Port Macquarie on track for 2024 return

Work has been completed on the Port Macquarie Race Club racecourse, with the Kikuyu in a ‘grow stage’.

Upgrades to the Port Macquarie Race Club (PMRC) racecourse are on track, with the club now in a ‘grow-in stage’ after new Kikuyu turf was laid late last month.

The Mid-North coast track has essentially overseen a ‘reconstruction of the course proper’, which was brought about due to the ‘track not performing up to a standard’ following a $3.7 million reconstruction in 2015/16.

PMRC Racecourse Manager Craig Rice explained that it was necessary for the popular racecourse, used 22-23 times a year, to undergo extensive work. 

“PMRC, along with Racing NSW, weren’t happy with it. It was only seven years old and was deteriorating badly throughout a meeting and was a safety issue for both horse and rider,” Rice told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.  

“Our last meeting was June 18, and construction began in June.”

Rice was happy to take NSW Country and Picnic Racing through the process, which saw the former turf ‘stripped’ before the ground was addressed before re-turfing. 

“Basically, machinery stripped off the grass layer and then the 300mm of sand profile down to the gravel layer and drainage,” Rice said. 

“The drainage was tested and proved to be fine. Then surveyors went around the entire track taking measurements of the subgrade, making sure that was to spec. 

“Some small adjustments with the grader took place to knock off any high spots. 

“We then added more gravel to reach the desired amount of 120mm over the entire track before adding on the new sand, which Elite Sands sourced for us from Grafton. 

“Approximately 17,000 tonnes came down the highway to be spread over the track to a depth of 250mm (and) within that 250mm a fibre was incorporated into it which is meant to help hold it all together and for extra stability.

“A final clean-up and level of the surface took place before the Kikuyu turf arrived to be planted.”

Now, it is just a matter of waiting to see how the Kikuyu takes while PMRC continue to pray for rainfall.

“We went with the sprigging method of planting, which only needed 10% of the required amount to go on to the 3.5 hectares,” Rice said. 

“We are currently into week two of the grow-in stage, and with zero rainfall, we are relying solely on our irrigation. 

“The new grass is showing promising signs with vigorous root growth already and a nice green tinge coming through the entire track.”

In terms of a return to racing, Rice was reluctant to put a date out there, but he wanted to assure participants that the racecourse would be given adequate time.

“We obviously want to be up and racing as soon as possible, but we understand the need for patience and not to rush it as we want a longer lifespan out of this track than our last one, which I am very confident we will get,” he said. 

“We will just continue to monitor it along with Evergreen and Racing NSW and send a couple of experienced jockeys around it to give us their thoughts before we set any dates.”

Port Macquarie Race Club CEO Nardi Beresford conceded that 12 months without racing wasn’t ideal but that the end product would far outweigh the club’s current struggles. 

“We’re going to have a brilliant track when it’s all done and dusted, and we’ll be back bigger and better than ever,” Beresford told Nine News in an interview earlier this week. 

“Obviously, we’re missing our big days, and we’re probably going to miss 12 months of racing, which does obviously affect the club.”

With the $200,000 Port Macquarie Cup and Big Dance qualifier locked in for October next year, it does give Beresford and her team the time to deliver the region one of its biggest race days in recent memory.  

“We’re hoping with a better track that we’ll be able to attract better jockeys, better trainers, and a better calibre of horses to make it a bit more of a prestigious event,” Beresford said. 

“We’ll have a few different changes, we’ve got some new ideas in the works, and we’re hoping to make it a really, really special day for locals and visitors alike.”

As always, NSW Country and Picnic Racing will keep readers updated as Port Macquarie Race Club inches closer to a return to racing.