STAWELL - Stawell Racing Club officials are outraged over the forced cancellation of its iconic Stawell Gold Cup meeting on Easter Sunday.
The meeting has been abandoned due to an act of suspected vandalism at the course.
Club officials were devastated by the news, which was confirmed by Racing Victoria officials after an inspection of the damaged areas of the track on Tuesday.
Stawell Racing Club operations manager, Penny Penfold, said track staff had noticed unusual markings forming around the track last Thursday.
“The marks appeared on a section between the 300 metre mark in the home straight and the vehicle crossing near the 1300 metre mark,” she said.
Ms Penfold said staff had indicated the erratic markings had first appeared as a minor discolouration.
“They have quickly deteriorated and increased in size, leaving significant patches of dead grass,” she said.
“Neither Racing Victoria, nor contract turf specialists could offer any explanation other than deliberate poisoning.”
As a result club and industry officials were left with no choice but to abandon any hope of running the Stawell Gold Cup meeting on Easter Sunday.
The meeting attracts 4000 racegoers each year and is one of the highlights of the Stawell Easter Festival.
Racing Victoria officials are urgently trying to find a suitable transfer venue.
In the meantime the Stawell Racing Club is busy planning a family fun day at the Stawell
Racecourse on Easter Sunday in order to cater for the thousands of patrons who traditionally flock to the races.
Last year the club introduced the ‘Kids Easter Sunday Kids Eggstravaganza’ theme to the Stawell Gold Cup which was aimed at transforming the event into a family orientated, child friendly day.
This proved to be of great success at the 2013 Stawell Cup and with the support of Country Racing Victoria the Eggstravaganza theme will continue at the family fun day this year.
There will be multiple children’s activities on Easter Sunday at the Stawell Racecourse including Kelly Sports supervised kids sporting activities, a jumping castle, face-painting and the popular over-sized egg and spoon race will be back.
In addition to the family entertainment racegoers will also be taken care of with a Big Screen, full bar and catering facilities, television coverage of all the races from around Australia and TAB betting facilities. A band will entertain picnickers throughout the afternoon and entry is free.
While the club is dumbfounded that someone would be so callous as to sabotage its most important meeting and one of the highlights of the Stawell Easter Festival, it is determined to make the best of a terrible situation.
“We won’t let this beat us,” declared president Gary Mussett adding that the club is determined to provide a great day out on Cup Day despite the huge setback.
Ararat Crime Investigation Unit detectives are appealing for witnesses following the suspected deliberate poisoning and ultimate destruction of the track.
Detectives believe this is a targeted attack and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward and contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppers.com.au.