If New Zealand’s only $1 million harness racing event is anywhere as frenetic as the build-up it should be worth the wait.
The Race by Grins will have its second running at Cambridge on April 14, with the prize money for the slot race rising by $100,000 after starting at $900,000 last season.
The 2200m mobile pace will contain 10 runners and four are already confirmed, one as good as done, another high-profile name has pulled out and the connections of some other stars are now waiting until after the Miracle Mile on March 4 before signing any commitment.
Old Town Road (Bettor’s Delight) was the first signing and has been joined by fast Victorian pacer Bettor Eclipse.
The long-known slot for Akuta was confirmed yesterday, with his owner Ian Dobson having his own slot, while last year’s winning combination of Self Assured and slot holder SENZ is confirmed leaving six slots to be filled.
One of those slots will go to dual New Zealand Cup winner Copy That if he recovers quickly from his bleed in the Hunter Cup on Saturday night, with his slot deal as good as done.
That would leave five more horses to be selected, which could have been four as the Aussie Lads syndicate had taken Victoria Cup winner Rock N Roll Doo but with the wheels having fallen off his campaign he is off the paddock and they are back in the market.
Plenty of slot holders have had their eye on Victorian speed machine Captain Ravishing but his connections are not keen and trainer Emma Stewart has very rarely campaigned horses in New Zealand so he is an almost certain no.
Stewart also trains Hunter Cup winner Honolua Bay, who would have interest plenty if his connections were keen to travel but there has been no indication from anybody involved with the horse they are.
Another Victorian pacer in Catch A Wave is being mentioned by slot holders while former star four-year-old Bondi Lockdown is on at least two slot holder’s wish lists but he is also being aimed at the Miracle Mile with no firm decision on The Race until after that.
To further complicate matters the only other open $1million harness slot race in Australasia is on in Perth the same night (yes, you read that right) and while the Cambridge race will be stronger the Perth race has already secured a handy NSW pacer in Spirit Of St Louis.
The connections of South Auckland pacer B D Joe have been approached but are also aiming him at the Miracle Mile so won’t make a decision until after that race while Krug is another likely to get a slot and he resumes at Addington on Friday night.
So what happens in New South Wales over the next three weeks will play a crucial role in who chase the $1million at Cambridge in April. - Michael Guerin, HRNZ