Kick off 2024 in style with New Year’s Day racing at Pukekohe

Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
27 December 2023

Another fantastic year of racing is upon us, and the Auckland Thoroughbred Racing team are bringing in the new year in style with Group-racing galore at Pukekohe Park on January 1st.

The New Year’s Day Races is an iconic mark on the Auckland calendar, and Pukekohe Park are set to continue an incredible tradition of top-class racing with their first time hosting the meeting.

After teaming up with ATR for a massive afternoon of entertainment on Boxing Day, The Grand Tour will make their final Pukekohe appearance for the season on New Year’s Day.

High-quality thoroughbred racing will be on offer throughout the day, with any racing fan’s dream line-up of five Group races headlined by the sprinting stars contesting the Gr.1 Sistema Railway (1200m) at 4.16pm.

Perennial bridesmaid Babylon Berlin currently tops the TAB Futures market at $2.60 for the Railway, aiming to score a first elite-level crown after three runner-up finishes last season behind the likes of Trans-Tasman superstar Imperatriz and glamour mare Levante. Out to deny the Footes mare will be classy speedsters in Dragon Leap, Sacred Satono and Bonny Lass, while Maven Belle looks a big threat carrying just 53.5kg.

Earlier on the 10-race card, powerhouse Waikato stables in Te Akau and Stephen Marsh will go head-to-head with their highly discussed two-year-olds in the Gr.2 SkyCity Eclipse Stakes (1200m). Matamata-based Te Akau unveiled Move To Strike at Te Rapa a fortnight ago, the Australian-bred colt ineligible for the fast-approaching $1 million TAB Karaka Millions 2YO (1200m), where race rival Velocious currently sits the $3.20 TAB Futures favourite. Te Akau filly Bellatrix Star has been among the top juveniles this season, while So Naïve will step into stakes company for the first time at Pukekohe Park.

A competitive group of middle-distance three-year-old fillies will step-out to the 2050m in the Gr.2 Sir Patrick Hogan Stakes. After an impressive third behind star stablemate Molly Bloom in the Gr.2 Eight Carat Classic (1600m) on Boxing Day, Grail Seeker looks an exciting chance for the Wexford team to collect another festive season feature at Pukekohe. Still Bangon and Livid Sky will represent the Stephen Autridge barn, the former a tough victor in the Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) last start.

The staying action will continue when the older horses contest the Gr.3 Queen Elizabeth II Cup (2400m) at 3.38pm. Exciting Cambridge Stud import Terra Mitica is a middle-distance talent on the rise, with the main dangers including Boxing Day victor Trust In You, as well as stakes winner Ess Vee Are and the evergreen Platinum Invador.

A near-capacity Gr.2 Rich Hill Mile (1600m) will be the penultimate event of the day, where punters will be challenged to find a clear favourite at the handicap conditions. Habana was among the top finishers in a muddled Gr.1 TAB Classic (1600m) after picking up Listed honours, placing her at the 58kg top-weight for the Mile. Elsewhere, Zecora, El Vencedor and Lingjun Xiongfeng have found top form of late, the latter an ominous hope at the 52kg minimum.

Leading hoop Opie Bosson dominated at Pukekohe on Boxing Day, claiming half of the card with Te Akau, and he will be back in search of further spoils aboard the likes of Move To Strike, Dragon Leap, My Lips Are Sealed and Geriatrix.

Australian visitor Blake Shinn piloted Molly Bloom to an emphatic Group Two victory on Boxing Day, and the Trans-Tasman presence will continue with expat-Kiwi hoop Jason Collett returning to partner Babylon Berlin in the Railway.

Pukekohe Park have once again offered free General Admission for the day, a perfect option for a relaxing family day-out at the races on the Hill Lawn, with kids activities on offer, including a bouncy castle. For those looking to recharge from New Year’s Eve festivities, tickets are available for $140pp for The Lunch, which includes a premium buffet-style meal by executive chef Paul Barrett as well as a complimentary beverage on arrival, and access to betting and live racing facilities.

The grandstand will be open from 11.00am, with the first race set to jump at 12.10pm.

What: New Year’s Day Races

Where: Pukekohe Park, 222/250 Manukau Road, Pukekohe 2120

When: Monday 1st January 2024

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