News & Events

Mile racing returns to Addington in Cup Week change

By Michael Guerin

The biggest certainty of the new racing season is the track record for a mile at Addington will be broken on November 16.

That prediction is a fact waiting to happen after Addington’s richest free-for-all sprint race was changed to a mile.  The New Zealand Pacing Free-For-All, which has been held over 2000m for as long as anybody can remember, will be run over the mile for the first time this Cup week. That is a radical change for the $150,000 race, most importantly because Addington hasn’t held a mile race since 1991, when Blossom Lady set the 1:56 track record.

Considering three-year-old pacer Smolda paced 1:52.1 winning his division of the Jewels at Cambridge last month, it is not hard to imagine a fully-fit open class pacer easily pacing 1:53 in the new race, which would clip three seconds off the Addington track record.

The mile (1609m) is the standard distance for harness racing in many parts of the world and is almost exclusively the distance raced over in North America. But until the Jewels concept was developed five years ago mile racing in this country was badly hampered by the fact neither of our two major tracks, Addington and Alexandra Park, have suitable mile start points.

Alexandra Park’s is about 100m from a bend and that has seen the track’s signature sprint, the Taylor Mile, lengthened to a 1700m race. But Addington’s mile start point is in an even trickier spot. It is 400m from the finish, on a bend, which means horses drawing wide have always had a massive disadvantage. Addington bosses are predicting this will not be as pronounced as it was back in 1991 because of the better camber on the track and the fact it now has a passing lane and pylons. And the free-for-all will be restricted to just 10 starters, with a maximum of six off the front line.  

The move is a radical one, especially as the free-for-all has typically been one of New Zealand’s most exciting pacing races in recent years.  It has struggled for numbers but that is more because of the rigours of the New Zealand Cup held three days earlier. Addington should be applauded for trying to reboot Show Day, which has gone a tad flat in the last five years compared with its glory days.  

Addington bosses have also announced another major change to Cup week, with a ranking system being put in place for the $600,000 New Zealand Cup. Nominations for the great race close on August 31 and every week thereafter the club, in consultation with HRNZ, will release ranking of the nominated horses. That will not only stir media and hopefully fixed odds interest but also give the connections of those horses on the cusp of a cup start a clearer idea of where they stand.  

Meanwhile, Victorian horseman Lance Justice has ruled out a return to Cup week for his pacing warrior Smoken Up. Smoken Up makes his comeback at Melton on Friday night, with Justice in the sulky for the first time his a career-threatening race accident in December.  

“But regardless of what happens he won’t be going back to New Zealand,” said Justice.  

“I just don’t want to take him back there.”

Smoken Up has been placed in the last three New Zealand Cups and won this season’s Free-For-All. So to rebut another New Zealand trip this early in an open year is suprising.