05/24/2010 11:00PM

Economy putting foreign meets in peril


The United States isn't the only place in the world where the racing industry is suffering the effects of the economic downturn. New Zealand, Italy, and Germany are all experiencing severe problems that have required at least the temporary shutdown of some of their major racecourses.

The latest problem cropped up in New Zealand, where one of the country's leading tracks, Avondale Racecourse near Auckland on the northern island, announced Monday that it is suspending operations after its final meeting this season on July 3. The closure is expected to last throughout the 2010-11 season, during which time officials of the Avondale Jockey Club will attempt to sell some of its land in an effort to repay its debts. Temporary homes for the track's 13 annual race dates, which include three Group 2 races - the Avondale Gold Cup, the Avondale Guineas, and the Concorde Handicap - are being sought. Avondale's training facilities will, however, remain open.

In Italy, where labor strife forced the cancellation of most of the autumn season in 2008, the latest trouble is centered in Rome. The Capannelle, which is one of Italy's two main racecourses along with San Siro in Milan, lost two days of racing last week because of a strike protesting recent layoffs. There were fears that the track, which lies just a few miles south of the center of Rome, might lose the remaining eight meetings of its spring schedule, which ends on June 8. Racing, however, resumed at the Capannelle on Tuesday, although the threat of further job action by track employees remains.

Baden-Baden Racecourse, Germany's centerpiece racecourse and the home of its prestigious six-day International Meeting in late August-early September, shut down this spring when its longtime owners, the International Club, which had run racing at the picturesque track since 1873, went out of business this winter. The German Jockey Club, commonly known as the Direktorium, subsequently moved the four group races scheduled for its six-day May meeting to different tracks around the country. On April 16, the Direktorium announced that Andreas Jacobs, who breeds and races under the nom de course Gestut Fahrhof and also is the owner of the Swiss sports marketing company Infront, had formed a consortium to run the track under the title of Baden Racing. As a result, the late summer meeting, which includes the Group 1 Grosser Preis von Baden, will proceed as usual.