Ballarat Turf Club has plans to construct an Australian-first undercover training track in Miners Rest.
Discussions are well underway to develop the multi-million dollar facility, which would be based on a state-of-the-art design used at Japan's Northern Farm.
New BTC chief executive Belinda Glass spoke to The Courier about the dream and said it had gained strong support from industry leaders.
The development could prove another lure to the club's ever-expanding training base as centres such as Caulfield in Melbourne are set for closure.
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It would also follow hot on the heels of the new synthetic racing circuit, which has increased BTC's annual race meeting tally to 36.
That $10 million project, completed this year with a $4 million investment from the state government, was aimed at overcoming once-frequent race meeting cancellations and transfers caused by heavy rain or a wet turf track.
The latest idea could replicate this flexibility around poor weather with added benefits to the Ballarat Turf Club and surrounding trainers.
Glass said plans were in place for the woodchip uphill training surface, which would be undercover and a minimum of 1000m long.
Early thoughts are that it would be constructed on Mt Pisgah, which sits inside the club's boundaries, or parallel to the current synthetic uphill training track.
The push from the BTC follows a recent trip of staff to Japan to view leading training facilities in that country.
"We looked at the contrasts between the uphill woodchip track that was undercover and also the uphill woodchip track that was open," Glass said.
"The woodchip tracks were, I guess, the main attraction for going, but even just seeing the range of training facilities they have was really fabulous for the club to have that opportunity.
"Being there in person, we had the chance to talk to the racecourse managers and talk to staff about things like the construction and maintenance phases of those projects and we've certainly come back with the intent in mind that the preference is certainly for the undercover track."
Glass said the maintenance required for an open-air track was more frequent and costly than that of one that was undercover.
She said an exposed woodchip surface needed to be replaced "two or three times a year".
"With the undercover track they look at a small top-up each year, but they only replace once every five years so there's a really big difference there in the maintenance costs," she said.
"The cost of the structure to start with in capital costs are quite significant, but after that the ongoing maintenance means we are definitely leaning towards the undercover."
Glass said Racing Victoria had been "very receptive" to the project.
"We are at the point now, I guess, of sowing some seeds for some initial funding and then obviously we would go into a planning and design phase," she said.
"How soon down the track that might lead to a construction phase is a bit unknown."
Glass said it was an achievable dream for the club.
"I think it's realistic with the enthusiasm among the club, among our trainers and the interest from Racing Victoria. It's just about keeping that ball rolling, keeping the momentum and securing some initial funding," she said.
The boom in Miners Rest keeps on going and will see top trainers Andrew Noblet and Tony and Calvin McEvoy soon join its ranks.
Glass said the club was still open to expansion but didn't want its current trainer base disadvantaged by any potential growth.
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