NEWCASTLE Harness Racing Club chief executive Tony Drew is hopeful of a substantial turnaround in income after the track secured an additional 12 Saturday night and twilight meetings for the 2015-16 financial year.
NHRC lost about $207,000 in 2013-14, which was up significantly on the $103,000, $122,000, $120,000 and $97,000 deficits in the previous four years and followed the loss of regular Saturday night TAB dates.
Since losing ground with the significant timeslot, annual attendances have dropped from about 74,000 in 2009 to 49,000 in 2014 at Newcastle, causing major drops in sponsorship and race-day revenue.
However, Drew is hopeful of a revival after Newcastle secured 15 Saturday twilight and 10 Saturday night slots in the 2015-16 program.
Although down in overall race dates from 75 to 68, Newcastle’s jump from 13 to 25 Saturday meetings is welcome news for Drew and his board.
“We’ve been pushing for quite a while for this, and Ross [Gigg] certainly was before he passed [in May 2014], so it’s great news,” Drew said. “Harness Racing NSW have been just marvellous.
“This is an opportunity to increase our revenue stream.”
Drew said the financial turnaround as a result of the Saturday increases “could be substantial”.
Although overall races held at Newcastle for the year will drop from 588 to 544, the changes include eight-race Saturday twilight programs instead of six-race meetings.
The rest of the 2015-16 breakdown is nine Monday, three Tuesday, six Thursday and five Friday day meetings.
They will combine with four Wednesday and 16 Friday night meetings, plus the 25 Saturday allocations.
Drew said when announcing the 2013-14 losses that the club was working to rein in costs but was not in short-term danger because of almost $1 million in reserve funds generated through profits in successful years.
Maitland retained its five meetings for 2015-16, which includes three Saturday night spots.
■ Keinbah trainer Shane Tritton may achieve another first for Hunter pacing on Thursday at Newcastle.
After the scratching of Glen Powell’s Armagedon Flame, all five runners in the first race are from the Tritton stable.
Although difficult to prove, it is believed to be the first time a trainer has had every runner in a race at Newcastle or Maitland.
Tritton went close in January 2014 when he had five of six runners in a race at Maitland on Inter City Pace night.
Under the relatively new programming regulations, horses are nominated for meetings then allocated races based on grade.
Tritton has 10 horses overall on the six-race program, which starts at 2pm.
The Newcastle Derby will be the feature when the track hosts an eight-race twilight card on Saturday.
■ Harness Racing NSW chief John Dumesny said access to feed would be a priority as the governing body looks to help Hunter participants reeling from storms and flooding.
Dumesny said HRNSW had been in contact with trainers affected and many had seen their feed supplies flooded.
He also said sections of the Cessnock track had been washed away and the HRNSW board decided at its meeting this week to get it “fixed as soon as possible”.
NSW Harness Racing Club has donated $20,000 towards HRNSW’s flood relief fund.
Dumesny applauded the contribution.
He said HRNSW would assess flood damages. Participants had been asked to contact Adam Fairley at [email protected] to report damage they had incurred.
Maitland Showground’s greyhound track suffered substantial damage in the storms, but harness racing club secretary Wayne Smith said the pacing track and facilities had come through the deluge relatively unscathed.