Stayers Top and Tail Auckland Cup Week
Australian racing punters already have their eyes on the Auckland Cup Carnival from March 04 to 11: New Zealand’s richest week of racing. It’s also a social event that keeps the perennial rivalry between the nation’s biggest city and the capital, Wellington, bubbling along healthily: during Wellington Cup Week and Auckland Cup Week alike, the Fashion in the Field competition draws almost as many spectators as the betting action.
Auckland Cup Week is just one aspect of the Carnival: the thoroughbred flat racing at Ellerslie. Fans of greyhound and harness racing each get an Auckland Cup Week of their own; although the Auckland Racing Club’s magnificent Victorian silver trophy is probably the cup most punters associate with this mainstay of New Zealand racing history.
Perhaps the biggest draw-card is that Auckland Cup Week offers betting enthusiasts two of New Zealand’s top races for stayers: one at the beginning of the week, and one at the end.
Million-Dollar Group 1 Derby to Start
The New Zealand Derby, one of 10 races on the card for Derby Day on March 04, is a set-weights handicap for 3-year-olds run over 2,400m. It is one of only two New Zealand races with a purse of NZ$1-million, sharing the record with the Karaka Million.
Tony Pike, who trained last year’s winner, Rangipo, has his hopes riding on the stamina of gelding Sacred Elixir in this year’s race. He’s currently the favourite, at NZ$3.50
Auckland Cup a Gruelling Test
The week after Derby Day, Auckland Cup Day gives Ellerslie punters the chance to back the top stayers, in the Group 1 Auckland Cup over 3,200m. The two-miler is a supreme test of speed, strength and stamina, carrying a purse of NZ$500,000, open to horses three years old or older.
In 2016, the Auckland Cup was won by then-9-year-old gelding El Soldado, an outsider at NZ$125. If we were looking for a similar long shot on this year’s race, it would have to be Jacksstar. The 5-year-old gelding trained by Gary Vile is currently at NZ$50.00.
However, the favourite, before the field has been finalised, is 4-year-old gelding Pentathlon, at NZ$8.00. However, he isn’t fancied that much more than two 5-year-olds; the gelding Bloodstream and mare Chenille are both close behind at NZ$9.00. Five To Midnight, at NZ$10.00, and Fanatic and St Jean, both at NZ$11.00, are also in the running.