Horse racing: New track breaks ground in landmark day for NZ thoroughbred racing

A brand new multi-million dollar synthetic surface in Cambridge represents what's hoped will be the dawn of a new era for NZ thoroughbred racing.

The new race track is the first to be opened since 1976 - a piece of history that could signal the future of the sport - and it's earned a tick of approval from jockey Sam Weatherley, who rode the track's historic first winner - Champagne Princess.

"It's great," says Weatherley. "I got no mud on me or anything, so I can't say a bad word about it." 

The synthetic surface is a mix of sand and fibre, bound together with wax. It's not only easier to look after, but it's safer and more reliable as well. 

During winter months, races are often called off during the winter months, as deteriorating track conditions make racing unsafe for horses and jockeys. 

With an average of 7-8 meetings abandoned every year at an estimated annual cost of nearly $5 million, the new $12.75m facility in Cambridge will soon pay for itself. 

"People are now starting to understand this is an important asset for New Zealand thoroughbred racing industry," says NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry.

As well as race meetings, about 500 horses a day are being trained on the synthetic surface, which has been welcomed by those operating out of Australasia's biggest thoroughbred training centre.

With synthetic surfaces to be built at Riccarton and Awapuni over the coming months, the latest addition to NZ racing is already proving a winner.

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