New Zealand is set to introduce a $NZ3.5 million slot race for three-year-olds in 2025, the centrepiece of a massive revamp of its main summer racing carnival which will see the Karaka Millions raceday extended and a ‘Champions Day’ to be held in March with four Group 1 races.

The suite of changes were announced on Monday with more than $NZ23.8 million in stakes on offer across 51 black-types races from January to early April in a major shake-up of the New Zealand racing pattern.

The announcement is the most significant upgrade for New Zealand’s feature races in a generation and has been made possible by the 25-year deal signed between the industry and Entain last year to take over the operations of the NZ TAB.

The NZB Kiwi, a slot race for three-year-olds at Ellerslie over 1500m, will become one of the major highlights of a newly established ‘Champions Day’ that will feature more than $NZ9 million in total prizemoney in year one, climbing to $NZ10 million in year two.

As well as The Kiwi, a race which will feature 14 slots and only will be available to graduates of auction house and sponsor New Zealand Bloodstock’s sales, as well as horses bred in New Zealand, Champions Day will also feature four Group 1s on a Super Saturday in March.

Those races will be the New Zealand Derby, the New Zealand Stakes, the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes and the Sistema Stakes.

The Karaka Millions will now extend across two Saturdays with the Group 1 Railway Stakes to be held on the first day of the carnival.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chairman Cameron George said the aim of the new summer carnival format will supercharge interest in racing, coming on the back of Entain’s long-term investment.

“We will all look back on this once-in-a-generation opportunity and reflect on the period of transformation we have embarked on,” he said.

“We have an opportunity to change the game for our industry and its participants by embracing these changes, while sustaining the future of our sport.

“We’ll be highlighting our athletes, both horse and human, while creating a true spectacle to showcase their elite skills, on our top tracks, consistently throughout the summer period.”

The NZB Kiwi will be the richest race ever held in New Zealand.

“We think it’s a fantastic initiative and it’s certainly an exciting time to be racing horses in New Zealand,” NZB managing director Andrew Seabrook said.

The prizemoney for The Kiwi increases to $NZ4.5 million by 2027, which would make it the richest race in the southern hemisphere for three-year-olds.

“We will all look back on this once-in-a-generation opportunity and reflect on the period of transformation we have embarked on” - New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chairman Cameron George

The revised summer racing programme will see an injection of more than $NZ9 million in stakes and bonuses made available in 2025 against 2024 levels, climbing to an additional $NZ12.7 million in total stakes and bonuses.


New Year’s Day – 1 January 2025 (Ellerslie Racecourse)

The Group 3 Concorde Handicap moves from Karaka Millions Day to New Year’s Day, swapping with the Group 1 Railway Stakes. The conditions of the Concorde will also be amended to SWP (from Handicap)

4 January 2025 (RACE Awapuni)

Addition of the Group 3 Anniversary Handicap that will move from RACE Trentham

11 January 2025 (RACE Trentham)

Addition of the Group 1 Thorndon Mile, creating a two-week gap between the Thorndon Mile and the Aotearoa Classic on Karaka Millions Day One

The Group 1 Levin Classic will remain on this day, but will see its distance reduced to 1400m (from 1600m), while the Group 1 Telegraph Handicap will also retain its place on this day

18 January 2025 (RACE Trentham)

Remains headlined by the Group 3 Wellington Cup, Group 3 Desert Gold Stakes and the NZTR innovation race, the Remutaka Classic

Karaka Carnival Day One – 25 January 2025 (Ellerslie Racecourse)

Remains as a six-race twilight meeting headlined by the $1 million TAB Karaka Millions 2YO, the $1.5m TAB Karaka Millions 3YO, the $1 million Elsdon Park Aotearoa Classic and the Group 2 Westbury Classic

Addition of the Group 1 Railway Stakes, bringing the excitement and exposure of Group 1 racing to the Karaka Carnival

Karaka Carnival Day Two – 1 February 2025 (Ellerslie)

The newly-created second day of the Karaka Carnival will feature the Group 3 Almanzor Trophy, which will move back a week from its traditional date of Karaka Millions Day

One of NZTR’s innovation races, The Rangitoto Classic, will move to this date from the first weekend in March

A number of other black-type and feature races will be added to the Ellerslie program, with details to be announced in the coming months

The Taranaki feature day will continue to be run on 1 February 2025, featuring the Taranaki Cup, Taranaki Classic and Taranaki Oaks Prelude

8 February 2025 (Te Rapa Racecourse)

Addition of the Group 2 Waikato Guineas, which will move from its current mid-week location in late January. This change will improve the spacing between the Karaka Millions 3YO and the Waikato Guineas, and will see the Waikato Guineas run two weeks prior to the Group 2 Avondale Guineas on 22 February 2025

15 February 2025 (Matamata Racecourse)

The Matamata meeting will move forward a week from its current date, with the program remaining unchanged. This movement will improve the spacing of the feature 2YO races at Matamata between the Karaka Carnival and the Group 1 Sistema Stakes in March

22 February 2025 (Ellerslie – Avondale Guineas)

Moving back a week, effectively swapping places with the Matamata meeting. On this date, the Group 2 Avondale Guineas will now be run two weeks after the Group 2 Waikato Guineas and will retain its two week gap to the Group 1 New Zealand Derby

The Group 1 Otaki WFA Classic meeting will continue to take place on this day at Otaki

1 March 2025 (Wingatui Racecourse)

Becomes a newly created feature day for the South Island featuring a number of black-type races, as well as the Southern Mile Final. Further details on this program will be provided at a later date

Champions Day – 8 March 2025 (Ellerslie Racecourse)

Consolidation of Auckland’s two-day March carnival to create a pinnacle day of New Zealand racing, featuring four Group 1 races – the New Zealand Derby, the New Zealand Stakes, the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes and the Sistema Stakes

Champions Day will also feature the newly introduced slot race, The NZB Kiwi, which will be run over 1500m for the best three-year-olds in the country.

Supporting the Group 1 action on Champions Day will be the Group 2 Auckland Cup, Group 3 Sunline Vase, Group 3 King’s Plate and the Entain-NZB Insurance Pearl Series Final

23 March 2025 (RACE Trentham)

New Zealand Oaks Day moves back one week from its current position, maintaining a two-week gap with the New Zealand Derby. The program of the day remains unchanged