Pakenham defies odds to get on a $72 million winner with new track   Leave a comment

Pakenham defies odds to get on a $72 million winner with new track

The new track at Pakenham will host its first meeting on Thursday. Picture: Jason Sammon

The new track at Pakenham will host its first meeting on Thursday. Picture: Jason Sammon Source: News Corp Australia

PAKENHAM Racing Club’s vision for a new racecourse was not shared by Racing Victoria when it was mooted more than a decade ago.

And in December, 2008, then-RVL chief executive Rob Hines and Country Racing Victoria executive Scott Whiteman arrived at the club.

Armed with a 29-page document titled Victorian Racecourse and Training Facilities Directions Paper — Pakenham Presentation, Hines highlighted a graph illustrating that Pakenham’s 11 meetings a season would be slashed to five and funding to maintain training facilities withdrawn.

As long serving Pakenham committeeman and chairman Don Duffy said on Thursday, the club was going to “wither on the vine”. “The problems with the track were its tightness and we found trainers weren’t sending out their better horses,” Duffy said.

Pakenham Racing Club chief executive Michael Hodge at the new track. Picture: Jason Sammo

Pakenham Racing Club chief executive Michael Hodge at the new track. Picture: Jason Sammon Source: News Corp Australia

What the club had was money from its gaming establishment, built with the $600,000 it received from the demutualisation of the TAB. More importantly, it owned the land in the heart of Pakenham where racing was first held in the 1800s, and which it later sold for about $30 million.

Duffy said that in the early 2000s, he had discussions with then-RVL chief executive Neville Fielke and told him that the club needed to relocate but was bluntly told, ‘no’.

He said Fielke said an agreement might be reached if Pakenham combined with harness racing, greyhounds, or a golf club but the preferred option was to merge with another club.

“Those were all unacceptable to the committee but the writing was on the wall and we knew we had to look at alternatives, but it wasn’t until 2008 that we sourced the land at Tynong,” he said. “There was also a change in attitude from RVL where they were then so supportive of us relocating.”

Orange County heads out onto the new Pakenham track for a barrier trial last month.

Orange County heads out onto the new Pakenham track for a barrier trial last month. Source: Supplied

On Thursday the club hosts its first meeting at its new racecourse in Tynong on the outskirts of Pakenham. More than $72 million has been spent on the first stage of the development.

Duffy, a Pakenham solicitor, said the title of the old racecourse had been in the club’s name but the constitution required that all money be put back into thoroughbred racing if the club folded.

“What the RVL CEO of the time saw was this pot of gold he could use and, while he didn’t say it specifically, it was pretty obvious they wanted to use it to upgrade the training facilities and probably the turf club at Cranbourne,” he said.

“But that was never going to happen.”

Originally published as Pakenham defies odds to get on a $72m winner

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Posted March 26, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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