NZ Harness Racing Trainers and: Home


National Council















Interesting Decision

Currently the Association is working on a number of issues leading up to our National Council meeting on 2 May, however there are no finalised outcomes to report on as yet.

While some members are like me and have no lives outside harness racing and read the decisions on the JCA website, there may be a few that do not. For their benefit, I thought it would be useful to reproduce here a recent decision concerning one of our leading drivers, Blair Orange.

I am not going to comment on the decision, however it may go some way to allay suspicions that I still hear on a regular basis, that the JCA will always side with the RIU.

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH IN THE MATTER of Information No. A4304 BETWEEN N G McINTYRE, Co-Chief Stipendiary Steward for the Racing Integrity Unit Informant AND BLAIR NATHAN ORANGE of Rolleston, Licensed Open Driver Respondent

Date of Hearing: Friday, 21 March 2014

Venue: Addington Raceway, Christchurch

Judicial Committee: R G McKenzie, Chairman - S C Ching, Committee Member

Present: Mr N G McIntyre (the Informant) Mr B N Orange (the Respondent) Mr S P Renault (Registrar)

Date of Decision: 21 March 2014

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

THE CHARGE

[1] Information No. A4304 alleges that Mr Orange, as the driver of ROCKNROLL ARDEN in Race 12, Direct Security Services Mobile Pace, at the meeting of Auckland Trotting Club held at Alexandra Park Raceway, Auckland, on 7 March 2014, "failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures available between the 500 and 300 metres to ensure that ROCKNROLL ARDEN was given every opportunity to obtain the best possible finishing place".

[2] Mr McIntyre produced a letter dated 14 March 2014 from Mr M R Godber, Operations Manager for the Racing Integrity Unit, authorising the filing of the information pursuant to Rule 1103 (4) (c).

[3] Mr Orange was present at the hearing of the information. The charge was read to him, together with the relevant Rule, and he indicated that he denied the charge.

THE RULE

[4] The relevant Rule is as follows:

868 (2) Every horseman shall take all reasonable and permissible measures at all times during the race to ensure that his horse is given full opportunity to win the race or to obtain the best possible position and/or finishing place.

INFORMANT'S SUBMISSIONS

[5] Mr Orange was the driver of ROCKNROLL ARDEN which was correctly entered for and raced in Race 12, Direct Security Services Mobile Pace, at the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting at Alexandra Park on 7 March 2014.

[6] The race was contested over 2200 metres from a mobile start. ROCKNROLL ARDEN drew barrier 6 and started from barrier 5 following a scratching. ROCKNROLL ARDEN was the win and place favourite.

[7] It is the allegation of the Stipendiary Stewards that Mr Orange failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures between the 500 and 300 metres to ensure that ROCKNROLL ARDEN was given every opportunity to obtain the best possible finishing place.

[8] ROCKNROLL ARDEN underwent a post-race veterinary examination which failed to detect any abnormalities on the night. This was noted in the Stewards' Report.

[9] Mr McIntyre then showed video replays of the relevant part of the race from approximately the 1300 metres to the finish, with particular reference to that part between the 500 metres and the 300 metres.

[10] He pointed out ROCKNROLL ARDEN, driven by Mr Orange, positioned in the one/one from the 1300 metres following REAL STAR (M W McKendry), which was 6/5 in the betting.

[11] Passing the 1000 metres, RUSSLEY HASTE (A G Herlihy), which was 4/4 in the betting, improved 3-wide and attempted to gain the parked position from the overracing REAL STAR. REAL STAR did not yield the parked position and this resulted in RUSSLEY HASTE being forced to race 3-wide without cover until the 300 metres. During this part of the race, ROCKNROLL ARDEN was directly behind REAL STAR. The sectional time for the quarter between the 800 and the 400 metres was 28 seconds.

[12] Mr McIntyre said that the Stewards had no concerns over Mr Orange's drive prior to the 500 metres.

[13] The Stewards were submitting that, due to what happened directly in front of Mr Orange, where both REAL STAR and RUSSLEY HASTE raced at a fast pace without cover for some time, it was unreasonable and not permissible for Mr Orange to stay in his position and leave it to chance, when a clear run to the outside of RUSSLEY HASTE was available which would have allowed ROCKNROLL ARDEN a clear an unobstructed run to the line.

