By MICHAEL GUERIN
Regardless of who wins the one-day cricket international at Eden Park on Boxing Day there is already one loser - the Auckland Racing Club.
ARC bosses were shocked yesterday to learn Auckland will host a one-day fixture on the same day as its biggest race meeting.
New Zealand Cricket have replaced the test match which has in recent years started on Boxing Day in Wellington in favour of the Auckland one-dayer.
Boxing Day sport in Auckland has traditionally been dominated by Derby Day at Ellerslie, which attracts around 30,000 people, the biggest crowd of the New Zealand racing season.
"I wasn't very happy when I opened the Herald and saw the cricket on Boxing Day," said ARC chief executive Dave Lloyd yesterday.
"I think it will affect both fixtures because many Aucklanders associate Boxing Day with the races at Ellerslie.
"Our meeting is a tradition and I think we will still get enormous support but that means we are going to impact on the cricket crowd.
"So it could end up hurting both of us.
"It is an unfortunate clash for the fans too because a lot of people will want to go to both and they can't. Hey, I love cricket and would be going to the one-dayer if it was on a different day."
Lloyd expects the biggest impact on the Ellerslie crowd will be among those who patronise the inside of the track, which is open to the public only a few days a year and attracts up to 12,000 people on Derby Day.
"A lot of those people enjoy the atmosphere and the chance to have a relaxing day and a few drinks and we may lose some of those people to the cricket.
"By the same token they may lose just as many people to us so I think it will hurt us both.
"This is, after all, one of only two days of the year when we have a big enough crowd to affect a major sporting fixture."
The ARC will take a leaf out of the Auckland Trotting Club's book, whose Friday night meetings often clash with major rugby games, by catering for cricket fans with on-course television dedicated to the match with the possibility of coverage on a huge screen inside the track.
"But we have to be careful because there are a lot of other race meetings on around New Zealand that day and we have to make sure we provide coverage of those for our punters, too."
By MICHAEL GUERIN