The TAB Racing Club - who are they?

By Michael Guerin

The most expensive yearling pacer ever purchased in New Zealand is set to have a lot of new owners. Including you, if you want.

A full brother to superstar four-year-old Don’t Stop Dreaming equalled the record for a standardbred yearling sold in this part of the world as a ragged sales week burst into life in Christchurch on Wednesday.

The son of Bettor's Delight sold for $340,000 after an opening bid of $200,000, both numbers rarely seen at harness racing sales here.

The colt will be one of four harness racing yearlings which join eight thoroughbreds in the new TAB New Zealand Racing Club, which is expected to be launched in May and will be free to all TAB account holders.

The TAB Racing Club has been set up to give its members the experience of owning a racehorse without any expense and once launched any TAB account holder can sign-up for horses they want to be involved in.

The new TAB bosses, Entain, run a similar club under the Ladbrokes banner in Australia and it already has 30,000 members and Entain boss Dean Shannon expects around those numbers to take advantage in New Zealand.

“We want people to experience the thrill of owning a horse, and not just on raceday,” Shannon said.

“Once we launch the Racing Club in May, as part of a re-brand of several things we do, people can sign up and they will start getting video updates on their horses, just like paying owners do, but it will all be free.

“So we will take them right through the experience of horses being broken in, training, trialling and hopefully going to the races.

“When we get to that stage we will have raceday events for Racing Club members and have draws where some of the members get to be a designated owner for the day and get shares of any stake money won.”

Shannon is himself a very successful owner of horses, including newly-crowned NZ Three-Year-Old Pacer of the Year in Merlin, who makes his Australian debut (named Its Merlin) at Menangle on Saturday night.

“Yes, we want people to be able to enjoy this but we also hope by engaging them they might want to get into owning a horse or dog of their own.

“We aren’t just here to grow betting, we are here to grow racing and how Kiwis engage with it.”

The $340,000 colt will be trained by Barry Purdon and Scott Phelan but the TAB Racing Club will spread its horses of both codes across trainers around the country.

On a more emotional note the record-breaking colt was sold by one of the gentlemen of the harness racing industry in Studholme Breeding boss Brian West on his last day of selling commercially.

“This is my last sale running the business, my grandson Vinnie is taking over running it fulltime so what a way to go out after 50 years,” said West.

The colt was the zenith of a day the standardbred sales bounced back after moderate mid-market results at Karaka on Sunday and on the first day of selling in Christhchurch.

There was far more action in the middle market while the top was very strong although with a clearly-defined bias to two stallions, the great Bettor's Delight and the heir to his throne, Captaintreacherous.

Auckland-based Stonewall Stud was the most prolific buyer in Christchurch, purchasing 14 lots to add to their six at Karaka while the Australians spend in Christchurch was up $1.2million.

In other news, newly-crowned Trotter of the Year Oscar Bonavena is confirmed for the $575,000 TAB Trot at Cambridge on April 12,.
He will, as expected, fill the slot owned by his connections, with rivals Muscle Mountain and Bolt For Brilliance likely to follow suit.




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