Racing at a previous edition of the Castlepoint Beach Races. PHOTO/ANNA CAMPBELL

JAKE BELESKI

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

The stunning sight of horses galloping across the sand at the annual Castlepoint Beach Races will have to remain a memory this year.

The decision was made on Monday morning to cancel the event — scheduled for March 17 — due to exposed rocks on the beach.

While conditions may have improved by the day of the event, Castlepoint Racing Club president Scott Whitehead said the decision had to be made early.

“We’ve got no control over the beach, and it’s very disappointing.

“There is a small chance that things could have turned around but in the interests of everyone involved we need a bit of certainty — especially for the trainers.”

The exposed rocks are in the centre of the course — running from the rock wall to the sea — and there was no way of avoiding them.

“It’s impractical to think a horse will gallop through that,” Mr Whitehead said.

Mr Whitehead said it was a “gutting” blow to have to cancel the event, especially a run of successful years.

“There had been a bit of momentum building, and the horse numbers had been increasing which was great.”

Beach conditions are usually what stops the races going ahead, but not always.

“I was talking to my father who said one year they called it off halfway through because of a very cold southerly, but that [exposed rocks] has always has been the main reason . . . I think it stopped for the war, but that was about it.”

Postponing the event was not an option because it also had to fit in with the tides, which meant organisers were extremely limited in the weekends on which races could take place.

Plenty of work had gone into the event just to get it to this stage, making the cancellation even more disappointing.

“Our racing weekend is determined by the tides and it’s not practical to have a postponement — it’s pretty much do or die.”

Mr Whitehead was hopeful the family event would return next year, but that would once again depend on the beach being in the right condition.

“We can only go up from here, so we’ll be hoping for the best.”