September 5, 2017 Paul Courts
THERE’S still a fair few hurdles to overcome, but it’s something I’d like to see happen.
That was the statement from Harness Racing South Australia chairman Chris Hartwig when discussing the prospect of racing returning to Gawler.
In fact, Hartwig already has the ideal meeting for the Grand Opening in mind!
“Gawler Cup in 2019 would be the perfect way to welcome Gawler back to racing,” Hartwig said. “There’s still a fair few hurdles to overcome, but it’s something I’d like to see happen.
“Things such as infrastructure, be it the need for more stalls, a bar or better access via the road in and out, all have to be addressed.
“If those things, and others, were up to standard, I’d like to see racing there as soon as possible.”
Just to recap, the Gawler Harness Racing Club was forced to shut down and relocate by the government.
In June 2008 the club hosted its final meeting at its Weaver Road home before the government’s compulsory purchase of the land as part of its Northern Expressway works.
The closure ended more than four decades of racing on the property. Before that, the club hosted meetings at Gawler Oval and in a paddock in Willaston having been formed in 1937.
In perfect way to celebrate the club’s 80th year of operation, it opened the new venue with the first official trials yesterday.
Almost a decade after being forced into hiatus, the club is the proud owner of a 14-hectare site, which boasts a 959-metre track with a 12-and-a-half per cent camber.
“It’s been a long road back and a lot of hard work, but the club never gave up and never contemplated folding,” President Peter Bain said.
“The land was in shocking condition when we got it, it was just a mess. One day while mowing one of the paddocks we found a smashed glider.
“With the land formerly part of the air strip we found broken plane parts, cabling and a heap of junk, so a lot of work has gone into getting it to where we are.
“To have the trials back and the view of racing returning in the future, it’s a marvellous credit to the club’s committee and everybody who has helped and supported us along the way.
“Our local minister of Parliament, Tony Piccolo, came to view the trials and was impressed with what he saw.
“He’s been a good supporter of what the club is trying to achieve and said he will continue to support us as we progress.”
An instant fan of the circuit, record-breaking horsewoman Dani Hill has no doubt Gawler has hit a ‘home run’ with the surface.
“They have done a marvellous job with the track,” Hill said. “The size is great, the turns are terrific and the surface itself is second-to-none.
“It’s going to be great for racing and even better for the horses to race on such a wonderful surface.”
Gawler’s resurrection is one of the many positives within South Australia, which is also preparing to step back in time next month.
As a one-off extravaganza, HRSA is conducting an evening of nostalgia, fun and entertainment at the state’s former home – Wayville.
Set down for Friday, October 27, the card includes TAB coverage as a host of local drivers – past and present – relive the halcyon days of ‘the trots’ around the 510-metre circuit.
Within a week of releasing dining packages, HRSA have already announced the ‘reserve grandstand packages’ are sold out.