Early morning trackwork and golf don?t mix, despite the proximity of the Westlawn course and horses at Grafton.
Early morning trackwork and golf don?t mix, despite the proximity of the Westlawn course and horses at Grafton.

Racing heavies want earlybird golfers off course


RACING NSW heavyweights, CEO Peter V'landys and chief steward Ray Murrihy, have galloped into the contentious trackwork-golf debate involving Grafton racecourse.

The issue was raised publicly on Sydney radio this week and representations from concerned persons have been made to Murrihy and V'landys in an attempt to halt golfers playing while trackwork is in progress.

Grafton District Services Club have a long-term leasing arrangement with the Clarence River Jockey Club (CRJC) on managing the unique 9-hole golf course in the centre of the racetrack.

Current rules allow golfers to play throughout the week and on weekends from 6.30am and from 9am on Tuesdays after golf course maintenance is carried out.

The CRJC does not permit golf on race days.

Trackwork hours are between 5am to 9am, hence the clash with golfers on at least five days a week. The golf course and trackwork have run in conjunction for more than 20 years.

Anti-golf during trackwork proponents including Murrihy and Northern Rivers chief steward Bill Fanning, claim there are major safety concerns and OH & S issues at stake allowing golfers to play alongside racehorses during trackwork.

The sand track, used for slow pacework, runs along the perimeter of the golf course.

"There is a real difficulty in combining golf activities and training operations," Murrihy said.

"From a safety point of view and with OH&S issues involved, it's hard to envisage them working side by side.

"I understand there are contractual arrangements with the club. Trainers and owners have contacted me and reaffirmed their opposition. Peter V'landys has also been contacted.

"I've asked Bill Fanning to follow it up with the club (CRJC). Surely there must be a way of rearranging the hours."

Fanning said the matter had been raised previously.

"My preferred situation is we don't have golf while trackwork is going on, plain and simple but the CRJC has a leasing agreement with the Services Club," he said.

CRJC chairman Bob Pavitt said the CRJC and Services Club had instigated numerous changes over the years to improve the safety situation.

He said following the latest public airing and Murrihy's intervention, further talks with the Services Club would be opened to look at the issue.

"Over the years we have made a lot of changes and further changes were made before Christmas designed to make trackwork safer," Pavitt said.

"Whilst we fully appreciate the potential dangers we've got to look at the whole situation and costs.

"The club has a long term lease with the Services Club. It would be simple for golf to stop before 9am but the predominance of Service Club members, both men and women, prefer to hit off earlier than 9am. If they can't do that why would the Services Club want to keep running it (the golf course)?

"There are advantages to the club and the racing industry in general having them run the golf course.

"Everyone in racing seems to have a solution always involving spending some one else's money other than their own. We are aware of potential problems and both clubs are making every effort to continue to reduce hazards."

There is little doubt revenue gleaned from leasing the centre of the racecourse is a vital component in the CRJC maintaining it's current financial structure in this difficult period of flux in the racing industry. There have also been claims a small minority of persons are stirring the pot when others maintain both entities can work in conjunction.

One local trainer said it was ridiculous to ban golf, mowers and work vehicles on racedays, yet on the other hand allow people to risk injury riding and educating horses during trackwork with golfers.

"The hours should be put back, that's all there is to it," the trainer claimed.

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