Number of inter-island flights set to take off

By Michael Guerin

Regular Inter-Island flights for racehorses look set to return with the first major beneficiary to be New Zealand Cup week in Christchurch.

Negotiations are being completed that could confirm weekly flights between Auckland and Christchurch starting as early as the third week of October, giving the connections of horses heading to Canterbury’s massive Cup Week the option to fly them down.

Just as importantly, if the new deal is struck, horses who head to Cup week, or any South Island race meeting, will be able to fly back to Auckland.

That could be a crucial deciding factor for some trainers who are reluctant to transport their horses from the north by road and then Cook Strait ferry to Christchurch for fear of it ruining their summer preparation.

Some horses handle a road trip both ways fine but others, moreso the thoroughbreds, can find the rigours of travelling, racing at Group 1 level and then the long trip home too much and need a decent spell after, which can shorten their summer campaigns.

Those days may be gone if the regular scheduled flights that have been grounded for several years and weren’t help by Covid restrictions, are set to return.

“We are confident they will come back,” says Richard Cole, managing director of International Racehorse Transport.

“While we have had charter services that have flown occasionally in recent years we are hoping and planning for a regular scheduled service each week down to Christchurch and back to Auckland.

“That would be great for busy times of the year like Cup week and the lead-ins to that, but with southern racing getting stronger we could see consistent demand.

“And of course once the horses are in Auckland it is a lot easier to fly them to Australia.”

Both IRT and New Zealand Bloodstock Airfreight would use the Inter-Island service which will be flown on planes run by Tasman Cargo Airlines, a subsidiary of DHL.

The freight-only plane could have room at peak horse-demand times for 11 pallets per flight, each pallet carrying three horses.

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