With a history dating all the way back to the 19th century, it is fair to say that horse racing is firmly embedded into the culture of New Zealand.
Race meetings were first staged back in the 1840s, with military personnel running meetings at Auckland and Onehunga using their own troop horses.
Racing clubs began to formed in various regions around 20 years later, laying the foundations for the sport that exists today.
Horse racing is now firmly established as one of the most popular sports for betting in New Zealand, so read on as we take a closer look at the latest state-of-play there.
A Booming Business
Horse racing in New Zealand is extremely big business, with the sport generating revenues of around $1.6 billion per annum.
The New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Association control horse racing and oversee the activities of the clubs licensed to race around the country.
There are more than 50 racetracks situated across New Zealand, while the industry currently employs over 18,000 people.
The annual prize money on offer is around $60 million, further highlighting the healthy state of horse racing in New Zealand.
Top Tracks Lead the Way
There are numerous top-class racetracks in New Zealand including Riccarton Park, Ellerslie Racecourse and Trentham.
Riccarton is the main course for the Christchurch area, and hosts the New Zealand Cup, New Zealand 1,000 Guineas and New Zealand 2,000 Guineas.
Ellerslie is the top track in Auckland, with its stunning setting providing the perfect backdrop for big races such as the New Zealand Derby, Auckland Cup and Karaka Million.
Trentham is based in the Wellington region and stages major races such as the Wellington Cup, the New Zealand Oaks and the Thorndon Mile.
Historic Cup Meeting the Social Highlight
Much like Royal Ascot in the United Kingdom, the New Zealand Cup meeting during November is the standout social event in the racing calendar there.
The event features high-class racing, fashion, food and entertainment across three days as Christchurch gathers to celebrate all that is great about spring.
The two Guineas races are always fiercely contested, but the centrepiece of the meeting is undoubtedly the New Zealand Cup.
Run over a distance of 3,200 metres, this Group 3 event is one of the oldest races in New Zealand having been run each year since 1865.
Two Million on the Line
One of the most exciting elements of the New Zealand racing scene is the Karaka Million Series, which offers graduates of NZB’s National Yearling Sales Series the chance to compete for $2m.
Eligible horses can initially compete in the lucrative Karaka Million 2YO, before being able to contest the Karaka Million 3YO Classic the following year.
The two races are run as part of the Karaka Million Twilight Meeting at Ellerslie during January, and always attract some top-class performers.
Probabeel cemented her place in history earlier this year, becoming the first ever winner of the juvenile race to return and claim the 3YO Classic 12 months later.
Jack Timms is an independent writer with 8 years experience in writing sports articles for various magazines and newspapers. Most of his work is on horse racing or football, and he has written for magazines such as Thoroughbred Racing and Luxuria Lifestyle. Jack lives in York with his dog, Poppins.