The Kiwifruit Cup run at the Gate Pa course in Tauranga a couple of weeks ago is established as one of the feature middle distance open handicaps in winter thoroughbred racing in New Zealand.

The handsome monetary prize has always attracted starters seeking good winter going from throughout the North Island.

There have been few easier winners of the race than the 2016 victor Katie McKeen.

A NZ Racing Desk release after the race told the story of a 13 length winning margin.


"A cunning pre-race plan was executed to perfection when Katie McKeen distanced her rivals in the feature staying event on Saturday's race card. Taranaki owner-trainer Gary McBeth and jockey Robert Hannan decided to put the pressure on a long way out in the Orora Kiwi Packaging-LRK Kiwifruit Cup and to cut the corner into the home straight when others were scouting wide.

"Katie McKeen settled in the early trail before Hannan got busy down the back straight to take the six-year-old to the front and he stuck to the fence across the top."

However Katie McKeen has some way to go to equal the feats of a previous winner of the Tauranga winter open handicap.

Intransigent made the long haul north from Waipukarau to take out the Kiwifruit Cup on three successive occasions in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Intransigent came off some indifferent season form to win in 2013 ridden by David Walsh. The Waipukarau gelding got home by three lengths beating locally trained John Gray and favourite Pump up the Volume.

The following year Intransigent returned to grab his second successive Racing Tauranga winter feature from Pump up the Volume.

Kiwifruit Cup win number three came in June last year ridden by Central Districts jockey Kane Smith. The Gate Pa star got home from Ethical with Pump up the Volume running his third successive place in the race in third place.

Intransigent who is now living out a life of retirement claimed 11 wins in his career for stake winnings of $329, 625.

The winter open handicap started life as the Owens Trophy, named after Tauranga iconic leader Sir Bob Owens.

After six years the race had several commercial sponsors names before connection with the Kiwifruit industry in 1992 with the running of the BOP Combined Packhouse handicap.

The first winner of the Combined Packhouse feature was an outstanding galloper in Ray Hopes who won the Group 1 Easter Handicap at Ellerslie in 1991.

There was a sensation in 1988 when Quasin ran down Watch Officer ridden by top jockey Opie Bossom. Watch Officer appeared to have the race in safe keeping comfortably clear in the straight but when Bossom sat up thinking he had the race in the bag, Quasin got up to beat him.

Some of the best trainers and jockeys in the country have combined to win the Racing Tauranga winter feature over the years.

Tangarakau trained by thoroughbred maestro Colin Jillings won the race in 1997 and 1999. In his first win, Tangarakau was ridden by Central Districts jockey Paul Taylor while Opie Bossom had the mount in 1999.

Jim Pender, who trains on the Gate Pa track and has won nearly all the Racing Tauranga main attractions over the years, was successful in 2004 with Crown Prince ridden by Matamata jockey Michael Coleman. Pender has a unique place in New Zealand thoroughbred racing having trained over 100 winners on his home track.

Multiple champion jockey David Peake was victorious twice, riding Toms Dice to victory in 1984 when the race was known as the Owens Trophy and getting Brown Jumper home at the head of the field in 1991.

Women riders had a stranglehold on the Kiwifruit Cup for four years in the mid 1990's.

Lisa Cropp won on Melco in 1993, followed by Clean Cut and Tui Akrana with Lee Rutherford and Rosie Ealden aboard respectively. Hamptons Choice with Ms M.E. Hutchinson on board, completed a women jockey four-peat of the Kiwifruit Cup in 1996.