STAWELL Racing Club officials are devastated the club’s iconic Easter Sunday cup meeting has been abandoned after suspected deliberate poisoning of the track.
Ararat’s Crime Investigation Unit detectives have appealed for witnesses after a kilometre of the track was destroyed.
Police believe the unknown offender or offenders gained entry to the Pomonal Road track in the week leading up to March 25 and poisoned the track.
Stawell Racing Club operations manager Penny Penfold said the club was reeling from the news.
“We are absolutely bewildered as to why someone would want to do this,” she said.
Ms Penfold said the club had no choice but to abandon the Stawell Gold Cup meeting.
It is the club’s pre-eminent meeting of the year, attracting about 4000 racegoers annually.
“It is a huge financial loss for the club and we will be feeling the loss for the next 12 months, if not two years,” Ms Penfold said.
“It is a huge financial loss for the club and we will be feeling the loss for the next 12 months, if not two years.''
Racing Victoria officials examined the track on Tuesday.
“We had our suspicions late last week,” Ms Penfold said.
She said track staff noticed unusual markings forming around the track between the 300-metre mark in the home straight and the vehicle crossing near the 1300-metre mark.
“There was a bit of discolouration and the track progressively deteriorated, leaving significant patches of dead grass,'' she said.
“Neither Racing Victoria nor contract turf specialists could offer any explanation other than deliberate poisoning.”
Ms Penfold said Racing Victoria was looking into a suitable transfer venue.
She urged the Stawell community to show its support by attending a ‘phantom’ meeting at the track on Easter Sunday.
“There will still be lots of children’s activities, live music, fashions and a big screen showing metro and other country races,” she said.