The abandonment of a race meeting at Trentham in New Zealand has a leading thoroughbred trainer bemoaning the state of the country’s racing surfaces over the summer.
Just one race was held on Saturday, with Belardo Boy taking the honours over 1400m in his second career victory. Video replays of the race showed one horse slipping badly at the start, whilst Cambridge visitor Regazzo almost came to grief during the running as he struggled to keep his feet on the home turn.
Drizzly rain overnight and throughout Saturday morning had meant the track was downgraded to an official Dead5 rating to start the day.
Several riders expressed concern regarding the footing after the race, and after a meeting with jockeys and club and trainer representatives, it was unanimously agreed that it was unsafe for further racing, and the decision was made by Stewards to abandon the remainder of the programme in the interest of safety and the welfare of both horse and rider.
After the race, Regazzo’s trainer, Shaune Ritchie, said he felt the industry has plenty of work to do in the area of presenting a safe racing surface during the summer months.
“It is certainly disappointing in what has occurred due to an issue that has been around in our industry for a number of years now,” he said.
“I think we all understand that the goal is to ensure racing goes ahead, but when these circumstances occur with abandonments due to a slippery surface there doesn’t seem to be any long-term follow-up to fix the problem.
“I have no qualms with the outcome today as it was clearly unsafe to race with the hard base underneath the grass cover making it very slippery,” Ritchie said.
“I feel for the owners and people involved as the costs for things like float fees, personal travel and accommodation are substantial and the majority of prizemoney has gone up in smoke.
“The onus has to be on our governance structures to do more in this area to get it right.”
Following the abandonment, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing announced that the Gr.1 Captain Cook Stakes (1600m) would now be run at Te Rapa on Saturday, December 11, while the other feature race, the Gr.2 Wakefield Challenge Stakes (1100m)
will also be run at that meeting as a replacement for the 2YO 1200m event that had been programmed.
Ritchie said he felt the decision to not race the next day was the right one. “Any remedial work undertaken alters the surface quite radically and the issue of potential joint and muscle injuries for the horses comes into play,” he said.
“We wouldn’t have run our other two horses that were in and I would think the fields would have been decimated with other trainers thinking the same way.
“When the stewards indicated the two feature races would be going to Te Rapa, I thought it was the right idea to try and maintain the fields as best they could.
“What we need now is the right decisions around the long-term fix as we have a multi-million-dollar industry that keeps shooting itself in the foot, which is to the detriment of those investing their hard-earned in it.
“Quite simply, we have to do better.”
Ritchie reported that Regazzo had pulled up well and would likely step up in distance shortly as he targets a start in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie in March.