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The fightback has begun to save the historic King Island races.
A fortnight ago, the club revealed with a heavy heart that 130 years of racing was under threat for a myriad of reasons but mostly because the island was running out of horses.
At last count, King Island was home to just 10 gallopers and 12 pacers and its summer festival of six race meetings was on the verge of collapse.
The first race meeting was held on the Bass Strait island in 1892. Winners were paid in wallaby skins.
A lack of trainers, stable staff and track volunteers led to a calls for help, including approaches to Tasracing and the Tasmanian state government.
This has led to a positive written statement of support from Tasmania’s new racing minister Madeline Ogilvie, via a statement and from a handful of mainland trainers to ship horses to King Island for the races.
Some have said they would base themselves on the island for the Christmas/New Year period.
The season begins on December 26 and concludes on February 5.
Even Ciaron Maher has said he will endeavour to find some horses within his vast empire to set aside for King Island, which runs its Cup meeting on January 22.
Events Tasmania has indicated it may offer financial assistance.
There has been a suggestion of shipping subsidies for intestate horses.
Club president Audrey Hamer, who runs the club, the local bakery and the island’s stock feed store, said the response to the club’s plea for help had been encouraging.
She said trainers Shane Bottomley, Chris Diplock and even one based in NSW had offered to send horses to sustain racing on the island, a popular tourist destinated known for beef, cheese, crayfish, golf and horse racing.
“We are hoping to attract eight or nine horses who can compete during the carnival,” Hamer said, adding she was hoping to soon speak directly to the racing minister.
Hamer said a handful of local girls were keen to gain stablehand licences to assist on race days.
“The problem still remains that none of them would be likely to be able to work with the horses other than race-day,” she said.
“There are some promising signs. There is an indication from Events Tasmania that they might help in any way they could if we go ahead this summer.”
If staff and horses cannot be found in Tasmania and the mainland, the summer festival is at risk of collapsing.
Last summer’s festival was curtailed because of a fear of Covid spread on the island.
Diplock, who trains a small team at Pakenham and educates horses for a number of stables, said King Island had always been on his bucket list.
“I saw the club’s recent Facebook post and thought “yeah, I reckon I could take a horse or two,” Diplock said.
“It’s a quiet time of year for me (summer) and the way I see it, I could take a small team over and have a working holiday.
“I’d get mine fit before they get there and have them ready to go by mid-December.
“I’ve got three maiden horses that would be very competitive there.”
Diplock said horses that were picnic class in Victoria would be competitive on King Island, where the standard stake was $12,500. Picnic purses are less than half of that.
Posted in Featured, Horse Racing News, Matt Stewart, Racing News
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