By Dave Di Somma, Harness News Desk
The Taranaki Trotting Cup ultimately wants to run meetings on its home patch, but for the meantime is pleased that it can still run key races at Manawatu.
Tonight the $12,000 Revital Fertilisers Taranaki Cup and the $11,000 Woodlands Stud Taranaki Breeders Stakes will be run at Palmerston North, after the area wasn’t allocated any dates for the 2020-21 season.
“It’s not ideal because it’s three hours away but it’s better than not running anything,” says Taranaki Racing chief executive Carey Hobbs, “we will have 20 people or so people going from New Plymouth.”
In what he called a “compromise” Hobbs said “Manawatu run everything and we pay the extras above minimum stakes from sponsorship.”
Longer term though the plan is lobby Harness Racing New Zealand about a return to Taranaki.
“We are keen to run the Hawera Cup, the Taranaki Cup, the Stratford Cup and the Taranaki Breeders Stakes during a two day meeting at Hawera in 2022,” says Hobbs.
Last year’s meeting marked 100 years of harness racing in Taranaki, with the Taranaki Cup taken out by Santanna Mach and the all-conquering combo of Michael House and Blair Orange.
They will combine again in tonight’s edition with last start winner Warloch. House will also start My Mate Ben (Luke Whittaker), Johnny Mac (Zac Butcher) and Mogul (Sailesh Abernethy) in the Cup.
One of Hobbs’ most memorable Cup wins was Falcon Rise’s triumph in 2002.
“We’ve had a lot of high quality horses, and he went to Cup class,” he said of the son of Falcon Seelster who was bred, owned and trained by Les Pettifer.
These days Hobbs estimates there are 20-30 horses trained in the Taranaki by trainers including Phil and Willie Fleming, Fred Mitchell and Brendan Towers.
And he hopes that sooner rather than later the Taranaki Cup will be at Hawera, rather than at Palmerston North 160 kilometres down the road.