Har­ness Jewels ready to shine

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - ERIN TASKER

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.

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