Ruakaka trainer Kenny Rae has welcomed the announcement of the 2022 ITM/GIB Northern Region Winter Championships.
The finals day at Ruakaka on July 16 will comprise of five $60,000 races, with qualifying races to take place at northern region tracks.
The series has been designed to cater for all horses, with a sprinters final (1400m), stayers final (2100m), mile final (1600m), three-year-old final (1600m), and two-year-old final (1200m).
The series will be conducted under a points system, with free nominations for the series closing on May 3.
Rae is excited about the series and he said it is a much needed boost for Northland racing.
“It is a bit of a ghost town here at the moment. There are only about 40 to 50 horses that are trained here, so we do need a boost training-wise and on raceday,” he said.
“It is a great incentive.”
Rae is particularly animated about the two- and three-year-old races.
“We have got about 10 two-year-olds in work and we have got some three-year-olds,” he said.
“Van Diesel is a last start winner and he can be set for those races too.”
Rae is also contemplating the series with two runners that he will line-up at Ellerslie on Saturday.
Promising three-year-old Follow Your Dreams will resume in the Fleet Image 1200 after an injury induced layoff, while Irish Girl will line-up in the Network Visuals 1200.
Follow Your Dreams looked to be in for a big season, however, injury put a hault to his spring plans.
“He won his last start and he was getting ready for the 2000 Guineas (Gr.1, 1600m) and the Karaka Million (1600m), but he got an infection in his back leg,” Rae said.
“The vet told me to give him a month off, but I gave him an extra month off. It’s too hard trying to win those races when you are not 100 percent, let alone 90.”
The son of Contributer pleased when finishing runner-up to Burgundy Rose in a 1000m trial at Ellerslie last month but Rae said carrying topweight of 59.5kg from gate 13 on Saturday is a concern.
“He is very forward, but with a big weight and a bad draw he is going to be up against it,” he said.
“He carried a lot of weight in his trial when he got beaten by Te Akau’s horse. But he seems good as gold.”
The Winter Championships become the obvious aim now for Follow Your Dreams, however, Rae isn’t ruling out a trip across the Tasman.
“I would love to send him to Queensland, but we can also race him in the three-year-old race up here. Racing for $60,000 on your home track is a good incentive.”
Rae is also eyeing the Winter Championships with Irish Girl who will be looking to improve on her last start third placing over 1400m when she heads to Ellerslie for a 1200m contest on Saturday.
“I would have preferred 1400m, but there weren’t any around,” Rae said.
“She is up in the weights (58.5kg) too for a horse that has won three races down south and two on her home track. She is very well and very fit.
“There is a fillies and mares race down south that is worth about $90,000 (Gr.3 Valachi Downs South Island Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes, 1600m) in March. Otherwise, I will give her a brief break and it will be Ruakaka over winter.”