[14] Mr McIntyre submitted that it was almost inevitable that both REAL STAR and RUSSLEY HASTE would not have been able to sustain their very hard runs and that, as a consequence, they would have succumbed and yielded ground.

[15] In addition, because the run from the 800 metres to the 400 metres was run at high speed, then it was highly probable that back runners would be able to "swoop" over the latter stages and these runners would be coming wide round RUSSLEY HASTE.

[16] By staying in, Mr Orange ultimately became covered up by the improving SWEET ARTS (S D T Phelan) and became held up until passing the 180 metres. Once ROCKNROLL ARDEN was clear, the horse made ground well, finishing in 2nd placing, beaten by a neck. Mr McIntyre, when asked by the Committee, estimated that ROCKNROLL ARDEN had made up 2½ lengths on ROCKNRUBY in the final straight.

[17] Mr Orange had some time to make a decision due to no horse shifting to his outside until the final 300 metres.

[18] Finally, Mr McIntyre submitted, ROCKNROLL ARDEN was on a significant downgrade from the horses which the filly had been racing.

SUBMISSIONS BY THE RESPONDENT

[19] Mr Orange said the he is employed by trainer, Mark Purdon, the previous trainer of RUSSLEY HASTE. He showed a video replay of the race from approximately the 1300 metres and submitted that Mr Herlihy had used the whip on that horse from the time he pulled out. He pulled the horse's earplugs at the same time. He had asked his horse from the 1100 or 1200 metres to "run flat out" to try to get to the parked position off Mr McKendry.

[20] Mr Orange said that he was aware of this. RUSSLEY HASTE commenced to pace roughly and hang. He said that he did not believe that Mr Herlihy could keep asking his horse for more and have it carry on. Mr Orange reminded the Committee that he knew Mr Herlihy's horse.

[21] Mr Orange submitted that Mr McKendry's stature did not change. His horse, REAL STAR, was travelling as well as the leader and the trailing horse and a lot better than RUSSLEY HASTE. Mr Orange had every reason to believe that REAL STAR was going to "keep running" at that stage, having regard to the hold that Mr McKendry had on REAL STAR. At this point, Mr Orange said that he asked himself why, even when he had the chance to come out, would he come out onto the back of a horse that had been under a vigorous drive from the 1100 metres and was going to be tiring.

[22] To come into the straight 4-wide at Alexandra, which he would have to have done, you lose a length or two - it is one of the worst bends in racing, he submitted. It is very hard to come wide and win a race.

[23] Mr Orange explained to the Committee that his thinking was that Mr McKendry's horse was travelling a lot better than Mr Herlihy's at that stage. He reasoned that RUSSLEY HASTE would stop and enable him to come out underneath that runner thereby saving himself at least 4 lengths by not having to go wide.

[24] He also had the option, Mr Orange submitted, to wait for the passing lane and get straight onto the back of the leader ROCKN RUBY when the trailing horse took the passing lane. He believed that he had "a couple of options". He said that, as a driver, he was always thinking ahead about what was going to happen in the next 50 metres. A driver has to make a decision "there and then". He believed that he had made the best decision to win the race to save ground with his filly. The question also arose - would ROCKNROLL ARDEN have won the race had she come wide? The answer would never be known, he said. ROCKN RUBY had "kicked" and was holding his filly at the finish, he submitted. He demonstrated this on the video.

[25] When Mr McKendry went for his horse, although appearing to be travelling well, it gave him nothing, Mr Orange submitted. Horses are inclined to do this, he said. He believed that Mr McKendry's horse would have carried him further than it actually did. At the same time as Mr McKendry went for his horse, he got a run straight away, Mr Orange said. He questioned whether the filly had been held up that much.

[26] Mr Orange submitted that he had given his filly every chance, having regard to the way the race was run. The trainer, Mr Purdon, and the owner were more that satisfied with the way he had driven the filly, he said, hence he was driving it in the race later on this night.

