SAD TIMES: Whakatane Racing Club chairman Neville Delahunty stands at the racecourse’s locked gate after the club was forced to close by the New Zealand Racing Industry. Photo Troy Baker D9864-07

WHAKATANE Racing Club’s Te Teko Racecourse has held its final race.

The racing club is one of 14 around New Zealand being closed as part of radical changes rolled out by the New Zealand Racing Industry.

Based at Te Teko since the 1970s, the club has always had a good following, but the Covid-19 pandemic has seen many sporting organisations, including the racing industry, lose millions of dollars and has forced a change.

Horse racing in the Eastern Bay will be a rare sight in future, with Gisborne and Wairoa also being wound down.

Whakatane Racing Club chairman Neville Delahunty said it was a sad way for the club’s proud history to end.

“It would have been nice to hold one final event there and really put on a good show for the members and the community, but it wasn’t to be.’’

He said they had a feeling closure was on the cards when they heard the racing industry plans.

“Honestly we saw it coming. We’re not located near where any of the trainers or horses are bred, or trained, these days and as part of their decision, it was easier to cut the tracks which were further away to save travel costs in the future.

NO LONGER NEEDED: The Whakatane Racing Club headquarters in Te Teko is closed following drastic changes implemented by the New Zealand Racing Industry. D9864-12

“All-weather tracks and limited meetings here also haven’t helped our cause. Neither has the fact they are trying to centralise things now, and we’re quite a bit out of the way.’’

Racing is becoming more and more expensive each year and Delahunty said that was another factor in the Whakatane club having to close its gates.

He said they were offered the opportunity to combine with the Rotorua or Tauranga Clubs but opted against it.

“We thought about it and decided against that. We just felt it wouldn’t have been fair on our sponsors and it would have been harder for us to attract them when we can’t hold races here, and the members who would have to travel further to a meet each time.’’

Like all clubs the good memories outweigh the bad.

“It’s been a fantastic time with the club. We have so many great memories, like all our January race days and the winter races we held. There was always so many highlights.’’

The club has hosted some of the best horses and trainers in the country on a number of occasions.

Delahunty has given kudos to the New Zealand Racing Industry in a small way, as they rang him to announce the closure before he read about it in the media.

Originally, the Whakatane Racing Club was combined with Tauranga but split when an independent location was found in Te Teko.

Delahunty, who with four other members is part of a club trust formed when Robert Muldoon was prime minister, said it was too early to speculate on what might happen with the land and club.

“They were talking about centralising racing clubs back then so a trust purchased the track and it’s been with them since, so we will have to sit down and decide what is done with the area.

“For now, we are just letting the decision of the club closing sink in.’’

The club’s committee will meet in the near future to go about deregistering the club.