There was a certain irony in a horse by the name of Dodgethebullet winning the final race to be staged on the Forbury Park track. Let’s face it that venue has been dodging bullets from various parts of the racing industry for quite a few years.
Yes, of course it’s sad when a racecourse with many great memories closes, with my personal recollection of attending there in my early twenties, seeing probably my favourite horse of all time, Manaroa, defy his tardy barrier manners and demolish a field in the Dunedin festival Cup. I recall that I had to climb to the top of the old concrete edifice of a stand (the one they couldn’t afford to either strengthen or demolish) to get a decent view that night, such was the size of the crowd. Unfortunately, my last memory of being at Forbury isn’t so pleasant, with horizontal freezing rain bouncing off my frozen body!
I do have a few issues with some of the stuff that has been said and written about the closure though. In the past few years there has been mismanagement, in-fighting and rumoured bale-outs, amid claims that Forbury was a ‘strategic venue’, which given the current situation, was obviously not true. The fact is that Dunedin is not a great place to train horses, as apart from the local meetings, travelling long distances to other tracks is not a lot of fun, particularly in the Winter. Yes, there is still the odd stalwart hanging in there, but it would be stretching it to say that it has ever been a ‘hot bed’ of harness racing, even in its’ heyday.
Probably the most telling comment came from a resident who had lived in the immediate vicinity for 40 years who turned up on the final night, stating that it was the first time they had set foot in the place!
So let’s enjoy the great memories, but take off the rose-tinted glasses and maybe have a chat to the Canterbury trainers who had to hold their breath as they negotiated a black ice or snow covered Kilmog as they drove home in the early hours of the morning. Do they miss that?