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Fun day with a guaranteed return for the community

Opinion Piece

Having a punt at tomorrow’s Poverty Bay Turf Club meeting at Makaraka could be a way of boosting the Gisborne economy while helping to preserve the district’s oldest sport — racing.

The club is providing a nine-race programme tomorrow, something that has not happened for some time, thanks to strong acceptances. It follows a superb event last year when a crowd of 4000 to 5000 attended race day, the biggest turnout since the 1950s and ’60s, and on-course betting turnover was $136,000.

A decision of earlier committee members to sell the Makaraka course and invest the proceeds has been a boon for the club. The return on those investments is what enables it to offer a purse of $30,000 for the main race of the day, the Poverty Bay Cup — which is a tempting lure for trainers and their owners at this level.

Without its investments, the club would not have been able to survive on its measly allocation from racing’s officialdom of just one day of racing a year.

The reinvigorated club has recast itself as more of an entertainment provider than a sheer sporting one, with corporate sponsorship and “fashion in the field”. There are also sweeteners like the $1000 free bet for a lucky punter.

It wants race day to have a strong social and family aspect, something that has proved highly successful in other areas like the West Coast of the South Island.

The club has a major asset in the Makaraka course that it now rents. Even more scenic with a vineyard in the middle, it provides an excellent racing surface — even after the long, dry summer.

It is all part of the battle to survive when the all-mighty TAB would prefer to have racing centred on comparatively few major tracks like Ellerslie, Trentham and Riccarton.

The races do provide a lift for the Gisborne economy — the 30-odd trainers bringing their horses and staff to the city represent a useful spending input.

They also give local people a chance to spend a convivial day out and watch some exciting sport. Call it an each-way bet with a guaranteed dividend for the community.