Racing and Wagering Western Australia should reconsider its decision to shut down the historic York racetrack and transfer its remaining five meetings of this year, Shadow Racing Minister John McGrath said today.
Mr McGrath said problems that has arisen over an insect infestation at Northam – causing meetings from that track to be transferred to an already overloaded Belmont Park — showed that now was not the time for RWWA to be shutting down York.
“Instead, RWWA should be looking at ways to work with the York club and provide it with the necessary funding to widen and camber the section from the 1000m to the 400m and also widen the section at the turn out of the home straight.
Mr McGrath said he had walked the York track with club officials on Thursday.
“These people are devastated that RWWA wants to shut York down as a racetrack, but set up a quarantine centre there and keep the track in pristine condition so that Group 1 horses coming from interstate or overseas can be trained on it,” he said.
“If the track is in good enough condition for an expensive Group 1 horse to gallop on, why wouldn’t it be good enough for provincial-class horses to race on.
“After the Equine influenza outbreak last year I support having a quarantine centre in WA – and York might be the right place to have it – but you don’t have to shut down racing. There is a quarantine centre at Sandown in Melbourne but they still use it as a racetrack.”
Mr McGrath admitted there had been some safety concerns over the York track in the past but felt these could be addressed by some re-alignment of the two turns and widening in the back straight. He also said York was probably best suited to racing in the spring period.
“With those adjustments, York could play an important role as a racecourse in the eastern districts. Shut it down and you’re only left with Northam. I don’t think that would be fair on the people in that region, who have already lost Toodyay and Beverley.
“I urge RWWA to leave the remaining meetings at York this year and provide the club with the funding to do the necessary work on the track when its season is over.
“With what has happened at Northam, and the extra workload now being placed on Belmont Park, we don’t even know where the York meetings can go.”
Mr McGrath said the York meetings scheduled to be transferred were September 14 and 28; October 16; and November 5 and 27.
“That is getting into the good time of the year for tracks and I have no doubt that those meetings could go ahead at York,” he said.