Southland will have a new black-type harness race next season after the Northern Southland Trotting Club's feature trotting race, the Southern Lights Handicap, was granted Group III status recently.
The open-grade trotting event is contested annually at the Northern Southland Trotting Cup meeting in January for a stake of $25,000.
Former Harness Jewels winner and 16-win trotter Royal Aspirations took out the race this year.
Equine breeding centre Kina Craig Stud has stepped into to sponsor the upgraded event, which compliments the support it receives from trotting owners.
Studmaster Ross Jones has seen an increase in the trotting stallions available to his clients in recent years. Kina Craig would serve ''about 50-60'' trotting broodmares during the upcoming breeding season.
''We seem to be getting more and more trotting mares,'' he said.
Jones' interest in square-gaiters has extended to racing ownership. He and wife Robyn have racing shares in recent winner Poppymalda. The Armbro Invasion filly scored at Forbury Park last month for trainer-driver Nathan Williamson.
She then produced a creditable second, behind 10-race winner Monnay, in just her third race-day start.
Kina Craig Stud has strong booking numbers for the upcoming breeding season, Jones said.
Stallions Art Major, Mach Three and Bettor's Delight have attracted early support.
The change in breeding options available in the last two to three years meant for exciting times ahead, Jones said
''We are not just breeding from the best stallions in Australasia, we are breeding from the best in the world now.''
Jones recently completed the weaning and early education of 79 foals born this season. Venice Beach, a filly by Somebeachsomewhere from mare Galleons Honour, was one of the most impressive types.
''We foal 200 mares and every year you get a couple of standouts.''
Galleons Honour is a half sister to 2013 New Zealand Oaks and Australasian Breeders Crown champion Cheer The Lady.
- The Southland Times