Can Northland Club retain its champion status?

At the Ruakaka race meeting today the Lion Red Clubs' Punters Challenge will see a wide spread of Northland clubs competing for the trophy over eight of the 10 races scheduled.

Clubs competing include teams from Kawakawa RSA, Kaitaia RSA, Northland Club, Whangarei RSA, Dargaville Club, Warkworth RSA, Kaikohe RSA, Kamo Club and Ngunguru Sports Complex.

With a much drier track than recent months the meeting has attracted big numbers from leading local and Waikato stables.

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Leading the way is the local Logan/Gibbs team with 14 acceptors followed by Autridge/Richards with nine, Baker/Forsman with seven, Peter Mckay and Stephen McKee both have six runners and the Rae Racing stables and Nigel Tiley each have five.

With these trainers presenting teams now there will be some of their best maiden horses getting ready for an important spring or summer carnival target after trialling impressively. The best place to assess their chances will be on-course to see them and get a sense of the best backed runners. No doubt among these there will be several to follow over the summer races at Ellerslie and Te Rapa

The day kicks off with a small field of 2-year-olds with strong local interest about Our Prom King. The youngster is half-brother to Prom Queen and is in the same stable of Kenny Rae. A trial winner, Our Prom King was recently scratched when he refused to be loaded at Counties. The local ownership group will be keen to be on-course and see if he can show the same speed as the very impressive Prom Queen.

Dragon Storm, starting first up in the United Security Northland Maiden for the Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs stable, is owned by two emerging ownership groups in NZ. The 3-year-old colt is owned by a syndicate from the NZ Chinese Jockey Club and the Inner Mongolia Rider Horse Industry.

The NZ Chinese Jockey Club is based in Auckland and is dominated by NZ-based members but reflects the growing development of interest in horse racing in China and the demand for NZ bred racehorses. Nearly 5000 NZ-bred horses were exported to China last year where racing can be developed but gambling is banned.

The clash of Spider and Charlie Farley in the last will be a repeat of their previous contest on September 16 when it looked like Spider had the measure of Charlie Farley until the last stride. Charlie Farley, an 8-year-old grey gelding, has been rejuvenated winning two in a row at his 59th and 60th starts of his career. Davina Waddell from Avondale has produced him in his best form for his three very eager owners in Dawn Judge, Kay Churcher and Frances Carter who make the trip for each start.

Two runners that will attract a lot of interest and betting support are Hanger in the Lion Red maiden over 1200m and Mongolianconqueror in race three.

Hanger started a very short priced favourite at Taupo on September 22 but was hampered on jumping from the barrier and lost the rider, Leith Innes.

Mongolianconqueror is also owned by the Mongolia Rider Horse Industry and was disappointing when backed at his first start in a race at Ruakaka's last meeting. Blinkers have been added to the gear of the Ocean park 3-year-old gelding and that, combined with an improved racing surface may help produce a better performance today.

The Whangarei Racing Club recently held a celebration of 40 years of racing at Ruakaka with a lunch where a panel led by racing commentator George Simon reminisced about their involvement in racing over that time. The afternoon proved very enjoyable as Kim Clotworthy, Keith Haub and Donna Logan regaled the audience at the direction of the perfect queues from the master of ceremonies.

During the afternoon the club was pleased to honour Grant Adams with Life Membership for his dedicated service after more than 20 consecutive years on the committee of the club.

The governing body of NZ Thoroughbred Racing recently found that the Dargaville track will not be suitable to race on this November and it is expected the licence to hold the meeting will be transferred to the Whangarei Racing Club for it to race on November 17.

The club will be keeping a close watch on the Myer Fashions in the Field at the Melbourne Cup carnival. Last year's winner of the Steve Harwood Master Jeweller Fashions in the Field at Ruakaka, Hannah Carson, is representing NZ. Hannah, after winning at Ruakaka, won the Viva Prix de Fashion at Auckland over their cup carnival in March. Part of Hannah's $20,000 prize package was entry into the Melbourne competition.

What a great incentive to be part of the Steve Harwood Master Jeweller Fashions in the Field at Ruakaka on December 19. Not only do you win the $1500 Steve Harwood voucher but also entry, with accommodation in Auckland, to the Viva Prix de Fashion competition at Ellerslie in March 2018.

The Christmas at the Races meeting on December 19 is building in interest with only a limited number of marquees. Combined with the Steve Harwood Master Jeweller Fashions in the Field will be Going Bananas DJ Jono Reeves and the big television screen production will be under the direction of master of ceremonies Andre Neil.