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Ellerslie track issues

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An interesting article I found - not sure if all those trials etc mentioned below eventuated ?? And the handover seems a bit premature??

 

NEW ELLERSLIE TRACK LOOKING THE PART

By Dennis Ryan

25 Oct 2023

 

Paul Wilcox admits to more than his share of sleepless nights over the past 18 months, but as the approaching summer days get longer, so too does his anticipation grow for what’s around the corner at northern racing headquarters.
As CEO of Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, Wilcox has been in the middle of the most ambitious racecourse development in New Zealand racing, the instillation of an international standard StrathAyr track on Ellerslie’s hallowed turf.
The programming schedule for a return to racing at Ellerslie on January 14 ahead of a super-charged Karaka Millions meeting a fortnight later is looking increasingly realistic as all the necessary elements come together.
The multi-million dollar StrathAyr project has not been without its challenges, ranging from the removal of tonnes of volcanic rocks from the Ellerslie substrata to dealing with the vagaries of Auckland weather and most of all the devastating floods that hit the region in January.
“There’s still a reasonable amount of water to flow under the bridge, but the anxiety levels are certainly reducing as things have come together lately,” Wilcox told RaceForm this week.
“Some of the challenges in the project such as dealing with the basalt rock that’s part of the Auckland landscape and dealing with the old drainage systems, we knew about and planned for them. But the weather was something we couldn’t predict or plan around, and we got it in bucket-loads.
“The wet weather days in the contract far exceeded what anyone had bargained for, and it wasn’t just a matter of the machinery not being able to work while it was raining, our contractors also had to wait for the ground to dry out enough to get back to work.”
All projects of varying scale have been hit with cost blowouts during and since the Covid era, and Ellerslie’s was no different.
“The track development budget that the ATR Board signed off was $44.2 million, but now it’s been completed that has blown out to $53 million,” Wilcox revealed. “Pretty much all of that was weather-related and the rest was inflation.
“The combination of sun, rain and fertiliser have done wonders for the track through springtime; we’re finally where we want to be and we’re thrilled with what we’ve got. To put it in a racing context, we’re balanced up turning into the home straight and we’re about to give the horse full rein.”
Water is an essential element for any racing surface, to which end a 20-million litre reservoir has been installed in the Ellerslie infield.
“The new big pond will collect an estimated 96 per cent of all water that falls on the track –both irrigation and rain,” Wilcox explained. “That will be recycled for irrigation back onto the track, and while it does not make us self-sufficient during a protracted dry spell, it’s a major uplift on what we previously had.”


From the very start, the project has been overseen by the Australian-based StrathAyr franchise-holders that have installed similar surfaces at major international venues, but after a full inspection earlier this month, management of the track was handed back to ATR.
“Our track manager Jason Fulford and the rest of the team here have worked closely with the StrathAyr guys from day one. It’s been very well-managed, which after all it had to be given its scale and significance,” Wilcox added.
“To witness the massive earthworks from the start, then laying the foundations beginning with a gravel base, then a layer with the subsoil drainage, the lower sand layer and the final piece, the reflex mesh matrix and the peat moss growing medium – there have been so many complexities.
“The sand came from a supplier south of Whangarei and the peat moss from the West Coast of the South Island, so those two components were pretty big by themselves.
“But to see what we’ve ended up with has made it all worthwhile. Understandably there’s been a lot of interest in the project and everyone who has been through and taken a close look at the finished product is suitably impressed.”
Actual testing of the track under hooves will be a step-by-step process, beginning with a handful of horses being ridden over it in the second week of November. More extensive gallops will follow covering all areas of the track, then organised jumpouts in the first week of December and the final sign-off, a set of trials in the week before Christmas.
“We are obliged to adhere to the official NZTR sign-off process, but without stating it’s only a process, I’m at 90 per cent before a horse has stepped onto the track that we’ll be all go heading into January.”


Hand-in-hand with the track development, ATR has announced further significant stakes increases for the 2023-24 season, which in a feature racing context kicks off with Saturday’s meeting at Pukekohe Park headlined by the $175,000 Gr. 2 Jamieson Park Soliloquy Stakes.
On top of the $20 million-plus countrywide stakes injection announced by NZTR in the wake of the landmark Entain/TAB NZ strategic partnership, ATR has committed another $3 million to what will be a total of $18.7 million stakes payout through the current season.
“We’ve made no secret of the fact that our new business model is designed to offer sustainable returns to the industry and whilst it may take time to see ultimately reach the returns we’d like to see, we are heading in the right direction,” Wilcox added.
All 20 of ATR’s meetings will race for a minimum stake of $25,000, an increase of $5,000 on last season’s levels, while at the other end of the equation, Group One minimums will be $450,000.
The cherry on top of the ATR calendar is the TAB Karaka Millions meeting, which has further cemented its position as New Zealand’s richest single race meeting with total stakes of $4.25 million. Further enhancements are the boosted stake of $1.5 million for the TAB Karaka Millions 3YO and a new 1600m race open to all four-year-olds, the $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic.
The early March Iconic meeting is headed by the $1 million Vodafone New Zealand Derby on March 2 and a week later the $500,000 Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup.
“It’s important that we reward our very best horses and their connections, but it’s also important to look after those further down the chain, right through to midweek maiden grade,” Wilcox said.
“We haven’t forgotten the hard workers we rely so heavily on either, which is why at every ATR meeting all strappers will receive a $12 voucher to enable them to have something to eat and drink on us.
“Our Love of the Horse promotion, which is open to those industry participants who may otherwise not be recognised, is another initiative that we’re only too happy to be part of.”

