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Castlepoint races set to gallop ahead

The Castlepoint Beach 150th anniversary races are set to go ahead, despite the coastline taking a real battering during Cyclone Gabrielle.

Castlepoint Racing Club president Scott Whitehead said organisers were nervous about the general state of the beach after the cyclone, but it ended up being more clear of debris than he expected.

He said after Cyclone Hale last month, there had been rocks littering the beach, but Cyclone Gabrielle washed them away.

The origins of the race go back to 1872 when local shepherds had a bet about who had the fastest horse and would race each other for bottles of rum and stray coins.

“It grew and grew and grew,” Whitehead said.

Wairarapa Archive said the Castlepoint races continued throughout the 1890s until the Boer War caused the club to go into recess. The races were revived in 1906, and continued until World War I, with the last races for over twenty years, held on March 7, 1914.

“The club was revived, and the first official meeting was held in February 1937. The Castlepoint Cup – the day’s feature race – was won by the Castlepoint storekeeper and harbourmaster, Percy Bellis, who also won the last cup in 1914.”

“The races have continued, with few exceptions, since 1937.”

He said the event stopped a  few times during World War I and II , and it took quite a bit of effort to start it up again.

Today, thoroughbreds have replaced farm hacks, and the day is as much about picnicking and family as it is about horses.

Betting is allowed, but horses are allocated at random for a ticket price of $2, Destination Wairarapa said.

Whitehead said it would have been a shame if they were unable to race for the 150th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, he said the club was having a celebration in the woolshed on the Thursday before the race, but for the public, they were hoping to bring in some Tiger Moth planes to fly in and around the area before the race.

Whitehead said the state of the roads heading to Castlepoint was a concern for the organisers, but with three weeks left until the race, he hoped they would be clear in time.

The beach race is scheduled to be held on March 11.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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