RACING FACES HUGE HURDLE
By Steve Spinks
LISMORE and Ballina are facing the prospect of losing their biggest annual events and the ensuing financial impact as equine influenza threatens to shut down spring racing carnivals across the region.
With racing currently under a 72-hour suspension in Australia, rumours abound that further suspensions could last for more than a month.
There has even been some talk suggesting the Melbourne Cup, which is staged in November, may need to be put back.
The two clubs that stage the local events, Lismore Turf Club and the Ballina Jockey Club, could be facing a financial disaster should the worst case scenario play out.
The Ballina Cup, which is scheduled for September 13, is the most immediate concern, with BJC secretary-manager Steve Taylor saying his club could lose 30 per cent of its income if the meeting is stopped.
The traditional lead-up meeting, the Broadwater Cup set down for this Sunday, is also under threat.
"We're resigned to the fact that the Broadwater will be off at this stage," Taylor said.
"We won't know for certain until the stewards or the Department of Primary Industries tells us.
"We're in full lock down at the moment. No trainer can bring their horse to work on our track, even the trainers who live on Racecourse Road (adjoining the race track)."
Racing in Grafton on Tuesday is also likely to be suspended.
The Lismore Cup is under less threat with five weeks before it is due to be run on September 27.
However, the meeting, which attracts more than 10,000 punters, generates about 50 per cent of the Lismore Turf Club's annual turnover.
"It would be a disaster for the club," Turf Club secretary-manager Michael Timbrell said.
"We'd lose more than $100,000 and it would undo all the good work the club has done over the past years.
"We'd survive but it would really put us back. "The town would also suffer. The local economy does well with people staying in motels, buying clothes and going to the pubs after."
Timbrell said there was not much the clubs could do except to wait for directions from Australian and NSW Racing.
The shutdown may even stop the North Coast Zone Pony Club trials at Kyogle this weekend.
More than 200 riders were expected to compete at the Kyogle Showground.