NEWS | New winter racing initiative

Collaboration between Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, Waikato Racing Club and Whangarei Racing Club has seen the creation of a new racing initiative - the Winter Championships.

The picturesque Ruakaka Racecourse will hold the finals of the newly-created Winter Championships

We've pulled together everything you need to know about the series below...


What are we talking about?

The 2022 ITM/GIB Northern Region Winter Championships is an innovative new concept to raise interest in winter flat racing for owners and racing fans alike.

The Championships kick off with qualifying races in the northern region, culminating at Ruakaka on Saturday 16 July where five Championship finals will be played out. Those finals are:

  1. ITM/GIB Stayers’ Final | Open | 2100m

  2. ITM/GIB Sprinters’ Final | Open | 1400m

  3. ITM/GIB Progressive (1win) Final | 1600m*

  4. ITM/GIB 3yo Final | SWP | 1600m

  5. ITM/GIB 2yo Final | SWP | 1200m

* Max weight 60kg / Minimum weight 54kg | Special Conditions for horses that have won not more than one flat race as at 9am, Monday 2 May 2022.

Entry to each Championship final will be subject to qualification in heats across venues that include Te Rapa, Avondale, Pukekohe, Matamata, Ruakaka, Cambridge and Tauranga with great opportunities for all classes of horses.

Where did the idea come from?

Auckland Thoroughbred Racing’s executive general manager of racing and operations - Craig Baker - has led the development of the concept.

He says “the Winter Championships are something that I have been wanting to do for a few years now and are based on the successful Winter Championships that have been running in Victoria for many years.”

Kiwi-bred Mongolian Marshal, ridden by Brett Prebble, won one of the 2021 Winter Championship finals at Flemington. Image: Racing Photos

The goal was to create a flat racing highlight in the middle of winter and as a result of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) Innovation Fund, the stake money was able to be sourced to see it come to life.

Baker goes on to say that “given the level of prize money on offer, we expect there to be strong participation. The five Championship finals will make for a very competitive race meeting at Ruakaka that will encourage punter interest and create some additional hype and interest in winter flat racing in the northern region.”

How did the concept come to fruition?

As mentioned above, the concept has been able to be brought to life in New Zealand due to being able to gain access to NZTR’s Innovation Fund which has provided the necessary monies.

Mike Beazley, chair of Whangarei Racing Club says that “NZTR is to be congratulated on the creation of the Innovation Fund that allows various racing initiatives across New Zealand to be developed from the ground-up by clubs. The clubs are, in many cases, made up of owners and breeders who are passionate about racing and understand their regional needs.”

The $500,000 Innovation Fund was announced when NZTR’s stake increases were flagged in early July 2021 and clubs were invited to apply to the fund to further improve their race meeting performance.

The ITM/GIB Northern Region Winter Championships were developed by Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, Waikato Racing Club and Whangarei Racing Club with the Championships Finals’ race meeting rotated annually between them in the order of: Whangarei Racing Club; Waikato Racing Club; Auckland Thoroughbred Racing.

What sort of money are we talking?

The Winter Championships will see $300,000 of stakes distributed among the five Championship Finals with each worth $60,000.

When are the key dates?

Nominations have just closed with an impressive 520 (more here).

The first qualifying races take place on Saturday 21 May at Te Rapa with a number of races scheduled over May, June and July (at Te Rapa, Avondale, Pukekohe, Matamata, Cambridge, Rotorua and Ruakaka) with the finals taking place on Saturday 16 July at Ruakaka.

Crystallize has been nominated for the Championships. Photo Credit: Trish Dunell

Keep an eye on the Ellerslie Twitter feed for announcements on those horses that are on their way to qualifying over the next few months and a weekly update will be posted here so you can keep up with those heading to the finals.