Campbell's Cup week Comments - "amazing"
By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
He'd heard plenty about it beforehand but visiting harness racing personality Paul Campbell says New Zealand Cup and Show Week far exceeded his own high expectations.
"This is how and why you fall in love with harness racing," he says.
The Victorian-based Australian, who has thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers on his harness racing platform Campbell's Comments, was brought here by Harness Racing New Zealand and NZ Bloodstock to see New Zealand Cup and Show week for himself.
During his 10 days here he attended meetings at Kaikoura, Addington, and Ashburton, interviewing dozens of trainers, owners and many other key industry figures.
His verdict on his stay here? - "amazing"
His first on-course experience was Kaikoura Cup day at South Bay on Monday October 31.
In short he loved it with its setting and general bustle.
"Kaikoura is just the most magic experience you can have in harness racing."
"It's like going to a 'once a year bush track' but it's a great social day"
"They talk about the Little Brown Jugs and that and I would say Kaikoura would stack up easily against any of those."
From Kaikoura he headed south as Christchurch geared up for its biggest week of the year.
"What makes the New Zealand Cup special is the build up - we have the Breeders' awards one night, the Cocktail party the night before that, the Cup trial."
"Then you go to Addington on the Tuesday and it's still not over, you've got the gallops at Riccarton, Ashburton on the Thursday and then Show Day ... it's breathtaking how long it is and the buy-in from all the participants."
Campbell acknowledges he got the VIP treatment during his stay here and is grateful he had access to areas of the industry that others don't. He says it helped him get real insight into how the Cup carnival works.
"I think it could be sold better across the Tasman and held in more respect by the Australians.... I think they need to show more respect to it."
He's miffed that New Zealand Cup and Show week coincides with the very lucrative Australian Breeders Crown series back home.
"It seems ludicrous that we have got pinnacle races in Australasia and they are having feature races in Victoria and New South Wales and they need to look at that," says Campbell.
Campbell would like to see greater co-operation between the two countries but isn't holding his breath.
"I'm a big believer that New Zealand and Australia are one ...... imagine what you could do if they cleared the calendar for the second Tuesday in November so there's no feature races the weekend prior or the weekend after.
"You look at guys like Clayton Tonkin and Emma Stewart and Luke McCarthy - they are flat out, schedule is too busy, they can't come here because they are so busy."
To illustrate his point the all-powerful Tonkin-Stewart barn won seven out of eight Breeders crown semi finals last weekend and the McCarthy-trained Spirit of St Louis won fresh up at Menangle as he prepares for the up-coming Inter Dominions.
This year two Australians did actually make it for the Cup with Majestic Cruiser and Rock N Roll Doo but Campbell says that doesn't automatically mean that will become the norm.
"Arden Rooney won it in 2015 but that didn't change much for the Aussies coming here."
Campbell would also like to see a change of emphasis when it comes to what is known as New Zealand Cup and Show Week.
"From an outsider's point of view I'd stop talking about it as Cup week and think of it as Cup fortnight, starting at Kaikoura and building all the way through."
"There's just so much going on and the experience could be magnified through trips to studs and all the race meetings."
So would he return?
"In a heartbeat!"