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as we warm up for Cheltenham in the UK, the Australian version closes down

Just over two weeks to the fantastic Cheltenham festival in the UK, the World Series of jumping. This year promises to be as big any other, I really can't see the recession making an ounce of difference.


But sadly, Cheltenham racecourse in Australia has closed its gates for the final time. Racing in South Australia (capital city Adelaide) is in a sad state of affairs. Once within sight of Victorian racing as a competitor, now it probably ranks below Tasmania and WA for interest and prizmoney. The govt really have let it slide and the big stables have deserted it in droves. Consequently, three city tracks in Adelaide had to be downsized. After debate lasting several years, Cheltenham in the north-west suburbs was put up for sale. By the picture above, you can see just how dry it is in Adelaide. Track three, Victoria Park, in the beautiful public access parklands (meaning they can never lock it up as a secure venue), will probably not be used again.

Morphettville was always the premier track in Adelaide, now all the money is going into upgrading the facility and adding a second grass track. But if the prizemoney is still poor (standard races yesterday were for $25k prizepool, very poor for Saturday metro) then the standard of facilities ain't going to make a lick of difference.

A sting might be in the tail though re Cheltenham. It was sold off to a property developer and money has yet to change hands. And it wouldn't take much cynicism in the current state of the economy to think that could be a while off yet....

Cheltenham in Adelaide has a special place in my heart. I was once kicked off the course by a zealous policewoman who picked I was betting under age, about six months before my 18th birthday. Male police didn't care or didn't notice, I'd been betting at various tracks for years by that stage! She could have picked a better time - I'd been losing all day and just started turning it around with a couple of winners in a row when I was advised to move on!

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