New Zealand’s greatest harness race is edging its way back toward NZ $1million but that isn’t the main priority for Addington bosses.
The New Zealand Trotting Cup, with the continued sponsorship of Christchurch Casino, will be worth NZ$800,000 when run on its latest possible date of November 14 this year.
The Cup is almost always on the second Tuesday in November so November 14 is the latest it is ever scheduled and with the $50,000 increase in stakes this season and the strong New Zealand dollar it sits alongside the Miracle Mile in Sydney as the second equal richest harness race in Australasia.
Only the $1.1million Inter Dominion Final in Perth in December is richer.
The Cup has been held for higher stakes before, peaking at NZ$1.2million when Changeover won in 2008 and then NZ$1million when Monkey King won the following season, both times artificially boosted by grants from the Government for New Zealand’s iconic races.
But at NZ$800,000 it is still worth three times as much as any other harness race in New Zealand, rightly so as it is the closest thing harness racing has to a Melbourne Cup in this part of the world, or probably any other.
With increased funding from the New Zealand Racing Board, Addington could have afforded to go back to $1million but have wisely decided to spend the majority of their latest windfall on lower grade stakes, announcing significant increases across the board last week.
The reality is while a $1million New Zealand Cup sounds glamorous, it will in all likelihood attract exactly the same field for $800,000, with the Inter Dominions being a month later and the Victoria Cup being moved to October 14 both impacting on any likely Australian raiders.
While the TAB are yet to open their first Cup market defending champion Lazarus will be a hot favourite. He has already tasted victory this week, being named the Australasian Grand Circuit champion after the final race of that premier competition was held in Brisbane last Saturday.