The Waimate Trotting Club can forget about staging its annual meeting on the track on December 15. The club’s two grandstands were “totalled” in Tuesday’s (September 10) ferocious Spring storm that devastated parts of the South Island.
That’s how Club president Lex Williams described the scene while taking a first-hand look at the mess around him.
“There’s a huge amount of damage. Not just here but half the forests around Waimate have been flattened. When you look up at the White Horse you can see that half of the trees on the hill are missing.
“It was quite scary. It’s the worst I’ve seen in my 32 years in Waimate,” Williams said while perusing the damage and talking to HRNZ at the same time.
“Even the winning post has been torn apart. Half of it is now in the birdcage. All the rooves in both grandstands have been completely blown off. There doesn’t seem to be any damage to the tower structure, but there’s glass everywhere.
“Looking at it now, you couldn’t do any more damage than what has been done. It’s a complete mess; you just don’t know where to start the cleaning up process.
“Sadly our grass track meeting will have to be transferred. Hopefully it could be run on a track like Geraldine. Time will tell,” Williams said.
He said the galloping and trotting clubs were tenants of the grandstands which were believed to be up to 100 years old.
“Thankfully the Trust that owns the buildings had them insured. Hopefully one day when everyone has a chance to get over this the club will run better than ever. It’s all a bit sad for now though,” Williams said.
The long-time club member and owner of One Over Lodge and millionaire trotter One Over Kenny, was only into the second week of his presidency when the storm changed everything.
“We had just started doing renovations, and we had done all the floors, and put new spouting on, and just started redoing the tower. So much glass damage there now,” Williams said.
Some Canterbury residents can expect to be without power for up to five days, thanks to the demoralising storm.
Williams said Waimate residents didn’t expect to get power until at least Friday.
No-one was injured in Racecourse storm.
The track also has three galloping meetings per year. The Waimate Racing Club came into existence in 1880 out of the merger of the Waimate Steeplechase Club, which was formed after the running of the first Grand National Steeplechase at Willowbridge near Waimate in 1875, and the Waimate Hack Racing Club.
The Waimate Trotting Club was formed in 1925 but being unable to obtain totalisator permits held, non-totalisator meetings were conducted in 1925 and 1926 before the club went into recess.
Then in 1949 the club staged its first totalisator trotting meeting at the racecourse on December 9, 1950.
The track is situated 45 kms south west of Timaru and is located in a strongly agricultural area, from sheep farming to nursery gardening.
The track, which did not suffer damage in the storm, is left handed 1550m track with a 250m straight.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)