Muddy Waters

16 May 2020

The Rotorua Racing Club has survived the initial cull of venues but is cautious about the future.

The Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) yesterday released a draft list of venues which were excluded from hosting thoroughbred racing for the 2020/2021 calendar year.

Rotorua will kick off its racing calendar with a meeting on 17 November. 

Rotorua Racing Chief Executive Office Damian Radesic told The Mud that the decision to include races at Rotorua in the calendar for the coming season was a good outcome.

The news was a relief following an earlier news story saying as many 20 clubs throughout New Zealand would be closing.  This story suggested developments would follow in line with a report that had earlier suggested Rotorua would be among a wider range of regional clubs to be abandoned as a racing venue.

However, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing had included Rotorua in the plan for this year and been issued a licence.

“I do feel sorry for other clubs that have been culled and not issued licences, but there will be a period of consultation and they will have an opportunity to state their case.”

The Rotorua’s meetings ran through to June next year and included the popular Taumarunui Cup.


Further change expected

Damian Radesic said that the authorities would formulate a new calendar for 2021 and, in the meantime, would be drawing on the findings of a report delivered in late 2018 by Australian racing expert John Messara. 

A synthetic track was currently being built in Cambridge, with two more now announced, at Awapuni and Christchurch.

Once the Cambridge track was completed, the all-weather facility was expected to trigger further changes in the Waikato-Bay of Plenty regions.  Given that only 10 clubs were scheduled for closure in spite of an earlier suggestion that it would be 20, further moves were expected once all-weather tracks were in place. 

“I don’t think it is the end of what is happening in racing.”

COVID-19 precautions would need to be in place during the November meeting in Rotorua in line with current restrictions on people going to venues. 

Under the current pandemic rules, the club would only be able to cater for 100 people inside and another 100 outside.

That would mean a big revenue drop at major meetings, as the late December race day attracted about 3,500 people for a family fun day.

“The restrictions mean that all we can put on will be the product (horse racing) with no extra entertainment.”

It is likely that New Zealand clubs will follow their counterparts in Australia, which have run meetings without crowds on the courses.  Damian Radesic noted that Australians bet on New Zealand racing than what New Zealanders do. 

“Australia seems to have got its mix right whereas New Zealand has lagged for the last 20-odd years.”


See below a list of thoroughbred venues proposed to not host racing in 2020/21 Draft calendar:


Te Teko

Waipa (Te Awamutu)




Blenheim (Waterlea)





See the NZ Thoroughbred Racing statement HERE


See the Draft 2020-21 calendar HERE

Rotorua racing back in November

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