Southern Mile series first to benefit from new fund

The Otago Racing Club’s Southern Mile series is the first beneficiary of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing’s Stakes Innovation Fund.

The $500,000 fund was flagged when NZTR announced stakes increases in early July, and clubs were encouraged to apply to the fund to improve the quality of their meetings.

NZTR received 24 applications for funding, and while the Otago submission met all the criteria, a further 16 submissions were deemed to have merit but required further work.

The Southern Mile will consist of a series of 10 qualifying races with a grand final on March 5.

As the name suggests, all events are conducted over 1600m and, to be eligible for the final, a horse must have competed in a heat.

The series gets under way at Wingatui on Boxing Day with two heats run that day.

In addition to Wingatui, the series will have heats at Riccarton, Ascot Park and Riverton.

Six clubs from around the South Island — Otago, Canterbury, Banks Peninsula, Waikouaiti, Southland and Riverton — will host heats.

Otago Racing Club president Murray Acklin said the prime objective behind the application for stakes innovation funding was to reward owners throughout the South Island.

‘‘We wanted a competitive series from our largest pool of horses and the Southern Mile will achieve that objective, restricting entries to rating 74 and below,’’ Acklin said.

‘‘The series provides an increase in stakes money of over 50% in most races compared with last season and gives a real focus on South Island racing as the series progresses towards the final.’’

NZTR customer manager Dan Smith said decisions regarding further successful applications were expected by the end of October.

‘‘We will be working with the applicant clubs of the other 16 submissions, and we are confident that, with that work, these applications will meet the criteria and can be approved,’’ Smith said.

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