Harness racing is getting its own version of thoroughbred racing's mega meeting, the Karaka Million.
That will see the strongest standardbred yearling sale held every year in Australasia, the boutique Karaka sale, get something like the pre-sale hype and buzz its galloping counterpart has experienced since 2008.
The Harness Million meeting will see six races staged at Alexandra Park on Saturday, February 12, the day before the yearling sales at Karaka.
The meeting will host all three Harness Million races for 3-year-olds (male pace, female pace and trot), the Group 1 Taylor Mile, the Lyell Creek for open class trotters and a 2-year-old Young Guns heat to give buyers an early-season sighter into what the juvenile crop stallions are doing.
The meeting will not only provide the ideal way to promote the sales the next day before sales week continues in Christchurch but bring the 3-year-old Harness Million races on to the same programme, rather than being spaced throughout the season, where they risk being lost among a sea of other races.
"This is a great opportunity to build something new and we are tremendously excited," said New Zealand Bloodstock Standardbred boss James Jennings.
"We all know how successful the Karaka Million meeting has become for thoroughbred racing and this will give harness racing that same focus to showcase our brilliant young horses before the sales.
"So we are thrilled to be part of this, and for all the assistance from Harness Racing New Zealand and the Auckland Trotting Club." The meeting will be on a Saturday night for its inaugural running because Cambridge already have the date to run the northern harness meeting the night before but it is envisaged the Harness Million night will move to a regular Friday night from 2023.
Unlike its thoroughbred counterpart, the meeting won't also host the richest 2-year-old race of the season as harness racing has changed its season, so horses won't change age until January 1 every year.
HRNZ is in the process of consulting owners and trainers about a new racing calendar which will see plenty of other huge changes coming in from next year.
The Cup meeting at Addington will stay almost as is but many other major races will move if the new calendar is approved, with most of the major 2-year-old races being pushed to later in the year.
That is one reason the 2-year-old Harness Million races can't be held on the new Harness Million night because the horses would have only been racing for a few weeks.
The biggest move anticipated in the new calendar could be the move of the Auckland Cup to May but those moves will not be finalised for at least a few weeks.
None of that should affect the quality of the new mega meeting which could attract the likes of Akuta and Krug as its draw cards.
What: New harness meeting, with
six glamour races.
When: February 12, 2022.
Where: Alexandra Park, Auckland.
Why: To showcase New Zealand harness talent the night before
yearling sales commence at Karaka.