The Council meeting proper began with consideration of a number of matters discussed at the previous meeting last October.
These included the proposal to Extend Three year old Concessions until the end of August to bring us into line with Australia, and the Points Ranking System which, following the recent Handicapping Committee meeting, appeared to have been set aside in favour of a money won system, however some Clubs were still resisting its’ introduction. Gordon Lee and Ken Barron disagreed on whether the current split stake system was working in Southland. Peter Ferguson suggested that each region was different and felt that nominations should be called for C0, C1 and C2 races with split conditions. He suggested that Clubs be lobbied to make better use of race conditions, however the Canterbury reps reported they were continually thwarted in these endeavours.
The RIU was to be asked about progress on whether Starters were to be employed by that organisation. Peter Ferguson also reported that pay scales for Clerks of the Course varied considerably, and suggested that the RIU could employ these also.
Ken Barron suggested that appearance money be paid (for example back to sixth placing in a twelve horse field), but should not come from the stakes paid to other place-getters. This was supported in general and would be discussed with the Owners, and Breeders organisations. Rob Lawson reminded the meeting that the role of the Association was to support license-holders, and such a move could take money away from that group.
The meeting then moved on to agenda items, with Rob Lawson reporting on an HRNZ Animal Welfare Sub-Committee that he had been part of. Basically it was to ensure that a policy document existed that showed HRNZ were being pro-active in the animal welfare field. The Committee took a reasoned point of view that whips were needed, and agreed that our whip use rules were better than the Australian equivalent. Ken Barron suggested the introduction of padded whips, however it was decided that such a move would not alter the perception issue.
Peter Ferguson suggested that half the driving fee should be paid if a horse is scratched after declaration time, as a driver is still committed to attend the meeting even if he or she is left with only one drive. Gordon Lee and Rob Lawson advised that the money from unused driving fees was being paid out in various bonus schemes in some areas, however the meeting agreed that the money involved in the proposal would barely effect those schemes. Following discussion it was decided that the Association should put up a remit to achieve the above, however asking that a full fee be paid to the drivers affected.
A proposal that the same sulkies be supplied by HRNZ for all races was considered, however the meeting felt that the financial problems involved made it impractical. Mark Jones suggested that larger excesses be applied to insurance for the more expensive sulkies. He also felt that there should be insurance cover for colours and drivers gear, etc.
Gordon Lee once again outlined the advantages of the Bulls-Eye Barrier Draw system, particularly in regard to fixed-odds betting. Following discussion, it was decided to write to HRNZ suggesting that this system be used for the Harness Jewels only, as is the case with the Miracle Mile and Interdominion Grand Final.
Ken Barron led discussion on the subject of the makeup of the HRNZ Board, with John Lischner advising that the HRNZ Strategic Plan contained an investigation into this, although that did not mean there would be a change. It appeared that the optimum Board size was seven, and the problem was to decide who missed out on representation, while maintaining a reasonable balance. It was decided that the opinions of the Council should be conveyed to HRNZ to be included in their deliberations.
Mark Jones, in suggesting the micro-chipping of all horses, suggested that much time, energy and paperwork could be saved by HRNZ and the RIU if this system was introduced. There was full support and a letter of recommendation was to be sent to HRNZ.
Consideration was given to various changes to the current scratching penalties, however it was decided that further consideration was needed before any recommendation was made.
Mark Jones was supported in suggesting that Clubs with no pylons and passing lanes should not be granted a license to race. Peter Ferguson and David Butcher also felt that lanes should be a consistent length. Following discussion the meeting agreed that the lane should be between 200m and 250m long, and these suggestions were to be made to HRNZ.
The current stakes limits applied to Three year-old Concessions were discussed, mostly around whether they were still relevant due to stake increases. There were various opinions on this topic with no agreement being reached at this point.
Following discussion it was decided that an increase in driving fees to $75 + GST should be applied for.
Due to the resignation of John Lischner, a new Chairman needed to be appointed. John Lischner nominated Rob Lawson as the new Chairman, and this was seconded by Peter Ferguson and supported unanimously.
National Council Meeting Feedback
The following is a summary of feedback from HRNZ and the RIU on matters raised at the recent National Council meeting.
