Cambridge Raceway will welcome a new race to their racing calendar in 2020 with the inaugural running of the $30,000 Waikato Trotting Breeders’ Stakes (2700m) on February 21.
The race was the brainchild of owner and breeder Ken McGrath and his partner Melanie Barker, who have been supported in their vision by a group of local trotting enthusiasts.
“My partner Melanie and I breed and race predominantly trotters and we have a real passion for the trotting gait,” McGrath said.
“What has become very apparent to us over a period of time is the trotters are not catered for anywhere near as well as the pacers are and there is a real shortage of opportunities for them to step-up and race in quality races.
“With that in-mind we decided we would like to support a new race. One that was of considerable value and one that could progress and become a Group race in due course.
“We consulted with a number of other breeders and trotting enthusiasts who were keen to come onboard.”
The group has pulled together to fund the inaugural race, worth $30,000, and McGrath is hoping it will be promoted to a stakes race in years to come.
“The group have contributed the funds required to put this race on and give it a reasonable stake so it can go ahead next year, with the hope that in the very near future it will be accepted by Harness Racing New Zealand as a Group race,” he said.
“The race is an encouragement for people to breed and race trotting mares and fillies and something for them to aim for.
“Credit goes to breeders and owners of trotting horses in the Waikato area who have contributed for this to happen.”
McGrath, who is also Vice President of Waikato-Bay of Plenty Harness Racing Club, is hoping the race will attract some South Island talent, with the race programmed just a week before the Gr.3 Northern Trotting Breeders’ Stakes (2700m) at Alexandra Park on February 28.
McGrath is looking forward to the race and is hoping to line-up three contenders, including Mums Star who won the Farmlands Trot (2200m) at Cambridge Raceway on Thursday night.
“I thought it was really good win,” he said. “She went out really strong and just took the lead and at one stage was nine lengths ahead of them.
“She did what she had to do to stay in front, so there is a lot more in here yet.”
It was the first victory for the daughter of Monkey Bones and while happy with the victory, McGrath said trainer Ross Paynter is still trying to work through a few issues with her.
“She has had her issues and we are probably still not quite on top of them yet. She just doesn’t seem 100 percent comfortable.
“She trots around beautifully, but at the end of her races driver David Butcher tends to have to hold her together a little bit rather than drive her out as fully as he would like to.
“She is going in for some tests and checks on Monday and hopefully the results will tell us we have got nothing to worry about.”
McGrath would also like to target the Waikato Trotting Breeder’s Stakes with Mums Star’s year younger full-sister Molly Bones, and five-year-old mare Canskyfly.
All three mares are showing promising signs, with Canskyfly winning four of her eight starts to date, while Molly Bones has recorded two wins and three placings from her nine starts, and Mums Star now has one victory and placing to her name from just three starts.
“We would have three mares that we would certainly like to aim for it,” McGrath said. “But Mums Star will depend on whether we can get to the bottom of her issues.”
As well as the newly formed race, McGrath is also looking forward to the Harness Jewels returning to Cambridge Raceway in 2020.
“It’s terrific and that’s what it is all about,” he said. “I have got to give huge plaudits to the Cambridge Raceway management team, led by Dave Branch. They are helping take Cambridge well into the future.” – Cambridge Raceway