Kembla Grange upgrade concerns raised at Racing NSW forum

Show us the money: Kembla Grange race course. Picture: Georgia Matts
Show us the money: Kembla Grange race course. Picture: Georgia Matts

A much needed facilities upgrade and rider safety were some of the key concerns raised at the Racing NSW Industry Forum at Kembla Grange on Monday. 

Attendees also had serious issues with the benchmark system, but it was stalled work on a planned multi million dollar upgrade to the training facilities at the Illawarra Turf Club that drew the most frustration from participants. 

The upgrade, which includes a new training track and an improved B-grass surface at Kembla, received $11 million funding in 2012.

It has since received DA approval from Wollongong City Council, but work is yet to start on the project.

As one of the leading tracks in the state, some participants at the forum felt the project deserved immediate attention to ensure the facilities at the ITC were at the standard of other venues around the state.

Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding said it was ‘right up there’ on the governing body’s list of priorities.

“We just want to make sure it is staged properly so it has the least impact on meetings on the course,” he said.

“One of the models we want to look at is in Newcastle. We upgrade the Beaumont track, then that was raced on while we did the course proper.

“The course proper has come out well and with minimal impact on the venue.”

The safety of riders was also brought into question due to an uneven section of path close to the roadway on the western side on the track.

Balding accepted that it was an issue that needed to be addressed as soon as possible.

A key gripe for trainers was the state’s benchmark system, which they believe penalises horses too quickly for winning races and forces them to race in a class they won’t be competitive.

Racing NSW acknowledged that it was an issue and said it was something they are currently working on fixing.

A change of working hours and less meetings were also hot topics of debate. Racing NSW are set to trial in Sydney a 30 minute extension to trackwork hours in the mornings as part of a plan to draw more working professionals into the industry.  

An industry participant also felt there were too many meetings and suggested that some days, particularly Sunday, shouldn’t have race days to allow stable’s to have a break.