Ellerslie awaits time-honoured Derby Day festivities

Jess de Lautour, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk
1 March 2024

Whether you’re looking for top-flight racing action, fashion, music, or just a day out at the beautiful Ellerslie Racecourse, look no further than Trackside Derby Day, this Saturday, March 2.

The Grand Tour have continued to deliver entertainment for racegoers across the country this season, and they kick off a double-header for Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup Week at Ellerslie with Kiwi rockers Zed headlining the afterparty.

On track, four black-type events will grace the 10-race card, with the Gr.3 Haunui Farm King’s Plate (1200m), Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Vase (2100m) and Gr.3 Mainstream Plumbing Mufhasa Stakes (1400m) preceding the showpiece, the $1 million Gr.1 Trackside New Zealand Derby (2400m).

Many of New Zealand’s brightest stars have triumphed in the pinnacle middle-distance three-year-old feature, and one particular filly is being tipped heavily to join the honour roll, Kingsclere Stables’ Orchestral.

The daughter of Savabeel was simply unstoppable in the $1.5 million TAB Karaka Millions 3YO (1600m) last month and followed suit in the Gr.2 Eagle Technology Avondale Guineas (2100m). She will attempt to become just the fifth female victor in 39 years, however, not to be forgotten are in-form gallopers Just As Sharp and Ascend The Throne, while Australian raider Interlinked adds some international talent.

Orchestral’s co-trainer Roger James has a certain knack for training a Derby winner, and the Cambridge horseman has the current $1.40 TAB favourite to add a sixth to his record, while a first crown is in the offing for Robert Wellwood. Meanwhile, between Andrew Forsman, Tony Pike, and the O’Sullivan/Scott partnership, six of the last nine Derbys have been claimed, and all three have contenders on Saturday.

From 2.52pm, patrons will be treated to three stakes races on the bounce, firstly a compact, but top-class field of sprinters chasing glory in the Gr.3 Haunui Farm King’s Plate. Among the seven-horse affair, three recent Group One-winners in Waitak (Railway), Mercurial (Telegraph) and the ever-consistent Bonny Lass (BCD Group Sprint) head a talented line-up.

In a race named after one of New Zealand’s greatest mares, 11 three-year-old fillies will contest the Gr.3 McKee Family Sunline Vase. With many on potential paths towards the Gr.1 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai New Zealand Oaks (2400m), Stephen Autridge’s pair of Still Bangon and Livid Sky are key figures, alongside multiple Group One performer Tulsi, while Vera Rose is a filly on the rise.

Trackside Derby Day recognises another Kiwi legend in Race 7, with a 10-time Group One winner being honoured in the $150,000 three-year-old sprint, the Gr.3 Mainstream Plumbing Mufhasa Stakes. Ballymore Stables unveiled another potential trans-Tasman performer in the SkyCity Horizon Uncle Remus Stakes (1200m) a fortnight ago, and Pericles will chase another Ellerslie feature, a key opportunity for Billy Jacobson with ‘Derby King’ Vinnie Colgan suspended for the meeting.

Powerhouse stables of Te Akau, Wexford and Marsh Racing have engaged three-quarters of the field between the trio, with Certainly, Glamour Tycoon and Geriatrix among their highly competitive selection, while regally-bred fillies Irish Legacy and Ethereal Star are in the mix.

The Innovation Races have proven hugely successful this season, and the Rangitoto Classic (1500m) introduces an opportunity for trainers outside of the Top 10 (stakes earnings) to contest the lucrative hamper.

After winning her last three in a row, Pour The Wine’s popular owner Daniel Nakhle hopes to be doing just that after the $350,000 feature, while Central Districts trainers Roydon Bergerson and Bryce Newman are out to steal the Northern spoils with classy mares Town Cryer and Sugah Sweet.

Away from the thoroughbred action, the Derby Day runway will host New Zealand’s fashion in the field final, The Ned Prix de Fashion. Nine regional finalists were crowned in qualifying events around the country, however contestants will have one final opportunity to reach the final on Trackside Derby Day, with four ‘wildcards’ being awarded in the Godavari Diamonds Fashion Qualifiers.

An incredible $20,000+ winner-takes-all prize package is on offer for the Supreme Winner, including two tickets to the 2024 Lexus Melbourne Cup, a two-night stay in Marlborough, and a year’s supply of Ned Wine!

The male contingent will also have their chance to grace the runway, with the SkyCity Menswear competition on offer.

Auckland Thoroughbred Racing have an array of hospitality options still available, and if you’re after a gourmet food & beverage package, Cuvée ($385pp) or The Grove ($235pp) both offer a stylish trackside experience, each with their own special twist.

If you’ve got a crew still debating a day out at Ellerslie, ATR have a few remaining tickets for the Guineas, with top-floor, uninterrupted views on offer for a private table of 10, totalling $600.

With the Silks Lounge’s floor-to-ceiling glass viewing, you won’t miss a moment of the action while enjoying a buffet lunch designed by ATR’s Executive Chef, Paul Barrett from $185pp. The Barrett Lawn will play host to The Grand Tour’s entertainment zone, and The Enclosure tickets will give race-goers access to The Grand Tour Bar, with a free beverage on arrival, a food voucher and betting facilities from $89pp!

If you’re looking for a more laid-back, relaxed afternoon, General Admission tickets are available from just $20pp, with the Newmarket Room available with a range of food and beverages. Don’t hesitate to bring the younger racing fans, with free entry for under 15s. So, if you’re thinking of heading to Ellerslie this Saturday, eat, drink & get racy with The Grand Tour!

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

What: Trackside Derby Day

Where: Ellerslie Racecourse, 100 Ascot Avenue, Remuera, Auckland

When: Saturday 2 March

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