Day At The Track

Problems faced the industry in the early 80s

01:08 AM 14 Oct 2008 NZDT
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Watching the trots, Methven 1982
Watching the trots, Methven 1982

In 1980-81 a group of concerned trotting men tried to grapple with various problems facing the advancement of harness racing as an industry in New Zealand.

From a two-day conference in Christchurch the 11 men - John Carsons, Wayne Francis, Charlie Hunter, John May, Bob McArdle, Brian Meale, Pat O'Brien, Peter O' Rourke, Norman Pierce, Max Robinson and Tony Williams - produced a paper in which they suggested, among other things...

More time trials for fillies and mares to improve their mile record in the Stud Book. The re- programming of a major race (or races) to help promote the National sales. Restriction of two-year-old races to one mile, all mobiles, with an end-of-season limit of C4 for colts and geldings and C3 for fillies. Voting rights and annual conference to be based on permits held by clubs. Grading of drivers, according to experience, ability and status, professional and amateur. The establishment of at least four training centres throughout New Zealand with a view to improving facilities for young trainers. Expansion in the promotion of harness racing from leaves on admission charges and horses' staring fees.

On the surface at least officialdom reacted favourably to the groups suggestions (issued in the form of a booklet Harness Racing.....It Future). The Conference executive set up a five-strong working party to examine the issues concerning the Conference itself.

This body comprised Conference chief Sir James Barnes, M.J. (Murray) Taylor, G.R. (Geoff) Elliott, T.J. (Terry) Killalea and former Conference president G.C (Georgo) Cruickshank. In April 1982 it issued a report in which its main recommendations were...

The Conference president is elected with a maximum term of five years. The total number of Conference executive members is reduced from 10 to eight. Each island to have nomination and voting rights for its vice-president. Kindred association not to have direct representation at executive level. Professional licence-holders to be eligible to hold office at club and Conference executive level. The principle of paying a presidential honorarium ($5000) to be adopted. The one-vote-per-club principle to be retained at annual Conferences.

But the 1982 annual gathering of Conference delegates came and went without the executive sponsoring any remits resulting from its working party's recommendations.

The Waikato Trotting Club sponsored remits on behalf of the working party but all except one where defeated. The successful remit limited to five years the term of Conference president. The Waikato club withdrew a remit proposing that professional licence-holders be eligible for office at club and Conference level in favour of a similar remit by the Ashburton club. The remit was passed. Overlooked was a clause that a licence became void once a person was elected to club office. The voidance was deleted at a special meeting of Conference on 28 January 1983.

Figures issued by the Conference in mid-1982 showed that 544 professional trainers had 4720 horses in training while 1042 amateurs were preparing a total of 2631 horses. The figures did not include youngsters being educated or horse not yet nominated to race.

A newly formed Breeding Industry Advisory Committee, set up to advise the Conference on breeding matters, held its first meeting in Christchurch in December 1980. It mooted a change to the commencement of the breeding season from 1 August to 1 October.

A Salute to Trotting with Ron Bisman

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