Racing: Oz betting bonanza on Jewels may boost cover

By Michael Guerin

Ronan Whelan, winner of The Ascot Stakes riding Jennies Jewel. Photo / Getty Images
Ronan Whelan, winner of The Ascot Stakes riding Jennies Jewel. Photo / Getty Images

Harness racing bosses are hoping an Australian betting bonanza on the Jewels helps increase premium coverage of the industry there.

Betting with the Australian TABs on the Jewels at Cambridge on Saturday, June 4 was up more than A$1 million on last season, jumping from A$663,013 to a stunning A$1,696,1467.

That saw it even outperform the Ellerslie and Wanganui thoroughbred meetings run at the same time, a result Australian harness racing bosses wouldn't dare dream of in their country.

The skyrocketing turnover was enormously boosted by the Queensland Oaks meeting at Eagle Farm as well as other Australian gallops meetings being abandoned because of torrential rain, meaning the entire Jewels meeting moved to the premium Australian racing coverage channel, Sky1.

But Harness Racing NZ racing manager Darrin Williams says while that undoubtedly aided turnover on the Jewels, they hope it boosts punter awareness of the quality of the New Zealand product in Australia.

"Getting on Sky1 for the day was a huge boost, and we thank them and everybody involved for making it happen," says Williams.

"But we would love to think this won't be the last time.

"Our elite harness racing product is very good and we were already going to have a number of the Jewels races on Sky1.

"So after they got such great turnover results we are hoping we can get Sky1 coverage again for the Jewels and meetings like the New Zealand Cup."

Williams worked hard to get five Australian-trained horses invited to the Jewels, only to have four fall away through health or loss of manners/form.

"But we won't stop inviting them and the bridges we have built have been huge. And now with all the exposure it has had we are sure it will continue to grow."

The increased turnover doesn't go directly back to the Cambridge club or even Harness Racing New Zealand but into the Racing Board's general international turnover.

But it does show administrators on both sides of the Tasman how profitable harness racing coverage can be when the best meetings are giving reasonable lead-in times on television, something Australia's best harness meetings are often denied.

No major changes are expected to the Jewels format next year, with Ashburton already locked in for its two-yearly hosting.

And the distance of the main event is certain to stay at a mile even after occasional calls for Cambridge to move to 1700m races.

- NZ Herald

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