Trainers set to take legal action over venue for WYD mass

Sydney, Australia, Jul 6, 2007 / 11:26 am (CNA) .- Organizers of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney would have to find a new venue for the papal vigil and closing Mass if trainers at Randwick racecourse were to have their way.

Randwick trainers announced they are set to take legal action in an attempt to move next year’s Catholic youth event from the racing headquarters, reported the Sydney Morning Herald.

Trainers found out last week that the racecourse will be shut down for at least 10 weeks to set up for the Pope's visit, with the tracks, 650 horses and 25 trainers forced to evacuate the complex. The trainers, as well as feed merchants, veterinarians and others, subsequently raised concerns that their businesses could be ruined due to a lack of compensation, reported the Herald.

According to the newspaper, a "heads of agreement" between the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) and the World Youth Day Coordinating Authority, with government support, was due to be signed last week.

But Randwick Trainers' Association president Anthony Cummings said “the AJC chairman would be acting outside his charter to sign a document that would host another enterprise to the exclusion of racing and training at Randwick.”

“All parties at Randwick are disappointed in the way this has been handled," Cummings reportedly said. "Generally speaking, there might be compensation, but they are unaware of the fact compensation is unlikely to be what is required."

Cummings did not name a compensation figure, but recent reports predict between $12 million and $50 million. WYD officials have described those involved as "opportunists".

"Rather than be seen as opportunistic and a grab for money, we'd rather see them take it somewhere else and let someone else take advantage of that opportunity," Cummings was quoted as saying.

"The fact is, when it was first mentioned, we were told we might not be able to use the training tracks at Randwick for three days," Cummings explained.

Australian Jockey Club chairman Ross Smyth-Kirk said he met with government officials and the WYD activity is expected to go ahead at Randwick, reported the Herald. Government officials, he said, are working on compensation.