Racing Victoria (RV) and the Ballarat Turf Club (BTC) have are delaying the return of racing at Sportsbet-Ballarat until spring. The delay means the transfer of four race meetings.

The decision to delay the resumption of racing at the premier regional track until Wednesday, 8 October 2014 has been made owing to compaction of the remodelled home straight which has led to difficulties in absorbing rainfall as efficiently as required.

The track underwent a $1.5 million refurbishment after the BTC’s November 2013 Cup meeting with a new surface laid and major works undertaken to level out the substantial dip in the home straight.

Racing was scheduled to commence at Sportsbet-Ballarat on 1 June but the meeting was abandoned following overnight rain. The BTC’s 19 June meeting was then transferred to Donald prior to nominations.

RV Executive General Manager – Infrastructure, Jamie McGuinness, said that RV and the BTC had taken a long term approach to resolving the issue, particularly with the 2014 Ballarat Cup to be run as a Saturday metropolitan meeting for the first time on 22 November.

“The track received a positive report in mid-May from senior jockeys and stewards ahead of its scheduled return to racing on 1 June, however they could not have foreseen the issue with compaction and in hindsight it was the wrong call to return at this time,” McGuinness said.

“There were considerable earthworks undertaken in the home straight and the application of extra irrigation to keep the new turf healthy through an unusually hot spell in late summer has led to the profile being more compacted than anticipated.

“The issue was highlighted after the first major rainfall event prior to the scheduled return on 1 June which resulted in surface water on the day. The situation in the home straight is in contrast to the remainder of the track which required fewer earthworks and is absorbing rainfall as required.

“It was our intention to ensure that the track would hold up to winter racing and the surface not chop out whilst consolidating, but it is clear that the surface profile in the straight is now too compact.

“We don’t believe we can correct it during winter without causing long term damage to the track and thus we have agreed it’s in the Club’s long-term interests to postpone the reopening until October.”

As a result of the issues being experienced at Sportsbet-Ballarat, McGuinness said that RV had determined that it would no longer schedule tracks to return from major reconstruction works between May and August.

“We are extremely disappointed for the Club, the local community and participants that we’ve been unable to return racing to Sportsbet-Ballarat this winter, but we are equally optimistic about the track’s long-term future,” McGuiness said.

“The remedial work that will be undertaken throughout September will ensure that the track is ready to race in October and be in good condition for the historic Ballarat Cup meeting in late November.”

BTC Chief Executive, Lachlan McKenzie, said postponing the reopening until October would provide certainty for the Club’s members, sponsors and trainers after the false start in June.

“The decision to delay until October means that we can plan accordingly rather than watching the weather and wondering from meeting-to-meeting whether we can proceed,” McKenzie said.

“We are mindful that the community and the industry has been eagerly awaiting Ballarat’s return to racing so this is disappointing news for all, but it’s been made in our best long-term interests.

“The advice we’ve received from turf and soil experts is that we’re best to take a conservative approach to ensure the track is in an optimum condition for spring and beyond that next winter.

“The feedback from senior riders who took part in initial testing of the track was extremely positive so we are confident that it will enhance racing and training at Sportsbet-Ballarat once we address this issue.”

The following meetings are being transferred to accommodate Sportsbet-Ballarat’s delayed opening;

  • Wednesday, 30 July – Ballarat transferred to Geelong Synthetic
  • Saturday, 9 August – Warrnambool transferred to Murtoa
  • Sunday, 10 August – Ballarat transferred to Warrnambool
  • Sunday, 7 September – Ballarat transferred to Wangaratta
  • Sunday, 21 September – Ballarat transferred to Wangaratta
  • Monday, 22 September – Wangaratta transferred to Echuca

The following programming changes will be made to the 30 July program at Geelong Synthetic;

  • $17,500 1900m Maiden and $17,500 1900m 0-78 Benchmark have been added
  • $20,000 3200m 0-120 Hurdle has been moved to Sunday, 20 July at Warrnambool
  • $20,000 3200m Maiden Hurdle has been moved to Sunday, 10 August at Warrnambool
  • The 1600m 2YO race programmed will be swapped with a 1200m 2YO Fillies race at Sale the following day due to Geelong Synthetic not having a 1600m start

Owing to the 21 September transfer, Sportsbet-Ballarat’s feature $60,000 Gold Nugget (1600m) will be rescheduled to Sunday, 31 May 2015. Wangaratta, which has received the transferred meeting on this day, will now feature two $30,000 races and six $17,500 races.

Distance changes across the transferred venues will be announced under separate cover by RV.