Fungal scare won’t stop Tumut’s Boxing Day races

Tumut Turf Club curator and trainer Kerry Weir has been dealing with a fungus infection that has killed off parts of the Tumut Racecourse grass in between the 1600m and 1400m.

Tumut’s always-popular Boxing Day race meeting will proceed albeit after a fungal scare. 

Following the recent wet weather and with parts of the Tumut Racecourse flooded during October and November, sections of the course proper were subsequently impacted by a fungal infection. 

This then led to sections of the track dying off, in turn reducing grass cover, which has resulted in multiple Racing NSW steward inspections, with the latest being on Wednesday.   

Despite initial concerns that the meeting might be called off due to the state of the track, Racing NSW stewards instead decided to amend the race distances, allowing for the five-race non-TAB program to proceed.

Southern Districts Racing Association chief steward Liam Martin explained just how Racing NSW had initially determined there was a fungal infection and what the new distances would be for the Boxing Day meeting.

“We had a turf specialist inspect the turf and surface of the track, and samples were taken, and those samples have revealed the fungus, which may have been there prior to the work being done (late last year), and with the additional rain and flooding, that has aggravated that fungus, which has spread across the track,” Martin said.

“As a result, where the fungus is located, the grass has died off, and with minimal grass coverage, that part of the track was deemed unsuitable to race on.

“There is some remedial work that needs to be done, but due to the fungus that is in the grass from the 1600m to the 1400m, the decision was made to reduce the race distances to the 1200m and 1000m.”

Tumut will look to get through their Boxing Day meeting on December 26 before hosting their TAB Tumut Mile meeting on January 14 and their Tumut Cup meeting on February 11, and Martin was hopeful that the track would respond to radical treatment. 

“Ideally we would hope so, and as soon as the fungicide for the track arrives, it will be put on the track and there is fertiliser coming too, and it’s just a matter of seeing how the track responds,” Martin said.  

The fungus infection isn’t the only concern held by the Tumut Turf Club, with some rain forecast for late next week, but Martin is confident the track can handle more precipitation. 

“I think the course proper can handle the rain. They have had rainfall in the last couple days, and inspecting it today, and after a horse went over it, it went into the track a bit, but it still handled it,” Martin said. 

“With no more irrigation leading up to the meeting, and because we are still 12 days out, I think 15-20mm of rain wouldn’t hurt the track between now and race day.”  

The new race program for the Tumut Boxing Day meeting is as follows: 

1000m Benchmark 50 Handicap

1200m Benchmark 58 Handicap

1200m Class One Handicap 

1000m Maiden Handicap 

1200m Maiden Plate