Tauherenikau Racecourse was “packed and absolutely pumping” for the annual New Year’s Race Day yesterday.
Wairarapa Racing Club general manager Matt Sherry told the Times-Age that it was the biggest crowd he’d ever seen at the event during his decade in the role and estimated that at least 15,000 people attended.
“We’re obviously delighted with the weather because it brings the Wellingtonians over the hill,” said Sherry, who also noted there were also visitors from Hawke’s Bay, Palmerston North, and as far afield as Tauranga – even though the latter city was having its own race day.
“It’s a real testament to country racing,” Sherry said, “and how special this particular race meeting is. We’ve got families here who’ve been coming for 50-plus years – they just love it. Everyone’s smiling, there are heaps of happy kids, it’s just been an incredible day.”
Sherry was also full of praise for track manager Matia
Grace, who’s in her second year in the role and is “doing a superb job of producing a beautiful track that’s conducive to running in the summer”.
One punter the Times-Age spoke to during the meeting concurred with Sherry’s assessment, saying he couldn’t “recall a bigger crowd here for quite some years”.
Despite the fact he “couldn’t pick a winner” at all during the day, with his main collect being a $6 easy bet on a harness race, “which I know nothing about”, the punter reckoned it was a good, enjoyable day of racing, “even if there were some small fields”, and the weather was truly spectacular.
The day featured six harness races, which started in the late morning, and eight gallop races, which ran from 2pm-6pm. The family-friendly event also featured live music, bouncy castles, miniature train rides, egg and spoon races, and a tug of war.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of racing at Tauherenikau, where the first meeting was held on January 26-27, 1874.