CHANGES TO THE DOOMBEN, DUBBO, EAGLE FARM, FLEMINGTON AND GOLD COAST RACETRACKS
Over the past few months there have been many negotiations, meetings and proposals in regards to deciding the future of Queensland Racing. Even though there were many different opinions on the specific details of the changes to occur, it was clear that everyone agreed on one thing; the Queensland racing scene needed a makeover. Upgrades were needed so that International racing and track standards could be achieved to make Queensland a prominent state for racing just like New South Wales and Victoria.
The first proposal was in late November when the Queensland Turf Club (QTC) asked the Queensland Racing Limited (QRL) to consider the expenditure of $8.6 million. This money was to be for the installation of tunnels which would then enable the development of a new car park and better water storage.
However, the QRL had an obligation to make sure that after spending so much money on one club, it would still be financially viable. Would the money come back in revenue and profits? The QRL decided that it was not a sound proposal as it would deplete the cash reserves and the QTC have already been incurring substantial losses and these have been increasing annually.
This proposal was declined, however it was decided that there was a need for development in the metropolitan racing precinct of Brisbane. It was said that upgrades needed to be made to meet international standards.
The QRL, then released the Draft Metropolitan Racing Policy on 24/11/06, which was fully supported and pushed forward by Chairman Bob Bentley. This stated their intentions to establish only one race club in Brisbane. This way funds would not be spent on two mediocre clubs, but have one fantastic race club. The merger was to occur between the Queensland Turf Club and the Brisbane Turf Club (BTC).
It was proposed that Eagle Farm would be developed as the single racing club of international standard and Doomben racecourse would be sold off. The funds from the sale would then be used to upgrade Eagle Farm.
The number of race meets would then be scaled back from 106 meetings per year to 75-80, with a guaranteed meeting in Brisbane every Saturday.
This proposal however, had to be approved by the Queensland Racehorse Owners’ Association before being given the go ahead. The Association was more than happy to be on board with the idea. President Wayne Miller said that racing facilities have been lagging behind other states for a long time and the redevelopment of the training and stabling facilities are well overdue. He also stated that “Bringing the BTC and QTC to a close and creating one club is clearly the future for racing in Brisbane. Any true racing enthusiast would agree.”
Expected sale prices for the 35 hectare Doomben track have been reaching heights of $140 million because of the land opportunities it represents.
Changes are also expected to occur at the Gold Coast racetrack. There is a plan to build a new racecourse on the Gold Coast. Plans are to sell of the land at Blundell and move the club to a bigger and better facility near the Palm Meadows Golf Courses.
As well as developments in Queensland, Flemington Race Track is currently in the process of an upgrade. This began on the 13th of November 2006 and is expected to take about 10 months for the work to finish. The $30 million upgrade is said to include new turf, new drainage system installed, new stalls, more room and better ventilation for the horses and the development of a tunnel going from the parade ring to the mounting area so that horses will not have to go through the crowds and become agitated.
Not only are there track changes in Victoria and Queensland, but the Dubbo track in NSW has also had a facelift. The Course Proper has been upgraded with a new track being laid down from the home turn to the mile chute. As well as this 1200m of new turf, three new chutes have been put in. It will be interesting to note whether the new starting points affect barrier positions to any marked degree when racing begins again on the 7th April.
While Garry Robinson was in Canberra visiting the Sports Acumen Headquarters, he took the opportunity to visit the Canberra race course to check the progress of the reconstruction on the Course Proper. We are pleased to say that everything is on target and looking good.
While this upgrade is occurring, race meetings have been held at the synthetic Canberra Acton track. Tegan Lloyd reviewed this track and its benefits in the Spring Edition of the magazine (page 50).