In an unexpected bonus for Hawke's Bay racegoers the Wellington Racing Club Premier race meeting will be held at the Hawke's Bay Racing Centre this Saturday.
It was originally intended to be run at its usual home in Wellington as Trentham's reopening after a winter of closure for track improvements. But, following a heavy downpour recently, it was decided that the track would not be ready to handle the event and the safe option would be to transfer the meeting to Awapuni.
However, the rain experienced in the lower North Island over the weekend, having already put paid to Woodville's Labour Day meeting due to surface water, ruled out all possibility of the meeting being run in Palmerston North.
So, after a roundabout route, the Group 1 meeting has found its way to Hastings, a track not only nationally renowned, but known throughout Australasia as one of the finest racing surfaces available at this time of year.
After a busy three months in which three Group 1 race meetings have been run, including the $1 million Kelt Capital Stakes which attracted record crowds, the Hastings racing surface is in remarkably good order after the recent rain. The penetrometer reading is 3.0 as opposed to Awapuni's 6.2, and the weather forecast is looking good this weekend for the East Coast.
The raceday is one of the biggest on the New Zealand racing calendar and is sure to attract many of the country's very best thoroughbreds.
Hawke's Bay Racing's general manager, John McGifford, said that while it was unfortunate the Wellington Racing Club has had to shift their raceday so far away from their region, it was a real bonus for Hawke's Bay.
"With so many people enjoying the Kelt Capital Stakes $1 million Stakes Premier Raceday on October 7 this year, we are delighted to be able to provide another opportunity to take in another day of racing at it's very best," Mr McGifford said.
Ten races will be run for total stakes of $485,000. These include the Group 1 Captain Cook Stakes for $150,000, the Group 2 Wellington Thoroughbred Breeders Guineas for $100,000, and the first stakes race of the season for two-year-olds, the Wellesley Stakes, for a prize of $50,000.
The difference in track configurations requires some changes in distance, with the Guineas being increased from 1500m to 1600m and two Rating 76 events have been decreased from 2400m to 2200m.
The first race is scheduled for 12.40pm and there will be no admission charge.
Nominations were extended until 9.30am today.