Board stoush keeps Sandown Door open
AUTO ACTION’s Andrew Clarke reports
Four candidates for the Melbourne Racing Club election hold the key to both motor and horse racing at Sandown. The election, which closes on 27 September, has eight people running for four vacancies on the board, and a good result could see Sandown saved instead of being sold for a housing estate.
Shanyn Puddy is one of the candidates leading the charge to save the venue. Peter Brown, Alison Saville and Nick Hassett are the other three on the unofficial “retain” Sandown ticket.
“I think this is one of the most important elections for the Melbourne Racing Club,” Ms Puddy said. “Eight people are running for four places, and four of us are supporting the retention of Sandown.
“The others haven’t said where they stand in their candidate statements, but we know that four want to keep it, and we hope all four get elected.
“We need as many people to vote as possible because once we sell Sandown, we can’t do anything about it. It’s gone. From our point of view with racing, it is one of the best [horse] racing tracks in Australia, and it has such a flow-on effect with car racing and other events like caravan shows and so forth.
“I was out at Sandown yesterday (for the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships round) and I couldn’t believe how many people where there. It would be a shame to lose the venue.”
Ms Puddy said the club members hadn’t been adequately consulted on their views, and no one knows the plans for any money received from any land sale. She also said that of the 12,000 members of the club, generally, only around 3000 members vote in the elections. She is encouraging all members of the club to vote.
“We’re not sure what they’re going to invest in; that’s one of the questions we need to ask. That’s a concern to me because we’ve got an asset that our forebears created for us however many years ago. I think it’s our responsibility to ensure that we keep it for the next 60 or so years so we can continue to do the work that the people did before us.
“There are 112 hectares of land, and something like 56 of that is the race track, and there’s 56 that aren’t. So we can certainly do some development and raise some money for MRC that doesn’t mean we need to sell the race track.
“We can do both and keep the asset. We can keep racing there for you (motorsport) and us. But it vitally important that anyone involved in the motor racing industry who knows someone who’s an MRC member, that they encourage them to vote.”
Horse racing activity at the venue started in 1888 as Oakleigh Park, and in 1892 it was renamed Sandown Park. In March 1904, Australia’s first ever motor race was held there, and the mingling of horsepower has been a feature of the venue ever since.
The venue was abandoned in 1931 during The Great Depression and lay dormant until 1960 when the Victorian Amateur Turf Club merged with the Victorian Turf Racing Association and Williamstown Turf Club and raised enough capital to buy the land and redevelop it. The Light Car Club of Australia built the car racing track and hosted its first race in 1962, three years before the first horse race at the new Sandown Park.
The first Sandown endurance race was held in 1964 and hosted its first Australian Touring Car Championship Race in 1965, making it the oldest venue on the calendar.