COMMENT:

After horse racing's day of the long knives it is time for the day of the smart deal - one that could stop the closure and potential sale of Avondale becoming the next great drawn-out mess of New Zealand racing.

The racing industry was, as predicted, enormously changed forever on Friday when 14 venues lost their licences to hold races next season.

That is how the proposed dates calendar for the next racing season put out by the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA, better known as the TAB) sets out racing's future, with mostly venues slated for closure in the Messara report of two years ago now all but finished.

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The "all but" part comes because the dates calendar is not final, so clubs in for the chop will have the chance to plead their case.

A venue like Manawatu harness racing believe they can race dual codes with the greyhounds, which cuts costs, so they might have a shot at redemption if they can make a good business case.

Others such as Wyndham have money in the bank, plenty of horses in the region and the ability to easily get fibre installed to their track, enabling cheaper television broadcasting, so they appear in for the fight.

But when the proposals close on June 15 the reality is if the governing codes and/or RITA don't want to give venues racing dates there is little the clubs can do.

Some clubs will move, albeit reluctantly to other venues, and race on. Others will cease to exist. What happens to their assets, predominantly the land the tracks are built on, varies.

Some is council-owned land, others recreational reserves. But others could potentially be sold and the money go back to the industry if the Racing Bill which has been before a select committee gets passed into law.

When it comes to the prospect of seizing tracks, potentially selling them and that money going to the racing industry, there are tracks and then there is Avondale.

It is the prize here, prime real estate which might be worth $150million, money that would solve a lot of racing's immediate problems.

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The Avondale racetrack's days might be numbered but that doesn't mean the Avondale Jockey Club has to fade away. Photo / Supplied
The Avondale racetrack's days might be numbered but that doesn't mean the Avondale Jockey Club has to fade away. Photo / Supplied

The board of the Avondale Jockey Club have somewhat of a siege mentality these days, understandable when you feel your racing mates are trying to close your track and sell it.

Their negotiating style, or complete lack of it, doesn't help, but as of today they are a club with no racing dates, with a huge piece of land in inner West Auckland and in a city with New Zealand's home of racing a few kilometres away.

The track at Avondale is on the whole very good, apart from when they don't water it enough in summer and it becomes a road.

But their main grandstand is anything but grand. It is a disgrace to New Zealand racing any building in that state of disrepair exists on any racetrack in this country.

Still, there are good people in Avondale racing, who have done an awful lot for racing often under difficult circumstances. So rather than going to war with them, and the Herald understands the AJC aren't going to give up without a fight, then now is the time for diplomacy and finding common ground.

That common ground could be Ellerslie.

If Avondale's 200 or so members, who need to vote on any sale and still have the power to do so up until the Racing Bill becomes law, are told their club will always exist just as a better track, New Zealand's best track, they might be convinced to take it.

Then if a developer wants Avondale and thinks he can get it re-zoned and is willing to pay those magical millions, Avondale and its members should be allowed to keep part of it to invest so the club can race on forever at Ellerslie.

The rest can go to helping secure New Zealand racing's future.

Maybe sweeten the deal. Give Avondale their own clubhouse at Ellerslie, maybe a room in one of the Ellerslie's stands that sit empty for many meetings of the year. Give the Avondale Jockey Club a home and the money to survive and then say thank you.

It could work. But that also means the Auckland Racing Club giving up something they absolutely shouldn't have to, and don't want to, for the greater good of New Zealand racing.

Which is exactly what racing is trying to force Avondale to do.