President’s Message to Members – 13th October 2023

Dear Members

No doubt some of you will have seen recent publicity put out by NZTR – including this morning’s Racing Desk article (an NZTR publication) – about the aftermath of the partial abandonment at the Avondale track last month (7 of 9 races run).  NZTR contends that the club is not cooperating with NZTR about the process needed to get an approval under “abandonment protocols” in order for the club’s track to be cleared to race or trial again.  In particular, NZTR seems to have been frustrated that there has had to be a withdrawal of trials at the Avondale venue at a time when many horses need the benefit of a spring preparation.  It is a fact that under the return-to-racing rules, imposed by NZTR, there was never any prospect that Avondale trials in October could go ahead.  Nevertheless the governing body has expressed an intention to take steps in relation to the TAB revoking AJC’s remaining 2023/2024 licences – blaming Avondale for the consequences of the loss of use of the track at an important time in the racing season.

The campaign by NZTR to discredit the club is seen by AJC as motivated by a naive expectation that alleged major faults with the Avondale surface could be fixed in a matter of weeks.  The industry is being told that the fact the track is not in use is due to lack of “serious engagement” by AJC when that is not the case.

The Committee has raised concerns about the accuracy of public statements made by NZTR COO Darin Balcombe in NZTR’s recent media story.

Mr Balcombe says that after several attempts to contact the Club NZTR has only had one response which they feel is disappointing.  I can assure you that the ‘one response’ was a nine page letter/report about the running of 7 out of 9 scheduled races on 6 September and answered all questions put to the Club by NZTR.  There followed a detailed letter questioning the over-reaction by Mr Balcombe with his threat to the club – made on 11 October – to prevent further operations at the track.

For over 40 months in recent times AJC’s racing and trials have been conducted without the benefit of the club having a “Track Manager” and naturally NZTR was fully aware of that fact.

After the partial abandonment on 6 September 2023 NZTR objected to there being no employee in that management role and declared that an appointment to that area of management in the club would have to be made ahead of any return to racing.  Of course the Committee has been working to procure a qualified and experienced track person.

Unfortunately, in my view, the bizarre overreach by Mr Balcombe has deflected attention from the decisions taken by he and his team around the issues caused by the decision to abandon, on 6 September, the two distance races on the card that day.  For the record, the RIB decision that concluded there was a lack of safety for those distance events, related to that section of the track between the winning post and the entrance to the back straight (the eastern-side curve leading to the 1400m point).  NZTR now claims that the Avondale track is safe only for races of distance 1300m or less (and this is despite the fact the track has dried out hugely since September 2023)!

We would like to work to return to racing.  We maintain that NZTR understood from our report, and their own conditions to return to racing , that the scheduled October date for Avondale could not be run.  That was known last month!  In fact, NZTR had told the Club that there would be no more racing until its concerns had been addressed.  The Club has asked its lawyers for assistance and I will come back to the membership with updates when/if progress is made.

Tracey Berkahn

President

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