Tuesday, December 23, 2014
By Shelley Topp
I turn on the TV and tune into Trackside.
It’s Sunday November 23, a beautiful sunny, warm day, and once again there is a huge crowd at Motukarara Raceway, the home of grass-track harness racing.
The Banks Peninsula Trotting Club are holding their Christmas at the Races meeting. It’s perfect picnic weather and the course is already packed with people for the first race. At a time when many clubs are struggling to get people to come to their race meetings, big crowds are not unusual for the Banks Peninsula Trotting Club.
How do they do it?
They have some good dates and their meetings always attract great fields. They also have a very hard-working, enthusiastic and innovative team working behind the scenes organising their meetings. However, other clubs have those assets too, but still struggle to attract good-sized crowds.
So what is the Banks Peninsula club’s secret?
On course the crowd is even bigger than the Trackside cameras show, but there is a lovely relaxed vibe, with Christmas decorations everywhere, horses warming up on the track, live music and a sea of picnic umbrellas.
It’s a busy day for club president Paul Davies but he is happy to find time for a chat.
The club has built up a “loyal following over the years,” he says.
Today, the corporate part of their meeting is sold out, and the large crowd, including many families with young children, is very pleasing.
He believes the excitement of watching close-up grass-track racing, and the festive family entertainment plays a big role in the club’s ability to attract large crowds.
“In my view the public like grass-track racing,” he says. “The grass-track clubs have been attracting good betting results.”
However, he also believes the Motukarara setting is an important factor as well.
“It’s sheltered from the cold winds and very picturesque.”
The club put a lot of effort into ensuring children have fun at their meetings too with plenty of entertainment for them so their parents can relax and enjoy their day at the races.
The live music throughout the day in between races from the ever popular Nashville country and western recording artist John McCabe also helps. Some people on course even say they would come just to listen to him. His music sets just the right tone and has many people foot-tapping and others dancing.
McCabe will be there again at the club’s end-of-year Interislander Summer Festival Meeting on Monday December 29. Mark it down in your diary for it is certain to be another day of exciting racing including the Wakefield and Williams Grass Track Championship Final, as well as plenty of other fun and entertainment for the whole family