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Ellerslie Racecourse makeover

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Ellerslie racecourse has demolished the old totalisator building, retaining only the "totaliser machine" and dividends board inside. 

 The aim of the Ellerslie's winter renovations is to bring the public closer to the horses. Auckland Racing Club boss Paul Wilcox expects the glamour track of New Zealand thoroughbred racing to be ready to go on its planned comeback date of Saturday, October 27. [1] 

Seventy per cent of the old stable block will be demolished to make room for the new building, which will have space for 126 horses, a warm-up ring, veterinary boxes and an office, trainers cafe and function room. [2]

The NZ Herald reported in March that the new building will incorporate the original totaliser machine which used to keep a record of the total amount bet on each horse. "The restoration and return of the totaliser facade is something I'm particularly thrilled about," Gillespie said. "When the original totaliser machine was installed it was the first of its kind in the world, and although the original machine is no longer around, to have the reinstated facade as the development's focal point is tremendously exciting." [3]

New Zealand Herald article 14 June 2018 in full :- Several other older buildings were found buried in the ground during construction. Extensive drainage work, which saw new drains spanning the width of the track laid every five metres, has been a success at Ellerslie. Illustration / Supplied 

Ellerslie's winter renovations look set to bring the public closer to the horses. Auckland Racing Club boss Paul Wilcox expects the glamour track of New Zealand thoroughbred racing to be ready to go on its planned comeback date of Saturday, October 27. Ellerslie closed after the Auckland Cup meeting in March for extensive work on the racing surface as well as building new race day stables. 

One of those tasks is already completed, the other back on track after a minor setback. The drainage work, which saw new drains spanning the width of the track laid every five metres, was completed without a hassle. "Everything went really well and the trainers we have had come look at it are very satisfied," said Wilcox. "Obviously it was a lot of work but should ensure the track drains a lot more efficiently in the future. "Once they were put in we had the dirt on top of them compacted and new grass was sown. "Already that is starting to grow really well so we couldn't be happier." 

Wilcox says trainers will continue to be consulted with the hope jumpouts can be held on the track in either late September or early October to have it ready for the first meeting which coincides with Cox Plate day in Melbourne. That should give race fans a perfect chance to head to Ellerslie's relaunch and also watch Winx's record fourth Cox Plate attempt. The new stables open the race day experience up to the public. If all goes well, the first major meeting of the season will be Ellerslie's traditional Melbourne Cup day fixture on Tuesday, November 6. "That is the plan and we are hopeful and confident we will be ready to go but we will be guided by the trainers and jockeys we ask to use the track leading into that," said Wilcox. 

Looking at the surface, the thin sections where the new drains were laid are barely distinguishable from the usual surface already. But while the track will matter most to the horse people and many punters, for many race day fans the new stabling area will be the most noticeable difference. The old Ellerslie race day stables were not only outdated and dark but meant the public never got to see into the pre-race machine and what actually goes on with preparing horses for their races, with access denied to for safety reasons. 

All but one small part of those stables has been demolished with the new stalls to be covered but open air tie-ups in a U-shape. They will frame a warm up-warm down area for the horses but will most importantly will have an access pathway for the public so they can see the horses. The blocks will also contain a cafe for stable staff and the club has tried to make them as comfortable a working environment as possible for handlers. 

But work was initially delayed after surprising pieces of Ellerslie's past were found buried on the site. "Once the work started we found a couple of smaller buildings that had been demolished in the past and basically buried and use as landfill," says ARC chief financial officer Tim Gillespie, who is one of the club's project managers for the build. "So they had to be dug up and that land filled back in, which were weren't expecting. But the first concrete base is now being laid so things are back on track." While those remnants of Ellerslie's past were a surprise another will have a starring role in the new stables, with the old dividends board from the first Ellerslie tote being extensively refurbished and made an historical feature of the new stabling block. "We took a tour of stables at Randwick, Flemington and the new track at Packenham and think the new stables will not only be great for the horses and horse people but open the race day experience up to the public," said Gillespie. 

Racing reno 

• The Ellerslie track has had new drains put in every five metres. 

• A new stabling area allowing greater public viewing of the horses is being built. 

• The track re-opens October 27. 

• Jumpouts will be conducted on the track to ensure the racing surface is safe after the extensive work.

References

[1] New Zealand Herald 14 June 2018 

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/news/article.cfm?c_id=4&objectid=12070155

[2] $6m makeover for Ellerslie racecourse. 22 Mar, 2018 https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=12017931

Images

[1] Image supplied by Auckland Racing Club

[2] Part demolition of Totalisator building June 2018. Remuera Heritage.

[3] [4] Totalisator building August 2014. Remuera Heritage.