Amateur Rider Races in New Zealand

Jumps Racing

Whilst by far the majority of races run in New Zealand are restricted to professional jockeys, the last few years have witnessed huge resurgence in the popularity of amateur rider events.

During the winter months, the paid hoops are asked to share their locker space in the jockey’s room with a brave clan of riders who are out on the track, simply racing for the thrill of it.

The registered amateur rider ranks have soared from around 25 jockeys five years ago to close to sixty names in the 2015 season. This elevation in interest has come about in part to the increase in opportunities these riders are now being provided with.

The last few seasons has seen the creation of National Amateur Rider Series, which contains around a dozen races up and down the country, scheduled between May and the end of September.

These races are generally run midweek at low key jumping race days however there are now a handful of opportunities for the amateur riders to line up in the starting gates in front of sizable crowds on some of the biggest race days of the year.  These occasions only serve to act as a lure to join in the fun, get involved and give it a go.

The latest addition to high profile days with an amateur rider race scheduled is the middle day of Grand National week at Riccarton Park in Christchurch. Last year, this race attracted a capacity field of 16 horses and was run as one of the most celebrated races in New Zealand, the Duke of Gloucester Cup. It provided a fairy tale moment for South Island-based amateur, Kezia Murphy as she won on the Cheri Trembath trained, Putt For Cash.

Other big days for the amateurs include the chance to ride at Ellerslie on Pakuranga Hunt Cup Day.

The National Amateur Rider Series has been sponsored by FLAIR, a group that promotes the interest of women in horse racing for several years now. It is an eagerly contested points based series that has its final leg on National Jumps Day at Te Rapa at the end of September. 

Of course being crowned leading amateur rider is a big deal but if there is one trophy that the riders wish to hold aloft more than others, it is the Duke of Gloucester Cup.

Make sure you enjoy the colour of an amateur rider race at a racecourse near you this season.

Duke Of Gloucester Cup History

One of the most memorable racedays in the Marton Jockey Club’s proud history took place in 1935 when Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, who was the son of the reigning monarch King George V attended the Club’s New Year’s day racemeeting at Marton.

It was reported that over 10,000 patrons attended the Marton races that day and when the military band struck up Land of Hope and Glory and the National anthem everyone oncourse burst into song. Not only did his Royal Highness Prince Henry attend the races that day, at the invitation of his host Sir Thomas Duncan, arrangements were made for the Duke to ride a horse called Black Man in the one mile and 137 yard Ladies’ Bracelet race for amateur riders which carried a stake of 50 pounds plus a trophy. Black Man and the Duke of Gloucester led clearly in the early stages, but the favourite began to wilt as the field turned for home under his big weight of 13 stone 2 pounds and they faded to finish fourth.

Later that day the Duke presented the Marton Cup trophy won by the very good mare Cuddle to her Hasting owner-trainer C J Stowe. After her win in the 1935 Marton Cup, Cuddle went on to be one of New Zealand’s very best staying mares, winning two Auckland Cups, the New Zealand Cup and Doncaster Handicap in Australia. Wellington Racing Club’s Cuddle Stakes is still run in recognition of her prowess.

The Duke was obviously impressed with the hospitality he received from the Marton Jockey Club and later presented a trophy to be known as the Duke of Gloucester Cup, for competition amongst amateur riders. The Duke of Gloucester Trophy is still competed for annually in New Zealand, and changes venue each year.

2019 Amateur Rider Races:








MDN 2040m



Hawke's Bay

MDN 2100m




MDN 2200m




R65 2200m



Te Aroha

R65 2200m




R72 2200 Duke of Gloucester Cup




R65 & JMP 1600m



Te Aroha

MDN 2200m




R65 2100m




R65 1800m


The National Amateur Rider Series is proudly sponsored by: