Winston on a winner


Winston Peters, New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell and Cambridge Jockey Club CEO Mark Fraser discuss the new synthetic track early on Tuesday morning.

Racing Minister Winston Peters has called New Zealand’s first synthetic racetrack the chance of a lifetime after his first look at it.

The deputy Prime Minister was joined by New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell at the $13 million facility under construction at Cambridge Jockey Club on Tuesday.

Horses are due to start training on the synthetic surface by August, and Mr Peters has lauded what having the completed track will mean for both Cambridge and the wider racing industry.

Funding for the country’s first synthetic track, based at Australasia’s largest training centre, came from the joint efforts of the jockey club, the Government’s Provisional Growth Fund and the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA).

A subsequent $72.5 million racing industry Covid-19 emergency support package announced by Mr Peters includes $20m for similar all-weather tracks at Awapuni in New Plymouth and Riccarton in Christchurch.

“It is the chance of a lifetime,” Mr Peters said after viewing the progress in Cambridge on the same day the country shifted to Alert Level 1.

Asked why he wanted to be racing Minister, Mr Peters had a straight-forward answer.

“You either love horses or you don’t,” he said.

“To me, the relationship between mankind and horses has always been one of those unexplained love affairs. Horses love racing and competing.”

“There’s a lot of excitement about it, the facility will be state-of-the-art – world class,” Cambridge Jockey Club CEO Mark Fraser-Campin said of the track after Mr Peters’ visit.

Club president Bruce Harvey said having the synthetic track was fantastic for Cambridge and the racing industry.

“Given that we are the biggest training centre in Australasia, it makes sense for us to be leading the way and improving our facilities,” he said.

Cambridge Jockey Club has 10 training tracks and can host up to 1200 horses a month.

The first race on the soon- to-be completed 2000m synthetic surface is slated for next May.

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