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Female leaders make club history

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

January will see the start of a new era for two South Island harness racing clubs, when their new female leaders step into their first race meetings at the helm. Kristie Hill was elected President of the Nelson Harness Racing Club in October, whilst Petrina Shutkowski became Chairperson of the Marlborough Harness Racing Club just over six weeks ago. Both are the first females in these roles for their respective club. Kristie Hill was a former Education Officer at Harness Racing New Zealand, but has also held her driver’s licence for 21 years. She works part time for Pro-Doosa Boost, as Sales and Marketing Manager and works horses with her father, Brian. Hill is kept busy volunteering her time for the committee of the Motueka Pony Club, which her daughter Ava attends. Her involvement with the club is a huge part of her family history.

"My late grandfather Joe Hill was the President of the Nelson Trotting Club, as it was called then, for many years and was instrumental in the building of our Members Stand and Redwood Hall. He was also the President of the Nelson Jockey Club," Hill explains. "My father Brian has been on the committee for over thirty years, and my mother Cheryl stepped down from the committee when I came on in April 2015, she is still involved as a steward."

Her first year on the committee provided many rewarding challenges as she was heavily involved in the club’s 125th Jubilee celebrations. A huge milestone to reach.

She has some big goals ahead too for the club, the first of which has already been completed.

"The first goal for our club this season was to address the racing surface of our track which we had some issues with over the winter. In December we were able to start this project and completely removing the current surface and replacing it with a washed crush dust. We were extremely fortunate to be able to have John Denton come and oversee this project for us, and he will be working with our staff over the races to ensure the track is in the best possible condition so watch for some records to fall!" said Hill.

"Another goal for our club is to see an increase in patronage for both our summer and winter race meetings. We will be working on developing the experience on course for our patrons, so they have a great time and come back next meeting bringing friends with them."

"We are most definitely looking to promote race horse ownership in the Nelson/Tasman region. Another goal for our committee is to hold the Jewels which will mean some work on our infrastructure. But what a weekend to be had with the Abel Tasman and Nelson Lakes on our backdoor, and a newly laid track with the ideal mile start. Giving opportunity to all starters."

Meanwhile over in stunning Marlborough, Petrina Shutkowski has been involved with harness racing for over 30 years, having helped her husband Allan train horses in the district.

"I’ve been with the club for two years, and the reason I didn’t get involved sooner was due to having a full time job with BNZ and also running a small vineyard, along with working our own horses. I just didn’t have the time to fully commit," Shutkowski explains. "But now I can give it my full attention and I really think it’s a great opportunity for me to give back to racing and get some new ideas out there."

The Marlborough meeting this year will be unique in that it will be held on the grass surface. "Our caretaker has been working on the track and it is in good condition. We are really looking forward to being able to bring the racing action closer to the crowd given the 1850m mobile start point will be right there in front of them," Shutkowski says. The newly reopened state highway between Picton and Christchurch will hugely assist those wanting to travel to the meeting, be it socially or to bring horses to race. "The Majestic Horse Truck recently travelled the new road, and reported it only took half an hour longer than it did pre earthquake," said Shutkowski. "The new road is a very scenic drive, and another good reason for people to get away and enjoy our two day meeting." The Marlborough club secretary, Cheryl Thompson, is also a new comer and is new to the sport of harness racing too.

The Nelson summer meeting will be held January 12 and 14, whilst Marlborough will follow on January 19 and 21. Those contemplating starting horses at the meeting are encouraged to contact the clubs to arrange accommodation or paddocks, should they need any assistance. Kristie Hill advises there are multiple options for accommodation for racegoers and horse people at Nelson also. "We have the Richmond Holiday Park that is located two minutes from the track. They have a variety of accommodation options. If you would like to be situated in Nelson City (12 mins from the track) the Palms Motels also sponsor at the race meeting. For those of you who want to try camping we have that option available on course. If you have any specific stabling requirements do contact the club."

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