Rangiora going all out for 75th anniversary meeting

It's a couple of years later than originally planned but the Rangiora Harness Racing Club is celebrating its 75th jubilee this month, and is determined to make the meeting on Saturday, February 18 a success to match the occasion.

"We just want to have a really good day," says long-standing committee member and former president Robin Wilson.

To help with that the club has decided on minimum stakes of $10,000 for all races and $14,000 for the day's top-rated trot. Kurt Ganzl is the sponsor of that race while the feature pace, the Rangiora Classic, will move from its usual autumn date and be worth $25,000, thanks to a sponsorship arrangement with Wilson and wife Geraldine.

"I never won it but it was a bit of a project for me when I was president and I thought with it being the 75th then why not?"

The 75th meeting was set down for August 2021 and then February 2022 before being postponed because of Covid.

"This is recognising the 75th anniversary of the club being formed, that was 1946 ... racing started in 1949 though there has been racing on the grass here since 1886," says Wilson.

A highlight of the day promises to be a special veteran members' club lunch.

"We are making a real effort and pulling out the plugs to make sure we get members with more than 40 years of service.

"There are 24 of them, we have made contact with 18 at the moment."

Among the confirmed starters will be Denis Power and Russell Stalker.

"They have been members for 73 and 72 years, that's pretty incredible isn't it?"

Wilson's own association with the club goes back nearly 35 years since retiring and moving south from Wellington. He's been on the committee for 27 years and was president for eight.

After 45 years of breeding and racing horses he estimates he's had around "60 wins".

Among them was OK Oskar, a winner of 12 in this country including the 1999 New Brighton Cup, before having success in Australia and the USA. The Wilsons also bred and raced Raglan, who won 13 from 65 including the Group 2 Newcastle Mile in 2011 and an Inter Dominion Heat at Gloucester Park in 2012. He finished fourth in the final.

Traditionally the Rangiora Classic was held in April and May and since its first running in 2004 has been won by the likes of London Legend (twice), Terror To Love, Christen Me, and most recently Self Assured in 2021.

Wilson hopes the $25,000 stake, the move to its new February date and a change from the grit to the grass will be well supported.

"When you look at the Amberley Cup field, if we could get a field like that," says Wilson.

The Amberley Cup, raced on the grass at Rangiora on Waitangi Day, attracted a quality line-up of 14 runners with Sam's Town heading home the likes of Homebush Lad, Franco Marek, Dashing Major and Lumen Caeli.

"Let's just hope it's a great race and a great day."

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