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Hawkes Bay Racing Column 24 Apr 2020

No Hastings races until mid-September

(By John Jenkins)

   It is unlikely that the Hastings racecourse will stage another race meeting until the first day of this year’s Bostock New Zealand spring carnival, which has now been pushed back to September 19.

   This was revealed in a proposed racing calendar for the first four months of the new racing season, which was released by New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing on Tuesday and following the restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 crisis.

   NZTR wanted to release a proposed calendar for August through to November to give owners, trainers and racing participants some certainty for the next six months and followed an announcement by RITA of the revised calendar for the balance of the 2019/20 racing season, ending on July 31.

   It is envisaged that the final decisions about the programme of racing for August through to November will be made by early July.

   NZTR are targeting a return to New Zealand thoroughbred racing on Friday July 3, providing it is done safely and in accordance with the strict Government and public health obligations.

   The proposed racing calendar remains subject to final approval from the RITA Dates Committee and following the usual consultation processes with racing clubs.

   NZTR can not confirm industry funding or stakes levels until it gets more information from RITA on its 2020/21 budget, but felt it was important that the industry released some draft racing dates so that trainers can start getting horses ready for racing.

   The key aspects of the proposed thoroughbred racing calendar through to early November are:

  • Only six venues will be used in July.
  • The venues chosen for July have been selected based on the proximity to the horse population and cost savings to RITA by racing on tracks with broadcast transmission by way of low cost fibre rather than an expensive satellite link.
  • A revised Jumps racing programme confined to the North Island.
  • A revised Group and Listed race programme.
  • The number of meetings and venues used will build up as the calendar progresses into the new season.
  • Dates have been allocated on the assumption both travel, and attendance, will be limited due to the Covid-19 alert level restrictions.


   NZTR said the focus for the August through to November period had been on allocation of meetings by venue and reiterates that every racing club has a role to play in the future of New Zealand racing and, the allocation of licences for the future, will be considered as part of the consultation phase for 2020/21.

   In working out the proposed new racing calendar NZTR contacted 55 trainers and then had deeper discussions with trainer representatives, the pattern and jumps committees, club administrators and NZTR personnel.

   It said that all those who worked on the calendar have had to step away from tradition, consider the future of the racing industry, and structure a calendar to fit this new environment.

   Several clubs will be adversely impacted, none more so than the Canterbury Jockey Club. While retaining its three-day New Zealand Cup meeting it is proposed that the Group 1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas will be transferred to Te Rapa on November 7 and the Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas will be staged at Ellerslie on November 14.

   Hastings is not one of the six thoroughbred racetracks that will be used in July, those being Riccarton, Te Rapa, Awapuni, Wanganui, Pukekohe and Invercargill.

   There are four Hastings race days in the proposed calendar for the period from August 1 to November 14, with the first of them being on Saturday, September 19.

   This will be the first day of the three-day Bostock Hawke’s Bay spring carnival and will feature the running of the Group 1 Tarzino Trophy (1400m) and the Listed Sir Colin Meads Trophy (1200m) for three-year-olds.

   The second day of the carnival will be on Saturday October 3, with the main races being the Group 1 Windsor Park Plate (1600m) and the Group 2 Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1400m) for three-year-olds.

   The final day of the carnival will be pushed back to Saturday October 17 and will feature the Group 1 Livamol Classic (2040m), Group 3 Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) for three-year-old fillies and the Group 3 Kelt Memorial Stakes (1400m).

   The only other race meeting scheduled for Hastings during this time is a Sunday meeting, on November 8.

   There will be no jumps racing at Hastings this year, with only five jumping venues being used in the North Island. These are Wanganui, Te Rapa, Awapuni, Te Aroha and Ellerslie.

   The first jumps race meeting is scheduled for Wanganui on Friday July 10, followed by Te Rapa on July 18.

   New Hawke’s Bay Racing chief executive officer Darin Balcombe said this week he was not surprised that there will not be any racing at Hastings until mid-September.

   “They are keeping the meetings close to the horse population and keeping them as cost as effective as possible which makes sense,” Balcombe said.

   Balcombe said the dates for the three day Bostock Hawke’s Bay spring carnival have been pushed back and races switched around to provide a better lead up to other feature races at other venues.

   “The dates for the Gold Trail Stakes and the Hawke’s Bay Guineas have been swapped around. The Gold Trail will now be a better lead up to the Soliloquy Stakes at Ellerslie on November 3 and the Hawke’s Bay Guineas will be a better lead up to the Sarten Memorial at Te Rapa on October 24.”

