MEDIA RELEASE | Auckland Thoroughbred Racing announces next step in future-planning

20 Jul 2022
Auckland Thoroughbred Racing

Motorsport set to cease at Pukekohe Park in 2023

Auckland Thoroughbred Racing (ATR) has today confirmed the chequered flag associated with motorsport activities at Pukekohe Park will wave for the last time next year amid plans to further develop the site for the Club’s own purposes.

The last motorsport event at the racecourse will be on 2 April 2023 before the site turns its focus to ATR’s thoroughbred racing activities.

ATR chief executive officer Paul Wilcox says that while the motorsport closure does represent the end of an era; it will pave the way for the Club to continue in its widely reported plans to futureproof the sport of thoroughbred racing in Auckland.

“We can appreciate today’s announcement will be big news for many. Motorsport has undoubtedly had a strong association with Pukekohe Park, becoming synonymous with our racecourse since the first-time cars and bikes raced on it in 1962.

“However, our purpose is to facilitate thoroughbred racing at our Auckland venues with our vision being to provide a sustainable future for our sport in New Zealand.

“Part of that remit has seen us undertake a $40m+ project to deliver a world-class racing surface at Ellerslie and, during our recent merger process, we also made no secret of the fact that we hope to significantly increase average stakes money to help retain industry participants and attract growth both for our sport locally and for the long-term.

“To better support those activities and help ensure we become a financially viable, internationally recognised racing club that delivers to industry participants, we see a need to increase the training density in the region and have identified our site at Pukekohe Park as being an ideal location for that.

“As a result, we are developing plans to build additional stabling facilities at the racecourse to accommodate an increased horse population. Unfortunately, however, it is not conducive to have both motorsport activities and an increased numbers of horses stabled on site – hence our decision not to renew Pukekohe Motorsport’s lease with us from April 2023.”

Managing director of Pukekohe Motorsport, Gary Stirling, whose company has enjoyed a lease with the Club since 2020, reflects on the decision in saying “this will be a loss for the motorsport fraternity and also a game changer for motorsport in New Zealand. Pukekohe has been the start of many great careers that have put New Zealand on the world stage and dominated the pinnacle of world motorsport.

“Although I am unhappy to be losing use of the park; I understand ATR’s future plans and respect their decision for them to grow their business. Hearing their plans, it was clear to see that motorsport just could not function at the park in conjunction with the Club’s future plans.

“In recent years my team has worked hard to rejuvenate the motorsport facility and bring the sport at Pukekohe back to its former glory. I have enjoyed my time at Pukekohe and would like to thank all those who have attended over the years and been part of its motorsport history.

“The next nine months will be busy for us and I am sure we can all add to the history prior to the last chequered flag.”

Wilcox finishes by saying that “on behalf of ATR, I take this opportunity to thank Gary and his team at Pukekohe Motorsport for their ongoing support over the years and their understanding of this decision. Being an avid motorsport fan myself, I will always carry great memories of motorsport at Pukekohe Park; however, I have always said “you don’t live your history; you live your future” and for our club to ensure sustained long-term success, this is a change needing to be made.”

Pukekohe Motorsport will be hosting many events over the coming months including the Aussie Supercars and Playday and MotoTT test days for both car and motorcycles. Auckland Thoroughbred Racing next races at Pukekohe Park when it kicks off its new season of racing on 1 November where it will be hosting the Club’s traditional Melbourne Cup Raceday which has been transferred from Ellerslie due to the track there undergoing an upgrade.

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