Horse racing: New Zealand's new richest race can restore Kiwi racing back to glory days

New Zealand has a new richest horse race and those in the industry are hoping it can help catapult racing back to its glory days.  

Entain - the new owners of the TAB - have combined with NZ Thoroughbred Racing to launch a $3.5 million slot race, as part of a whopping $9 million meeting at Ellerslie next March.  

During his last stint as racing minister in 2020, Winston Peters vowed to make the sport great again. Now, back in Government, that sentiment remains the same.  

"Everyone here wants New Zealand racing to get its mojo back," he said.

Ellerslie will host the richest race in Kiwi history.
Ellerslie will host the richest race in Kiwi history. Photo credit: Photosport

That's exactly what NZ Thoroughbred Racing and Entain hope to achieve with what will become the southern hemisphere's richest three-year-old race.   

The race will be worth $3.5 million in prizemoney in 2025, which will rise to $4.5 million by 2027.  

It's hoped 'The NZB Kiwi' can restore Kiwi racing to its glory days.  

"When I grew up, we were a sporting world - it was rugby, racing and beer," said NZ Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bruce Sharrock.  

"Rugby and beer still participate. Racing's back and I think everyone needs to be aware of it."  

That's music to the ears of those involved in the industry, who admit it had hit rock bottom.    

"The sort of stakes that have just been announced today does put us very much in an international league again," said leading trainer Roger James.  

Close to $24 million in stakes is up for grabs between January and April. The centrepiece is a $9m 'Champions Day' at Ellerslie, with some of the biggest names in the game likely to travel across the ditch - something not seen for decades.    

"Australian owners, punters and trainers will definitely be looking at it," said trainer Bjorn Baker. "Even jockeys, they'll be looking to get over there and ride for that big money."

The one catch? The 'NZB Kiwi' is exclusively for horses bred in New Zealand, but expect that to boost prices at this weekend's Karaka Sales.  

"No matter where they are around the world, they can come home and race in this race," added Sharrock. "That's what we're looking to do."  

In the words of Winston Peters: "Horses love to race." If only they knew the pay rise they were about to get.