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13/05/02 Adelaide Challenge Losing All Sense of Country

South Australian racing officials have made some good decisions in the past few years, but there's still another that must be addressed for them to save face with the grass roots of racing in the state.

The smoke-free Challenge, the final of which will be run at Morphettville on Goodwood Handicap Day on Saturday, has long been one of the highlights on the South Australian Country Racing Calendar.

There was never as much intrugue before a race than when a capacity field of 16 country trained horses would clash over 1200 metres at headquarters during the early stages of the Adelaide Cup Carnival.

Only a handful of years ago the form of the race was like a geographical lesson of South Australia. Bordertown, Ceduna, Port Lincoln, Streaky Bay, Penola, Naracoorte, Port Augusta, Clare and Mount Gambier, were among the venues where horses would travel from to contest the race.

During the past few seasons the race has developed into a "farce" according to one of the West Coast's leading trainers.

Ceduna based trainer Trevor Trenowden used to have great joy in preparing horses for the race but he now feels the race is getting too hard to win for those trained in remote areas like his.

"It's just another case of the country being forgotten about," Trenowden said today. "It really isn't a surprise to see the race lose it's country feel."

"I haven't looked at this year's field yet, but I'm reliably informed it's full of horses proven in the city and many are trained in town," he added.

"What annoys trainers from out in the country is the fact they are forced to travel their horses long distances and then clash with others which are lead over Morphett Road or Bray Street," Trenowden added. "I'm sure Saturday will not be kind of field they want."

Only 19 horses have been entered for the final of this year's Challenge. Seven of the runners are trained at Morphettville, while another is stabled at nearby Cheltenham. A further five are trained at the provincial racing centres. Only four of the entries are in fact trained at a track not classed as city or provincial, the lowest figure ever.

Trenowden pulled no punches this afternoon adding that the apparent lack of support for the country was hitting new levels.

"TRSA (Thoroughbred Racing SA) can be somewhat like the SA government, thinking the state ends at Gepps Cross," Trenowden quipped.

Another well respected trainer from the South East region of the state who's had a handful of runners in the series in the past, echoed Trenowden's feelings.

"The grass roots level of racing in South Australia has been forgotten about again," the trainer who wished not to be known said. "But where would racing be without us in the country."

"Having heats of the Challenge at all four provincial tracks is a joke," he added. "It is giving city trainers the chance to send well credentialled runners for a short Sunday drive to Gawler or Strath(albyn) to qualify to run in a race which is supposed to have been designed for us."

John Glatz, who is best known as a high ranking official of the Oakbank Racing Club, is a member of both the South Australian Racing Clubs Council and TRSA. Glatz said the growing dissent of country trainers was not know to him.

"I certainly was not aware that people in the country felt this way," he said this afternoon. "We are there to represent these clubs and we welcome their feedback."

Glatz's Oakbank Racing Club have what Trenowden describes as the "only proper country race in the state." The 1900 metre Country Cup over the Easter Carnival is restricted to horses which have started at least five times outside of the metropolitan area in the past twelve months.

Trenowden said restrictions must be enforced onto the race, although he predicted it's life as a country feature was now "dead."

"A race like the one run at Oakbank and those in Melbourne must be included on the calendar as South Australia is quickly losing it's respect for us out here in the country," the eight time Leading Eyre Peninsula trainer said.

The SARCC Executive Officer, Chris Biggs, like Glatz said he was unaware of the thoughts from country trainers and said they would take on board any suggestions and discuss them in the future.

"Our job is to listen to the needs of the people we represent and we will always do that," Biggs told Cyberhorse. "We are willing to discuss anything which will benefit the series."

TRSA Racing Manager Ian Hart said that the issue of changing conditions and the series in general lies with SARCC.

"SARCC and their board present us (TRSA) with what form they want the series and we work with them to provide the best outcome," Hart said.

While Glatz, Biggs and Hart felt the race was not losing its country emphasis, the trainers questioned this afternoon were forming the complete opposition opinion.

The final thought on the issue must go to our South Eastern trainer who said that "the country aspect of the race which had been dying a slow death, was now rapidly gasping for air."

HOOFNOTE: The SARCC (South Australian Racing Clubs Council) will be meeting on Friday and both John Glatz and Chris Biggs promised the series would be discussed. Let's hope for country racing's sake this unrest can be put to bed, and quickly!

EDITORIAL: As a former country resident and committee person I feel SARCC and TRSA must get together and provide a "proper" country series which is welcomed by those who make the series tick. The power brokers indicate this view had not been raised to them in the past, so let's see how they plan to deal with it now that it has!

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