Not sure if all those plans for 

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I guess it's about the bigger picture combining 3 clubs... they have made an aggressive decision which will benefit the industry greatly in New Zealand.  Why is that seen as a negative?

" A new merged Auckland-Counties club, which could be called the Auckland Turf Club, would look to install a new StrathAyr racing surface at Ellerslie which would allow at least 40 race days a year at the central Auckland track."

40 race days!!!! With obviously no abandoned meetings (hopefully) how good!! No??

 

"The eventual pooling of the three clubs assets could see sustainable income push stakes toward an average of $100,000 per Saturday race at Ellerslie in a few years, a dream figure for most in the struggling industry.

That should help keep horse people and horses in New Zealand as finally the industry will have at least one track to compete with the rich Sydney and Melbourne tracks.

It will also have somewhere for New Zealand-based trainers, owners and jockeys to aspire to, with Ellerslie set to attract the best horses from around the North Island as they chase stakes double or triple what other tracks will be able to offer."

Surely only the armchair bandits see this as a negative for the industry? 

 

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Exactly.

There were trials on it but, if 14 horses start racecday why were there not 14 horse trials on it?

Filming 2 jockeys in a 4 or 5 horse trial talking the track up was pointless.

Where are Work Safe on all of this?  We don't only want to see Work Safe when somebody dies.  They could also be part of injury prevention.

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11 minutes ago, Hi Ho Silver said:

Exactly.

There were trials on it but, if 14 horses start racecday why were there not 14 horse trials on it?

Filming 2 jockeys in a 4 or 5 horse trial talking the track up was pointless.

Where are Work Safe on all of this?  We don't only want to see Work Safe when somebody dies.  They could also be part of injury prevention.

I didn't think they talked the track up. They said the overall idea/project is awesome but all jockeys expressed their concerns of the track being extremely firm. Also obviously the process was rushed for the big meeting, you would hope moving forward it will only get better.  

It's the first ever meeting on it people,  bloody hell 🤣🤣🤣 

We have absolutely terrible tracks all over New Zealand with meetings being abandoned, horses slipping,  riders getting injured.... give them a chance. 

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Also one of the big concerns prior to the first meeting was, they didn't want to get too many horses going around on the track as it's a learning curve with how it will affect the track. They even said that in an interview. It was basically surface testing and taking notes. I actually think it was a responsible decision based on safety??

Obviously we have alot of track prep experts on here. 

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I guess the next few weeks will be quite 'telling' , so wait, watch and see 🙂. Fingers crossed, safe and fair for all runners is not that unachievable given the $$ spent.

Not sure who did that major earthworks, but I hope it's the guys that did the major roading projects north of the bridge. Given the quality of the road building south of the Bombays, you wouldn't want it to be them!

They''ll be racing at 20kms an hour around thousands of cones, avoiding potholes 🙄

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31 minutes ago, Aaron The Anchor said:

Also one of the big concerns prior to the first meeting was, they didn't want to get too many horses going around on the track as it's a learning curve with how it will affect the track. They even said that in an interview. It was basically surface testing and taking notes. I actually think it was a responsible decision based on safety??

Obviously we have alot of track prep experts on here. 

No track expert here. However, given the massive investment and disruption from closing the joint for two yrs....they have to get it right. 

Give them a chance, as you suggest. Fair enough. Lets wait and see.....

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3 hours ago, Aaron The Anchor said:

Also one of the big concerns prior to the first meeting was, they didn't want to get too many horses going around on the track as it's a learning curve with how it will affect the track. They even said that in an interview. It was basically surface testing and taking notes. I actually think it was a responsible decision based on safety??

Obviously we have alot of track prep experts on here. 

Obviously we have a lot of people on here with good eyesight. 

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A few things jump out from comments on this subject.

Why would you be content using a high stakes meeting as a learning curve?  All tests should have already been conducted and have passed with flying colours.

