Day At The Track

Hopes high for Oamaru harness racing

10:10 PM 26 Nov 2020 NZDT
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Oamaru Harness Racing Club president David Ovens
On track . . . New Oamaru Harness Racing Club president David Ovens has had a busy first few months in the role
Kayla Hodge Photo

It has been a hectic few months for new Oamaru Harness Racing Club president David Ovens.

Ovens stepped into the role earlier this year, having spent 10 years on the committee, including four years as vice-president.

He took over from David Heffernan, who stepped down as president after 10 years in the role.

“It was just time to put my hand up and help carry on,” Ovens said.

Coming out of lockdown the club faced plenty of obstacles, including a reform of the racing industry.

Harness Racing New Zealand underwent an independent review of the Southern racing area and Ovens believed the Oamaru club put forward a good submission.

“I’d like to think we put forward a very, very good case. We also had Kurow and Waikouaiti with us, as they race at Oamaru.

“We would like to think that we are in good position, just with the state of our track both harness and grass, our facilities, we’ve just got a perfect setting out there.”

The Oamaru Racecourse tracks were assessed recently, and came up with “very high honours”.

“They couldn’t fault it – it’s a great credit to our groundsman Dave Heffernan and his hard-working volunteers.”

Ovens was determined to turn the racecourse into a hub for the community and create more of a family-friendly atmosphere.

“We now have cross-countries, pony competitions, big wheels, racing, both harness and gallops, weddings.”

It was hoped the club could obtain the Waimate Racing Club’s dates permanently.

Oamaru was in a prime location, being half way between big racecourses in Christchurch and Invercargill, he said.

The Oamaru Harness Racing Club hosted a race meeting on Saturday, and there was an “absolutely fantastic” turnout from the community.

“The racing was excellent. There were very fast times for a grass track.

“We had invited drivers, brothers in arms – a lot of families came out, had picnics and sat on the grass. The kids enjoyed themselves.”

There were nine races throughout the day, and Peter Ferguson joined an elite group in New Zealand, bringing up his 2000th win.

“Especially as a North Islander – it was a very special occasion.”

The club will host two more meetings in the New Year.

By Kayla Hodge

Reprinted with permission of the Oamaru Mail

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