There has been a massive injection of stakes money to the racing calendar this year and Matamata trainer Wayne Hillis is keen to get his hands on some of it.
Part of that prizemoney boost are five inaugural innovation races around the country, with the first of those, the $350,000 Remutaka Classic (2100m), set to be run at Trentham on Wellington Cup Day – January 20, 2024.
The race is open to all 0-1 win horses as at August 1, 2023, with trainers having six ballot exempt races to target in order to gain an automatic spot in the lucrative race.
The first of those was held at Riccarton earlier this month, with the Shane Kennedy and Anna Furlong-trained Iffididit the first to gain a berth.
Hillis will attempt to gain the second berth when he lines-up in-form mare Complicate in the Wanganui Racehorse Owners Association 1600 at Wanganui on Saturday.
Hillis has given the four-year-old mare time to fill into her big frame and his patience is starting to pay off, with the daughter of Complacent have finished runner-up in her two starts this preparation.
“I had her as my Oaks horse last year but she was too weak and that is when I had to back off,” he said.
“I gave her a small prep over winter up at Ruakaka but she was still a bit weak, so I turned her out again and she has really thrived since and has come of age. She looks really good this time in.
“They have been nice runs this prep and I was hoping to step up to 2000m but this (race) fits in well to go to the Remutaka Classic, and if you win it you are exempt from the ballot.
“It is a brilliant initiative and things seem to be on the way up at the moment – stakes are increasing and it is all looking good.”
Complicate will have the benefit of apprentice jockey Ciel Butler’s three-kilogram claim when she jumps from barrier nine on Saturday, and TAB bookmakers have rated her a $5.50 second favourite behind Yellow Jersey at $5.
Hillis is looking forward to stepping his mare up over more ground and believes the 2100m distance of the Remutaka Classic will be ideal.
“She will step up after his run and she doesn’t need much racing, so I’ll fit in one or two more races after this one,” he said.
Hillis is also targeting the Remutaka Classic with stablemate Text Regrets who will line-up in the Loaders Wanganui 2040 on Saturday prior to targeting another ballot exempt race over 2100m at Trentham on December 16.
“He will be heading for the same race,” he said. “There is another ballot exempt race at Wellington in a couple of weeks time that he will likely head to.
“He is a lot smaller than her but he has always wanted distance. He hasn’t had many runs and when he stepped up in distance is when he ran third and then won.”
There are four other innovation races on the calendar, including:
$1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic (1600m) – to be run at Ellerslie on January 27, 2024
$350,000 Sir Patrick Hogan Karāpiro Classic (1600m) – to be run at Te Rapa on February 10, 2024
$350,000 Rangitoto Classic (1500m) – to be run at Ellerslie on March 2, 2024
$350,000 Southern Alps Challenge (1600m) – to be run at Riccarton on April 13, 2024