Horse racing: Lucrative new slot race headlines revamped NZ Thoroughbred racing calendar

Opie Bosson.
Opie Bosson. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand horse racing is poised to explode next year with the introduction of 'The NZB Kiwi' - the Southern Hemisphere's richest three-year-old race.

A joint venture involving NZ Thoroughbred racing, TAB New Zealand and Entain, the NZB Kiwi will become one of the major highlights of a newly established 'Champions Day' that will feature more than $9 million in total prizemoney in year one, climbing to $10 million in year two.  

Held on the second Saturday of March at Ellerslie Racecourse, 'Champions Day' will also include the New Zealand Derby and three other iconic Group 1 races, positioning the meeting as a pinnacle event on NZ's racing calendar.

The initiative is part of an overhaul of the NZ racing calendar that will includes a series of "world-class" races and meetings, offering more than $23.8 million in stakes across 51 blacktypes races from January to early April.

The NZB Kiwi will be the jewel in that crown. The 1500m slot race will offer 14 slots for graduates from the NZB sales and horses bred in New Zealand NZTR hopes will create a destination race for NZ-bred horses worldwide.

NZTR Chairman Cameron George believes the revamped summer carnival will attract the best horses, and the best jockeys from across Australasia and lead to a significant period of growth for the industry in Aotearoa.

"We will all look back on this once-in-a-generation opportunity and reflect on the period of transformation we have embarked on," said George.  

"We have an opportunity to change the game for our industry and its participants by embracing these changes, while sustaining the future of our sport.

"We'll be highlighting our athletes, both horse and human, while creating a true spectacle to showcase their elite skills, on our top tracks, consistently throughout the summer period."

The race will carry stakes prizemoney of at least $3.5 million in 2025, increasing to $4.5 million by 2027, making it the richest race in the Southern Hemisphere for three-year-olds.  

An additional $1 million in bonuses will be available each year to the three placegetters of The NZB Kiwi, if they have won one of a number of iconic New Zealand and Australian lead up races. With the bonus component, the winner of The NZB Kiwi could take home $1.8 million in total prizemoney.

"We loved the concept and the direction that racing is heading in at the moment," said NZB managing director Andrew Seabrook.  

"To have such positive news just under a week out before the yearling sales at Karaka adds an extra layer of optimism to our industry.  

"We think it’s a fantastic initiative and it’s certainly an exciting time to be racing horses in New Zealand."