A huge crowd at Cambridge Raceway last week witnessed one of the country’s best harness racing pacers strut its stuff in the inaugural $900,000 slot race.
Self Assured, already a champion New Zealand and Auckland Cup winner, strode through the winning post at the hands of another champion, driver Mark Purdon.
And the win by the pre-race favourite, despite a wide barrier draw in the 2200m mobile race, met with approval from punters who took advantage of New Zealand’s new orange setting and the non-appearance of Cyclone Fili to bolster crowd numbers.
All 500 hospitality seats and 700 general admission tickets sold before the gates opened and another 1300 walked through the gates on a clear full-moon lit night to become arguably the best crowd seen at The Raceway for years. Domestic turnover at the TAB was just over $1 million.
There was plenty else for locals to celebrate, given the six-year-old Self Assured gelding hails from Pukekohe via Rolleston and four Australian horses were also runs.
Cambridge drivers Benjamin Butcher drove two winners, his father David and Nicky Chilcott one each and the 79-year-old Tamahere anaesthetist Luk Chin was delighted when he guided Jasinova to victory. It was the fourth training win of the month for Chin’s stable of four horses – Safrakova, Voronov, Alana and Jasinova.
Chief executive David Branch said the club hoped to increase the stake next year from $900,000 to $1 million and boost crowd numbers to 5000 people.
He was also considering adding a trotting slot race to next year’s Friday April 14 date.
The Race, already the richest harness race in New Zealand, saw slots in the invite-only race bought for $75,000 each for a guaranteed stake divided up with $400,000 to the winner, $125,000 for second, $85,000 third, $65,000 for fourth and the remaining five starters each getting $37,500.