Punters will have to wait three more years for racing to be fully restored at Eagle Farm, where the ongoing “grass farce’’ has cost nearly $8 million in repair bills and lost revenue.
The Sunday Mail can reveal that racing officials plan to reopen Queensland’s biggest track for races before Christmas, after trials with horses over the next few weeks.
But race meetings will need to be rationed to about 35 a year for the next three years, until the newly-laid turf grows tough enough to cope with the usual 50 meetings.
Eagle Farm’s turf track, which served Brisbane punters for more than a century, was torn up in October 2014 as part of a $10 million racecourse reconstruction.
Brisbane Racing Club (BRC) chose to resurface the track with a different type of grass – kikuyu – which failed to flourish in a bed of sand that contained too many rounded granules.
Then, when parasitic worms infested the sickly kikuyu, BRC tried to kill the pests by spraying the new grass with a chemical that turned the leaves brown. The chemical had been banned two years earlier by the Agricultural and Veterinary Medicines Authority.
The track reopened for racing in June 2016 but had to be shut down a year later after jockeys complained the uneven surface was like “racing through potato fields’’.
The state government this year approved a $3.7 million payment from the Racing Infrastructure Fund to tear up the track and start from scratch.
The track has now been replanted with 70,000 square metres of Grand Prix Couch grass, laid in sections several months apart and mown twice a week.
Racing Queensland chief executive Brendan Parnell yesterday said Eagle Farm should reopen for racing this summer.
“We’re optimistic it will be back this summer but it will take three years to get it back (fully),’’ he told The Sunday Mail.
“The issue for me is not rushing it back, but to bring it back in a staged way.’’
Australian Trainers Association Queensland coordinator Cameron Partington described the turf war as a “keystone cops’’ exercise.
“It’s just been delay, delay, delay and drama, drama, drama, and no one’s really been held accountable,’’ he said.
“It’s like if you took a major football stadium away and told the top teams to go and play in the park.
“We had a track that had been down for 150 years and I’m pretty sure the technology and machinery they had back then wasn’t that good.
“They managed to lay a track that worked pretty well so, the question is – why not replicate what was there, with a modern twist using today’s technology?’’
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