The long-awaited return of racing to Te Aroha following track renovations will take place on Friday, having been postponed from its initial Wednesday time slot due to adverse weather.
Te Aroha received 85mm of rain on Monday night and the decision was made to postpone the Wednesday meeting following a track inspection on Tuesday.
Local horseman Gavin Opie is particularly looking forward to the return and is hoping to get a few of his owners there on raceday, having entered seven horses.
“We have been trekking everywhere (since the track renovations) and the owners have copped the travel expenses the whole way through. I have got a few in to try and get all the owners to the races,” Opie said.
“I have got a couple of syndicates. I am sure a lot of them will be there and hopefully we can get a nice result somewhere along the day for them.”
While the track renovation wasn’t ideal early on for Opie’s training routine, he said patience has paid off and he is pleased with the surfaces now on offer at the Waikato venue.
“It will be two years in January (since they started the renovation),” Opie said.
“It was a bit frustrating to start off with because we didn’t have a galloping track, so I was trucking a few to Matamata to gallop. We have never been without a pacework track, and we have just been rolling with the punches.
“They moved every inch of soil to start with and cambered the chutes and the bends. I don’t think there is another track in New Zealand like it now. The 1600m chute has a bit of an up and a down and the same at the 1200m. It is pretty unique what they have done.”
While the track was earmarked to return to racing earlier this year, Opie said he is glad it was delayed until spring.
“It was probably a blessing in disguise that it didn’t kick-off when they wanted to eight or nine months ago,” he said.
“The winter has been and the ground has had a good time to consolidate.
“It’s full steam ahead now – we have got a perfect plough, a nice sand track, and we are getting to use the course proper for galloping as well.”
Opie is hopeful of some bold showings from his seven runners on Friday and has highlighted Koro’s Princess in the Mainfreight 1400 as one of his better chances.
“Koro’s Princess has been waiting for a bit of moisture. She is a pretty handy mare, but she just needs a bit of cut in the track,” he said.
Opie is also upbeat about the chances of debutant Palace Princess in the Donaghys Pro-Abamac 1200, as well as Mister Pucci and Flight Plan in the Donaghys Pro-Equine 1400.
“I have got a first starter called Palace Princess and we have got a bit of time for her. She might not win (on Friday), but she will be winning a race in the near future,” he said.
“Flight Plan is bouncing out of his skin. He went to one of those abandoned meetings and we have been trying to find him moisture and it has finally come. I am expecting a bold run from him.
“With Mister Pucci, it was a leaders bias the other day at Te Rapa, he got back and his last 200m was the second fastest of the race even though he ran 10th. He should run well.”