Gallops racing will start again in the Central Districts next Thursday when the Wanganui Jockey Club stages what is hoped to be an eight-race programme.
When the country went into lockdown on March 25 New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing said the resumption of thoroughbred racing would not be until July 3, at the earliest.
But that date was brought forward by a fortnight, and the first 11-race meeting will be run at Pukekohe today.
Two race meetings have been added to the original July schedule announced by NZTR in their Return to Racing plan.
The first is scheduled for Wanganui on Thursday, June 25 and the second is at Ellerslie on Saturday, July 11.
Strong numbers of horses at trials and jumpouts have confirmed an abundance of horses out there are race fit and raring to go.
Notwithstanding the indication of strong numbers, next Thursday's meeting will not proceed unless there are sufficient numbers for eight good-sized fields. Highweight races will be scheduled over 1600m and 2060m as well as over 800m, 1200m and 1360m. These races will be Open Entry events and will be run for a stake of $15,000.
In the northern region, the Auckland Racing Club will race at Ellerslie on Saturday, July 11 and the Counties meeting will move back four days to Wednesday, July 15.
The additional Ellerslie meeting will also have stakes of $15,000 per race and be Open Entry with the distances of 880m, 1200m, 1400m 1600m and 2200m being applicable.
The highweight races that were scheduled for Counties will now be run at the Ellerslie meeting.
The highweight races at the meetings are programmed and potentially split, so NZTR in conjunction with the club, will decide what races to allocate as the highweight. This will be done after nominations close.
Several Hastings trainers have indicated they are keen to line up horses at Wanganui next Thursday, including Lee Somervell who has impressive last start winner Thousandkissesdeep ready to resume.
The Sepoy 3-year-old filly scored by 1-1/2 lengths when taking out a 1000m maiden race at Tauherenikau on March 22, three days before the country went into lockdown amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Somervell gave the filly, along with the other members of his stable, a good spell during the lockdown and is pleased with the way she has progressed since returning to work. She showed she is ready for a big fresh up performance by winning a 780m jumpout at Hastings on May 27 and turned in a strong solo 1000m gallop at the Hastings track last Tuesday.
Another Hastings-trained horse who looks primed for a big fresh up run at next week's Wanganui meeting is the John Bary-trained Spydapus.
The speedy Burgundy filly also showed good ability back in March, winning an 850m Foxton trial before recording a debut third behind Thousandkissesdeep over 1000m at Tauherenikau.
The 3-year-old won a 780m jumpout by seven lengths at Hastings on May 27 and will be entered for an 800m race at Wanganui.
Meanwhile Hawke's Bay Racing has announced that they will be staging another round of jumpouts on the Hastings track on Tuesday, June 30.
This will be the third set of jumpouts on the Hastings track since the country came out of lockdown, with more than 50 horses competing at each of the first two.
An additional trial meeting has been added to the northern trial programme and will be held at Rotorua on Tuesday, June 30. Entries close with the bureau at 12 noon on Monday, June 29.
Recognising the absence of racing opportunities from late March to late June due to Covid-19 restrictions, NZTR has provided a three month extension to the period of riding apprenticeships.
Hunta Pence over fences
Hastings-trained open class galloper Hunta Pence could be seen in a jumping role this year.
The No Excuse Needed 7-year-old, part-owned and trained by Patrick Campbell, has been the winner of eight races on the flat including a Foxton Cup (2040m) at Wanganui. He has also twice finished second in the Listed Wanganui Cup and was fourth in last year's Listed Hawke's Bay Cup.
Campbell has sent the horse north to Cambridge trainer Samantha Logan to educate him for a jumping career and top jumps jockey Aaron Kuru has been schooling the horse.
Hunta Pence needs to earn a jumping certificate by twice schooling in company to the satisfaction of an official before he can be entered for a hurdle race.
"We've sent him up there to get his hurdle ticket and then he can come back to Hastings," Campbell said.
Eye surgery for Te Akau Shark
Trans-Tasman Group 1 winner Te Akau Shark's return to training has been delayed due to impending surgery on a rare eye condition.
The popular galloper has been spelling in New South Wales after finishing fifth in the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth Stakes (2000m) at the end of a fruitful campaign that netted Group 1 victories in both the Waikato Sprint (1400m) and Chipping Norton Stakes (1600m)
"While spelling, we further investigated an eye irritation of Te Akau Shark's that we have managed successfully," Te Akau racing principal David Ellis said.
"Expert international equine eye surgeons, together with our Sydney veterinary team, have decided it is in Te Akau Shark's best future racing interests to undergo an optic implant surgery.
"His issue is a rare one and the procedure has been scheduled for this week."
"Obviously, this is a disappointing setback but it is necessary that we operate now to ensure a viable future racing career for this wonderful athlete.
"While the prognosis remains guarded, we are hopeful that Te Akau Shark will return to the track in due course, to again display his talent and that "wow" factor that he is so well known and loved for."
Purchased by Ellis from the NZB Ready to Run Sale for $230,000, Te Akau Shark has won seven of his 14 appearances for New Zealand's leading trainer Jamie Richards.
The son of Rip Van Winkle has won more than $1.5 million in prize money and the dual Group One winner has placed at the elite level on a further three occasions, including finishing third in last year's Group 1 Cox Plate (2040m).