Harness Jewels ready to shine
It’s the richest race day in Australasia, and the Ashburton Trotting Club’s planning on putting on the best Harness Jewels yet at Queen’s Birthday Weekend to ensure the event returns in 2019.
Currently alternating between Ashburton one year and Cambridge the next, the Harness Jewels is up for review after its 2017 running, and Ashburton Trotting Club president Craig Harrison and his team are well aware there are other centres that would love to take the event from them. But they’re not going to let it go without a fight.
‘‘It is under review after this year, and everyone is hoping that if it does continue, then it will remain in Ashburton. But as you can imagine other big centres are after a big meeting like this and are prepared to take it off us.
‘‘It’s the richest race day in Australasia for harness, with $1.5 million up for grabs for the day over nine races, and the best horses in the country in terms of their age group,’’ Harrison said.
The top earners over the last 12 months qualify for the Harness Jewels, and they will race in two, three and four year-old races, all over one mile. At least three horses are coming from Australia for the event.
It’s the 10th time the Harness Jewels has been held, and the sixth time Ashburton has played host. Ashburton and Cambridge have alternated hosting the event, which traditionally draws a crowd of around 7000 people. This year the main marquee has already sold out, and while there’s some room left in the parade ring marquee, other hospitality packages have virtually sold out.
‘‘The town has been sold out of accommodation for probably three months now; it’s very good for the town. It’s a big weekend, and quite a few Australians come, and quite a few from the North Island and the deep south.
‘‘It’s a big event for harness racing and we are lucky enough to have it in little old Mid Canterbury.’’
A study undertaken by then Enterprise Ashburton after a past Harness Jewels event in Ashburton found it brought around $4 million to the district, Harrison said.
A big weekend for the Ashburton Trotting Club is made even bigger by the fact it’s actually a double-header. They’ll host the Harness Jewels on the Saturday of Queen’s Birthday Weekend, and a normal race day on the Sunday.
Racing manager Fiona Stewart and Ashburton Trotting Club president Craig Harrison are ready for the Harness Jewels.