The Gardens, which hosts racing on Fridays and Saturdays, will be closed for a two week period to undergo a complete redevelopment, including works on the track base, an increase to the depth of the racing surface, the laying of new sand and the creation of new and safer track cambers.
The work will commence on October 9, with the four subsequent race meetings transferred to other tracks. Gosford, which has similar 400m, 515m and 600m starts, will host the two Friday meetings on October 13 and 20.
However, it is the decision to move the two lower-grade TAB-C meetings to Richmond on October 14 and 21 which has left participants from the Hunter scratching their heads.
Raymond Terrace trainer Chris Van Vegchel said it was a strange decision and commented that it will not suit many trainers who frequent The Gardens with their greyhounds on a Saturday night.
“I can guarantee I won’t be driving all the way to Richmond to race for $500,” Van Vegchel told Australian Racing Greyhound.
Another local trainer, Terry Marsh, agreed, saying Richmond is too far to travel for many local participants when racing for TAB C prize money.
“Most of the people who race at The Gardens on a Saturday come from the Hunter Valley or up from the north-coast – places like Kempsey, Taree, Singleton,” he said.
“It’s a long way for them to go and most of them wouldn’t even have an e-tag in their car.”
GRNSW has defended the decision on social media, saying Gosford would not be able to sustain two extra meetings a week given the track has also undergone recent remedial work. However, Van Vegchel said that reasoning did not make sense.
“They say that Gosford couldn’t handle three meetings a week yet they race on Tuesdays and they trial on Wednesdays and Fridays,” he explained.
“That’s three sessions a week at the track normally so I don’t see what the difference is, but I guess with the recent drama at Gosford they are probably scared of giving all the meetings to them if something went wrong.”
With Gosford ruled out, many questioned why the nearby Maitland track wasn’t given the meetings. Although it is a one turn track and vastly unlike The Gardens, local trainers slammed the decision to move a meeting out of the area, especially when Richmond, despite also being two turns, is different to The Gardens as well.
GRNSW explained that the meetings were not transferred to Maitland because the venue has some of the lowest nomination numbers, with the decision made that a second meeting would not be viable.
But Van Vegchel disagreed, saying the Maitland track would have been the better option.
“I get that Maitland is a different sort of track to The Gardens and that not all dogs go well at both tracks – but to keep racing in the area the meetings should have been at Maitland,” Van Vegchel said.
“Being on a Saturday night I honestly couldn’t see any problems with them getting full fields.”
His sentiment was shared on social media, with another Hunter Valley trainer, Michelle Shambler, commenting on GRNSW’s Facebook page.
“I think Maitland should have got the Saturday meet,” she said.
“[The] only reason Maitland may struggle with noms on Thursday is the calibre of dogs that do race there. I don’t think Maitland would have had trouble getting noms [for the Saturday].”
Other trainers were disappointed they weren’t consulted, with Jodie Manuel explaining on Facebook that local trainers will not benefit from the meetings being moved to Richmond.
“The only people that will benefit from being at Richmond is the people from that way,” Manuel said.
“So yet again a kick in the guts to the local loyal trainers who race at The Gardens every Saturday.
“Maybe you should have asked the trainers that are regular on a Saturday at The Gardens where they would prefer.”
Racing is expected to resume at The Gardens on October 27.