The Auckland Trotting Club is set to make racing horses at Alexandra Park the most financially viable prospect in the country.
As part of a broad three-year plan, the club is planning to enormously boost appearance money for all Alexandra Park non-premier meetings to $500 per horse per race, with the scheme to possibly even begin this year.
Horse numbers have been a constant struggle at Alexandra Park, with the smaller northern horse population often split between Auckland meetings and those at Cambridge or even the central district and grass track circuits.
But the new incentives, as part of a three-year plan the ATC has to make racing horses more economic for northern owners and trainers, will be impossible to ignore. At present the ATC pay the owners of all unplaced starters a $150 fee but that will rise to $300 per start for the owners as well as $200 direct to the trainer for each runner.
That means an owner-trainer could bring a maiden trotter to Alexandra Park and be guaranteed at least $500 every non-premier meeting.
And even trainers who are struggling with average horses could pocket $200 per horse every week they line up at Alexandra Park, which even for small stables could easily top $2000 a month direct to them.
ATC bosses say the split appearance money will effectively boost a maiden race at Alexandra Park to around $15,500 in stakes, the highest anywhere in Australasian harness racing.
Once the new system is up and running the club will then tackle other across-the-board stake levels before the third part of their plan, looking at feature race stakes.
"This is a way to make racing more sustainable for owners and trainers," says ATC president Bruce Carter.
"The money goes to both, which we hope will help trainers but also encourage owners to not only invest in horses but retain the horses we have racing here."
The appearance money paid to trainers will come at a time when the ATC looks to expand the Franklin Park training centre, which has 200 horses in work with the potential for 260. "We want young people getting into racing to have somewhere to train if they can't afford a property, which many of them can't," says Carter. "And there is potential for that training centre to eventually cater for up to 400 horses.
"Obviously, with the sort of money we are talking about being available at Alexandra Park in the future, we would also love to see trainers from around the country look into whether basing themselves in the north makes sense.
"The club takes its position as an industry leader extremely seriously."
The club's three year plan, aside from the huge commercial and residential property projects it already has under way, includes growth in betting, attendance and moving to a more profitable racing calendar.