Celebrating the Great Northern | Ten Quick Facts

Magic Wonder on her way to winning the 2020 running

1. It’s New Zealand’s richest steeplechase, run for $125,000

2. It’s run over 6,400 metres which makes it Australasia's longest horse race

3. It usually takes between eight and eight and a half minutes to complete but the 2017 running saw Wise Men Say complete in 9.31.50, the slowest in the race’s history

4. The race has been won three times by two horses. The first being Hunterville, who won the race three times in 1983, 1984 and 1985. He was joined by Hypnotize after his victories in 2007, 2008 and 2010

Hypnotize in action

5. A feature of the race was the Ellerslie Hill, over which the horses must run three times. The 2021 running of the race was to be the last time the race was run here at Ellerslie over the hill however due to alert levels in Auckland, Te Aroha Racecourse is now hosting the raceday.

6. One memorable running of the race was in 2001 when a dead heat occurred between Smart Hunter and Sir Avion. A dead heat in racing is incredibly unusual but even more so over 6,400 metres making it the first in the races’ 117 year (at that point) history.

7. 13 year old, Irish Song, is the oldest horse to win the race so far

8. First running of the race was in 1885 and it was won by a horse called Macaroni

Great Northern Steeplechase. Whites Aviation Ltd: Photographs. Ref: WA-77623-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22428163

9. Liberator was the first horse to win the Great Northern Hurdle and the Great Northern Steeplechase double and El Gallo is the only horse to be a dual double winner

10. In 1946, Great Northern Day set a new record for attendance at Ellerslie with 49,259 people on course – imagine?!


The legendary Great Northern Day was due to take place at Ellerslie on Sunday, 3 October however, due to alert levels in Auckland, it has been relocated to Te Aroha Racecourse.

  • To learn more about the relocation, click here

  • To read more of our Great Northern content, click here