The Stratford New Years Eve race day was a great success, says Stratford racing club president John Gray.
"We had record numbers through the gates on the day and despite a few hiccups on the day the feedback we have had has all been incredibly positive."
Vice president of the racing club, Vaughan Keegan, agrees saying he was delighted to see plenty of families enjoying a day out at the races.
"With the weather having been less summery than we had hoped for, we had thought we might have less people coming along on the day, but that was not the case at all. It was one of the busiest days we have ever had when it comes to crowd numbers."
Vaughan says the New Year's Eve event has become a Stratford tradition over the years.
"Originally we had a race day on New Year's Day itself, but in recent years our race day moved to New Year's Eve with the New Year's Day racing happening at larger racecourses such as Ellerslie.
There is something pretty special about the New Year's Eve raceday though and it has certainly attracted plenty of people through the years."
Despite the popularity of the event this year it could all change, says John.
"Currently the race day set for Stratford is for Saturday, December 29 rather than New Year's Eve. The calendar is still in draft format and with some consultation we are hoping to persuade the powers that be in racing to move the date back to the traditional New Year's Eve slot if not this year then hopefully the following but we need the support of the community to achieve that."
John says the Stratford Racing Club needs more paying members to be able to show New Zealand Racing there is plenty of support for the club and the event in town.
"Not only do we want to keep the New Year's Eve date , but we would like to see more race days come to Stratford in the future. There are 12 trainers at Stratford Racing Club at present and more than 100 horses trained out of the Stratford track, so we make a reasonable contribution to New Zealand racing and we'd love that to be recognised with more opportunities to race on our track and progress as a club.
Central Taranaki has a proud racing tradition, with plenty of great trainers working in the area and it would be great to have more events in the area."
"It should really be called the Central Taranaki Racing Club rather than just Stratford, as we have people from all over Taranaki coming to the New Year's Eve event," says Vaughan.
"Racing is a sport the whole family can enjoy, you don't have to know anything about horses or betting to have a great time and coming along to the local racing club means the children will always find friends and classmates to play with while you watch the action on the track.
"We've really concentrated the last couple of years on getting the kids back into racing by becoming part of the Kids Go Racing banner; we think its working and its something both Vaughan and I are really passionate about, giving the kids a base to enjoy this incredible sport,"says John.
Vaughan says horse racing is no longer a sport only the wealthy can enjoy. Many horses are owned by syndicates now rather than individuals he points out, "and at just $10 entry for the day, it isn't that expensive to come for a great day out".
That entry fee changes to free for club members says John. "So joining the club will not only support us, but will give you free admission as well as other benefits such as members only car parking areas."
At $30 for the year's membership, if the club is successful in getting more race days for the town, the investment will soon pay for itself says Vaughan.
"I would like to ask everyone who came and enjoyed a day at the Stratford races on New Year's Eve 2017 to consider joining in order to help us keep the tradition of the New Years Eve races for future generations."
Become a member: email [email protected] for details or contact the club via Facebook: StratfordRacing