Hawke's Bay racing fans will be able to enjoy a long-awaited day at the races on the Hastings track this month.
Racing will return to Hastings on Wednesday, July 29, after Hawke's Bay Racing was granted an additional race day for the current season, which ends on July 31.
It is one of three meetings added to the calendar for July 2020, the others being at Phar Lap Raceway in Timaru on July 19 and Avondale on Wednesday, July 22.
Hawke's Bay Racing chief executive Darin Balcombe has welcomed the new date, saying the club had been lobbying for an extra race day since it became apparent there were a huge number of horses ready to race but an obvious lack of race day opportunities.
There were more than 220 nominations for a 12 race programme at Wanganui yesterday and there were also huge nominations for today's two gallops meetings, at Ellerslie and Riccarton Park.
Balcombe said the new race day will comprise of solely flat races but will be slightly changed from the format that has been in place for New Zealand gallops meetings since the resumption at the end of June.
Whereas every race programmed then was an Open event where maidens had to compete with race winners, the criteria has now changed with maidens and 2-year-olds having their own specific races.
"There will be a 2-year-old race over 800 metres and maidens at 1400, 1650 and 2100," Balcombe said.
"The others will be Rating 65 Benchmark races run over 1300, 1650 and 2100 metres."
All races will be run for a stake of $15,000 and there will be no nomination or acceptance fees charged to owners.
The running rail at the Hastings track will be moved out seven metres from the true position, which will restrict the number of runners from some of the starting points.
The last meeting run on the Hastings track was the Lowland Stakes meeting on February 26. Since then five meetings were scheduled but didn't eventuate due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The three-day Bostock New Zealand Hawke's Bay spring carnival has been confirmed for the new season but will be staged later than in previous years.
The first day will now be on September 19 with the second day on October 3 and the final day on October 17.
Poverty Bay joins forces with HB Racing
The Poverty Bay Turf Club has finalised an agreement with Hawke's Bay Racing that will hopefully sustain the club's racing future.
The club, which dates back to 1870, is financially buoyant but has been reduced to just one race day a year in recent times and has not been granted a licence for the coming season as part of the cutbacks made by the Racing Industry Transition Agency, otherwise known as the TAB.
President Rod Young said this week the Poverty Bay club wants to continue but has to face the reality of no longer being able to race on its home track in Gisborne.
So it is prepared to invest money into Hawke's Bay Racing with the hopes that it may be viable to stage its own race day on the Hastings track in the future.
In the interim the Poverty Bay Gold Cup will now be run at Hastings on the same day that Hawke's Bay racing stages one of its iconic races, the Listed Hawke's Bay Cup, on April 17 next year.
The Poverty Bay Gold Cup will be run as a Rating 72 race that day over 2500m and, although prizemoney has yet to be confirmed, the club would look at increasing the stake above the minimum levels.
Young said it costs the Poverty Bay Turf Club around $100,000 to run its annual meeting at Gisborne, which was held in February this year and drew a crowd of around 3000.
"We might as well give that money to Hawke's Bay Racing, who is our neighbour, and help promote racing in the area generally," he said.
The Poverty Bay club is very financially sound, with Young saying it has about $1.8 million invested. But its race meetings have suffered in recent years because Gisborne is out on a limb and many kilometres away from the general horse population.
It's February date has served as a lead up to the two-day Wairoa meeting in recent years but less than 80 horses were entered for this year's meeting and more than 30 per cent of them were from one stable, Team Rogerson from Hamilton.
The club has paid out travel subsidies to try to get horses to their meetings but now realise that things are on a downward spiral and it is better to look at other options.
That decision was made easier when the Wairoa Racing Club was also denied a racing licence for the next season, meaning it's two-day meeting in February will not be able to be staged on the Wairoa track.
Rod Young said Poverty Bay was offered a couple of present Hastings race dates to stage a stand-alone meeting there but have decided to concentrate on running their feature race on one of Hawke's Bay Racing's major race days for the coming season at least.
"At this stage we might as well support a bigger race day at Hastings than run an industry day that might not get that well supported," Young said.
"Some of our members were frightened of losing our identity but, on the other hand, it will prove a huge saving for the club."
The Poverty Bay club leases the land that the racecourse is on at Makaraka and Young says that, once that lease expires, there will be more huge savings for the club.
"We won't have to pay a lease of $40,000 a year and we won't have to pay insurance of $12,000 and about $25,000 to get the racecourse up to scratch for the one race meeting a year," Young added.
He said a local Gisborne social club was likely to put on a bus for up to 40 people to head to Hastings for the race day in April and, if another Hawke's Bay sporting event can be worked around that date, a number of other Gisborne people could also be keen to travel down for the weekend.
Winter Cup is back on
The time-honoured Group 3 Winter Cup has been reinstated into the calendar for the new season and will be run at Riccarton Park on August 15.
The Grand National Festival of Racing in August was a casualty of the Covid-19 crisis and when that decision was made there was little likelihood the Winter Cup would be run this winter.
Race meetings in the June and July resumption phase had to be scheduled at courses wired with fibre optic cable and with Riccarton Park being one of only two in the South Island that necessitated two of the three days of the Grand National Festival coming forward.
However, now thoroughbred racing is up and running as from late June there is no reason not to run the Winter Cup.
The race will be run over its traditional 1600m distance with the stake to be confirmed when the NZTR funding policy is released.
Hawke's Bay celebrated success in last year's Winter Cup when Dez, trained and part-owned by Waipukurau's Simon Wilson, took out the $100,000 event.
Usually early entries are taken for the Winter Cup but that will not be the case this year and entries will close with the other races on the programme on Tuesday, August 11.
Dee has broken collarbone
Former Hastings-based jockey Michael Dee expects to be out of action for at least six weeks after breaking a collarbone in a fall at Pakenham, in Victoria, last Sunday.
The 24-year-old won the fifth race, aboard Heroic Fighter, on the synthetic track at Pakenham but was injured when his mount fell on pulling up after the race.
He was taken to Dandenong Hospital and underwent surgery on Tuesday.
"It's broken in two places and sort of facing the wrong way," Dee said before being operated on.
Dee, who started out working in the Guy Lowry and Grant Cullen stable at Hastings before a stint with Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers, left for Australia in early 2015 where he completed his apprenticeship with Caulfield trainer Mick Price.
He is a son of former New Zealand trainer Richard Dee, who is now a stock agent based in Hawke's Bay.
He has ridden 76 winners this season, the highlight being his Group 1 success on Alabama Express in the C F Orr Stakes (1400m) at Caulfield in February.