A planned expansion of about $800,000 to the Ruakaka race course is set to cement the course's future in racing circles.
Whangarei Racing Club president Dean Logan said the expansion was needed because of the number of race meetings the Ruakaka Training Centre now hosted.
"The track was okay when we used to race three or four times a year," said Logan. "[But] of late there have been 10 or 11 races."
The Whangarei Racing Club made a submission to New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR), saying it couldn't sustain the number of race meetings allocated unless funding was provided for a sustainable training ground all year round.
"NZTR has recognised the fact that Ruakaka's track is probably the best at that time [winter] of the year, and never really gets bad or doesn't change much if it rains," Logan said.
The expansions will see the main track widened from 22 metres to 25m, making it 3m wider on the home straight, and a service road created for emergency services vehicles. The inner track will be revamped so horses can train without damaging the main track.
Logan, who also co-trains filly Habibi, was excited about the potential the expansion would bring for horse racing and the Ruakaka community.
"Basically, the trainers have come under pressure in the last few years and it was necessary for us if we were to maintain the current number of race days. If we get to race consistently over the winter months, trainers will come and base themselves up here."
Logan said winter for horse racing often meant cancelled trial and race meetings, which limited the number of horses that could enter races, affecting local horses that had not trialled earlier in the year.
"It's a bonus for the whole thoroughbred industry," Logan said. "They're [NZTR] able to guarantee there will be a racing facility. [And] a lot of money comes from offshore betting, Australian betting makes up some of the income of racing, so if there are abandoned meetings that's lost revenue."
Logan said the only time the Ruakaka race track had been abandoned was when there was monsoon-like weather and visibility was a problem.
While the expansion was a step forward for horse racing in the north, it also would offer local contractors a chance to bid for the job. Logan said he was keen to see the expansions delivered by a Northland company.