Taumarunui Racing Club administrators are fuming over a date change forced upon them by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and a subsequent dramatic drop in turnover at their annual race-meeting.
The meeting held at Te Rapa on Saturday saw a significant drop in crowd numbers compared with what the club attracted to previous meetings, historically held three weeks later in late July, on the final weekend of the racing season.
"We've been racing on that last weekend of the season since Adam was a cowboy," club president Gayle Richardson said. "We had no communication from NZTR, we were simply told the date was changed.
"Generally a huge number of supporters come up to Te Rapa from Taumarunui but this year with the change of date, numbers were down about 40 per cent. People are seasoned to our usual date, we've been coming to Te Rapa on that date since about 1987 and before that we were at Te Awamutu since 1952."
Coupled with the change of date, which coincides with the start of the school holidays, the club's program was cut back from nine races to eight by NZTR and, despite the best efforts of the club faithful to inform punters of the new date, they stayed away in their numbers.
On-course turnover at Saturday's meeting was $148,096 a huge drop from the previous year's $231,308 which equates to a big hit on club finances.
The quality of Saturday's fields was outstanding, testament being the increase in off-course turnover up from $1,659,405 last year to $1,778,717 this year which was obviously not reflected on-course.
The number of long-priced winners on Saturday's card would have had some effect on the re-investment dollar of punters but there is no denying that crowd numbers were significantly down on previous years.
"We're a close-knit club, we're all Taumarunui locals and we're not happy," Richardson said. "We will be doing everything in power to get our old date back."
The date Taumarunui use to call their own, July 26, the final Saturday in the season, is now occupied by the Whangarei Racing Club, racing at Ruakaka, as part of a move to take more winter fixtures to that club's sandy based surface.
"We will be watching with interest to see what sort of turnover they can generate at their meeting in comparison to what we did on that date," Richardson said. "Thank you to NZTR, they've ruined our race-day."
Attempts by the Waikato Times to contact NZTR for comment failed to draw a response.
- Waikato Times
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