Harness horses in action on Wingatui grass

The Forbury Park club will make its racing return today.

But, no, it won’t be at the mothballed track in South Dunedin.

The trotting club is holding the first of its four meetings this summer on grass at Wingatui, home of the Otago Racing Club.

A second grass meeting — dual-code with the Beaumont Racing Club — will be held at Wingatui on March 21, while the Forbury Park club will also have meetings at the Wyndham course on January 26 and July 7.

"It’s great to be back in action," Forbury Park Trotting Club chairman Craig Paddon said.

"We’ve had good nominations, so it’s looking like it’s going to be a great day."

It is an important day for the club for another reason.

This will be the first meeting it runs under the umbrella of Southern Harness, the collective of harness racing clubs south of the Waitaki.

"It’s a new thing for the club," Paddon said.

"Southern Harness handles a lot of the pre-race day admin stuff that we used to have to do ourselves. It’s something the code has encouraged as a way of rationalising overheads for clubs, and it does seem to work.

"Up till now, Forbury had sort of resisted it, and rowed its own boat. But with the loss of the venue and other things, it seems logical to go down that route.

"This is the first meeting under that arrangement, so it’s a significant day."

Add in the fact this is the first New Zealand meeting under the Covid traffic light system, and it is a big day all round.

There is no limit on the gathering size at Wingatui but all punters, as well as everyone involved in the racing industry, must have their vaccine passes.

Grass racing for harness was making a bit of a comeback, Paddon said, and he was looking forward to watching the action today.

"The track is in really good condition. The Wingatui team have done an excellent job.

"It will be pretty smooth, so we should see some good racing."

The Forbury Park club is searching for a new permanent home as its venue is in the process of being sold, and Paddon imagines the club will have at least two meetings a summer at Wingatui for a while.

There are 10 races on the card today.

The feature is the handicap pace over 2200m that features grass-track specialist Jimmy Arma from the stable of Robert and Jenna Dunn.

Art Courage, trained by Michael House at Ascot Park, is also a previous winner on grass.

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