Big plans in pipeline for The Race By Grins
By Michael Guerin
Cambridge harness racing bosses are set to double down on the enormous success of The Race By Grins to create the richest night in New Zealand harness racing history.
That should see a new slot race worth $500,000 or even $550,000 for trotters emerge to sit alongside the pacing race which is likely to increase to $1million.
The Waikato-Bay Of Plenty Harness Racing Club pulled off one of the great coups in New Zealand racing history by creating our first ever major slot race last April, the inaugural The Race By Grins being worth $900,000.
The Race was an enormous success with four of the nine starters being Australian trained and Self Assured beating Majestic Cruiser to start a Trans Tasman rivalry that could extend all the way to the IRT New Zealand Cup this November, through the Inter Dominions in Victoria and back to the second running of The Race by Grins next April.
The Race by Grins will be on the same date, April 14, next year but moves to a more suitable Friday night and a week after Easter, whereas this year it was held on the Thursday before Easter.
Two of the Cambridge tracks biggest mile races, one each for pacers and trotters, will be moved to the week before The Race by Grins to provide ideal lead-up races and an opportunity for Australian or South Island raiders to have a look around Cambridge.
The intention was always to boost the second running of The Race to $1million and while the Waikato-Bay Of Plenty Club will not confirm those plans, the Herald understands that is still the intention.
That would mean The Race by Grins joins the two Karaka Million races and the Vodafone New Zealand Derby in the thoroughbred code as the only $1million races in New Zealand.
But in an enormous boost to the industry the club is also believed to be working on a slot race for trotters that could be worth up to $550,000, or almost twice as much as any other trotting race in the Southern Hemisphere.
That could see slots sold for around $40,000 with a guaranteed return of at least $20,000.
Selling 10 slots at that price shouldn’t be too difficult as many of those who love trotters, as opposed to pacers, are zealots for the gait.
It is believed the club may look at fundraising or sweepstake options not unlike NSW thoroughbred racing’s massive sweepstakes event The Kosciuszko, run on Everest Day, to help raise the extra money for the trot race.
For the many fans of trotters in Australasia a $500,000-plus trotting race would be a dream result.
It would cap the renaissance for the gait in this part of the world as while trotting races have always been strong in New Zealand the entire future of the more natural standardbred gait in Australia was under threat just a decade ago.
So much so the Inter Dominion Trotting series was scrapped for several years but the gait has kicked back, with Victoria in particularly investing heavily in major trotting races and even having trotters-only meetings.
The cause for trotting races has also been boosted by the fact there is more demand for them to beamed into and bet on in Europe and Scandinavia, where there are almost only trotting races and pacing barely exists.
The addition of a $500,000 plus trotting race and increasing The Race by Grins would make the night the richest in New Zealand harness racing history.
Having the two races on the same night, as well as the lead-up races a week before, would appeal more to Australia’s major stables and could provide significant boosts to the group 1 races that follow at Alexandra Park.
That was the case this year when NSW pacer Majestic Cruiser stayed on after The Race and beat Self Assured in a thrilling Messenger Pace at Alexandra Park.
HRNZ boss Gary Woodham says they have had no written proposal from the Waikato-Bay Of Plenty Club yet and the new trotting slot race would need to be approved by the HRNZ board, who meet next on August 31.
But after the enormous success of The Race by Grins there is believed to be support at the higher levels of HRNZ for the addition of a high-stakes trotting race the same night so an announcement could only be weeks away.
1: Self Assured
2: Copy That
3: Majestic Cruiser
4: Lochinvar Art
7: Spirit Of St Louis
8: Ladies In Red
10: South Coast Arden
1: Sundees Son
2: Bolt For Brilliance
3: Muscle Mountain
6: Five Wise Men
8: Majestic Man
9: Cracker Hill
10: Queen Elida