When a state capital of over 1m people has two racecourses close to the city, the inevitable pressure to sell one of them will occur as the popularity of horse racing continues to diminish relative to alternative entertainment options. Racing in Western Australia has been strong in recent years, with metropolitan prizemoney embarrassing South Australia and making it a viable option for owners and trainers. But that has come at a cost - Perth Racing has robbed Peter to pay Paul and now they are struggling to cope with interest payments of $1m per year.
Premier puts Perth Racing under the pump
WA Premier Colin Barnett is mounting pressure on cash-strapped Perth Racing to sell Belmont Park racecourse to make way for the development of a 100,000 seat football stadium.
With Perth Racing to announce major prizemoney cuts this week, the WA industry is supporting Barnett's call to dump the ageing Belmont as a winter racing venue.
Traditionally Ascot is the A-grade track in Perth, while Belmont is the venue during winter, which allows Ascot to recover for its feature events late in the year. In recent years, Adelaide have moved from three racecourses to one (sold off Cheltenham, gave Victoria Park back to the parklands, built an extra track at Morphettville and invested in a bigger provincial circuit at Murray Bridge) and Brisbane has merged its two metropolitan raceclubs in the hope of eventually selling one of the racecourses off and creating a supervenue with the cash.
The state government wants to build a huge stadium for AFL close to the city - whether they need to build it for attendances of 100k though is debatable in a state of this size. If the government gets its way, what will happen to the WACA (a great AFL stadium surely becomes a great cricket stadium) and Gloucester Park harness track? Prime land on the edge of the CBD, not much more they can do to develop it....
WA racing could handle one city track - they have strong provincial clubs including Bunbury and Pinjarra, wet tracks in the west are far less frequent than in the east so wear and tear on the racing surface isn't a big deal. Turning Ascot into a super-venue with better facilities, perhaps an extra turf track to race on and racing for better prizemoney is likely to be a winner.