The long-awaited return of thoroughbred racing at Glenburnie has suffered another false start after the latest postponement to the 2021-22 season.
Recently the Mount Gambier Racing Club hoped the absence of on-track action – which has elongated for more than a year – would disappear in the first week of December.
However, the club will have to wait until February 2022 to welcome back trainers, jockeys and punters alike after Racing SA announced several program changes last week.
Despite the latest setback, Allan Scott Glenburnie Racecourse track manager David Shepherdson (inset bottom right) is confident the new 1850 metre turf will be in tip-top shape for next year’s grand opening after an extended break.
“The progress of the track is brilliant,” he said.
“It looks like a golf fairway at the moment and we have to get it back up to 100mm and it should be spectacular in January and February.
“Everyone should feel confident racing will be fantastic come February, we will be flying by then.”
The meetings scheduled at Mount Gambier in December 2021 and January 2022 have been moved to Penola and Bordertown after it was adjudged the Glenburnie racecourse turf needed more time to establish after a wet winter.
The first time horses will race on the revamped track surface will be during barrier trials on Friday, February 11, 2022.
Meanwhile, the track will officially re-open for a race meeting for the first time in 21 months on Wednesday, February 23, 2022.
The event is followed by the big one, the 2022 Mount Gambier Gold Cup on April Fool’s Day, a prestigious race that has been missing from the Limestone Coast social calendar for far too long.
In a media release Racing SA chief executive Nick Redin said the call was made with the long-term health of the track at the front of mind.
“We are determined to return to racing at Mount Gambier in a sustainable manner,” he said in the statement.
“This means taking a conservative approach and allowing the track to benefit from some warmer weather which will ensure the turf has properly bedded down.
“While the delay is unfortunate for the Mount Gambier community, we are pleased to be able to retain the scheduled December and January meetings in the South East region and we look forward to resuming racing at the track in February ahead of the feature Cup meeting which will now be in early April.”
Shepherdson believed it was the right call to ensure the revamped track could not only host races this season, but for many years in the future.
“If we were to race in December, we would have had to hold these trials on it in the middle of November and I knew it would not be ready, so I was very relived Racing SA agreed to change the dates,” he said.
“We want to start racing, but give the track the perfect opportunity during the maximum peak growing period to get nice and thick to keep racing into the future.
“I am happy with the February start because it means we can start on a high note.”
Shepherdson admitted his first 12 months in the job have been challenging, but said the reason why the track was not ready to race next month was beyond his control.
“It was a big challenge and many people probably did not want to take it on, but it has all gone well until I was pulling my hair out thinking ‘where is the warm weather?’,” he said.
“The winter Poa annua grass was all killed, so we were in a good place heading into winter with 100mm of kikuyu.
“I cut the track back to 25mm, did all the right things, so we just had to wait for the warm weather because it needs to be 30 degrees to shoot out of the ground, but it has been freezing.
“The lovely warm weather should be there in January and February to give us the opportunity to get the roots nice and deep back to 100mm and make the track brilliant.”