Racing in Mount Gambier has hit another barrier, three years after a $3.3m turf development, the course is not deemed safe and the local club fears Glenburnie course will not host a meet until 2022.

Key points:

  • No decisions on future race meets will be made until spring
  • The Mount Gambier Racing Club is concerned the track will not be ready to host the Gold Cup this year
  • The club said it was promised a “state-of-the-art” turf and three years after a multi-million dollar upgrade, it has not worked

A meeting was held between the club’s committee, Racing SA and local trainers on Monday night where a call was made to put-off any decision on future races until spring.

Poa grass weed was continuing to compete with the kikuyu grass, which was struggling to grow and thicken in the South East’s mild conditions.

It marked another chapter in the saga of the track, which underwent a $3.3 million redevelopment in 2018.

Horses awaiting training in the stalls at the Glenburnie track.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Mount Gambier Racing Club president John O’Connor said the state of the racecourse was “very concerning”.

“I feel very concerned for the trainers, the owners and the members of the Mount Gambier Racing Club because they are not getting a fair run,” he said.

Gold Cup in doubt

Mr O’Connor said he was concerned this setback meant the track would not be able to host the Mount Gambier Gold Cup this year.

The Gold Cup was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.(ABC South East SA: Isadora Bogle)

It would be the second consecutive year the South East’s feature meeting would be wiped off the racing calendar.

“The cup has been run in December the last couple of times, so if it is November when we decide to start having barrier trials, you couldn’t run the cup on a new track after just a handful of trials,” he said.

Racing SA chief executive Nick Redin said the aim was for racing to return to Mount Gambier in the spring.

“It is very much down to how the program continues to operate over winter, removing the weed infestation that we’ve got and making sure that it’s ready to go,” he said.

“Trust me, as soon as it is ready to go and the track managers tell us it’s in a satisfactory condition, we’ll be resuming racing at Mount Gambier.”

The track underwent a $3.3 million redevelopment in 2018, but has held limited race meets since.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

The racecourse has hosted just 10 meetings since it was completed in April 2019, and no races have been held at the track in the last eight months.

Mr Redin said the meetings that would have been held at Mount Gambier will continue to re-allocated to other venues in the region.

“We’ll work with all the Limestone Coast clubs on those reallocations of meetings but we’ll certainly be continuing to race right throughout the South East, right throughout the year,” he said.

‘We’ve got the wrong grass’

Mr O’Connor said he was worried the track may never bounce back because kikuyu is the wrong grass for a track in the South East climate.

“The club feels in some ways, that we’ve got the wrong grass for this area, because kikuyu grass needs it to be warmer to grow.

“So if it doesn’t grow and smother the poa [weed] out, during the winter time, the poa will get a hold of it because the kikuyu goes into recess for about four months.”

John O’Connor says the club is still waiting for its “state-of-the-art track.”(ABC South East SA: Todd Lewis)

He said it was ultimately up to Racing SA to decide what grasses are used on the racecourse.

“That decision is up to them, if I went and said to them, ‘We want this,’ they won’t take any notice,” he said.

“They’ve done their best, I’m not saying they haven’t, but the committee of the Mount Gambier Racing Club is left with the uncertainty.”