All bets are off at racing club

Racing has ground to a halt at Moe Racing Club, with the decision made to cancel meets in the 2012-2013 season.

Ongoing concerns about the surface lead the club to make the “difficult” decision.

The club has experienced ongoing issues with poa grass over the past 12 to 18 months, with the track’s condition leading to the transfer of three race meets this year.

MRC chief executive David McKinnon said he understood the community significance of the Moe Cup and confirmed the decision was a “difficult one to make”.

“We took this (community impact) into consideration when making the call on the cancellation of the cup…,” Mr McKinnon said.

“The only way we could host the Moe Cup was to do nothing between now and October.

“With the presence of poa grass in the track, we decided it was too risky to leave it and be faced with the possibility of having to move it in early October because the track had been affected by a weather event for example.”

The primary risk involved with poa grass is it can flick into jockeys’ eyes, creating significant occupational health and safety risks.

According to Mr McKinnon the decision was made in conjunction with Racing Victoria and Country Racing Victoria, adding the opinion of the Victorian Jockey’s Association was also sought.

“We spoke to Des O’Keefe (from the VJA) who set out the problems jockeys had with the track,” Mr McKinnon said.

“With making such a big decision it’s important to speak to as many (track) users as possible.”

Mr McKinnon said the MRC, RV and CRV were in the process of deciding whether a renovation or a total rebuild was most appropriate as the track had not been rebuilt for 22 years.

“What happens fully depends on funding from the (state) government and Racing Victoria,” he said.

“Racing Victoria’s infrastructure committee is meeting in early July, so we should have some indication after that what project they’ll be supporting.”

Whichever project goes ahead, Mr McKinnon was convinced the new surface would put the MRC back “on the forefront of good racing surfaces for the next 25 to 30 years”.

Until works on the track are complete, MRC-based trainers will only have access to the grass and sand tracks inside the race track.

Trainer Peter Gelagotis was “not overally enthused” about the current situation, but was looking forward to using the new surface.

“It’s like with anything, it wears out over time,” Mr Gelagotis said.

“Not having the main racing surface available for a while isn’t ideal, but looking at the bigger picture, over time we should reap the benefits of a nice new track.”

Mr Gelagotis was “somewhat” concerned about how the inside grass track would cope with the increased “wear and tear” it would receive, but said it was an issue for each trainer to deal with when the need arose.

Mindful of the club’s obligation to the community, McKinnon said it would hosting a series of non-racing events throughout the year.

“The Gippsland Car Show will be coming back, and we’re also looking into other events we can hold like caravan shows and things where our area will be useful,” he said.