Busy weekend for jumps jockeys

Riverton Racing Club president Barry Leith mows the sod wall jump in between showers on Friday.
Jamie Searle/Fairfax NZ

Riverton Racing Club president Barry Leith mows the sod wall jump in between showers on Friday.

All jockeys in the jumping races at Riverton on Sunday are riding in Hamilton on Saturday.

Seven jockeys, including Riverton's Stuart Higgins, are riding at both tracks. They should all arrive at Invercargill airport by 11am on Sunday before travelling to Riverton.

The two jumps races at Riverton are at 1.18pm (Great Western Hurdles) and 2.28pm (Great Western Steeplechase).

The North Island jockeys are vital for the survival of jumps racing in the South Island. Higgins is the only South Island jockey who rides regularly over jumps.

Several others occasionally mix flat and jumps riding. Rangiora horseman Alan Browne retired from jumps riding this week after injuring a shoulder in a fall at Riverton on May 3.

Rain on Friday changed the Riverton track from soft to heavy and with more wintry weather forecast, horses and riders will be in for a hard slog on Sunday.

The members' stand will be open to the public on Sunday, according to Riverton Racing Club president Barry Leith.

"We've got heaps of heaters and we invite everybody to come along.

"As long as the day's not too bad, we should get a reasonable walk up crowd ... the die-hards will be there."

Wanganui trainer Kevin Myers is sending two horses south for the jumping races.

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The club and New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing together added $10,000 to the stake of the Great Western Steeplechase. It has increased to $30,000.

"It's a prestige race and we want to lift its profile," Leith said.

"It deserves a larger stake than the norm."

Gargamel, Kina Win and Tai Ho are Southland-trained horses in the Western. Ten-year-old Gargamel is contesting the 3900 metre race for the third time after finishing second last year and fourth in 2015. 

The club has four race days - all in the autumn. Good weather helped the club get a big crowd and high turnover at its cup day meeting in April.

The meeting on Sunday is the last thoroughbred fixture for the season in Southland. 

The four remaining harness race meetings in the province this season are at Ascot Park on Saturday, May 27, June 5 and June 10.

 - Stuff

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