even know it they could sell their track, racing licences or not.

"It depends on how we interpret the deed of gift from when that land was given to the club," he suggests.

"But even if NZTR takes away our racing licences we have other things we can do at the track."

Even more important than NZTR's realisation of the difficulties they would face going down the forced closure path is the expected recommendations of the Racing Industry Transitional Authority (RITA).

RITA is set to take over from the Ministerial Advisory Committee on July 1 but all five members of MAC will be on RITA, with one more to be added immediately and another possible in time.

There would appear to be little appetite on MAC, soon to be RITA, for a land grab of New Zealand racetracks to be sold with the money to go to NZTR and it will be surprising if they recommend such closures in their next report to Racing Minister Peters.

While the members of MAC, like everybody else in New Zealand racing, realise track closures are needed they are likely to suggest a more case-by-case basis with clubs and communities given the chance to save their tracks providing they can make a good business case and meet safety standards.

The arbitrary closure of 20 tracks as suggested in the Messara report is looking increasingly unlikely.