The uncertainties of the Covid-19 crisis which delayed the start of Hawke's Bay's Spring Racing Carnival last year could pay dividends, with plans to go with a similar later start this year.
HBR chief executive Darin Balcombe confirmed it's hoped the three-day festival will open with the first-day on September 11, with a three-week gap to the second day on October 2 and the last on October 16.
Until last year the carnival had mainly opened on the last weekend of August and ended on the first weekend of October.
The festival features several of the top Spring and early-Summer events in New Zealand thoroughbred racing, but the plans need to fit with other events on the racing calendar.
The carnival includes weight-for-age Hawke's Bay Triple Crown races the 1400-metres Tarzino Handicap (the historical Hawke's Bay Challenge Stakes, the 1600-metres Windsor Park Plate and the 2040-metres Spring Classic (historically known as the Ormond Memorial. Each is expected to have stakes of $200,000 or more.
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Last year a crowd of over 6000 turned out to watch the Group 1-rated Spring Classic won by star mare Melody Belle, which in 2019 became the first to win all three races and is now the winner of more than $4.2 million in stakes and the New Zealand record-holder for most Group 1 wins, both in New Zealand and internationally. She's thought to have run her last race and goes up for auction in Australia late next month.
Balcombe said the crowds at all three days in the carnival last year were good, and the later start also appears to suit trainers plans for their horses, including the opening likely to stretch to a fortnight after Waikato Group 2 race the Foxbridge Plate.
The new dates mean that the Spring Classic will lead into the week of the Hawke's Bay A and P Show.
Meanwhile, the current season in Hawke's Bay starts to draw to a close with the nine-race Autumn Stakes day at the Hastings racecourse on Saturday, with the first race at 11.50am.
The Fruitfed Supplies race-day on May 26 is expected to feature a steeplechase and a hurdles, while the annual Hawkes Bay Hunt day on July 3 will feature the Hawke's Bay Steeplechase and the Hawke's Bay Hurdles.