The axe has fallen on thoroughbred racing in Omakau.

The Central Otago Racing Club, which up until now has hosted gallops at Omakau, has been relocated to Cromwell on the 2020-21 schedule following a massive shake-up of the industry.

The move comes after Australian racing administrator John Messara delivered a damning report into the state of New Zealand-based racing last year.

While the move is a blow for Central Otago RC members, president Geoff McAtamney remains positive.

‘‘It’s good news that they didn’t cut us out all together.’’

Instead, the club has been invited to host its annual race day at Cromwell on November 27, more than a month before its usual date of January 3.

Central Otago Racing Club president Geoff McAtamney. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

‘‘We’d like to stay in Omakau, but it’s just the way of the world at the moment,’’ he said.

‘‘The decision’s been made so we’ve got to get . . .up there and get going, that’s what we’ve got to do.’’

Central Otago RC past president Tony Lepper said there were some thoughts it might have stayed in Omakau and was disappointed by the result.

‘‘What this means is there will be no more galloping at Omakau.’’

Among his concerns were that if it moved to Cromwell, the club could lose half its committee and sponsorship from loyal Maniototo supporters.

Financial strain caused by Covid-19 meant gaining more sponsorship would be difficult.

The Central Otago Trotting Club is not affected and will remain at Omakau.

One club that faced an uncertain future but managed to stay onits own turf was the Roxburgh Trotting Club.

Club president David Parker was informed of the news via email.

‘‘It’s a big relief, I can tell you,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, we are all bloody ecstatic really — the whole community was.

‘‘We were all overwhelmed and the locals were too.’’

Roxburgh was so close to losing its January 4 meeting that a draft schedule released for the year ahead just weeks ago had no mention of racing in the town.

He believed local businesses had been a ‘‘big influence’’ towards its survival.

‘‘I wouldn’t like to say what the outcome would have been if they didn’t get behind us. It’s really helped.’’

He was disappointed Omakau did not have the same outcome, despite it having support.
‘‘It’s a shame that it’s left Omakau . . . for the whole community of Omakau.’’

The final programme for the year has been released by the Racing Industry Transition Agency (Rita).

Rita confirmed there were a ‘‘number’’ of changes made from the draft calendar following ‘‘careful consideration’’ of the 100 submissions it received.

As a result, it increased the number of thoroughbred meetings from 273 to 278 and harness meetings from 246 to 257, which includes the reintroduction of Roxburgh as a venue.

Rita dates committee chairman Edward Rennell said the final calendar was intended to maximise the benefit for the thousands of New Zealanders who relied on racing for their livelihoods.

‘‘The significant effort, attention and passion that went into the submissions enabled Rita to develop a final calendar which we believe meets the immediate needs of racing next year and provides scope for the industry to address the critical need for venue intensification,’’ he said.

‘Many of the submissions provided thoughtful and constructive feedback on specific issues in the original draft.

‘‘However, there was also general recognition that ongoing changes to the calendar were required.’’

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