From Edward Rennell, HRNZ CEO:
Q. Can you advise any progress on extending the Three year-old concessions until the end of August, as suggested by Wayne Reid.
A. CONSIDERED BY HANDICPPING SUB-COMMITTEE 9 APRIL – NO SUPPORT FOR CHANGE TO STATUS QUO RE THIS.
Q. Bulls Eye Barrier Draw. There was full support at the Council meeting for using this as a one-off for the Harness Jewels. Is it too late for this year?
A. TOO LATE FOR THIS YEAR. CAN CONSIDER IN DEBRIEF FOR NEXT YEAR, WHICH WILL BE DONE IN LATE JUNE.
Q. There is a proposal to pay a full driving fee for declared drivers for scratched horses. The idea is to put up a Remit - is that the way to go?
A. LET ME CHECK – IF REMIT, I WILL GET CHRIS LANGE TO DRAFT AND PUT UNDER TDA NAME IN ORDER PAPER.
Q. It was suggested that larger excesses should be applied to Sulky Insurance to cover at least some of the larger costs involved recently. How would that be done?
A. COLIN HAIR, JENNY AND I DISCUSSED THIS WITH JOHN LISCHNER TODAY. SUBJECT TO COMPUTER WORK REQUIRED, ONE OPTION MIGHT BE TO GIVE TRAINERS AN OPTION OF PAYING RATE A OR B SAY, WHICH WILL THEN HAVE DIFFERENTIAL MAXIMUM PAYMENTS AVAILABLE. WE WILL DO SOME MORE ANALYSIS OF OPTIONS AND THEN BRING BACK FOR CONSULTATION. THIS NEEDS TO BE DONE PRIOR TO THE END OF MAY AND LICENCE RENEWALS BEING SENT OUT.
From Mike Godber, General Manager RIU:
Q. Has there been any progress on the RIU employing Starters, which the Association fully supports? Also has any thought been given to the RIU employing Clerks of the Course?
A. The matter of Starters and whether the RIU should employ them will be reviewed in the new season. The RIU contracting Clerks of the Course has not been considered. My initial thoughts are that local knowledge is pretty important in finding competent people who can do the job so Clubs are probably better placed to continue to find and contract Clerks of the Course than the RIU.
Q. Are there any plans to test frozen samples for Cobalt Chloride?
A. Regarding the potential to test frozen samples for cobalt I would advise yes that is definitely part of our testing policy. You can take it that this policy will not only apply to cobalt but to any new prohibited substance. There is no point in freezing samples and holding them for 6 months if you don't then take the opportunity to test them when a new substance comes about. I understand the Australians have also tested frozen samples when new tests come available.
Q. Can you clarify the policy concerning late scratching of horses that have been sold, and there are no emergencies in the field denied a start. There seem to have been inconsistencies in the level of fines for this recently.
A. The policy is that where a horse is scratched after being sold and it does not deny a horse a start and the trainer has been in contact with the stewards in the lead up to the sale the RIU will not charge.
While that is the general policy we do consider each case. Recently a trainer was charged even though the scratching did not deny another horse a start. The Stewards were advised the horse would be scratched at 5.50pm on the night of the races, and there had been no contact prior, advising the horse was possibly being sold.
There was another situation which may have caused this matter to be raised. I believe it was up north a trainer was charged $350 by the JCA who, in their decision, considered it a deliberate act when their horse was scratched around 10am on race day. Perhaps a week later at Methven, a horse was scratched 7pm the night before the races the fine was $250. The stewards who had noted the northern JCA decision submitted to the JCA that they did not consider the scratching a deliberate act and the result was a lower fine.
The variation in fines is ultimately down to the JCA and there may be some variation in circumstances.
Thanks to Edward and Mike for their prompt responses to our questions. There are further matters up for discussion and consideration, details of these will be posted at a later date.
Rob Lawson expressed his thanks for his appointment and was supported by those present in paying tribute to John Lischner for his years of hard work as Chairman and representative on the HRNZ Board.
John Lischner in turn, expressed his thanks for the being given the opportunity to represent the Association, and wished his successor well for the future.
By PETER T COOK (TRAINERS AND DRIVERS ASSOCIATION)