Raceform column

Bernard Saundry
19 February 2021

How quickly things can change! On Saturday we were at Te Rapa enjoying fabulous, competitive racing on Legends day, and the following day we learned Auckland was to go into level 3 lockdown, with the rest of the country moved into level 2.

At the time of writing* we are still awaiting the government’s decision regarding what will happen after the initial three-day period, however NZTR thanks industry participants for seamlessly adapting to the changes required.   We know it is frustrating for owners, sponsors, and members when they are unable to attend meetings and we appreciate the fact that they accept that closed door meetings are necessary when we are impacted by COVID alert levels.  We also must acknowledge our trainers, jockeys, strappers, and racing club staff who quickly refamiliarized themselves with the NZTR Covid protocols.  Without your compliance our industry would be unable to continue to function during these times and it is appreciated greatly.

A combination of the latest Auckland lockdown and torrential rain in the Waikato also led to a change of location for Tuesday’s trials which were held at the Cambridge synthetic track. 

Among those lining horses up in the 21 heats was New Zealand’s leading trainer for wins, black type wins and prizemoney, Jamie Richards, who took a team across from his Matamata base.

“I think the Cambridge synthetic track played well.  Our team hit out to my expectations and seemed comfortable with their first experience of the surface,” he said.

“I think importantly, the track is doing exactly what it was designed to do and that is to be utilised in these types of situations.  With the Waikato’s inclement and changeable weather patterns, combined with the demands on turf tracks at this time of the year, this is a key option for trainers.  Obviously as the winter months set in, you would expect to find the track playing a major role in preparing horses.”

Jockey Sam Collett also gave the track a tick of approval. 

“I was really happy with it, with the rain on it there was not so much kickback, so that was good for horses and riders.  While there are still some horses getting used to it, which is to be expected, I think it is a real godsend and will be perfect in winter,” she said.

Work is now well underway on New Zealand’s second synthetic track at Riccarton, with construction expected to be complete by the end of the season.

* note that Bernard's column was written before the announcement that Auckland would move to COVID Alert Level 2 and the rest of the country to Level 1.

You might also like