by Al Williams
Waimate’s annual Harness Racing Club meeting on March 19 will once again be held in Oamaru.
The Oamaru Racecourse has been hosting the event since a storm ripped through the Waimate venue in September, 2013 and tore holes in the grandstands, which have since been demolished.
The Waimate Racecourse has been used only for training since the storm.
Waimate Racecourse trustee Bill Johnson said the club wanted to make sure all building work at the racecourse was completed. He would return to the racecourse in June, when the Waimate Racing Club held its annual meeting.
The lack of racing in Waimate had been frustrating for all involved, he said.
“It’s been a pretty slow process getting it done, with building consents and all that kind of stuff.”
Waimate Racecourse trustees reached a settlement with insurers after the storm, but it was not considered viable to rebuild the facilities.
In September 2014, the trustees decided to replace the grandstands with two former classrooms from a North Otago school, to house administration offices and facilities for jockeys and drivers.
However, transporting the buildings was delayed significantly and they did not arrive until early 2015.
The first of 12 races on the programme for the harness meeting at Oamaru on March 19 is scheduled for a noon start.
According to Harness Racing New Zealand, the Waimate Racing Club came into existence in 1880. It arose out of a 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-tote meetings in 1925 and 1926 before it went into recess.
The club staged its first totalisator trotting meeting at the racecourse on December 9, 1950.