Harness racing has been a popular feature at Tauherenikau’s New Year meetings for many years. PHOTO/FILE

RACING

CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

The Wairarapa Harness Racing Club is back up and racing after a u-turn by Harness Racing New Zealand.

The future of the club was in doubt after they weren’t allocated any racing dates in a rejigging of the harness racing calendar, which initially had no meetings scheduled in the North Island south of Cambridge.

The club have held four races for several years at the popular January 2 thoroughbred race meeting at Tauherenikau and have regularly raced at the Manawatu Raceway.

The Wairarapa and Manawatu Harness Racing Clubs, along with other lower North Island clubs, successfully appealed the draft calendar and the Palmerston North track has now been allocated eight standalone race dates, as well as five dates in conjunction with the Manawatu Greyhound Racing Club.

Wairarapa Harness Racing Club president Ray Southey said they’re hopeful of getting one date this year.

“It hasn’t been decided yet, but we’re looking to take one date, probably a Tuesday, and hopefully before Christmas in November or December,” he said.

“We’ve also got our four races back at Tauherenikau on January 2. There will also be four harness races at the galloping meeting at Otaki two days later, so that should work in well with attracting horses,” Southey said.

Those two dates will be the only harness racing on grass in the North Island, with the popular meetings at Hawera, Stratford, and New Plymouth scrapped.

The Hawera, Stratford, and Taranaki Harness Racing Clubs will now also have to race at Manawatu Raceway, the centralised location for lower North Island.

Southey said more than 30 horses were trained in Manawatu and the meetings always attracted good numbers from the South Island.

However, there’s not such good news for the Masterton Racing Club, who have lost their prime Easter Saturday date to the Manawatu Racing Club.

Southey, who is also president of the Masterton Racing Club said the decision was made without any consultation and the club will now race on the Sunday [March 31, 2021] before Easter.

“It’s pretty much the same as we had this year. The Saturday would have been great, but we’ve made that Sunday work pretty well in the past, and we will do so again.”

Tauherenikau will host the Wairarapa Racing Club meetings on January 2 and Monday, February 8, the Waitangi Day holiday.

Southey has been impressed with the numbers of horses racing since the resumption of the thoroughbred code late last month.

“We have nearly 50 horses in training at Opaki, and a few of those are ready to go,” he said.

“There are 12 races at Wanganui [Thursday] and some of those have 22 horses accepted, so the number of horses racing has been surprisingly good.”

Six locally trained horses had been accepted for yesterday’s meeting, including Stacey Dougan’s well-performed mudlark Charlie Horse and the Jim Wallace-trained Showmeware in Race 8, a Rating 86 1200m.

Wallace also has Fagiolo Majico, in Race 9, a Maiden over 1200m. Austin Brown’s Sassaenach is on the ballot in the same race.

In Race 7, a 1200m Maiden, Ginger Jane will line up for Aaron Bidlake, while Henry Gillies has Princess El Jay and Brian Marriott has Bellissimo in Race 10, a Rating 79 over 1360m.

Southey said there was also good news that stakes for the new season, starting on August 1, will be held at least the same level as for the 2019-20 season, and that races for Rating 65 and lower will continue to pay down to the 11th placed horse.