Release of new Racing Calendar
Harness Racing NZ is pleased to release the new racing calendar for 2022, and it’s being billed as a “gamechanger”.
Beginning in April eight “architects” were charged with re-shaping what the racing calendar should look like.
They included HRNZ employees, as well as high profile trainer Michael House, and respected industry figures, Bruce Barlass, Martin Pierson, Cam Bray and Tony Abell.
“There have been weekly meetings, consultation and discussion with industry participants right around the country, as well as focus groups and two separate rounds of consultation to get where we are now,” says Harness Racing Chief Executive Gary Woodham.
“It’s been a massive project, it’s a blueprint for the future, and it changes the game.”
“The key to the project,” says HRNZ General Manager – Racing, Catherine McDonald, “is that we are trying to give every horse the opportunity to realise its potential, whether it’s a gun juvenile or a nine-year-old battler.”
“We have the challenge of limited horse numbers in some areas so we have programmed races so that horses from around the country race together …it’s about maximising opportunities.”
Among the features of the new calendar will be the new Autumn and Spring Carnivals.
The first feature meeting of the new season will be the NZB Harness Million at Alexandra Park in February, a day before the NZB Yearling Sales, with six Features.
“The Race” kickstarts the Autumn Carnival. It will be an annual feature for the pacers at Cambridge, with a stake of $500,000. It is non-industry funded, similar to The Everest race in Sydney.
“We are still working through some of the finer details but the idea of racing for half a million dollars is exciting,” says McDonald.
Over six weeks, in Auckland and Cambridge, elite pacers and trotters will race for stakes of over $1.5m, culminating with the Auckland Cup and Rowe Cup at Alexandra Park on May 27.
“The Carnival will be like a mini-Inter Dominion,” says McDonald, “we want to attract the best Australian horses here which is why it’s straight after the Miracle Mile in Sydney, and before Brisbane’s big carnival.”
On October 14 Addington will host a bumper meeting, including the Harness Million for the two-year-olds (Colts and Geldings, Fillies and Trotters), as well as the Vero Flying Stakes and the Canterbury Park Trotting Cup.
The Spring/Summer Carnival will include a Harness Jewels-type meeting, at Addington in early December. The day will feature eight Group Ones, including the Oaks and Derby for the pacers, and the New Zealand Trotting Free-For-All which moves from its usual slot on New Zealand Cup day.
A Group Three stand for the trotters will replace the Cup Day Free-For-All. The Dominion remains on Show Day. Cup Day will also feature the Sires’ Stakes 2YO Colts and Geldings Final and the Nevele R 3YO Fillies Final while the Sires’ Stakes 2YO Fillies and 2YO Trotters Finals will be on Show Day.
The Spring/Summer Carnival will finish on December 17 with the $100,000 Invercargill Cup.
The Country Cups programme has also been given a major boost, with all races getting a stakes increase. A $100,000 Country Cups final will be held at Addington on Easter Saturday. This race will essentially replace the Easter Cup.
“In the lead up to the finals there will be Country Cup races right around the country, there are more than 30 in all,” says McDonald, “and horses have to have raced in at least three of the lead up races to qualify for the final.”
There will also be six $30,000 Ratings Finals for horses that are 4YO and older on Easter Saturday at Addington.
In additional there will be seven Regional Ratings Days for the lower to intermediate graded horses, with an estimated stake of between $14,000 - $20,000. They will be held between February and July next year.
The new Calendar will come into effect on January 1, 2022.
“I’m confident the team of architects has got it right,” says Woodham, “and they have put countless hours of work into this. This is year one of a three-year process and the calendar will continue to evolve.
“There will be some who disagree with some aspects of it but I would just urge anyone who loves our sport to go into this with an open mind.”
Over the next few days HRNZ will get into more detail about the biggest changes to the Racing Calendar, including the Spring/Summer and Autumn Carnivals, the increased opportunities for trotters, and how it impacts those with intermediate and lower grade horses.
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