Talks continue on Worm Bay racehorse training track

The Worm Bay area (marked in red) is a hotly contested zone, with numerous proposals - including a racehorse training track - before Warrnambool City Council. Image: Google Earth
The Worm Bay area (marked in red) is a hotly contested zone, with numerous proposals - including a racehorse training track - before Warrnambool City Council. Image: Google Earth

PLANS for a sand training track for racehorses in Warrnambool’s Worm Bay area are alive and kicking.

Warrnambool Racing Club will make a presentation to Warrnambool City Council on Monday to fine tune a proposal for a 700-metre track between Viaduct Road and the beach.

The proposed track is seen by many as the solution to the contentious issue of commercial racehorse training on public beaches in Moyne Shire, as it is believed such a facility would largely remove the need for trainers to go to Moyne, appeasing groups on both sides of the argument.

South West Owners, Trainers & Riders Association (SWOTRA) spokeswoman Tammy Good said they were hopeful “to get the Worm Bay project up and running by next summer”, but the council and racing club representatives indicated that was unlikely.

One of the major hurdles for the council is that the training track is one of a number of proposals from different parties all keen to develop in the Worm Bay area.

Ms Good said a racehorse training facility in Warrnambool “would take a massive amount of pressure off Belfast Coast”.

“Then it may be able to go back to the old times of small trainers using the Belfast Coastal Reserve,” she said.

“There were never issues when there were very small numbers (using Belfast Coastal Reserve).

“(A purpose-built track) definitely would solve a lot of this.

“SWOTRA supports Warrnambool Racing Club and Racing Victoria in their negotiations for Worm Bay. 

“We’d love it to (be up by next summer) but we don’t know. We don’t know where the negotiations are at.

“Trainers are always asking if anything is being done (about Worm Bay). The trainers themselves definitely want (Worm Bay) to go ahead. It would be a tourist attraction. One of the biggest factors, aside from it being an area where we could have horses trotting and cantering, is the proximity to the water for after they do their work.”

Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group, which has fought to keep horses off public beaches in Moyne Shire, has been calling for such a facility for some time. 

Group spokesperson Bill Yates said it would “go a long way towards getting trainers off the beaches”.

“It would be good to be able to wind the clock back,” Mr Yates said, referring to a time before the major influx of horses training on Killarney Beach two summers ago.

“I’m not sure if that can be achieved but something like Worm Bay would go a long way toward alleviating the pressure on Belfast Coastal Reserve beaches.”

The council’s city growth director Andrew Paton said the council was “awaiting some formal details from the Warrnambool Racing Club about what (their) proposal looks like”.

“There’s a fair bit going on (potentially in that area),” Mr Paton said.

“We need to make sure it’s done in a really considered and smart way. We need to make sure the processes are followed and the community can have an opportunity to comment.”

Warrnambool City Council has some details on the proposed Worm Bay track as one of many options discussed in its Warrnambool Foreshore Precinct Framework Plan, which is due to go out for public comment soon.

The plan also notes future expansion of the Quality Suites Deep Blue Spa complex, a helipad, an eco-lodge, a restaurant, and future expansion of The Pavilion as other possible uses of the Worm Bay area.

Mr Paton said any future harbour developments also needed to be taken into consideration.

He said the council had discussed the proposed training track with Warrnambool Racing Club and Country Racing Victoria, but more information was needed.

Racing club chief executive Peter Downs said the training track had the support of Country Racing Victoria and Racing Victoria, adding the club had been doing a lot of work and research on the proposal.

“We’ve always thought it’s a good long-term resolution to the issues of beach training in the area,” Mr Downs said.

“Of those (trainers) we’ve spoken to, they think it’s a great idea.

“We’d love to see it up and running in six months, but there is a lot of work that needs to go on. Twelve months would be my best estimate.”