The Kāpiti Coast Harness Racing Club is fighting hard to stay alive and keep its summer meetings at Ōtaki.

The traditional two-day summer carnival at Ōtaki was slashed to just one raceday this year, as Harness Racing New Zealand looks to shift the meeting north to Manawatū Raceway.

But buoyed by a good crowd and a turnover to match at the weekend, the Kāpiti Coast Harness Racing Club was to lobby hard to keep their meeting and had made an interim submission with Harness Racing New Zealand.

Chris Craddock said it was written in the constitution of the Kāpiti Coast Harness Racing Club that it exists to have and promote harness racing in Kāpiti.

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Craddock said despite a windy day, they had their biggest crowd and turnover in the last decade on Sunday, and sold out of racebooks.

"It was a big crowd. There were a group celebrating a 21st birthday and there was the biggest group in the sponsorship tents that we have had in many years," he said.

Craddock said trainers, too, preferred to have both days of the two-day meeting on grass at Ōtaki.

Local trainers like Wendy Davenport and Murray Gibbs had horses entered, but many came from outside the area to make up the 91 horses that raced.

Craddock said it gave local punters who might not normally travel a chance to witness harness racing in the flesh, too.

Trackside cameraman Aaron Rangi had the best view in the house at the Kapiti Coast Harness Racing Club meeting at Otaki on Sunday.
Trackside cameraman Aaron Rangi had the best view in the house at the Kapiti Coast Harness Racing Club meeting at Otaki on Sunday.

The major problem was the expense of racing at Ōtaki, through, with TAB charging the club an extra $14,000 to race there compared with Manawatū, due to cabling work required the day before raceday.

He said Harness Racing New Zealand, through the Racing integrity Transition Board, were trying to have the meetings moved to Manawatū, and had succeeded in having the Friday afternoon meeting held there this year.

But Craddock said his club would fight hard to have both days reinstated at Ōtaki and it had made a submission to HRNZ.

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The submission also included an application for a further race meeting - a dual-code meeting with the thoroughbred code in early January - and he said the idea had the support of the Ōtaki-Māori Racing Club.

A dual-code meeting held at Tauherenikau in early January sometimes attracted 10,000 people. As the Ōtaki-Māori club had a gallop meeting two days later, it made sense to join forces with the Kāpiti Trotting Club and introduce a dual code meeting there for the first time.

Craddock said the proposal would sit well with trainers looking to back their horses up, and had the potential to draw a huge crowd.

Meanwhile, an historic cup that was lost for years was presented again the meeting.

Trainer Michael House and Kapiti Coast Harness Racing president Chris Craddock (left) with the Wellington Trotting Cup presented to connections of the winning horse Boyz Invasion.
Trainer Michael House and Kapiti Coast Harness Racing president Chris Craddock (left) with the Wellington Trotting Cup presented to connections of the winning horse Boyz Invasion.

The Grant Plumbing Wellington Trotting Club Handicap was won by Boyz Invasion for visiting trainer Michael House.

The race stopped when the Wellington Harness Racing Club went into recess when Hutt Park closed in 2002. The last horse to win the Wellington Trotting Cup there was Agios Nikolaos.

But years later those winning connections Geoff Dunn and Bob and Jen Sandford decided the cup should still be contested, even if it was held at a different venue, and sent the cup back in fine condition.

Although it had disbanded, former members of the Wellington Harness Racing Club committee decided it should continue and the idea to race for the cup at Ōtaki was born.