COMMUNITY CAMPAIGN SEEN AS WAY TO GET YORK RACE TRACK REOPENED

A former long serving committee member sees the closure of the York race course as the most recent in a long list of sporting and cultural activities lost to the district and is calling for concerted action by the community to stop more going the same way.

Retired managing director of the York and Districts Co-operative, Cyril Screaigh, has not given up hope of a reprieve for the oldest provincial race track still operating in Australia. But he believes the longer it remains closed the less chance there is of it reopening.

He is hoping that community support can be mustered and sufficient funds found to make racing authorities give York back the race fixtures that belong here.

It isn¡¯t impossible for the track to be upgraded to race ready standard. The three main issues are a small section on the back of the track where drainage needs to be improved, the west end needs to be widened and the camber corrected on the turn into the home straight, Cyril explained.

¡°There is still a place for a full set of fixtures at York. ¡°Other race tracks around the state aren¡¯t coping with the pressure being put on them by extra race meetings. ¡°They all need enough time between meetings for the turf to recover. ¡°Northam is a prime example,¡± he said.

Turning the 165 year old track into a quarantine and horse training facility was not a substitute for the continuation of racing at York. Racing and Wagering WA should provide the money needed ¨C believed to be about $300,000 ¨C to keep the track open.

York was still a major contributor to TAB turnover and it was only fair that it got something back in return to help with an upgrade. It would need about as much spent on it even as a training facility. ¡°One would think it unlikely that any top carnival horse would train on a country track ¨C least of all York ¨C if it¡¯s not fit for country horses to race on,¡± Cyril said

Pretty well everyone in the racing industry including provincial trainers - a number of whom are based in York - support the retention of York as a racing venue.

The decision by authorities 40 or 50 years ago to force race tracks in WA to convert from sand to turf has contributed to current problems maintaining surfaces. Some tracks in the eastern states and all in the USA are sand and much easier to maintain, he said.

Lindsay McNeill

ABOVE: In happier days - a scene from the 1991 York Cup when attendances were in the thousands.

TOP: Cyril Screaigh at the historic York Race Course recently highlighting his effort to have the track reopened for racing.