If all jockeys expressed their concerns that the track was extremely firm, they weren't listened to.

The opening of the track was obviously rushed for monetary reasons, safety took a back seat.

With the way funds have been spent in this instance on a new track surface where the resultant track surface is not fit for a top class race day (not fit for an industry race day to be fair), why would you put more clubs together to consolidate more funds.  You can't escape the fact that we were guaranteed a better facility.  The fact of the matter is we do not have a better facility after much money spent and the use of experts.  Was this due diligence done with closed eyes?  Why did the Auckland club buckle to pressure?

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It’s not a flop Hi Ho, I had a conversation with a few this morning here in Cambridge, no soundness issues from their perspective, I didn’t see Chad to ask about his horse.

It seems one stable may have had some issues by the word on the street, but if your injecting youngsters joints at this age, you are asking for problems as I see it, the pressure on two and three year olds without letting them mature naturally is always going to give you quite a high casualty rate, so let’s not blame the track for that.

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What was actually wrong with the old Ellerslie track?  It’s been a while so was it unraceable. Did it need a complete new surface ? 
The main issue on the 27th was the rain they got which made things slippery . Were they unlucky that a lot of worst case scenarios arrived on the same day? 

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It rained on new grass that was too long and was slippery. The track manager is a smart guy (and he fixed Pukekohe that was a cot case) and will get a handle on this.

Just stop putting the boot in to Ellerslie. it serves no good puropse.

A previous CEO of NZTR told me if Ellerslie folded NZ Racing would not survive.

I an not an apoligist for ATR and the predessor ARC had in past times done bad things like stealing Race dates and Sponsors.

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10 minutes ago, Nerula said:

It rained on new grass that was too long and was slippery. The track manager is a smart guy (and he fixed Pukekohe that was a cot case) and will get a handle on this.

Just stop putting the boot in to Ellerslie. it serves no good puropse.

A previous CEO of NZTR told me if Ellerslie folded NZ Racing would not survive.

I an not an apoligist for ATR and the predessor ARC had in past times done bad things like stealing Race dates and Sponsors.

if it has issues then they need to be discussed, nothing about putting the boot in.

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1 hour ago, Chris Wood said:

It’s not a flop Hi Ho, I had a conversation with a few this morning here in Cambridge, no soundness issues from their perspective, I didn’t see Chad to ask about his horse.

It seems one stable may have had some issues by the word on the street, but if your injecting youngsters joints at this age, you are asking for problems as I see it, the pressure on two and three year olds without letting them mature naturally is always going to give you quite a high casualty rate, so let’s not blame the track for that.

Sorry Chris but it was not only one stable it was a few...speak to Lauren Brennan..ask her...lets hope the trials went well this morning and the issues can be sorted, if not then its a big issue for the whole industry but to say there is no issues is not factually correct.

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Regardless of the sore horses, the track was shifty and horses were slipping. Likely to leave some a bit sore you would think. A compacted root zone was identified as the problem and mechanical intervention recommended by Strathayr to break it up. Presumably, that has been done and they are doing an initial test of it this morning. Hopefully, we'll get some feedback from that in due course.

It wouldn't be the first Strathayr to have some teething problems. Moe for example. That was grass type related from memory which was rectified after closing for 6 months and has been a great track ever since.

Discussion of the issue is neither negative or putting the boot in imo. Very necessary and thanks to Scooby for providing a medium for that to occur. There's a lot riding on getting this sorted and trying to sweep it under the table won't help.

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Who said the horses didn’t have underlying issues Lee, all I said is the bulk of people I spoke to had no complaints…

We have trainers that complain about the tracks here at Cambridge and take their horses elsewhere to work, things can go wrong on any track….

and we can’t always see underlying issues, sadly, it’s something that’s always on the cards when you have livestock.

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30 minutes ago, Chris Wood said:

Who said the horses didn’t have underlying issues Lee, all I said is the bulk of people I spoke to had no complaints…

We have trainers that complain about the tracks here at Cambridge and take their horses elsewhere to work, things can go wrong on any track….

and we can’t always see underlying issues, sadly, it’s something that’s always on the cards when you have livestock.

Yes, but a compacted root zone layer is NOT an underlying issue that couldn't be seen. They pressed on regardless and further during the day despite jockey reports of shifty ground and horses slipping. We all saw that. It can no doubt be fixed and I think ATR have openly admitted there is a problem and are trying to do that. Reports are of sore horses that had no previous issues. Not surprising given the obvious condition of the track. There's been  a f*&k up in the turf development. Let's do what it takes to fix it and charge on from there.

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I am sure no one is going to put there hand up and openly say that their horses have regularly been treated for joint problems, and the horse is scratchy again the day after racing…..ooops, let’s blame the track, there might just be a little more to it I think…..

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