THE revamped MIA Breeders Plate will kick off tonight with a 12-horse field vying for the $40,000 in prize money on offer for the premier race for two year-olds.
Changes to the racing schedule have moved the plate final to later in January, continuing a month of meetings for the Leeton Harness Racing Club.
The Breeders Plate heats will be run over two races, as part of a 10-race program starting just after 6pm.
LHRC secretary Joanne Punch was excited by the prospect of the night’s racing.
“It’s a good program, very good, with the general support races,” Punch said.
“I’m happy with the numbers overall.
“We’ve still got the two heats. Overall the nominations were up by a couple.”
The club held its Boxing Day and New Year’s night meetings to good success, but Harness Racing NSW changes have rescheduled the Breeders Plate, with finals now on the last Friday night in January and heats to be held two weeks before that.
“Trainers know it’s there, it’s just a matter of whether they are ready,” Punch said.
“However, there’s not as many going to breeding now, that’s the worry. People are just cutting down, with the costs.
“I’m hoping it’s going to build up. It is still school holidays so I think they the people will all come down.
“We have extra meetings this way. With Boxing Day, New Year’s night, the plate heats and finals, it will be four meetings in the space of a month.
“I don’t know what to expect for Australia Day, but if it is like New Year’s Day, we’ll be over the moon.”
The longer break between heats and the final could also be of benefit to horses and trainers.
“If it is a hot night, it will give the two-year-olds time to recover and there is still time to improve,” Punch said.
Col Thomas and Wal Kefford are the only Leeton trainers with two-year-olds in this year’s Plate.
Riverina trainers make up the majority of those in the race with David Druitt (two), Peter Schiller (two), Steve Maguire, Paul Kahlefeldt and Jim Fury all represented.
The Lin Gordon Paceway is looking good, too. The club’s project this year was to construct covers over the smaller grandstands to protect patrons, with some of the seating also replaced and repainted. It has also completed the upgrade of another three light poles.
The track is in cracking condition, having produced quick times on New Year’s night..
“We didn’t have a race over two minutes,” Punch said.
“The first night it was a bit chopped up, but they did some work on it and the second night it was perfect. There was a track record for the lady drivers. I would expect quick times again.”
While tonight’s heats will provide a full program of racing, the MIA Breeders Plate final on January 26 will have the extra draw of entertainment for the family.
There will be performances by Mark Smith between races and at the conclusion of the night, fireworks at the conclusion and free kids entertainment.