The stage has been set for the next champion horse or jockey to be developed at Wangaratta Turf Club, with a $6.2 million redevelopment to improve education for students and provide better facilities to racegoers.
A $2.4 million grant, from the federal government’s building better regions fund, was announced on Thursday morning as the final piece which will allow the club to start construction within weeks.
The upgrade includes a clearer entrance to the racecourse off Cruse Street, 20 accommodation beds allowing students to reside and study on site, new stables separate from the public and a new grandstand – to replace the old structure pulled down two years ago – which will also serve as a function and equine learning centre.
Senator Bridget McKenzie was in Wangaratta to announce the turf club’s “world-class project” was one of 110 successful applications in the BBRF, saying she was excited about the potential for education and wider tourism in the region.
“There is currently s critical shortage in the racing industry and I applaud the Wangaratta Turf Club for putting a pilot program together as part of an education scheme to train more industry staff, including track riders and stable hands,” she said.
“NSW Racing watch out – we’re coming, because we’re going to be developing a fantastic workforce right here locally in the regions, training great horses.”
It was estimated more than 13,000 people would attend the racecourse by 2021-22.
“This will actually provide local opportunities to have work experience options, to do so in a safe environment – that’s been one of the issues in the racing industry, safety, particularly of apprentices, and a facility like this will ensure people are learning their career in the safe environment,” Senator McKenzie said.
“The racing industry here in regional Victoria is going strong, but we want to make sure it’s sustainable going forward.”
Wangaratta Turf Club chief executive Paul Hoysted said the announcement was the start of an exciting 12 months for the racecourse, which will not only involve the new construction, but its first ever two-day food and wine racing carnival to be held in March.
“This (development) is the first one for regional Victoria and this is the first one for regional Australia. There’s one group in Melbourne which is doing some training, but not to the degree that we’ll be doing it here by being able to offer people the opportunity to be on course with their stabling and accommodation so they can live and learn in the one location,” he said.
“Makybe Diva had her first win here at Wangaratta so champion race horses can come from regional Victoria and from Wangaratta.”
Northern Victoria MLC Jaclyn Symes said she welcomed the announcement, following the Victorian government’s $2 million contribution to the project in February 2016.
“This is fantastic news for the North East and the Victorian racing industry,” she said.
“The club can now get on with the development and build its reputation as a first class equine education facility.”
Indi MP Cathy McGowan said the electorate was clearly on the federal government’s radar.
“Congratulations to the Wangaratta Turf Club, led by chief executive Paul Hoysted. They have put in the hard work over the past five years to attract this funding and have persisted even when they missed out on previous rounds of the national stronger regions fund,” she said.
Ms McKenzie would not confirm if the turf club announcement meant Wangaratta Council had missed out on federal funding for its pool development for a third time.
“Part of our BBRF is obviously to back community’s projects to build their economic potential,” she said.
“The minister (for regional development Fiona Nash) will be making a full announcement of those successful and unsuccessful projects tomorrow (on Friday).”