Oakbank hurdle

Jumping the famous Fallen Log at Oakbank Racing Club during the 1913 Great Eastern Steeplechase (Image credit: State Library of South Australia)

Racing SA’s sudden decision to cut jumps racing from the State’s calendar will have serious ramifications for the future of the famous Oakbank Racing Club.
The club has been battling a major decline in numbers at its Easter racing carnival for about a decade.
The latest change – including the scrapping of the 140-year-old iconic Great Eastern Steeplechase – eliminates the carnival’s major point of difference from other racing meetings in SA.
Industry experts – such as former chairman John Glatz – are warning that Oakbank will fail to thrive.
Jumps racing has been under a cloud for years – battling increasing pressure from animal welfare activists and a decrease in locally trained horses.
Numbers don’t lie and the head of Racing SA says that a decline in SA-based jumps horses makes the future of the races untenable.
But the suddenness of last week’s move has rightly left stakeholders feeling blindsided.
Trainers and owners have spent thousands of dollars on investments that have been made obsolete overnight.
The end of jumps racing in SA may have been inevitable, but pulling the pin on the sport in the middle of a pandemic – which has put unusual strain on SA’s jumps racing sector and forced some races to be cancelled – seems rather blunt and short-sighted.
It’s likely that most stakeholders never would have been happy with the move away from jumps racing.
However, a more consultative approach – which would give trainers the support and time they needed to try and turn the industry around under more normal conditions – would have made more sense.
Instead last week’s abrupt approach has slammed the door shut on the industry in SA for good.
The move risks the livelihood of local trainers and potentially the future of a significant local tourism drawcard, making the State Racing Minister’s refusal to weigh in on the matter all the more remarkable.