Sunday, 30 January 2011

Perth racing faces a critical decision

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.

4 comments:

  1. I know financially it probably makes sense short term but IMO racing loses out in the long run.

    SA racing is terrible now that they have moved to one track. There is a real sameness to their meetings plus you have the added issue that the track is never allowed to rest.

    Whilst I don't bet in SA any more I still watch them now and then and what is noticeable is the real track bias that takes hold.

    I would hate to see one of Eagle Farm or Doomben go. Brisbane has the most competitive racing in Australia. Would be terrible if they messed with it.

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  2. The sameness certainly is an issue - I wouldn't wish the American system of racing 5/6 days a week at the same track for 4-6 months of the year on anyone. How on earth can it have any atmosphere if it's just the same thing repeated ad infinitum? I thought Morphettville had two circuits - the regular and the inner Parks track? At least that's something. Looks what's happened to harness racing with the new tracks at Melton & Menangle - way out in the sticks, built for the participants rather than the punters, as they all stay at home. A track without a proper grandstand - very bizarre.

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  3. Morphetville does have the two tracks but to tell you the truth they look exactly the same to me. Besides, the outer gets the great majority of racing on the Saturdays.

    I remember as a kid one of the great joys was going to the different tracks. They all had their own idiosyncracies (some bad, some good) and that was one of the attractions.

    Imagine being a punter in SA and going to Morphetville every single week. Would be like Groundhog Day.

    I find it sad whats happened with harness racing.

    Maybe I'm just being an old fogey though. LOL.

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  4. I believe Murray Bridge and Gawler are getting big investment poured in to give them pseudo-city status, and I notice Oakbank had the first non-Easter meeting I'd ever heard of a few wks back. Back in our day, we'd get to the track for the atmosphere. These days you could drive a bus through the betting ring on most days and not hit anyone.... SA racing has really gone down the tube.

    Variety of tracks is good! Again, couldn't handle the humdrum repetition of US racing.

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