Day At The Track

North Island ‘Silver Jubilee’ Awards looming

09:00 AM 22 Jun 2017 NZST
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Harness action at Alexandra Park
HRNZ photo

The 25th annual North Island Harness Racing Awards, which will be held at Alexandra Park on Saturday September 2, has attracted three sponsors.

The prize-giving ceremony will be known as the Always B Miki North Island Harness Racing Awards. Alabar and Nevele R Studs are also sponsors.

The function is again being organised by Raelene Balle, Janene Cole, Karen Blanchard, and Suzanne Herlihy.

"We are so looking forward to the 25th anniversary awards. We are very grateful to our sponsors who remain so loyal sponsoring us year on year, and big thanks also goes to Always B Miki, who has come on board," Pukekohe-based Balle said.

Always B Miki, who is the fastest horse of all-time (1:46), was also the 2016 USA Horse-of-the-Year. He is the only horse to have ever won four races in 1:47 or faster. His semen can be obtained at Nevele R Stud.

Balle said pre-dinner drinks would start at in the Tasman Room at 5.30pm before crossing over to Lyell Creek Lounge for the awards.

Tickets are $130 a head but Balle said junior drivers and cadets were fully subsidised.

"The price includes a three-course, drinks, and a live band named 'Split Second'. Formal dress (tie and jacket) is required. Tickets can ordered by phoning Suzanne on 027 407 1057," said Balle.

Last year’s award ceremony was highlighted by Luk Chin, and the late John Butcher and his wife Colleen.

Twenty two awards were up for grabs at that annual function sponsored by A Rocknroll Hanover, but it was the Waikato trio which won the two most prestigious prizes on offer.

Chin won the ‘Racing Achievement Award’ while the Butcher husband and wife duo were presented with the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing Award’.

Speeding Spur and Have Faith In Me won the respective Trotter and Pacer-of-the-Year titles.

"We have had some amazing highlights over the years. Two years ago we raised nearly $10,000 for little Ashlee Small, who was born with Down Syndrome and at the time was being treated for leukemia.

"That was such a deserving cause and it was so lovely our harness racing community rallied together to support one of our own families.

"Then there was the year Tony Herlihy (MNZM) drove 3,000 driving winners. He had no idea we planned such a celebration for him.

"Other standouts include Brent Mangos and James Stormont both getting to 1,000 wins, and Maurice McKendry's 3000 winners. Both him and Tony have now each been bestowed with a Queen Services medal (MNZM)," Balle said.

She said honouring other greats in years gone-by like John and Colleen Butcher, the late John Devlin, Peter Wolfenden, Alec McDonald, and Alby Gain

"It’s so lovely we can recognise such amazing achievements over the years. We have had some very memorable times in years gone by, but I'll never forget Ashlee Small's benefit in 2015.

"I was blown away by the generosity and felt very privileged to be able to assist them in that way, and making the phone call to Ian and Tracey the day after the awards to deliver the good news - they were overwhelmed with the generosity and so grateful,” Balle said.

“It’s just so rewarding to be part of the ‘Fab 4’ and organise awards for such deserving people in our industry,” she stressed.

Tickets and the names of nominees will be released in mid-August.

Duane Ranger

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