[27] Mr McIntyre was given the opportunity to comment. He said that, obviously, a horse wide on the track turning for home was going to lose ground. However, he said, Mr Orange only needed to go one horse wider to get onto Mr Herlihy's back, and then go and have his momentum up. Mr Orange had taken the chance that Mr McKendry would continue to take him into the race, Mr McIntyre said.

[28] Mr McIntyre agreed with Mr Orange that RUSSLEY HASTE had been under a drive from the 1000 metres but, Mr McIntyre said, that horse had lost no ground until the 300 metres. Mr McIntyre agreed with Mr Orange that Mr McKendry's horse was "on the bit".

CLOSING SUBMISSIONS OF THE INFORMANT

[29] Mr McIntyre submitted that the Rule does not exist to punish a driver who makes a sudden decision which is right or wrong in the end. The Rule exists to ensure that all actions are reasonable and permissible at all times.

[30] The Informant is not in possession of any evidence that questions the integrity of Mr Orange. However, the Informant does question his failure to fulfil an obligation which is placed on every driver when they step onto the racetrack.

[31] Mr McIntyre referred to a quote from the Honourable Mr Justice W R Haylen in Harness Racing NSW v Fitzpatrick. In a ruling dated 20 May 2009, he said the following:

Perhaps to throw my own interpretation into the mix I might view it this way - that the sort of culpable action that is required to amount to a breach of this rule might be such that in normal circumstances a reasonable and knowledgeable harness racing spectator might be expected to exclaim with words to the effect "What on earth is he doing?" or "My goodness look at that" or some such exclamation.

[32] It is absolutely imperative that, when circumstances permit, drivers meet their requirements within the Rules. In this particular case, the Stewards say that the evidence overwhelmingly supports a charge brought under the Rule. If this race is viewed objectively as a "punter", Mr McIntyre submitted, that punter would be asking questions regarding the drive of Mr Orange. The onus is solely on Mr Orange to ensure those questions do not arise.

[33] A breach of this particular Rule is one that invariably jeopardises the integrity of harness racing for reasons which are self-evident. Harness races are based on the requirement that all contestants in a race are given every possible opportunity by their drivers. This has to be the case in order that the betting public, so important to the industry, can have confidence that they have had a run for their money when they have invested their money on contestants in a harness race. Any suggestion that a horse has not been given every possible opportunity will result in loss of public confidence in harness racing.

[34] The drive by Mr Orange between the 500 and 300 metres has fallen well short of what a reasonable-minded person would expect. Had Mr Orange shifted to the outside between the 500 and 300 metres it is reasonable to think he would have won the race.

REASONS FOR DECISION

[35] The Committee believes that the test to be applied to Mr Orange in respect of Rule 868 (2) is whether he gave a reasonable and reasoned response to the situations that arose between the 500 and 300 metres and whether he displayed professional competence in his drive on ROCKNROLL ARDEN. It is a well-established principle that an error of judgement does not amount to a breach of the Rule. For a charge under the Rule to be proved, it needs to be shown that a driver has displayed culpable behaviour - that is to say, that his drive was blameworthy on an objective basis.

[36] The opinion of Mr Orange's drive formed by the Stewards was understandable. Their observation that he did not bring his horse out between the 500 and 300 metres, when he was able to, was quite correct.

[37] The Stewards were not alleging that Mr Orange had not reasonably and appropriately driven ROCKNROLL ARDEN up until the 500 metres.

[38] It was agreed by the parties that it was permissible for Mr Orange to shift his drive outwards between the 500 and 300 metres. It was also reasonable for him to do so.

[39] This Committee has had the benefit of hearing Mr Orange's explanation for the course of action adopted by him.

[40] Mr Orange submitted to the Committee that there were other options available to him, which were both reasonable and permissible.

[41] Mr Orange told the Committee that he had other options open to him during the relevant part of the race. Specifically, he could wait for RUSSLEY HASTE, which had had a hard run 3-wide in the open when Mr Herlihy had driven it hard in an attempt to get past REAL STAR to the parked position, to stop thereby giving Mr Orange the opportunity to obtain a run for his horse on the inside of a tiring RUSSLEY HASTE.

