The Ruakākā winter thoroughbred racing season commences tomorrow with its traditional mid-week meeting featuring Northland's Lion Red Pubs and Clubs punters' challenge.
The competition brings teams together from as far north as the Tuatua Tavern to compete against each other. The winning team is that team which through skill, or good luck, manages to generate the highest winnings over six races of betting on the Ruakākā meeting.
Currently, bragging rights, merchandise and the prized trophy sit with the Homestead Sports Bar and Tavern in Kerikeri, who have loaded the buses with a number of teams for tomorrow's competition.
The recent industry review of venues and strategic planning for the future by the national NZ Thoroughbred Racing authority has confirmed the long-term position of the Ruakākā racecourse as a training and racing centre.
With that turmoil settled, the club can now begin to document its vision for the future given the rapid expansion of the Marsden Port and the growth impacts on the immediate surrounding areas of Marsden Cove, One Tree Point, Port Marsden Industrial Park and Ruakākā.
There still remains doubt over the future of racing at the Dargaville racecourse at Awakino Point with the Dargaville Club and community expressing their view that they did not desire to conduct a meeting at Ruakākā, which is the direction from the national authority.
Tomorrow's meeting has attracted strong nominations across all age-groups and for a rare occasion the two-year-old race will have two divisions as it attracted the most acceptors to race. Included amongst the field are a number of very promising trial performers from the leading stables.
In the Lion Red division, Quiz Kid is trained by Shaun and Craig Phelan who made the decision to bring a number of horses such as Big Mike up on Sunday to have a gallop before their two-year-old starts tomorrow.
Quiz Kid was placed at the recent premier meeting in the Waikato and may have the advantage by arriving early and settling into the surroundings. An example of the quality of the field is that there are five trial winners debuting in the race.
The second division of the two-year-old race is named Sunline-Vale Trevor McKee in respect of the recent passing of the club's honorary life member Trevor McKee. Trevor was great stalwart of the club, bringing many horses to race at the course over many years, and of course trainer of the champion mare Sunline.
Once again, there are ample trial winners engaged but the local gelding by Shocking, Zelenski, that is in the Rae racing stables looks to have been put aside for a first up tilt at the course after a second placing in a trial back on February 26. Owned by Lars Pearson who now resides in Singapore, the gelding will no doubt do its future racing there.
With the long dry summer, the rain on Sunday was most welcome and the track should be able to prove once again it is NZ's best bet in winter.