The New Zealand Herald
New track, famous face to boost Jewels
A new track and one of racing’s most famous faces are set to boost the Harness Jewels at Cambridge.
The Waikato harness track has been torn up this week, stripped back to rock on Monday before 320 tonnes of new surface was applied.
It was the first total overhaul of the track since 1996 with the new surface made up of crusher dust blended with equestrian sand.
The project was overseen by HRNZ’s track expert John Denton and is especially important at Cambridge as it is one of the busiest racetracks in terms of training numbers in New Zealand harness racing.
“We have about 130 horses being worked here every day, more in summer,” says Cambridge chief executive David Branch.
“The crews [worked] into the night on Monday and we are excited to see how the new surface plays out.
“But it all happens very quickly. We are racing next Wednesday and the one after that so it doesn’t affect our racing calendar at all.”
Cambridge are happy with early interest in bookings for the June 2 meeting and will try to engage the enormous local thoroughbred industry more.
“The Jewels falls on a Saturday this year when there is no gallops meeting in the northern region and we would love to get gallops punters and even industry members along to enjoy the racing, especially as we have one of the best viewing tracks in Australasia,” said Branch.
To even further their appeal to the sister code, Cambridge are bringing iconic former thoroughbred trainer and now media star Peter Moody over for the Jewels.
“We all saw how awesome Peter was at the Karaka yearling sales on social media and how good he is on television,” says Branch.
“So we are thrilled to have him coming to the Jewels. He will be a huge part of our social media coverage on the day and we will also make him the key interview subject at our pre-Jewels function on track here the night before the Jewels.”
A successful Jewels meeting is crucially important for Cambridge as the future host clubs of the day are not confirmed.
Both Ashburton and Cambridge are under pressure to retain their rotating hosting rights and the executive of Harness Racing New Zealand will discuss whether Addington and Alexandra Park take over later this month, although it would seem fair no final decision was made on Cambridge’s future involvement until after it hosts this season.