[42] Mr Orange rightly observed that had he pulled his horse out when, according to the Stewards, he ought to have, he would have been required to go 4-wide around a tiring RUSSLEY HASTE, which is not generally a wise move at that particular track. He said that was not an option that he favoured, based on his knowledge and experience of the Alexandra Park track. He said that it was disadvantageous to be wide on the track turning for home there. We accept Mr Orange's explanation that he did not go wide because of his knowledge of the track.

[43] In his judgement and experience, Mr Orange favoured either the option already referred to - waiting for Mr Herlihy's horse to stop which he expected on reasonable grounds would happen - or, he said, to wait for the passing lane when the trailing horse would take the passing lane leaving, in all likelihood, a clear run for himself for the length of the straight.

[44] In support of his submission that the other two options were reasonable, Mr Orange submitted that both the leader, ROCKN RUBY, driven by Mr B Mangos, and REAL STAR, driven by Mr McKendry, were still travelling well at that stage of the race. The video evidence supported this. Mr Orange's assessment of that was reasonable. It is significant that ROCKN RUBY went on to win the race.

[45] The Committee has considered all relevant matters in making an objective judgement as to whether Mr Orange's actions were reasonable and whether he drove his horse to obtain the best possible placing in the field. On the facts, the sole issue is whether he was giving his horse full opportunity to win the race - it was win or finish 2nd.

[46] The Committee finds that the decision made by Mr Orange between the 500 and 300 metres, to remain on the back of REAL STAR, was a reasonable and reasoned response to the situation as it was unfolding and was professionally competent.

[47] The Committee finds that there was nothing culpable about Mr Orange's decision and that part of his drive was not blameworthy. The course adopted by him was a reasonable and permissible one to give ROCKNROLL ARDEN a full opportunity to win. If Mr Orange is guilty of anything, he is guilty of a mere error of judgement.

[48] Furthermore, there was no certainty that ROCKNROLL ARDEN would have won the race had Mr Orange adopted the tactics which the Stewards alleged he should have.

[49] We are of the view that the charge should be dismissed.

DECISION

[50] The charge was dismissed.

COSTS

[51] No order for costs was made.

R G McKenzie S C Ching

CHAIR COMMITTEE MEMBER

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
To Bet or Not To Bet; That is the Question

Last year it was brought to the Associations' attention that there was a push by the Racing Board through the RIU to ban all drivers from on-course betting. Apparently this was to appease punters in Asia who obviously think that the majority of people involved in Harness Racing in the Country have read too many Dick Francis novels.

The initial approach by HRNZ was to propose a change to the Rule at last years' Annual Conference which effectively banned horsemen from betting on any race at a meeting they had a drive in. In other words, if a trainer with one horse at a meeting they drove in the first race had a bet in the last race of the day, they would be in breach of Rule 505. Thankfully the Club reps at the Conference thought this was as ridiculous as we did, and threw it out.

At the Associations' National Council meeting in October it was agreed that while the Association supported a ban on drivers betting at windows in their driving apparel, it was considered unnecessary to impose any other restrictions. It was felt that some connections of a horse would welcome a driver betting on their horse, suggesting a level of confidence. However, in order to appease the authorities, it was decided to support the proposal that drivers should not be allowed to bet on any race that they are participating in.

Subsequently Northern Branch Chairman Peter Ferguson was co-opted onto an HRNZ Sub-Committee and common sense has prevailed with the following amendments to the relevant Rule:

1 Rule 505 - Betting by Horseman

Rule 505(1) was amended to state:

"505 (1) A horseman may not bet on any horse or combination of horses in a race, in which he or she is driving;

(2) A breach of this sub-rule (1) is declared to be a serious racing offence;

(3) After placing a bet on a horse or combination of horses in a race, a horseman may not accept a drive in that race without the approval of a Stipendiary Steward."

2 Rule 505B - Betting on Drivers Challenge

Rule 505B is re-numbered as rule 505A.

3 Rule 505B - Betting in Drivers Gear

A new rule 505B is inserted which states:

"505B A horseman who is dressed in his or her driving gear or apparel may not place a bet at a racecourse."

4 Rule 505A - Laying

Rule 505A is re-numbered as rule 505C.

5 Rule 505(2) - Providing Record of Bets

Rule 505(2) is re-numbered as rule 505D.

The Association applauds HRNZ for being flexible in this matter and realising the folly of the original proposal.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
What Makes News?

