New Zealand horse racing 'in crisis' as seven tracks close for good

Thoroughbred Racing has announced seven regional race tracks will be closed for good. 

In the North Island, Dargaville,Thames and Stratford, while in the South, Hokitika, Waimate, Winton and Wyndham will all close their gates. 

There is relief for some though; Wairoa, Blenheim and Reefton have all avoided the axe - but more than a century of racing at Hokitika is over, with the Westland Racing Club consigned to the history books.

"We're absolutely shattered, we cannot believe the stupidity and the lack of consideration for what West Coast racing is all about," said Westland Racing Club President Gray Eatwell.

It's one of seven to go; New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing is calling time on Dargaville, Thames, Stratford, Hokitika, Waimate, Winton and Wyndham in its first phase of cuts.

"We've realised that there are 48 race tracks in New Zealand and we haven't got the financial resources to put in and maintain 48 venues for customer facilities, for race track facilities," said New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry.

"So what we're looking to do is to right-size New Zealand so it has the right number of tracks."

Hokitika hosted one race day per year - but even so, Eatwell reckons it could be the death of racing on the Coast. 

"It's the only opportunity our community gets to see horse racing," said Eatwell.

A Government-funded review from racing expert John Messara suggested closing 27 venues to ease financial pressures on the billion-dollar industry.

Racing Minister Winston Peters is welcoming the cuts. 

"I believed the industry is in crisis, and we believe now we have solutions and we're putting them in place," he said on Thursday.

Three race courses avoided the axe - Wairoa, Reefton and Blenheim - while the Marlborough Racing club races twice a year and is used as a training ground for local trainers.

"We've got 185 boxes and if horses have to stay for a longer period they can be exercised on the track and that's happened in the past, where horses have been stuck here for several days," said Blenheim Racing Chair John O'Brian.

For Hokitika they are confined to the history books - an end of an era for the only right-hand track in the South Island.