Troubled Times Ahead for Queensland Harness Racing?

Troubled Times Ahead for Queensland Harness Racing?

Queensland’s harness racing industry is facing uncertain times as the State’s plans to take back Albion Park may materialise earlier than anticipated.

Originally, the plan was to resume Albion Park by the end of 2026, with a transformation in mind, converting it into a basketball and indoor sports venue for the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

However, recent developments suggest that the State Government’s timeline has been changed to the first half of 2025, posing a potential challenge for harness racing enthusiasts and stakeholders.

The change in the timeline will not affect greyhound racing, as its new venue south of Ipswich is set to be completed and ready for racing before the resumption of Albion Park.

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On the other hand, the new Queensland Harness Centre at Norwell, which is expected to host more than 200 meetings a year and provide much-needed training and stabling facilities, will not be ready until 2026. This leaves harness racing with only Redcliffe and Marburg tracks for at least 12 months.

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The implications of this delay in the premium track’s availability could be significant. Revenue might plunge, affecting the financial stability of the harness racing industry. Additionally, horses that are not suited to the smaller tracks may leave the state permanently, causing a loss of talent and potential investment in the sport.

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Harness racing is a crucial contributor to Queensland’s economy, generating around $185 million annually and supporting approximately 1300 secure jobs. Losing a premium track in action could have a domino effect on the industry, leading to potential job losses and financial struggles for those involved.

Star horses could also be at risk of leaving the state if a suitable racing venue is not available. The departure of such high-profile horses would not only impact the local industry’s reputation but also deprive racing fans of witnessing top-tier talent in action.

Racing Queensland’s chief executive, Jason Scott, acknowledged the challenges posed by the new timeline and confirmed that discussions with the Government were in their early stages. 

Finding a resolution that can accommodate both the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games preparations and the smooth functioning of the harness racing industry will be a delicate balance. 

As the discussions continue, stakeholders in the harness racing community and fans alike will be eagerly awaiting a positive outcome.

Published 4-July-2023