Day At The Track

Monday harness racing abandoned

01:05 AM 16 May 2014 NZST
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Scrapping Monday racing is a win-win across the board.

The New Zealand Racing Board - the current administration of which is only early in its second year - has taken a major step in turning around the move to Monday racing put in place by the previous administration.

It was meant to provide more "product" (a horrible word for race lovers) for Australians to bet on.

It hasn't worked. It diluted our domestic product in thoroughbred racing, something exacerbated by falling horse numbers.

The public likes betting into bigger fields.

By scrapping 26 racedays - 159 races - the move lessens the overall cost of producing race meetings and should increase field sizes if horse numbers reasonably plateau.

Racing Board chief executive Chris Bayliss has said from day one the focus has to be on increasing financial returns to owners.

Both equine codes indicated to the Racing Board a desire to downsize for the new season. Harness racing has reduced its yearly schedule by only one race meeting, but by 107 races.This is a good first stepping stone.

Racing on Mondays now will be restricted to statutory holidays and the odd provincial anniversary.

Monday racing has been extremely tough on industry participants. Matamata trainer Graham Richardson, one of the industry's progressive thinkers said: "Look, they had a go and it didn't work, so let's try something else.

"It's like any business, some ideas work and some don't.

"Certainly, it's been difficult for trainers to roster staff and losing Mondays will ease that problem. It will be a significant cost saver for owners and trainers."

The Racing Board says: "The 2014/15 calendar, comprising 1062 meetings and 10,913 races across the three racing codes, has been devised to better meet the industry's objectives of optimising domestic and international betting performance.

"The majority of traditional race dates for the 2014/15 season remain unchanged from previous seasons."

Seven of the 26 scrapped racedays will be those held by the now defunct Paeroa racing complex, which two months ago was deemed to be unsuitable for race meetings and trial meetings.

The Avondale Jockey Club will lose one meeting, as will the Counties Racing Club. However the Auckland Trotting Club gains three meetings and the Auckland Greyhound Racing Club, one. The Manukau and Kumeu Trotting Clubs both shed a meeting.

In Waikato, Harness Racing Waikato loses a meeting as does the Morrinsville Trotting Club. Over to the thoroughbred code and there will be one less meeting per season at Thames and Waipa. Whangarei and Whakatane also lose one meeting each.

By Mike Dillon, (reprinted with permission by

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