Ballina trainer Andrew Pilling (with gelding River Street) believes Ballina’s race track has seen better days.
Ballina trainer Andrew Pilling (with gelding River Street) believes Ballina’s race track has seen better days.

Longing for days of a dry track

BALLINA trainer Andrew Pilling saw his home track go through a glory period in the 1980s but sadly he believes the club has gone backwards since those days.

When you fast forward to now and see that Ballina Jockey Club had nine of its meetings affected by rain last financial year, that becomes obvious.

Pilling believes drainage has been a constant problem during this time.

“We used to have about 300 people involved (in track work) in the 1980s,” he said.

“It used to be chock-a-block.

“Now that figure would be closer to 100.

“Those people couldn’t keep battling the weather conditions so they left for greener pastures.”

Pilling said Ballina Jockey Club received funds in the 1980s to improve its track but this actually signalled the beginning of the end to its glory period.

“Work was done on the track to improve its sand base,” he said.

“But the base ended up getting destroyed (during the work) and that was a crying shame.

“Fingers were pointed at the club’s committee at the time.”

Racing NSW’s general manager of industry Scott Kennedy admitted there were drainage concerns at Ballina.

“The course is located in a wetland area and the water table is high which makes it difficult to dry out,” he said.

But Kennedy believes some help is not far away.

“Country Racing NSW has recently approved funds of $70,000 to mitigate tidal influences at Ballina,” he said.

“This will give it an upside in how it handles rain in the future.

“It’s now up to the club to get these works organised.”

Kennedy said Country Racing NSW had provided money to Ballina to make up for the club’s recent string of lost meetings and race enthusiasts should not hold fears about the club’s future.

This should give the Ballina club’s officials and competitors hope of receiving more funding if Racing NSW is successful in its race field legislation court case against bookmakers Sportsbet and Betting Exchange Betfair.

Because of its standing as a renowned country venue, Ballina has a chance of receiving more funds if Racing NSW wins out.

“I don’t know the levels of Ballina’s success in the 1980s but a lot of other country venues look enviously at the club,” Kennedy said.

“They continue to host a large number of horses in work year in, year out.”



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