Being anointed as a Centre Of Excellence would see many more winners go past the post at Coffs Harbour race meetings.
Being anointed as a Centre Of Excellence would see many more winners go past the post at Coffs Harbour race meetings. Leigh Jensen

Coffs in running for share

COFFS Harbour Racing Club could be heading for an extended period of rapid growth if granted Centre Of Excellence status.

Chief executive officer Russ Atkinson maintained his organisation has ‘ticked all the boxes’ and has a strong case for consideration if the just-released Racing New South Wales Strategic Plan for the Thoroughbred Racing Industry is fully implemented.

“We have been working diligently over the last three years to improve training facilities and our racing surface,” Atkinson said yesterday.

Much depends on the court decision due to be handed down on June 17 following a legal wrangle over race fields legislation and the massive revenue increases tipped to follow in the slipstream.

“To be named as a Centre Of Excellence in the Northern Rivers Racing Association would prove very significant with even more funds available to develop the Coffs racing industry which in turn would bring enormous benefits to employment and the economy in general,” Atkinson said.

Racing NSW believes that once the court case and any appeals have been completed, their Strategic Plan would return racing in this state to the glory days.

From July 2012, an extra $60 million prize money per annum would be provided to the thoroughbred industry for non-feature races.

In Coffs Harbour, this would mean distribution at a TAB meeting rising from $9000 to $14,000 per event.

A further $70 million investment in infrastructure over five years would improve customer facilities at racecourses state-wide as well as facilitate the upgrade of track surfaces and stables.

“At some time in the future, Coffs Harbour could even be considered as a night racing venue with an explosion in the number of meetings,” Atkinson revealed.

“While it wouldn’t be prudent to put a time frame on this as everything depends on revenue and turnover, a revitalised industry has exciting prospects.”

Meanwhile, Coffs Harbour will receive TAB coverage for Saturday’s ‘community’ meeting and the CEO is keeping a close eye on the weather radar.

“If we had to race today, the surface would be a ‘dead 4’ and if the wind keeps up, there’d be an upgrade,” he said.

“Rain is said to be coming, however, and the fingers are crossed.”

Atkinson said there had been a positive response since the TAB extended coverage on Sky Racing Two to minor meetings, despite prize money remaining at community levels.

“The people are coming to the races again and enjoying the spectacle,” he said.

“Many of the horses are of non-TAB standard but more of them are starting and the bigger fields are generally making for a better spectacle.

“Subsidies mean we don’t carry the same overheads as at a normal TAB meeting.

“The idea has a great deal of merit and while they are only being programmed until July, Sky needs content for its second channel so these meetings could still have longevity.”

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