Racing: Messara report could radically change industry in NZ

Racecourse closures and the possible sale of the TAB are among the wide-ranging ramifications of a report into the future of New Zealand's racing industry, due for release on Thursday evening.

The expected announcement provided a tense backdrop to today's gallops meeting at Ashburton - the only race meeting taking place around the country today.

"Tonight, there will be a mixture of excitement and apprehension as to what's going to happen," said Ashburton Racing Club life member Greg Jones.

Speculation is rife as to what the much-anticipated report by Australian stud owner and racing guru John Messara will mean for the industry here, especially the NZ Racing Board that oversees horse and greyhound racing.

"There's been talk of the Racing Board actually being closed by John Messara and the codes running things themselves," says Jones.

"And even the TAB, there's been talk of putting that off-shore to some of the Australian betting agencies."

 Trainer Pam Robson wanted to see Messara's report implemented in its entirety.

"He would know better than anybody how to turn the business around."

Robson maintained "a minor revolution" was needed to resurrect the struggling industry.

With 2500 wins, no jockey has won more races in this country than David Walsh and he has firm ideas about what needs changing.

"There are a lot of issues in racing and the biggest one we've got currently is prizemoney, with the minimum stakes too low," he said.

"If the stake money doesn't go up significantly, a lot of people will have to drop out of the game."

There are also fears that racecourses - especially some in the provinces - will be culled in an effort to make the industry more efficient.

"I would imagine that the West Coast could be in the firing line," said Jones.

Just who will be jumping for joy tonight remains to be seen.  

Racing Minister Winston Peters will front the announcement at 6pm Thursday.


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