   Training is expected to recommence at the Hastings track next Tuesday, following the drop back to alert level 3, and Balcombe said that racecourse manager Richard Fenwick has been in consultation with the track users. It has been agreed that training horses on the track will be viable, but with rigorous health and safety measures put in place.

   “We will be temperature checking people as they arrive on the course and will take every available action necessary to minimize a threat to health and safety.”

   Balcombe said Hawke’s Bay Racing has been able to take up the Government’s wage subsidy offer for both permanent and part-time staff employed by the club and hopes to be able to move from his present Plimmerton base to Hawke’s Bay once the country drops back to alert level 2.

   The Hawke’s Bay Racing office remains closed for daily business but Administration Manager Gayle Richardson is working from home.

   Asked what sort of financial effect the Covid-19 crisis will have on Hawke’s Bay Racing, Balcombe said it was too early to gauge that but said it would be significant.

   “We will have no racing on the Hastings track from the time of the lockdown through until September which will have an obvious affect on the club. But, until we get the funding model for the next year, we will not really know the full extent,” Balcombe added.

Hawke’s Bay Racing chief executive Darin Balcombe is not surprised there will not be any racing at Hastings until September.


Kiwis successful Sydney raid

   New Zealand-trained horses boxed well above their weight at this year’s Sydney autumn carnival, recording four wins at Group 1 level and one at Group 2.

   Despite some of the Kiwi aspirants being unable to cross the Tasman due to the Covid-19 crisis there was still a strong presence, with most picking up significant prizemoney.

  The New Zealand roll of honour started at Randwick on February 29 when the Jamie Richards-trained pair of Probabeel and Te Akau Shark both recorded Group 1 victories. Probabeel took out the $A505,000 Surround Stakes (1400m) for three-year-olds while Te Akau Shark beat the Aussie stars in the weight-for-age $A605,000 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m).

   The Tony Pike-trained Bostonian then made an auspicious return to the racetrack after a four month break to beat a top field of sprinters in the Group 1 $A505,000 Canterbury Stakes (1300m) at Randwick on March 7.

  Quick Thinker, from the Cambridge stable of Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman, won the Group 2 $A200,000 Tulloch Stakes (2000m) at Rosehill on March 28 and then backed up seven days later to score a commanding victory in the Group 1 $A1million Australian Derby (2400m) at Randwick.

   New Zealand stables could also rightfully claim the winning quinella in the Group 1 $1.1million Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick on April 11.

   The winner was Etah James, who had been prepared by his Matamata part-owner Mark Lupton up until February when sent across to join the Warwick Farm stable of Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

   The mare was having her first start from her new base and staved off a late challenge from the Baker/Forsman trained The Chosen One.

The Baker/Forsman-trained Quick Thinker recorded both a Group 1 and a Group 2 victory at this year’s Sydney autumn carnival.


Te Akau to enter five for Cox

   Class mare Melody Belle, part-owned by Waipukurau couple Trevor and Debbie Walters, will be one of five horses Te Akau Racing will nominate for this year’s 100th running of the Cox Plate.

   The 2040m event, regarded as Australasia’s greatest weight-for-age race, is scheduled to be run at The Valley on Saturday, October 24.

   Melody Belle has been one of three horses to fly the flag successfully for Te Akau in Australia this season.

   She recorded her 10th Group 1 victory when taking out the Empire Rose Stakes (1600m) at Flemington in November, while Probabeel  won the Group 1 Surround Stakes (1400m) at Randwick in February and Te Akau Shark was placed in the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in the spring before winning the Group 1 Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m) at Randwick on February 29.

   Te Akau principal, David Ellis, said this week all three star gallopers will be nominated for this year’s Cox Plate, along with stablemates Avantage and Prise De Fer.

   “We are looking at what will be the best way to get our horses to that race and the most cost-effective for our owners,” Ellis said.

   One potential option Ellis is looking at is leasing boxes at Melbourne’s Flemington racecourse for the spring, with the opportunity to add further horses to the quintet.

   The stable’s retained New Zealand jockey Opie Bosson recently revealed his intentions to base himself in Australia in the future and Ellis said he would be in discussions with the leading hoop about what his involvement would be in Te Akau’s spring plans.

   Melody Belle, Probabeel and Te Akau Shark have remained in Australia, along with travelling foreman Ashley Handley, until suitable flights can be organised for their return to New Zealand.

Te Akau Racing principal David Ellis.


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