RACING NSW chief executive officer Peter V’Landys pulled no punches in assessing the situation for Bathurst Thoroughbred Racing after the turf club’s licence was suspended on Friday.
Chief steward for thoroughbred racing in the Central West Todd Smith has revealed Friday’s incident at the Tyers Park track was put down to human rather than mechanical error.
Bathurst Thoroughbred Racing subsequently had its racing licence suspended indefinitely, the scheduled eight-race meeting having been called off thanks to the over-watering of some areas of the track.
Speaking on Monday about the issue, V’Landys was clear on his stance, and what needed to happen for the club to earn its racing privileges back.
“Realistically the club’s destiny is in their own hands in terms of how long this suspension lasts,” V’Landys said.
“They need to provide a report that will indicate exactly what internal control measures they will put in place to ensure that this never happens again.
“We will assist them where we can, but it is up to them to prove to us that they can conduct a meeting professionally,” V’Landys said.
“ We don’t want to hurt the club, but we also need to make sure we don’t inconvenience our trainers again the way they were on Friday.
“We compensated them to some degree, but they missed out on the chance to make a good income. We have taken this very seriously and we’re not going to cop that sort of thing.
“We were very lucky last year that there wasn’t a major catastrophe when the sprinklers popped up mid-race, and now with this happening, we had to do something.”
Last year, the venue made sporting headlines and was shown on various news bulletins when the sprinklers emerged from the ground mid-way through a race, forcing horses and riders to run straight through torrents of water.
This time around, the over-watering of the track meant that some sections were heavy while others were firm.
“There was consideration given to delaying the start of the meeting, but the problem wasn’t just that it had been watered too much,” steward Todd Smith explained.
“The issue was the fact that in some areas it was a heavy-10 [rating], while in others it was a good-three.
“Basically the way it was, you would have had races where the two horses closest to the rail would be on firm ground, and the others out a bit wider would basically be on a heavy surface which obviously isn’t fair.”
“The decision to suspend the club’s licence came on the back of this, in combination with what happened last year when the sprinklers came up.
“When that happened, it was put down to a mechanical malfunction, as far as we can ascertain this time it is down to mis-management of the watering set-up and that comes back to the curator.”
The issue facing the Bathurst club now is a big one, with their two most important meetings, the Bathurst Cup and the Soldiers Saddle coming up within the next three months or thereabouts.
Having done a brilliant job to attract trainers and stables from metropolitan and provincial centres and lift the quality of racing seen at the venue, that hard work is in danger of being undone if those meetings get cancelled.
Many visiting trainers were already near or on the way to Bathurst when the decision was made to call off Friday’s program, and there is a risk that the trainers affected may decide to give Bathurst meetings a miss.
The fallout should those meetings be affected is obvious.
“Clearly this could affect them to a great degree,” Smith said.
“This is something that BTR have to resolve with Racing NSW , for any club to miss out on their two marquee meetings would be a huge blow.”