RACING Victoria officials have ruled out moving the Stawell Gold Cup to an alternative venue.
Stawell Racing Club was forced to abandon its traditional Easter Sunday meeting after it discovered the suspected deliberate poisoning of 1000 metres of the Stawell race track.
Racing Victoria racing executive general manager Greg Carpenter said the cup would not be run this year.
“One of the key elements of the Stawell Gold Cup is that it’s run on Easter Sunday, at Stawell, as part of the weekend’s Easter festivities,” he said.
“At this stage no decision has been made as to whether or not an additional meeting will be scheduled at another race track to replace it.
"There are already races at Warracknabeal the day before and the following week is Anzac Day.”
Mr Carpenter said he was extremely disappointed by the circumstances surrounding the abandonment of the meeting.
“In my experience it is very unusual for a meeting to be lost this way,” he said.
“It appears to be a deliberate act by an individual or individuals to damage the track.
“This is both alarming and extremely disappointing that such an iconic meeting – one which is a major attraction for the local community – can be lost in such circumstances.”
“In my experience it is very unusual for a meeting to be lost this way.''
Mr Carpenter said the criminal damage would have a significant financial impact on the club.
“About 4000 people attend this meeting every year,” he said.
“There is no doubt it will have a financial impact, but we understand the circumstances are completely beyond the club’s control.”
Stawell Racing Club operations manager Penny Penfold said the club was dumbfounded someone would sabotage its most important meeting of the year.
She said Racing Victoria officials examined the track on Tuesday.
“We had our suspicions late last week,” she said.
Ms Penfold 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.”
Mr Carpenter said he expected results from Tuesday’s tests to be available next week.
He said the tests would determine if the poison just killed the grass or whether it had contaminated the soil.
Mr Carpenter urged anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
He also encouraged Wimmera residents to support the club’s free family fun day at Stawell Racecourse on Easter Sunday in lieu of the race meeting.