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Renewed drive to get families back to the Friday Night Trots

Renewed drive to get families back to the Friday Night Trots

For decades Auckland’s Alexandra Park has held its ‘Friday Night Trots’ under lights, hosting over 48 race meetings and 480 races a year. Now the Auckland Trotting Club is on a renewed push to get more Aucklanders along to enjoy harness racing in the central suburb of Epsom - a feature since 1890.

“Many of our first-time guests are blown away by the total entertainment offering. I think they expect a carton of chips and a can of beer. However we take them to the likes of our ‘Top of the Park’ function room, glassed in looking right down on our beautifully lit track and they absolutely love it,” says Alexandra Park chief executive Dominique Dowding.

“Anyone can get really close to the action and another important thing to us is we cater for everyone. Whether you’re wanting a lovely buffet meal upstairs or just a more causal racing experience down on the rail outside, it all makes for a really unique experience.”

Ms Dowding says the trots have been a Friday night institution in Auckland since the 1950s, with the club well aware the heyday has been, but is equally determined to ensure future generations can also enjoy them.

Key to the continuation of harness racing in central Auckland is the Auckland Trotting Club’s long-term business plan which is all about getting a greater financial return off its valuable land holdings on the corner of Green Lane West and Manukau Road. Two examples include a whole new mixed-use residential urban village being built in part of the club’s former carpark and the just constructed training base for The Blues Super 15 rugby team at Alexandra Park.

“Our strategy is all about building a sustainable business model. That is the only way we can grow harness racing for our industry and our members. As well as preserving Alexandra Park, we’re actually leading the rebuild of the sport in the northern region by trying to reduce the costs and attract young breeders, trainers and drivers.”

In 2014 Alexandra Park merged with the Franklin Trotting Club which has led to a rapid increase in the number of horses now using the Pukekohe training facilities.

Last month the club employed a new Sales & Marketing Manager, Joel Reichardt, who was previously a senior brand manager at Frucor Beverages.

Ms Dowding says part of his brief is to work on lifting harness racing’s image which she describes as not overly glamorous, attract new commercial partners, and remind potential sponsors of the huge racing television audience the sport attracts.

She says another challenge is to get more corporates to attend on Friday nights by promoting horse syndication, where shares can be taken in a horse. Offices could then effectively race each other all in the name of team building.

“We remain completely realistic about our ability to attract a whole new audience, and at the same time we’re acutely aware not to alienate our existing attendees who remain our bread and butter. We need to keep changing but in a membership-based organisation we also need to take everyone with us.”

Annual membership of Auckland Trotting Club can start from just $124 and offers members considerable benefits.

“We appreciate all the entertainment choices out there these days, but I suppose we’re really wanting people to once again consider theFriday Night Trots as an option like their parents or grandparents may have.”

“Going out can cost families or couples so much but we try to make Friday nights as accessible as possible with free parking, a free race book on arrival and free entertainment. What we do know is when new people come, they return. Experiencing the thrill of racing at an intimate venue like Alexandra Park is a really fun night out,” says Ms Dowding.

Forty races alone will be run in February over four race meetings – one every Friday night.

Then next month The Winger Group presents an exciting Oaks & Derby Festival from 4 – 11 March showcasing fashion, a calendar of events, premier racing, with an array of hospitality packages available.


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