New Zealand’s Equine Heritage
The country boasts of some spectacular racing courses of the world
Colonisation introduced horse racing to New Zealand in 1840. By the 1860s, racing was a serious business and clubs were coming up all over the country. Today there are over 52 race courses in the country and nearly 68 racing and jockey clubs, registered under the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Association. The sport contributes approximately NZ $1.4 billion in revenue per year, and employs roughly 18,300 people. The country boasts of some spectacular racing courses of the world:
· Ellerslie Racecourse is one of the premier racetracks and is host to some of the most high-profile racing events like the Auckland Summer Carnival, Auckland Cup Carnival, Karaka Million, and New Zealand Derby. Extravagant dressing has become synonymous with race-days. Ellerslie Racecourse also organises fashion competitions.
· Trentham is one of the best racecourses of the country and is the main on the lower North Island track of Wellington area which hosts some of the country’s biggest races, including the Wellington Cup, the New Zealand Oaks, the Telegraph Handicap and the Thorndon Mile. The club boasts of the famous “Champagne Turf”. The racecourse is home to the Wellington RC, which is the major club in the Wellington region. The club too observes a strict dress code.
· Riccarton Park Racecourse is located in Christchurch; Riccarton is the central track in South Island. It came into being in 1885 and holds 22 race days each season. The racecourse offers first class training and stabling facilities, and hosts the New Zealand 1000 Guineas and the New Zealand 2000 Guineas apart from the New Zealand Cup Carnival in November. Riccarton Park Christmas with thoroughbred racing in the afternoon is the centre of year-end festivities. The picturesque Riccarton Park is home to the famous Canterbury Jockey Club. The club offers five kinds of memberships and unparalleled hospitality.
· Ascot Park Racecourse in Invercargill is home to Southland Racing Club and
hosts five races a year, including the prestigious $45,000 Invercargill Gold
Cup. Wairio Jockey Club also hosts their annual meeting here. Located near
tourist spots known for their scenic beauty, this racecourse is a popular
· Matamata Racecourse is one of the best and grandest punting tracks in Waikato. Located in the heart of Waikato where some of New Zealand’s best trainers operate from, Matamata is ideally located for trainers from both Waikato and Auckland. It is popular for midweek meetings. The club trains up to 700 horses a month. Apart from its own racing schedule, it also hosts South Waikato Racing Club’s popular autumn race meetings.
· Awapuni Racecourse is home to the Feilding Jockey Club, Rangitikei Racing Club, Marton Jockey Club and Manawatu RC, which conducted its first race on the tracks in 1903. The Manawatu RC is one of the oldest clubs and was formed in 1880. It has excellent training facilities. Its ideal location in the central lower North Island makes it a favourite choice.
Otaki Racecourse is home to the historic Otaki Maori Racing Club, established in 1886; it is the only ingenious Maori horse racing club in New Zealand. The track is used daily by up to 140 horses in training and the club has some of the best trainers in the country. The Levin Racing Club, which organises races three times a year, July, November and December, are hosted at Otaki Racecourse for their two festive events. New Zealand is not only known for its scenic beauty and rich culture, but also its history of thoroughbred racing that is becoming synonymous with the country.