There are often two sides to an argument.
So when a few horseman came out last week against the move to invite the best Australian in each division into the Jewels from next year, I respected their opinion.
After all, trainers are our industry’s hardest workers and are paid to achieve the best for their horses and maximise returns for the owners. That is their sole job.
And if you have a good horse with a decent shot at being a player in the Jewels on May 31 your task may well be made more difficult by a genuine Aussie superstar being added to the field.
But even as an owner who hopes to have two horses in the Jewels myself next year, I can’t hide from these facts that might cut through some of the emotive claims made about the decision.
Because the bottom line is simple, this move is good for the entire industry.
1) This hurts local owners/trainers
Really? There will still be exactly the same number of Kiwi horses in the Jewels as always. Yes they might be harder to win but they are Group 1s, they are supposed to be bloody hard to win.
2) The Aussie wouldn’t do the same for us
Actually, they have been for decades and never more so than now.
NSW bosses confirmed last week they are holding two spots in the Miracle Mile for Christen Me and Terror To Love because they are great horses who will add prestige and interest to their race.
That means the Kiwis are getting an advantage over Smoken Up and Bitobliss, who have to race in Sydney in the lead-ups to get an invite.
Sydney bosses are doing this because they want the best field for the Miracle Mile, to increase interest, drive turnover, pique the interest of gallops punters.
They did the same for Bettor Cover Lover (Ladyship) and Jason Rulz (Chariots) in March, letting NZ wins earn them a place in Menangle Group 1s. How is what HRNZ doing anydifferent?
3) If the Aussies don’t race here they don’t deserve a start
To get invited an Aussie will have to be the best of its age in an entire country. To get invited as a local all you need to do is being in the top 12, which in the case of 2-year-old trotter could mean winning $1000. Which of those things is more deserving?
4) Having Aussies there won’t help turnover
Australian turnover on this year’s Jewels in Aussie went through the roof because of Allblack Stride and Blitzthemcalder.
From when the Victoria Derby is run until May 1 every time an Aussie horse wins a major age group race the media are going to ask them whether they want to go to the Jewels. The
Jewels get enormous free publicity and if they come coverage in Australia will be massive, with radio and tv preview shows and coverage in newspapers who have more readers than the population of the entire South Island.
That means more turnover, which goes straight back into our industry’s pockets. If we can show them what a stunning product NZ harness can be, maybe we can win them over to betting on it on Sky2 regularly.
If you don’t believe having Aussies here will create more interest across the Tasman answer this: Did you watch the Chariots Of Fire this year because Christen Me, Smolda and Jason Rulz were in it?
5) If it aren’t broke don’t fix it
The Jewels aren’t broken but plenty of people in our industry are. We live next door to one of the greatest punting countries on earth, we must do everything to encourage them to bet on our races because turnover is going down. Forget spending $1000s on trying to educate new punters, first win over our neighbours.
Plenty would have said the Melbourne Cup wasn’t broke 20 years ago but it changed, moving with the times by encouraging foreign horses and is now the biggest race in the world.
Progress is not only good, it is crucial.
6) An extra horse will be too many at Cambridge
As somebody who has watched over 3000 races live at Cambridge the problem isn’t always the track, its uncompetitive racing making leaders impossible to catch.
Aussies are more aggressive on the whole than our drivers. Having some of their best in the Jewels will almost certainly make for more competitive, and therefore fair, racing.
But again, there are two sides to any argument so rather than making predictions about what could happen I will leave you with what probably could have happened had this rule being in place this year.
We could have seen: Frith vs Adore Me; I’m Stately vs One Over Da Moon; Bettor Cover Lover vs Baby Bling; Terror To Love vs Caribbean Blaster and Border Control/Bit Of A Legend/Ohoka Punter vs Majestic Mach.
Yeah, good point, that would have been dreadful. Who would possibly have wanted to watch that?
By Michael Guerin (Harness Racing New Zealand)