New Zealand’s first squaregaiting slot race is confirmed and already has its first position filled.
The TAB Slot Trot will be run at expected alongside the Race by Grins at Cambridge on April 12 next year for a stake of $575,000, making it the richest trot race ever held in Australasia.
It will have eight slots, most of them purchased by the connections of leading trotters so it will have an old-fashioned sweepstakes race feel to it.
The eight slots have been taken by: TAB NZ, Aldebaran Park, All Stars Racing/ Chris Ryder, Cullen Breeding, Haras des Trotteurs, Hidden Honey, Strike Won Racing and the Taylor St Racing Club Syndicate.
Many of those are easy to link to current open class stars, with Oscar Bonavena, Muscle Mountain and Bolt For Brilliance all having their connections involved with Aldebaran Park and would have the option to send Aldebaran Zeus back to the race a year after he won the open class trot there.
And the first slot holder not linked to a horse didn’t take long to show their hand with TAB NZ securing wonderful mare Queen Elida to fill their place - most likely from barrier one - in the 2200m mobile.
She is proudly Kiwi-owned by Canterbury trainer Tony Barron, part-breeder Gordon McKenzie and their families. And she is trained by ex-pat Kiwi horseman Brent Lilley in Victoria.
Cameron Rodger, the Managing Director – New Zealand for Entain, the operators of TAB – said Queen Elida is a perfect result for a new race on the New Zealand calendar with her deep Kiwi roots.
“She is from one of New Zealand’s great trotting families, and the owners – the Barrons and the McKenzies – hail from one of New Zealand harness racing’s great nurseries in Southland,” Rodger said.
“For this first edition of the TAB Trot Slot, we really wanted to give the race a trans-Tasman flavour and Queen Elida has given us the best of both worlds, as a true-blue equine dual citizen.”
Part-owner Tony Barron said Queen Elida’s connections jumped at the opportunity to partner up with Entain and TAB for the Slot Trot.
“We were looking at buying a slot ourselves, but when the TAB approached us, it seemed a great fit,” he said.
So many of the big names wanted for the race are as good as taken and the big question will be whether the connections of Just Believe want to return to Sweden or come across the Tasman for a race they could even start favourite in.
If he comes, the race will have at least six Group 1 winners and the six best trotters in Australasia with two slots left to fill.
With the $1million Race by Grins set to have a field with all the elite New Zealand pacers and at least one or two of Australia’s best, the night will not only be the richest in New Zealand harness racing history but has the potential to be one of the strongest open class meetings here in this century.
Cambridge Raceway CEO Dave Branch said it was great to have some of the key players in trotting involved from around Australasia.
“For us the goal was to get the race off the ground in year one, so that like the Race by Grins, we have something to grow in future years,” he said.
“This race wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Entain NZ and Australia, and the slot holders who have backed this concept from the start.
“We’re excited to see the negotiations begin now as to who can secure which horses, that will be a huge part of the build-up. There’s already a lot of discussion underway and we think it could be one of the best trotting fields we’ve seen in New Zealand.”
While there was opportunity for 10 slot holders, the race will go ahead with just the eight runners in the first year.