Roadworks shouldn’t slow Indikator
Roadworks forcing the closure of State Highway 29 over the Kaimai Ranges has coincided with Tauranga's biggest winter raceday.
The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) are carrying out ``maintenance and safety work'' at Ruahihi Bluffs from 7.30am to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday, the work impacting on travel plans for those heading from Waikato to Tauranga's Kiwifruit Cup meeting on Saturday.
NZTA will set up a detour taking traffic from SH29 to SH2 via Poripori Road through to Crawford Road and Wairoa Road, adding at least 30 minutes to the travel time, but has encouraged motorists to use alternate routes as the detour is "not suitable for large volumes of traffic''.
Trac marketing and sponsorship manager Don Paterson said the timing of the roadworks wasn't great but he didn't expect it to adversely affect attendances.
"It's a bit of a pain but these things have to happen and if it wasn't us, it would be someone else with another event on another weekend,'' he said.
"The good thing is the company who is doing the work figured out after they had decided to do it that we were having our event. They've contacted us directly and they've put in place a pretty good detour arrangement.
"It will add about 45 minutes to the trip if you are going over the Kaimais but they are all sealed roads and they will have pointsmen to make sure the trucks [floats] will flow.
"If anyone is coming over the Kaimais, leaving 45 minutes to an hour earlier would be the smart thing to do.
'We're telling people early enough so people should be able to work with it. It's certainly a lot better than having to travel through Rotorua or Paeroa.''
Chris Watson, the Waikato transport manager for Majestic Horse Floats, said his Tauranga-bound floats would be leaving earlier and following the detour.
"We'll assess it further once the acceptances are out and we know how many we are taking over but we're just going to have to allow an extra hour,'' he said.
Murray Gregory, the racing manager for Hamilton trainers Graeme and Debbie Rogerson, said the stable was likely to send two floats to Tauranga with a big team entered and it was likely both would be sent via the detour.
"We're just going to have to allow plenty of time,'' he said.
Te Aroha trainer Keith Opie said he normally travelled to Tauranga over the Kaimai Ranges but with the road closure he would be going through Paeroa and the Karangahake Gorge, as would all Te Aroha horses.
"From Te Aroha, it's 20 minutes to Matamata and 20 minutes to Paeroa. I'm going to be there comfortably in two hours, whereas it takes me an hour and three-quarters normally over the Kaimais,'' Opie said.
Opie has last year's Kiwifruit Cup winner Indikator back to defend his crown in the Listed feature, reporting the galloper to be in excellent condition though he was wary of him again carrying a big weight - 59kg - against well-performed rivals coming in on the minimum.
"I'm happy with him. It's a big weight he'll have to carry. He deserves what he carries but when the rest are on the minimum it doesn't say much for our winter handicappers or the system,'' Opie said.
The Kiwifruit Cup meeting yesterday attracted bumper entries, with 36 horses nominated for the 1400m maiden and 32 entered for the 1400m Rating 65 event.
The feature Listed $50,000 Kiwifruit Cup (2100m) attracted 18 entries, heading by two-time winner Indikator, last year's Taumarunui Cup winner Marea Alta, last-start Ellerslie winner New Moon and stakes-winner John Gray.
There were 21 entries for the Listed $50,000 Tauranga Classic (1400m) for fillies and mares, headed by last year's winner Art Beat, 2010 winner Sacha, Gr I performer Smoulder, Gr III winners Lady Chaparral and Rememba Howe, Nancho Bella, Kasumi, Nicole Amy, Indian Sky, Happyto Keepa, Te Toro Lass and Holy Moly.
Paterson was expecting a successful meeting.
"We always get great fields and the trainers know what they are going to get racing at this time of year so weather conditions shouldn't hurt,'' he said.
"The rain hasn't been too bad and it's not predicted to get too bad so we'd like to think we'd be running on a slow track.
"You're starting to run out of big meetings before the season finishes - the only other one of similar calibre is the Taumarunui Cup meeting at Te Rapa - so this is the last chance to see the best horses really.''