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
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
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
"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!