Racing: Alexandra Park stakes money to rocket

By Michael Guerin

The stakes hikes are going across the board rather than the ego-boost of increasing the glamour races. Photo / Photosport
The stakes hikes are going across the board rather than the ego-boost of increasing the glamour races. Photo / Photosport

Stakes for Alexandra Park are set to explode, with an extra $40,000 to be poured into each meeting.

And while the announcement comes with a delay, the timing is also perfect.

After an enormous response to their property developments at Alexandra Park, having sold all 246 apartments in the first two stages, the Auckland Trotting Club is assured of some big dollars rolling in in the years ahead.

And ATC president Bruce Carter is moving early to ensure that money goes into stakes across all levels.

"We are going to increase stakes for all our meetings by $40,000 per meeting," said Carter.

"It won't kick in until the start of August next year but it will definitely happen and we want to tell people now so they know something really big is in the offing."

Carter says the ATC is moving now on future stakes because it wants to support the upcoming yearling sales, which start at Karaka on February 20.

"We want people to be able to go to the sales knowing that by the time that horse turns three, the stakes at Alexandra Park will be way beyond anything we have seen for harness racing in this country before."

A general increase of $40,000 per meeting spread across a standard 10-race card could potentially see maidens racing for $16,000, an unheard of amount for that grade anywhere in Australasia.

That will raise some concerns about horses who win breaching the handicapping thresholds in Australia, where any win worth more than $15,000 attracts a metropolitan penalty, potentially affecting the export market.

Carter says while the exact distribution of the stakes across grades is far from being finalised how the record levels affect the export market will be discussed.

"We are all aware of that but the bottom line is the ATC wants to help local trainers, owners, breeders and vendors and we also want to keep horses in New Zealand.

"We want to make racing at Alexandra Park so attractive people don't want to sell their horses."

Alexandra Park already pay all starters the equivalent of $400 spread across the owners and trainers and have seen a significant increase in field sizes down in the grades but northern harness racing still struggles to retain enough better class horses.

Carter says the ATC board was adamant the increases should be across the board rather than the ego-boost of increasing its glamour races like the Auckland Cup, even though it is worth far less than the New Zealand Cup.

"We may look at those in the future, especially when more money from development comes online, but our commitment is to stakes that are spread across the industry and not just the better horses."

The decision is a sensible one because while the Auckland Cup on December 31 was $250,000, you could have doubled it and the only realistic change is that Lazarus may have started, which would have had its benefits but also its downside.

The future stakes increases are not the only change to Alexandra Park racing in recent days, with 26-year-old Regan Cotter taking over as the club's youngest ever racing manager.

Cotter has worked in the racing department for 18 month and replaces Kevin Smith, who has joined HRNZ as a handicapper.

Sky high stakes

• An extra $40,000 will be poured into each ATC meeting.

• The money will be spread across all grades, potentially raising maiden stakes to $16,000.

• The stake increases will kick in on August 1, 2018.

They are being announced now to help boost confidence before the yearling sales.

- NZ Herald

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