Avondale Reports A Weak Diet Of Racing But Strong Financial Surplus ($3.4 million)

At the club’s first virtual annual members’ meeting (Zoom, 29 November 2021) Tracey Berkahn, President, extended her thanks to those participating behind their screens that afternoon, as well as thanking all AJC staff for their work through a ‘pandemic year’.  She noted that long-serving official Janice Skinner steps down this season from her position as the Vice-President, and Daniel Higgins is now in the role.

The President’s formal report to members follows:

On behalf of the Avondale Jockey Club (AJC) Committee it is my pleasure, to present my first Annual Report as President.

Even with the disruption to last season we could not have predicted the combined impact of Covid alert levels preventing race meetings  being held or the need for race meetings held ‘behind closed doors’.   In the 2021 racing year, two of our main tenants were not able to operate outside of Alert Level 1.

We have learned to expect the unexpected.

Racing

That being said we delivered 5 race meetings (although one was abandoned after race six) and enjoyed a well patronised and very successful members’ lunch at our ANZAC Day race meeting.

It is a long time ago that AJC hosted a Black Type race, as members know. And while that did not happen in 2020/21, we involved the club (for the first time since 2013 when we last sponsored with The Falls Restaurant) with the Avondale Guineas. With the support of Auckland Racing Club we took the sponsorship of the AJC Avondale Guineas run on 20 February 2021.  AJC funded an addition to the stake of $20,000 to take the total stake for the three year olds’ classic to $120,000.  The day was not quite what your Committee anticipated because the day run at Ellerslie was under Alert Level 2 and therefore the planned members lunch could not proceed. The results for the Group 2 event in 2020/2021 were:
– Race Winner: Rocket Spade,
– Jockey: Craig Grylls and,
– Trainers: Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott.

Finance

The 2020/21 year was one of fiscal expansion where, regardless of declining TAB wagering involving Avondale’s venue, we have achieved a noteworthy financial result through the club’s goal to dispose of the redundant piece of land at the Elm Street entrance (after a number of years in the planning and execution). The cumulation of many years of hard work sees the gain on sale of $3.39m added to members’ funds for the 2021 financial year.

In August 2020 and again in February/March 2021 Covid-19 caused us to close our doors to patrons and meant we lost tenant and racing income of approximately $140,000. Initial government support was limited to the wage subsidy for permanent, part time staff as the business resurgence payments did not include ‘landlord’ income. This $19k helped us pay staff during times when no work was possible on site.

However, as the Treasurer points out in her report, there has been no difficulty to secure the financial viability of the club. Ancillary spending was halted and our projects that involved future planning were delayed but the combined surplus including an operating surplus of some $51k) being reported to members is $3.45m.

In the coming year we may run more race days to reflect the restricted capacity of ATR in connection with their track redevelopment. But indications are that AJC’s venue is not going to be recognised as a viable metropolitan track despite its proximity to the NZ population and the fact the AJC track continues to rate among the very best of our racing surfaces nation-wide. In a way we find ourselves in a state of semi hibernation with restricted capacity to race under a ruthless Racing Calendar and new rules/policies in the NZTR pipeline relating to a re-draft of the draft Venue Plan (November 2021).

Non-racing matters

As detailed above the Elm Street subdivision settled in April 2021 and the Committee has invested the proceeds with a view to increasing income and growing the capital. In September the Committee signed a conditional contract for the sale of the Wingate Street lot.  Under the terms of the Racing Industry Act 2020 the Committee now must secure the approval of the governing body for the sale.

Appreciation

This season the Committee established two sub-committees and these have been an aid to the executive functions of the club as well as assistance to senior staff.  The Finance Sub-Committee comprising Leeann Martin (Treasurer), Bruce Cleland (Secretary), Daniel Higgins (a committed member who stood for VP this month) and myself worked well to monitor and assist with budgeting and the annual audit. In the case of the Infrastructure sub-committee both Warwick Donaldson and Allan Boyle worked tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the Avondale site.

Earlier this year long standing member Gary Jenkins retired from his Committee role. Committee member and Secretary Bruce Cleland, who was up for re-election this year, also retired. Thank you for your service Bruce.

Once again I would like to thank my fellow Committee members for their contribution to the club throughout the year. Their dedication and business knowledge is a benefit to the club. As I am sure you understand, the role of a board member in a
racing club today requires so much more than just a knowledge of racing. With compliance and financial management under so much scrutiny these days, together with the challenges of seeing the ‘business’ move forward, I believe the membership has been well-served.

Two well-known and long-serving members were recently awarded life memberships — to the late Bryan Jackson and to Chris Ryan: we acknowledge your exceptional service for and on behalf of the club.

I would like to extend my thanks to our staff as well as all those connected with the governance function. Janice Skinner steps down this year from her extended period as the club’s Vice-President. I acknowledge Jan’s tireless efforts and support
throughout the year. On behalf of the Committee I thank the Racing Manager, Richard Pridham, who has supported the Committee in navigating these difficult times.

May I wish you good health and happiness and look forward to catching up with many of you as and when Auckland’s current Covid-19 restrictions allow.

Tracey Berkahn
President

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