New Zealand racing to resume earlier than planned

Asian Racing Federation jurisdictions with racing shut down by the Covid-19 pandemic are returning to normal with South African racing resuming last week and New Zealand announcing that its racing will resume earlier than originally planned.

The South African Champions Season commenced immediately last week after the South African Government gave permission for the industry to resume racing without oncourse patrons.

As with all racing jurisdictions South African stakes have been lowered due to the shutdown with no wagering and the meeting programme rearranged.

In the first eight weeks of the South African Champions Season all of these races will be run:
June 13: The Grade 2 Post Merchants (R175,000), Grade 3 Poinsettia Stakes (R100,000), Grade 3 Godolphin Barb Stakes (R100,000), the Grade 3 Strelitzia Stakes (R100,000).

June 20: The Grade 2 WSB 1900 (R175,000), the Grade 3 Lonsdale Stirrup Cup (R125,000), the Listed East Coast Cup (R85,000).

June 28: The Grade 1 Daily News 2000 (R500,000), the Grade 1 Gold Challenge (R425,000), the Grade 1 Woolavington 2000 (R325,000), the Grade 2 Tibouchina Stakes (R150,000), the Listed Gatecrasher Stakes (R85,000), the Listed Devon Air Stakes (R85,000), the Non-Black Type Durban Dash (R75,000.).

July 4: The Grade 1 Golden Horse Sprint (R425,000), the Grade 1 SA Fillies Sprint (R325,000), the Grade 1 Golden Horse Medallion (R325,000), the Grade 1 Allan Robertson Championship (R325,000), the Grade 3 Cup Trial (R125,000).

July 11: The Grade 2 Track And Ball Derby (R150,000), the Grade 3 TRack and Ball Oaks (R125,000), The KZN Winter Challenge races (1200m, 1600m, 2000m all for a stake of R75,000).

July 18: The KZN Breeders Million Mile and seven other KZN Breeders races (all for stakes which are yet to be announced).

July 25: The Grade 1 Vodacom Durban July (R1,5 million), the Grade 1 Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes (R325,000), the Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe (R150,000), the Grade 2 Golden Slipper (R150,000), the Grade 3 Campanajo 2200 (R125,000), the Grade 3 DSTV Gold Vase (R125,000), the Listed Thukela Handicap (R85,000), the Non-Black Type eTHekwini Sprint (R75,000) and the Non Black Type KZN Yearling Sale Million (R650,000).

There will be a five week breathing space between the Vodacom Durban July meeting on July 25 and the Gold Cup meeting on August 29.

At the latter meeting the following feature races will be staged, Grade 3 Gold Cup (R400,000), the Grade 1 Champions Cup (R425,000), the Grade 1 Mercury Sprint (R425,000), the Grade 1 Premier’s Champion Stakes (R325,000), the Grade 1 Thekwini Stakes (R325,000), the Grade 2 Gold Bracelet (R150,000), the Grade 2 Umkhomazi Stakes (R150,000), the Grade 2 The Debutante (R150,000), the Listed Umngeni Handicap (R85,000) and the Listed Darley Arabian (R85,000).

In New Zealand racing will resume earlier than anticipated with the Counties Racing Club hosting a meeting on Saturday, June 20th, 2020, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing announced last week.

NZ Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) announced the move based on feedback from trainers who have indicated they had horses ready to return to the track sooner than the planned resumption in early July.

“We are delighted we can resume earlier than originally expected,” NZTR CEO Bernard Saundry said.

“Our first race meetings since lockdown will be held with owners being able to attend and, with the expectation that the country may soon move to level one, it might be that full crowds will be able to be on course from the outset.

“As we build up to this earlier return to racing NZTR would like to thank all industry participants – our clubs, owners, trainers, jockeys, trackwork riders and stablehands – for doing what was required during lockdown. The industry also worked together to ensure that protocols were followed when horses returned to their respective training facilities,” Saundry said.

Meanwhile racing continued in Japan, also still without on-course patrons, with an upset on Sunday with the Kazuo Fujisawa trained four-year-old Gran Alegria (JPN) under Kenichi Ikezoe winning the ¥ 281,800,000, Grade 1 Yasuda Kinen (1600m) at Tokyo.

Gran Alegria winning the Grade I Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo, picture Japan Racing Association
Gran Alegria winning the Grade I Yasuda Kinen at Tokyo, picture Japan Racing Association

Gran Alegria held off a group of dominating rivals which included not only 10 Grade 1 winners, but the heavily favoured Almond Eye (JPN), who was hoped to rewrite history in becoming the first Japanese horse to land eight Grade 1 turf wins.

In an empty Tokyo Racecourse the contenders broke on the back straight with Gran Alegria settling well in hand in the middle of the field and smoothly shifting to an outer route to make her bid before the last turn.

A clear path from the top of the home straight allowed Gran Alegria and Ikezoe to lead at the 200m and go to the line for a 2-1/2-length win.

For Fujisawa this marks his third Yasuda Kinen title (1997 Taiki Blizzard, 1998 Taiki Shuttle) and his 30th JRA-Grade 1 victory following his latest in last year’s Sprinters Stakes with Tower of London. Jockey Kenichi Ikezoe celebrates his 26th JRA-Grade 1 victory, his latest being the Mile Championship with Indy Champ last November.

Gran Alegria, by Deep Impact out of the Tapit mare Tapitsfly, won the 2019 Oka Sho (Japanese 1000 Guineas, Grade 1, 1600m) winner and Best Three-Year-Old Filly showed a good runner-up effort in her first sprint challenge, this year’s Takamatsunomiya Kinen (Grade 1, 1200m).

Solid favourite Almond Eye (Lord Kanaloa) missed the start and then travelled in fourth to fifth from the rear on the heels of Indy Champ (JPN) (Stay Gold), displayed her trademark turn of foot in gaining on the eventual winner but had too much ground to make up while tagging Indy Champ in the final strides and secured second.