The renaissance of the New Zealand thoroughbred racing industry has reached a new peak with the announcement of a new $3.5 million slot race to headline a $9m mega meeting at Ellerslie next year.
The new Champions Day run at Ellerslie on March 8, 2025 will be one of the richest sporting events ever held in New Zealand.
The day will host the first elite level slot race in New Zealand thoroughbred racing worth $3.5m in its first year, rising to $4m in 2026 and $4.5m in 2027.
All three runnings of the new race, named the NZB Kiwi, will also have $1m in bonuses attached if any of the first three home have won one of a series of key lead-up races.
With a first prize of $1.2m and potential bonus of $600,000, next year’s winner could take home $1.8m for the 90-second race.
The NZB Kiwi will be for 3-year-olds over 1500m either bred in New Zealand or sold at a New Zealand Bloodstock sale.
It will contain 14 slots which, after being purchased by a business, racing club or members of the public, will enable the slot holder to start their own horse in the NZB Kiwi or negotiate with the owners of others horses for them to represent their slot, sharing the prize money.
Slot racing has taken off in Australasian racing with the most popular being the A$20m ($21.5m) Everest in Sydney while New Zealand harness racing has a $1m pacing slot race and $575,000 trotting slot race, both at Cambridge on April 12.
The NZB Kiwi will have a unique spin though as while five of the slots will be offered to different regions in the New Zealand racing industry as well as NZTR retaining one, nine of the slots are to be auctioned in a function in Auckland on February 27.
They will have a minimum price of $450,000 for ownership of the slot for three years, based on an annual fee of $125,000 the first season rising to $175,000 for the 2027 slot.
The new race will be the centrepiece of by far the biggest race day ever held in New Zealand with Champions Day rolling all the glamour races of Auckland Cup week into one day.
That will see the $1m Trackside NZ Derby, NZ Breeders Stakes (fillies and mares), Bonecrusher NZ Stakes (weight-for-age) and Sistema Stakes (juveniles) all at group one level run on the same programme as the NZB Kiwi.
They will be supported by the Auckland Cup (group two), Sunline Vase and Kings Plate (both group three) and the Entain-NZB Insurance Pearl Series Final.
Auckland Cup week will be reduced to a one-day mega meeting but the TAB Karaka Millions meeting will expand to two days, the second coming at the end of yearling sales week.
New Zealand’s biggest sprint race the Railway will rise to $600,000 next season and be added to TAB Karaka Millions night on January 25.
It will join the $1.5m TAB Three-Year-Old, $1m TAB Two-Year-old, $1m Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic and the $500,000 Westbury Stud Classic at the meeting the night before yearling sales week at Karaka begins.
Sales week will then end with the new Ellerslie meeting, not at quite the same level, but highlighted by races like the Almanzor Trophy and new innovation race, the Rangitoto Classic with further black-type races to be added.
The two mammoth meetings, the Karaka Millions and then Champions Day, will boost New Zealand’s profile on the world stage and cement the new Ellerslie, which has just opened its StrathAyr track, as a world-class racing venue.
Importantly by adding the group one Railway to TAB Karaka Millions night the meeting becomes eligible for inclusion as a World Pool meeting, which allows punters from countries around the world to bet into a single gigantic pool.
NZTR Chairman Cameron George believes the revamped summer carnival will attract the best horses and jockeys from across New Zealand and Australia, initiating a major phase of growth for the industry.
“We will all look back on this once-in-a-generation opportunity and reflect on the period of transformation we have embarked on,” George said.
“We have an opportunity to change the game for our industry and its participants by embracing these changes, while sustaining the future of our sport.”
The creation of Champions Day and the enormous boosts to Karaka Millions night would have been impossible just one year ago until Entain took over the running of the NZ TAB.
They have since stunned even the most positive racing industry observers with their involvement and enthusiasm for New Zealand’s three racing codes, rather than treating the TAB as a mere betting business.
That involvement will help $23.8m in stakes to be paid out across 51 black type races in thoroughbred racing alone from January 1 to early April next year.
New Zealand Bloodstock sponsoring the NZB Kiwi mirrors what they did by starting the Karaka Million concept from scratch in 2008.
The addition of the new slot race means yearlings purchased at Karaka next week can race for $7.5m in stakes and bonuses in just three races in New Zealand in the first 19 months of their careers.
What: A new race meeting, the biggest in New Zealand history.
When: March 8, 2025.
Highlight: New $3.5m slot race, the NZB Kiwi, rising to $4.5m by 2027.
Also: Trackside NZ Derby, Bonecrusher NZ Stakes, Sistema Stakes, NZ Breeders Stakes (all group ones), Auckland Cup (group two ), Kings Plate and Sunline Vase (group three ), Entain-NZB Insurance Pearl Final.
Who can own a slot: Anybody. Nine of the 14 will be auctioned in Auckland on February 27, starting price $450,000 for three years.
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