Racing club supports beach training plan

OFF AND RACING: Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive Peter Downs said the state government’s plan for horse training on beaches would require sacrifices but was a workable solution. Picture: Vicky HughsonWARRNAMBOOL Racing Club has welcomed a new plan to control the use of beaches for commercial horse training.
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While numerous environmental groups and the South West Owners, Trainers andRiders Association (SWOTRA) have blasted the state government’s plan, WRCchief executive Peter Downs said it provided a workable solution to a difficult problem.

“We’re pleased enough with the outcome,” Mr Downs said.

“We had some requests that weren’t met but it’s also giving us a way to go forward and givinglocal trainers a bit of confidence in the short term …and (putting) a long-term plan in place to shore up training in the future.

“Therewere some areas where we wanted more horses and other areas we thought would be kept open during summer …(and) for three months there will be a limited amount of horses that will be able to access the beach. But it could have been no horses for three months, so it’s a good resolution.

“Obviously it was a very hard decision. You can never make everyone happy when they’re coming from polar opposites. An agreement has been made and people should be happy with that.

“The beaches can continue to be used by horses and the environmental and cultural factors (have been taken into consideration).”

The WRC has been put in charge of the state government’s proposed licensing system, but Mr Downs said it was too early to say how the licences would work.

“The onus is on us to make it fair and equitable,” he said.

“But the onus is on the trainers to do the right thing. There will be severe punishments in place.”

When asked if that meant the clubwould be in charge of policing the plan, Mr Downs said there was “a lot of information that we have to work out before we know howthe policing will work”.

He confirmed there would be a cost attached to licences, and that it was likely a “pro rata” system would be used that looked “at the horses as individuals, not the trainers”.

“There will have to be sacrifices and a common sense approach,” he said.

Mr Downs said the clubwould also continue to work with Warrnambool City Council on the suggestion of using a stretch of Crown land between Viaduct Road and the beach as a specialised horse training location.

“It’s a very good sand-based area … and it was used as a trotting area a number of years ago,” he said.“It would help reduce the number of horses on beaches.”

He said the club hoped Levys Point would be re-opened to horses once a cultural heritage management plan was completed.

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