Spring has sprung - and it's time to get excited
Welcome to spring, and what a three months it is going to be for harness racing.
And it's not just about New Zealand Cup and Show week in November. There is a wealth of action lined up including massive days at Oamaru, Ashburton, Auckland and much more besides.
Throughout September Harness Racing New Zealand is backing the annual fund-raiser for the New Zealand Prostate Cancer Foundation. Ten drivers will be Blue September ambassadors and every time they win they will raise money for the cause. Last year the campaign totalled more than $20,000 with hopes it will be even bigger this year.
The Avon City Ford Cup will be held at Addington on September 9, along with the Ordeal Trotting Cup. Like the Maurice Holmes Vase (won by Heza Sport) the winner of the Avon City Ford Cup gains automatic entry to the New Zealand Cup on Tuesday, November 8.
Everyone loves grass track racing and it will make its return at Methven on September 11, with the Methven Cup set down for October 9.
The Hannon Memorial meeting at Oamaru (Sept 18) is peppered with quality races including the first ever running of the Group 3 $30,000 Jasmyn's Gift for the trotting fillies and mares, the $25,000 Diamond Creek Farm Juvenile Stakes for the two-year-old pacers, and the $30,000 Group 3 Hannon Memorial, a race that dates back to the 1930s and has been won by the likes of Soangetaha, Johnny Globe (twice), Robin Dundee, Bonnie's Chance, Inky Lord, Blossom Lady (twice), and Iraklis (twice).
September 23 sees Alexandra Park to the fore. It's Caduceus Club Classic and Spring Cup night. The Woodlands Stud Caduceus Club Fillies Classic is a Group 1 for the two-year-old pacing fillies with a stake of $110,000. Recent winners include True Fantasy, Bettor Twist and Amazing Dream while the Spring Cup has been annual fixture since 1996, and was won last year by Copy That.
Front and centre at Auckland's first meeting in October will be another race for the top class pacers in The Holmes D G on Friday, October 7 before Cambridge hosts the North Island Spring Rewards Finals Night on Thursday, October 13.
A day later Addington has a huge night that includes three two-year-old Harness Million Listed races, with total stakes of $425,000, and the $100,000 Group 1 Vero Flying Stakes for the three-year-old Colts and Geldings. The Group 3 Canterbury Park Trotting Cup will also be held.
Labour Day at Ashburton on Monday, October 24 is another that promises so much. It features the Group 2 Ashburton Flying Stakes for the top class pacers - its honours board in the last decade alone includes New Zealand Cup champions Self Assured, Copy That, Lazarus, Adore Me and Terror To Love.
There will also be two Group 3s for the trotters - the $30,000 Hambletonian and the Ashburton Flying Sprint - as well as the last heats of the Dunstan Horse Feeds and the Woodlands Stud Sires Stakes series for the two-year-old fillies, and colts and geldings, the Nevele R Fillies series for the three-year-old pacers, and the Listed $40,000 Garrard's Sires Stakes Sophomore Classic.
October finishes with a flourish with a two-day meeting at Kaikoura, often billed as the world's most scenic race track. Sunday October 30 is the entree to Monday's big meeting which sees thousands flock to South Bay. Classie Brigade has won the last three editions of the Kaikoura Cup, with Arden Rooney the last to complete the Kaikoura -New Zealand Cup double in 2015.
As well as the Group 2 Kaikoura Cup the day will also see the running of the Group 3 South Bay Trotters Cup and the Listed Yearling Sales Series Aged Classic.
November is synonymous with one event. Tuesday, November 8 will see the 119th running of the $600,000 IRT New Zealand Cup. It's one of three Group 1s on the day with the $175,000 Sires Stakes Final for the two-year-old colts and geldings and the $140,000 Nevele R Fillies Final for the three-year-olds. Then there's also two Group 3s (the Worthy Queen and the Junior Free For All) to add to an unforgettable day.
Three Group 1s, highlighted by the $300,000 Dominion, will wind up Cup and Show week on Friday, November 11, with the $200,000 New Zealand Pacing Free For All and the $150,000 Sires' Stakes Champs for the two-year-old fillies also set to be spectacular races.
The last big meeting at Addington in November will be a fortnight later on the 25th. The headline acts will be the Group 1 $100,000 New Zealand Trotting Oaks and the Group 2 two-year-old Sires' Stakes Trotters Championship.
While the spring is shaping up to be a cracker, the summer months of December, January and February will also be full of top class action, including eight Group 1s at Addington on Sunday, December 4.
For a full list of the racing dates click here