Update on the StrathAyr track project

24 Oct 2023
Auckland Thoroughbred Racing

We’re in the home straight of our track upgrade project here at Ellerslie and in this edition we will outline the progress made since our last update in June.

We farewell the “Minute with Martin” segment this quarter as the StrathAyr team have returned to Australia with the track management handed back to the ATR team, lead by Jason Fulford (a significant milestone!).

Jason takes us through the work recently completed by his team and we get a closer look at the impressive root structure of the sown grass.

The latest dirt (or rock!)

Our project team provides a progress report on how things are shaping up and keep scrolling for a video showing the progress made since November 2022.


In June this year, we sent out the fourth of our quarterly updates. As we get closer to having horses gallop on the track, we wanted to share the progress made since then which has included the all-important grass growing process.

The seeding of the track was completed in two parts. The first section started in early July (the back half of the track) and the second section (including the home straight) completed in early August.

Seeding underway on the back part of the Ellerslie track

It is interesting to note that this is the first StrathAyr track to have undergone a seeding process with all others being turfed – where sods of turf, pre-grown offsite, are laid on the track. There are benefits to both with turfing providing a ‘readymade’ surface for those tracks where time is of the essence, however, with the luxury of time, seeding is recommended as it results in greater root strength.

Track inspection

On Wednesday, 11 October, Frank Casimaty from Strathayr, Chris Hay from Elwick Racecourse in Tasmania (also in posession of a StrathAyr) as well as StrathAyr’s agronomist walked the track with ATR management, and the Club’s board member and racing committee chair, Mark Chitty. The learnings from the track walk were that grass growth and root strength have exceeded expectations, with roots grown down to 230mms in some areas.

This is incredibly pleasing and has allowed the Club to commence with our ‘return to racing’ plan as scheduled. Track gallops are set to occur on Monday, 20 November followed by jumpouts and trials. All going well, we’re aiming to have Ellerslie’s first race meeting back in 22 months on Sunday, 14 January 2024 ahead of the TAB Karaka Millions – but as previously outlined, the Club won’t return to racing before the track is completely ready so watch this space for further updates!

Root depth of a section of the Ellerslie StrathAyr track – taken 11 October 2023.

Track maintenance

As you might imagine, a StrathAyr track takes considerably more maintaining than our previous track which has resulted in the purchase of additional machinery including two ‘ride on’ catcher mowers (as you can’t leave organic matter to decompose on a StrathAyr track) and a state of the art spray/fertiliser unit which has inbuilt GPS technology so the team can map exactly where the spray path is. As a result of this additional maintenance, we’ve increased the size of our track management team welcoming several new members to the fold.

Further technologic advancements seen as part of the track upgrade is the installation of a state-of-the-art irrigation system which pumps significant amounts of water from our purpose-built pond. The system has allowed for a spray distance of up to 50 metres with some areas having bespoke distances of 30 and 25 metres depending on their location on the track. Constant irrigation is a key component of ensuring the success of a StrathAyr track and whilst an investment, will be a significant part of the StrathAyr’s success.

Polvin fencing

Further progress since June has seen the installation of our Polvin fencing (outlined in a previous update). The cast iron fencing from the northern end of the track, right through and around the Birdcage, and down the Newmarket Lawn to the south has been replaced with other areas also benefiting from Polvin fencing around the course. The Mawsafe running rail is currently being installed.

It’s also important to note that it is critical to the success of a StrathAyr track (and as a result of a focus on track safety in general) that foot traffic is kept to a minimum so the perimeter of the track is now under lock and key, and thus only accessible to authorised personnel. This is a change for our local community with public previously able to access the track for recreational pursuits but this has been done with track integrity and stakeholder safety in mind. We still welcome public oncourse to enjoy other parts of the grounds.

Ellerslie’s home straight, image taken 11 October 2023.

Please enjoy the below video that shows the progress made since November 2022 to early September 2023 – and roll on the return of the Big ‘E’!

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