Invercargill to host its first ever $100k Group 1 harness horse race

The Invercargill Racing Club will host its first-ever Group 1 race at Ascot Park Raceway on December 17. [File photo].

Nicole Johnstone

The Invercargill Racing Club will host its first-ever Group 1 race at Ascot Park Raceway on December 17. [File photo].

The Invercargill Harness Racing Club will host its first-ever Group 1 race on December 17, although not everyone is thrilled with the conditions put in place for the historic $100,000 race.

Southern Harness Racing general manager Jason Broad has confirmed the annual Invercargill Cup this year will have a $100,000 stake attached to it, as well as Group 1 status.

The Group 3 David Moss Trot $30,000 race will follow the Invercargill Cup.

Broad said it would make for a massive day of racing which will attract some of the best fields ever seen in Southland harness racing.

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“It’s good for the region and good for the club. It’s a real winner for the area.”

One of Southland’s leading harness trainers Kirstin Green said it was exciting to have a Group 1 race in Invercargill but was gutted that the Invercargill Cup would be a free-for-all event rather than a handicap race.

The race was initially set down for a 30m handicap limit, which Green said provided some mid-grade horses a genuine chance in the Invercargill Cup.

It would lead to a larger field of horses and increased betting interest, Green said.

However, the race has now been changed to free-for-all conditions without any handicaps.

Green had been toying with starting her horse Tommy Waterhouse in the Invercargill Cup but would now give the horse a spell instead, given it was a handicap race.

It was simply too tough competing against some of those stars without that handicap, she said.

Macandrew Aviator was another of Green’s horses that was a prospect for the Invercargill Cup.

“It was a race I was really looking forward to, and really looking forward to taking part in. [But] now I’m just bitterly disappointed that [Harness Racing New Zealand] is making these demands when the club has done the right thing to increase the field size, just so disappointed.”

“When you look at the Methven Cup – it was only a Group 3 – but it was one of the best races leading into the New Zealand Cup. It was a handicap race, and it was one of the best viewing races of the day.”

Green was worried the Invercargill Cup might end up with as few as five horses because it was a free-for-all race.

“Kudos to Southern Harness they are trying to program the best race they can for the day under the best conditions,” Green said.

Southern Harness Racing was working with Harness New Zealand to try to get the race conditions changed.

“Big ups to Jason Broad and Southern Harness for trying their best.”

Broad confirmed the preference would be for a handicap race and hoped there might be some movement on that from HRNZ.

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