Harness racing returns to the grass

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Invercargill Harness Racing Club acting president Peter Kett stands near the Ascot Park Racecourse grass track which will be used for harness racing for the first time since 1970.  Photo: Hayden Williams

IT has been almost 50 years since a harness race meeting was held on the grass track at Ascot Park Raceway in Invercargill.

Since that time, in January 1970, the code has used the all-weather facility at the course, which has served the Invercargill Harness Racing Club and other clubs, including the Northern Southland and Riverton Trotting clubs, well in all weather conditions.

However, the Invercargill Harness Racing Club will turn back the clock with a race meet on the grass track during the Invercargill Licensing Trust/ILT Foundation Race Day on Saturday.

It will give patrons an opportunity to watch the racing close up as harness horses thunder around the grass track once again on the course, which is normally only used for gallops.

The day will feature the ILT Foundation Autumn Cup, a heat of the bMAC Sheetmetal Southern Country Cup Series and a Nugget Final, with all races, both stands and mobiles, over 2050m.

Invercargill Harness Racing Club president Mark Shirley said the question of racing on grass was generally raised by someone each year at the club’s general meeting.

“Grass track meetings are popular with horsemen and crowds.

“We did look at an option of racing at Cromwell, but then thanks to the co-operation from the Southland Racing Club, who were keen to give us a crack after their Christmas At The Races event was over, a grass track meeting will give patrons an opportunity to view the action close up.

“There should be good fields and the starts, whether they are stands or mobiles, will be right in front of the grandstand, so the on-course public are in for a treat.”

– Lindsay Beer is the Southern Harness Racing promotions officer

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