"Incredible" support for June's Harness Jewels
By Michael Guerin
What a difference a year makes.
A year on from the first national lockdown because of Covid that statement will resonate with us all but from a harness racing point of view it hits home for different reasons for Cambridge boss David Branch.
This time last year hundreds of hours of work that went into planning the 2020 Jewels was about to go down the drain for Branch and his team as the Jewels became just another sports event to disappear because of the pandemic.
But 2021 is looking vastly different with Branch blown away by the early support for the Jewels on June 6.
Tickets for the huge day only went on sale last week and already the two prime hospitality areas are half sold.
“That is incredible and very heartening,” Branch told HRNZ.
“We started selling to owners last Wednesday and to the public last Friday and the response has been amazing.
“We thought some people might be cautious because of Covid but it has been fantastic.
“We have already sold half the 350 tickets to our Mumm Marquee, which is the premium marquee off to the side of the stand and we have sold 60 per cent of the tickets to our Skyline Lounge, which is our upstairs dining venue.”
Branch says with those two areas certain to sell out the club’s focus will be on trying to sell at least 1000 more general admission tickets this season than when they last held the Jewels in 2018.
“We think we will be helped by moving to a Sunday,” he says.
“With no Ellerslie races to compete with we are hoping we can tap into the local galloping industry and give them a chance to come to the races and have a day out where they don’t have to work.
“So we still have some really cool options like the pop-up sports bar area between the stand and the Clubhouse and with the GA tickets you get a bonus by booking early.
“The GA are usually $20 but if you book before the day you get the admission, plus a $5 bet and a drink.” The prospect of a Trans Tasman bubble opening up has even increased the chances of Australian tours coming to the Jewels.
Well-known Victorian media personality Len Baker is planning to bring a party of at least 30 to the day if the travel bubble is fully established and operational by then.
“We could love to have the Australians here to add to the atmosphere so we are really hoping that can happen.” Bottom line: If you intend going to the Jewels this season and want a seat you might want to book now.