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Industry cuts overshadow harness racing's steps to return from Covid-19

Northern Harness Racing has taken significant steps towards a return to competition, coming against the backdrop of mass racecourse closures.

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Around 25 venues across New Zealand are to be axed. Source: 1 NEWS

Three days after the Government announced a $72 million rescue package, trots and gallops will lose 25 venues around the country.

From August, only Auckland and Cambridge will host North Island meetings, with the central districts gone from the proposed calendar.

Canterbury trainer Michael House claimed 60 wins there last season alone, coupled with 25 from nine meetings so far this term.

"There's a lot of old racing clubs in the central districts," House told 1 NEWS.

"I was lucky enough to win a number of cups this year, amazed by how many meetings were having their centenary."

However, harness racing bosses argue that there simply aren't enough locally trained horses to warrant that to continue.

Harness Racing New Zealand CEO Peter Jensen told 1 NEWS that the current system isn't sustainable in the current climate.

One region that won't take the news lying down is Manawatu, with Horsemen's Association president Jay Abernathy launching a defence.

"Manawatu has actually put a proposal forward to go dual code with the greyhounds every Tuesday," he says.

"That's still on the table, [it] hasn't been thrown out yet.

As for thoroughbred racing, West Auckland's Avondale track is under threat again. One leading trainer told 1 NEWS today that the situation is "pretty decrepit".