The final meeting of the Whangarei Racing Club for 2017 will be the Christmas at the Races event on Tuesday, December 19 where a six-race programme is expected to be carded. The corporate response has been very strong with all function areas including an additional Corona Courtyard marquee fully booked.
The Steve Haywood Master Jeweller Fashions in the Field is a feature of the day and provides an ideal opportunity for a local entrant to win the great prize from Steve Haywood but also free entry to the Ellerslie Viva Prix de Fashions in March 2018. Last year's Ruakaka winner won the national final at Ellerslie and went on to represent New Zealand in Melbourne.
The club is now led by chairman Mike Beazley with his deputy Karen Houlihan following the retirement of Shayne Heape who had provided excellent stewardship for the past four years. Local hotelier Evan Phillips has joined the board for the first time.
In a changed approach the club will present annual racing awards based on the calendar year of 2017 rather than the racing season that starts in August to reflect the breeding season. A number of those awards are resolved with the final meeting of the season not able to change the result but the apprentice and visiting trainer awards will be subject to the results at the December 19 race meeting.
The two leading local stables have dominated the training results with the Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs team dominating with 31 winners at the course so far, this season. That tally places them well ahead of the Rae Racing stables of Kenny and Lisa Rae and Krystal Williams with a total of seven winners.
With the Logan/Gibbs team split between Ruakaka and Singapore from early in 2018 their dominance in 2018 may be able to be challenged for the first time for many years. The timing of the departure of the horses selected for Singapore is still unclear so this very successful, and now international stable, will continue to have a major influence at the summer meetings of both Ellerslie and Ruakaka.
Volkstok'n'barrel was a close up third at Ellerslie last week and continues to prove he is up to the best of New Zealand horses over 1600m or further. Kacchi and Hello Its Me look to be other stable runners to follow over the Christmas period.
Prom Queen is back in the Ruakaka stables of Kenny Rae and will tackle a smart 3-year-old field on Saturday over 1400m in the Group 3 Bonecrusher Stakes, after blemishing her outstanding record at the 1600m at Riccarton.
The visiting trainer with the most wins will be resolved at the final meeting as there many trainers with two or three wins for the year. Leading with three winners for the year are Roger James, Tony Pike and S&E Clotworthy followed by nine trainers who have all had two winners in 2017.
The leading rider will be Alysha Collett who has excelled at many tracks this year and has won 16 races at Ruakaka so far, this year to lead from Sam Collett and Sam Spratt with seven winners each. Mar Du Plessis and Troy Harris lead the male jockeys with five winners.
The apprentices receive a small percentage of the rides during the year, consequently, their winners are limited but Sam Weatherley leads with four winners followed by Jordan Nason and Ryan Elliot with two wins each.
Rockabyebaby quickly moved through the classes in 2017 from maiden status to win a rating 85 and her fourth race at the seaside course within 12 months.
As many as nine horses won on multiple occasions during 2017 including top class performers like Prom Queen and Florence Jean but Rockabyebaby was the stand-out winner of the most races in the season.
Unfortunately, this promising mare pulled up sore after the Karaka Classic at Pukekohe last September and was retired to stud by her breeders and owners Whakanui Stud.
These presentations will be made during the race meeting on December 19.
For both the December 19 and the Saturday, January 6 Interislander Summer Festival meeting the "big screen" will feature the races and on-course activities led by MC Andre Neil who has delivered great entertainment at the previous summer meetings.