Day At The Track

ATC backs amalgamation! - Michael Guerin

06:58 PM 08 Jul 2013 NZST
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Alexandra Park

Host Alexandra Park tenant sure to vote for unification but other harness racing clubs' feelings are unknown. The historic and potentially crucial first step to changing the way harness racing is run in the north will be put to a vote tonight.

The move to amalgamate the harness racing clubs which race at Alexandra Park seems to have the backing of most of the industry heavyweights.

The Auckland Trotting Club has called a special meeting of members tonight to vote on resolutions to rename the club and potentially amalgamate with the four smaller clubs which race at Alexandra Park.

If the proposals are agreed to, the ATC will change its name to Alexandra Park Inc and move to bring the Thames, Kumeu, Franklin and Manukau clubs under its umbrella.

The move is aimed at saving money, setting up a public training facility at Pukekohe and helping to ensure the future viability of harness racing in the region through development of Alexandra Park to boost revenue streams.

While the ATC is financially strong its key asset, Alexandra Park, is still underused in a purely commercial sense.

Amalgamation and implementing a business plan aimed at dramatically increasing stakes appear crucial to the future of the industry and would seem certain to be viewed positively by the majority of ATC members who attend tonight's meeting, which could number as many as 250.

There will certainly, though, be those against the proposals, with some in harness racing still embracing the amateur, club-based ethos which kept rugby mired in the dark ages for so long before professionalism released its economic potential.

However, the leading breeders, owners and trainers spoken to by the Herald are behind the ATC moves, many suggesting changes have to be made or the industry's future is bleak.

If the ATC members vote in the affirmative then the members of the smaller tenant clubs will meet separately to vote on whether they want to be part of the amalgamation.

With Franklin to be the big winner out of the proposal because of the huge development being touted for Pukekohe, it would seem certain to support the changes.

But there could be resistance from Thames and Kumeu, although without the support of the ATC and use of Alexandra Park, Kumeu's future is bleak.

Meanwhile, champion trainer Barry Purdon has had a change of heart with Harness Jewels star Sky Major.

Purdon was originally planning to spell the colt after his dramatic Jewels win, which has made him a leading contender for 2-year-old pacer of the year at the annual awards thismonth.

However, Purdon is now taking Sky Major to Australia next month for the Australasian Breeders Crown, which boasts a A$309,000 final on August 18.

Sky Major and stablemate Maxim, also a group one winner this season, will contest a three-horse non-tote heat of the Breeders Crown at Cambridge on Thursday night.

While there are only three in the race the other is local pacer Racer, who also has talent so the non-tote race will be stronger than most of the other heats Australasia-wide.

With only the winner guaranteed a spot in the August 10 semifinals at Ballarat, the two who are beaten on Thursday will have to contest an extra lead-up race in Victoria if they are to make the semifinals.

"I am aware at least one of mine, and even both, could have to do that if they are beaten this Thursday," said Purdon. "But I am committed to them going as the ABC is a great series and worth some serious money."

Courtesy of  Michael Guerin of the New Zealand Herald


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