Day At The Track

NZ First has a nine-point plan for racing

04:42 AM 28 Mar 2013 NZDT
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The legendary Phar Lap The Rt Hon. Winston Peters
The legendary Phar Lap
The Rt Hon. Winston Peters

First the Australians tried to claim the great Phar Lap as its own even though the champion thoroughbred actually came from just outside of Timaru. The fight over which country can rightfully claim Phar Lap as its own is well illustrated by what happened to the horse after its sudden death from a mystery illness in 1932.

Its mounted hide is displayed at the Melbourne Museum, the skeleton at Te Papa in Wellington, and its heart at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

We don't want to be drawn into the debate other than to say it is obvious that Phar Lap is a real Kiwi champion.

Unfortunately, what has also become glaringly obvious is just how out of touch the Government is with the New Zealand Racing Industry. It has reached such a perilous state that the future of the racing industry is under threat.

Recent news that leading trainer John Sargent is to radically downsize his New Zealand stables to feeder status and shift his focus to Australia should be ringing alarm bells with Racing Minister Nathan Guy - National's third Minister of Racing since the last election.

But Mr Guy is so out of touch that he thinks Alarm Bells would be worth $5 each way in Race 1 at Trentham.

Mr Sargent warned that more Kiwi owners will leave the country because of rising costs and poor prize money. The statistics given by Mr Sargent to justify his claim makes for sober reading.

Last year, he only broke even despite training a record 111 winners, which earned $1.8 million in stakes, giving him $180,000 for his 10 per cent share.

In Australia, with that number of winners, Mr Sargent would have rightfully made a healthy profit.

Just look at what Sargent gained from winning a $7000 maiden race - just $300 which he said left him with nothing but a few dollars change after he took his wife out to dinner.

This situation is a disgrace.

New Zealand First has a nine point plan that has previously been discussed in this forum. Needless to say, it would go a long way to turning the fortunes of the racing industry around.

Sadly, unless the Government suddenly decides to listen to New Zealand First, the implementation of our action plan will probably have to wait until after the next election.

For the sake of the racing industry, let's hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

And on a completely different subject, the Easter break meant this column had to be written a little earlier than usual.

However, all things being equal I was to attend the races in Riverton on Easter Saturday. If my previous experiences are anything to go by, it should be a grand day in the deep south.

by Rt Hon. Winston Peters (Leader for NEW ZEALAND FIRST and RACING SPOKESMAN)

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