Emotional plea over bad track

AN emotional Danny Bowen was one of many local trainers, owners, jockeys and bookmakers to voice their concerns at a public forum held at the Ballina Jockey Club last night.

Racing NSW chairman John Messara and chief executive Peter V'landys were there to announce the largest prize money increases per race in the history of NSW racing in the bush.

The increase follows Racing NSW's success in the Race Fields legislation challenge in the High Court last Friday.

However, one of the main concerns at last night's meeting was over what funding would be available to upgrade the course's drainage.

The Ballina club lost close to a dozen race meetings last year because of persistent rain and poor drainage.

"Now you've got the bugs bunny, how about you help us out," Bowen said.

"Mates, I've been training for 20 years and I don't know what we're going to do.

"We had faith in you to win this court case and I really appreciate you being here. I'm just pleading with you that you don't forget us."

Country racing has received a 50% boost, with every TAB meeting increasing from $10,000 to $15,000 per race from July 1.

In addition Ballina, Lismore and Casino have been earmarked as three of 30 clubs to be audited for the distribution of the remaining funds.

"We have a spare $100,000 that was saved up in a trust account for if we lost in the High Court," Messara said.

"We're leaning towards the majority of that going towards country racing.

"We have a two-year plan and we need to look at our options carefully, because this is a once-in-a-lifetime win and we don't want to waste it.

"It won't happen today or tomorrow but it will happen."

Other changes include prize money going all the way down to 10th place instead of fourth and licensed stablehands receiving 1.5% of total prize money instead of nothing.

Other concerns locals had included a Queensland invasion of trainers and horses, the possibility of synthetic tracks, attracting people from the age of 18-25 back to racing and additional training tracks.

Ballina Jockey Club chairman Dr Bob Jemison was thrilled with the responses from the public and NSW Racing representatives.

"I didn't disagree with anything that was said from anybody," he said.

"We haven't had any upgrades on our track in 20 years and that's the problem."

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