The first Jewels held at Addington has overcome the worst weather in the meeting’s history to boast near record turnover, numbers that have left bedraggled harness racing administrators beaming.
Saturday’s nine Group 1s meeting looked in danger of being postponed just hours before the first race as Canterbury was lashed by extreme weather and a giant puddle formed inside the track threatening to encroach on the racing surface at the 1000m mark.
But with the drains working overtime and the recently re-surfaced track overseen by John Denton, the meeting not only went ahead but provided fair racing.
And while the weather impacted the walk-up crowd, the betting figures have been surprisingly positive considering the conditions and the large number of odds-on favourites, which can often by off-putting for punters from the two other codes.
The combined on and off-course domestic turnover was $2,547,222, of which $974,816 was fixed odds.
That is already the third highest amount ever invested domestically on a Harness Jewels meeting and with the Australian turnover expected to come in at around $750,000 the meeting should have Australasia-wide turnover close to $3.5 million, without counting money bet with corporate bookmakers.
That will mean the meeting has the second highest Australasian turnover in the Jewels’ 13-year history with the only higher one coming when the Queensland Oaks meeting at Eagle Farm and several other Australian fixtures were abandoned in 2016, creating record figures for the Cambridge-run Jewels that season.
“We couldn’t be happier,” says HRNZ’s Darrin Williams.
“Sure the weather was brutal but the betting figures make up for that. I really feel for Addington because they put their heart and soul into the day and did a super job and the weather was against them.
“But they already had a good crowd and the only under-utilised area they had was the marquee on top of the stables, which would have been great but for the weather, which nobody could control.
“So the results are very pleasing, especially the way the track responded. That is a real credit to John Denton and his staff.”
Had Saturday’s meeting been held at Ashburton, which did a great job with their first six runnings of the Jewels, the weather would have had a far more dire impact.
Next year’s Jewels return to Cambridge in the annual inter-island rotation with the Waikato track to host a two-day meeting, racing the Friday night before the Jewels on the Saturday.