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End of 150-year era

The Sport of Kings looks to be no more in Poverty Bay with news that racing is not likely to be held again in Gisborne or Wairoa.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) yesterday announced that under proposed restructuring aimed at ensuring the financial sustainability of racing, Poverty Bay and Wairoa are among 10 tracks which will not have race-days next season and will not be issued with a betting licence.

Poverty Bay Turf Club (PBTC) president Rod Young said the club would continue to exist and hold a race meeting at Hawke's Bay each season.

April or May looked a likely date.

Hawke's Bay would set aside room for PBTC to look after its sponsors.

PBTC would get behind the changes designed to put racing on a sound financial foundation, he said.

The proposal will bring to an end 150 years of racing in the district after the Poverty Bay Turf Club held its first meeting at S. Parson's property at Matawhero in 1870, according to MacKay's Poverty Bay.

Mr Young said the Poverty Bay club committee met on Thursday night and took the decision on the chin.

He had been warned a week ago that the course would be closed for two years but could possibly open in the future.

But when he was later officially notified by NZTR president Bernard Saundry, the news was even worse — the course would not be reopening.

“It's a sad day for Gisborne,” said Mr Young.

The club loved to put on a good day of racing for the Gisborne public.

Mr Saundry said the number of meetings nationwide had dropped by 17 percent since 2009, individual starters had also declined by 17 percent during the same period and the foal crop had dropped 28 percent since 2005.

The changes would bring in cost savings with fewer venues located closer to where horses were based.

Mr Saundry said the industry would not survive on a model created last century.

Any clubs concerned by racing at a different venue should look at the success of Feilding and Beaumont, he said.

The changes are proposals, with consultation ending on June 15.

Avondale is the most prestigious race course scheduled for closure.

The others are Poverty Bay, Wairoa, Te Teko, Waipa, Waipukura, Blenheim, Motukarara, Waikouaiti and Omakau.

Earlier this week Racing Minister Winston Peters announced a $72.5 million emergency support package, which includes $20 million for all-weather tracks at Awapuni and Riccarton.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz was also disappointed at the loss.

“The races were such a fun part of the Gisborne social calendar — a lovely day out for the whole family. I am saddened to hear that we have come to the end of an era.”

Wairoa Racing Club president Paul Toothill said he was not yet ready to comment.

All bets are off: A race from what is set to be the last meeting at the Ashwood Park track at Matawhero in February. NZ Thoroughbred Racing has announced that under proposed restructuring Poverty Bay and Wairoa are among 10 tracks that will not have race-days next season and will not be issued with a betting licence. Picture by Liam Clayton