Racing resumes in Auckland, but questions remain

By Michael Guerin 

Harness racing will return to Auckland for the first time in nearly two months on Friday but whether open class racing also returns remains in the balance.

The reduction to Level 3 for the Auckland region today means all three codes can race under strict protocols but horsepeople still can’t accompany their horses to meetings because other regions are at Level 2.

While that will curtail racing at Ellerslie at Level 3 because of a lack of jockeys residing in the Auckland region, that is not an issue for harness racing with plenty of drivers in Franklin and South Auckland.

So trainers from the Waikato will be able to send their horses to Alexandra Park with a registered transporter, have them looked after by another horseperson and driven by an Auckland region driver, as Auckland trainers have done in reverse for recent Cambridge meetings.

That flow will go both ways this week, with Cambridge to race on Thursday, but many of the northern harness horses racing at the two meetings will stick to their own area.

While owners will be allowed at the Cambridge meeting, because Auckland is at Level 3 the meeting will be closed to all but essential staff and horsepeople.

Still, after 51 days since the last race meeting at Alexandra Park, any racing in the region is welcome.

The restrictions and training delays caused by Level 4 were one reason the first true open class race of the northern season, the Spring Cup, was moved back from Friday until October 8, with another open class pace programmed for October 22 to try and give northern pacers two lead-up races to the ITR New Zealand Cup on November 9.

But with four of the north’s small open class pool already heading south those races would be in jeopardy should any more trainers choose to join them.

South Coast Arden starts his Cup campaign at the Rangiora trials today before racing in the Canterbury Classic on Friday week as trainer Brent Mangos wants to give him consistent standing start racing in bigger fields to get him ready for the Cup.

Cambridge trainer Arna Donnelly has chosen to do the same with her three potential Cup contenders in Kango, Taipo and New York Minute, who will all head south on Saturday.

“I want to be sure I can get racing into them and if Level 3 did continue in Auckland I couldn’t be sure about what drivers I could use,” explains Donnelly.

“It is also their first big trip away so I want to give them plenty of time to get down there and get settled in.”

That could still leave a core open class group of Copy That, Bad To The Bone, Belle Of Montana, Christianshavtime, Mach’s Back and Dance Time in the north which might be enough to get the Spring Cup off the ground.

Of those Copy That, Christianshavtime, Mach’s Back and Dance Time are nominated for a 2200m mobile race at Alexandra Park this Friday. Whether that race gets off the ground with some mid-grade support rivals will be known when the fields come out on Wednesday.

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