The Wanganui Jockey Club will make history once again when it hosts the first post Covid-19 thoroughbred race meeting in the Central Districts next week.
Formed in 1848, Wanganui is the oldest club in New Zealand still racing at the same venue and has answered the call from New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) to host an earlier than scheduled meeting on Thursday, June 25.
Originally Whanganui was one of six venues named to host post lockdown meetings in July and still retains its July 10 date. With the arrival of alert level 1, NZTR announced earlier than scheduled meetings with the Counties Racing Club the first cab off the rank on Saturday, June 20 at Pukekohe, followed by Whanganui on Thursday.
Strong numbers of horses at jumpouts and trials in the region, including 106 participants at the Waverley Point to Point (jumping trials) last Thursday suggest there is plenty of interest.
Notwithstanding the indication of strong numbers, the Whanganui meeting will not proceed unless there are sufficient numbers for eight good-sized fields. Highweight races will be scheduled over distances of 1600m and 2060m as well as races over 800m, 1200m and 1360m. These races will be Open Entry races and will be run for a stake of $15,000.
Wanganui Jockey Club operations manager Bret Field said he and his team were delighted to be included in the earlier scheduling and excited to host an earlier return to racing.
"We will now be the first club to resume racing in the Central Districts and based on recent numbers in training and at trials and jumpouts around the region there was now a need to get back to business as usual as soon as possible.
"This meeting will also be good preparation for jumpers and highweight riders to get some raceday fitness before the start of the jumps season in July."
The club has also been well backed by NZTR with other meetings scheduled for July 10 marking the return of jumps racing and July 24 in Phase 1 of the racing resumption.
"Three meetings in five weeks will be challenging as we head further into winter conditions, but the club is positive about supporting the industry and both its jumping and flat racing stakeholders. Our track is well-known for being a good all year round surface and everyone is excited about getting back to some normality as a lot of horses have been in work since Level 3."