By DAVID HILL
A two-day meeting is being trialled for the 102nd running of the Kaikoura Trotting Cup.
The annual race meeting at Kaikoura’s South Bay Racecourse will be held on Sunday and Monday, October 30 to 31, and Kaikoura Trotting Club president Bob Rochford believes it is a first.
“It’s the first time we’ve had a two-day meeting and I think it’s the only meeting in the country that goes on Sunday and Monday. It’s just something to try, something different.
“We are expecting a few visitors from Australia and around the country. We have had a lot of enquiries and the accommodation is fully booked.”
Mr Rochford says there will be six races on Sunday, with the first race scheduled to start at 2.59pm and the last race expected to finish by 5.51pm. There will be 10 races on Monday, which is Marlborough Anniversary Day, with race one set to start at 12.30pm.
This year all of the races will be televised live on Sky 1 in Australia, as well as being broadcast on Trackside in New Zealand.
“It will certainly encourage the betting in Australia, which is good for the club and we have three Australian horses in the ballot,” Mr Rochford says.
However, defending champion and Australian-owned horse Arden Rooney, which has won the Kaikoura Cup for the last two years and won the New Zealand Trotting Cup last year, is not making the trip.
Mr Rochford says the Kaikoura meeting is popular with trotting teams and the public alike due to the scenic location and because it is the week before the New Zealand Trotting Cup being raced at Addington Raceway in Christchurch on Tuesday, November 8.
“They mainly come from Canterbury and Marlborough, but we get a few North Islanders, and we’ve got some Australians who are coming over especially for it.
“This race meeting is the second biggest trotting meeting in the country in terms of the amount of money placed as bets, behind the New Zealand Cup Day in Christchurch.
“People see it on Trackside and realise it’s just beautiful. It’s probably the most scenic race track in the world.”
Despite Arden Rooney’s absence, the horse’s Australian owner Merv Butterworth is expected to have two horses lining up at Kaikoura.
Taking on the Australian horses are expected to be top Canterbury trainers and drivers Mark Purdon and the Butt family.
The ballot for the 16 races was due to be completed as North Canterbury News went to print.
There are expected to be 12 horses in each of the six Sunday races, aimed at lower grade horses, while 14 horses are to be balloted for each of the 10 races on Monday, featuring the Kaikoura Cup, the New Zealand Yearling Sales Series Aged Pace and the South Bay Trotters’ Cup.
Despite the change to a two-day meeting, Mr Rochford says the format will be virtually the same as previous years, with races ranging from a 1900 metre mobile start to a 2400 metre standing start, with several races handicapped by Harness Racing New Zealand.
The Kaikoura Cup is not handicapped, but the horses may start in two lines depending on the number of starters.
Mr Rochford says the club is always appreciative of the support it receives from local business in Kaikoura and beyond.
Visitors to Kaikoura’s South Bay Racecourse receive free entry and a free race book.