For some time now I have given up watching mainstream television, mainly because I can't handle the countless mind-numbing reality shows, and the news is full of petty bickering and points scoring between politicians who should know better (Election year hasn't helped that!).

My spies tell me that the potentially horrific smash at Westport last week was shown on the News (not sure which channel) making it obvious that the general media is only interested in harness racing when there is a crash, or some form of drug related sensation. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often so that coverage is minimal. The only other recent positive coverage was Zac Butchers' wonderful display of showmanship on beating his dad in the Drivers' premiership eighteen months ago.

Got me thinking though, if the mainstream channels want sensationalism, why not give it to them. A reality show featuring nasty harness racing crashes? Obviously permission would need to be granted by the people involved in the incidents, but it would surely rate higher than "Outer Mongolias' Ugliest Bodies" or "What I found In My Great Uncles Garage", or some of the other drivel currently on offer! You know the old saying, any publicity etc., etc. Maybe sponsorship could be gained from a manufacturer of safety gear?

While on the subject of Westport, it is slightly sad to see that the Club, renowned for being both forward thinking and extremely hospitable, refuses to acknowledge the need for a passing lane at Patterson Park.

Using the Stipes' Report from last Friday as a guide, there were a total of 26 horses who were ‘denied clear racing room' in the straight. When I broached this with a Club official, I received a similar response that I probably would have given myself about 10 years ago - that there is still (usually) only one winner in each race.

While that is difficult to argue with, one of the suggestions put forward was that punters needed to back drivers who didn't drive for luck, and moaned when they were unlucky. That argument tends to collapse when the drivers on some of those denied a run the other day included Jim Curtin, Robbie Holmes, Pete Davis and Gavin Smith, all of whom are virtual stalwarts of West Coast harness racing.

The problem is that for every one of those 26 horses denied a run, there are dozens of disgruntled punters (aka customers) with a nasty taste in their mouth. Yes I admit, I had that taste four times during the day!

Come on Westport, move with the times on this one, and move a few marker pegs.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Northern Branch February 2014

The Associations' Northern Branch recently met to discuss the latest issues facing that area, and began by giving a vote of support to Northern starter Frank Phelan. Those present acknowledged, however, that all starters should come under scrutiny as part of the job and, on occasions could do things better.

(As an aside to this topic, the Association received a communication from Mr Brian Macey, the owner of Prime Power, who was singled out for criticism in a recent article on standing starts. Brian agreed with Paul Nairns' comments concerning poorly behaved horses from standing starts, and reported that his horse had recently been given intensive standing start practice. The happy outcome was Prime Power stood perfectly last week, began beautifully, and duly won. Congratulations to the connections on making the effort - it goes to prove that it can be done for most horses)

Matters arising from the Canterbury minutes were covered, including online nominations, the bulls-eye barrier draw, and the introduction of photo licences, all of which were supported.

Concern was expressed at inconsistencies shown by the RIU in penalising the connections of horses that were late scratched due to being sold. Some received no penalty, while fines tended to vary from $200 to $350, and no bearing seemed to be given to whether or not another horse on the ballot had been denied a start. A letter has been drafted, and the matter was to be referred to the National Council for consideration.

The state of Northern all-weather tracks was discussed, with the Cambridge and Manawatu surfaces being praised thanks to the use of conditioners etc., however there was concern over the consistency of Alexandra Park, partly due to the material containing a large amount of shell. It was decided to invite ATC officials to the next Branch meeting to discuss this and other matters.

Chairman Peter Ferguson reported that horses that are claimed are still not being swabbed as a matter of course. The Committee felt that this should take place to ensure the integrity and safety of all concerned. (This opinion was subsequently supported at National Council level and a letter has been forward to the RIU).

The matter of the payment of driving fees for those engaged for horses that are subsequently scratched was discussed. It is understood that jockeys receive half of their fee if this occurs, and the feeling is that drivers should receive the same, instead of the full amount being retained by the Club. The main point to this argument is that for most drivers, it does not take many of these to mean breaking even or losing money after expenses on a nights racing. Also, after drivers are declared, the chances of gaining another drive after a scratching were virtually non-existent. This matter will be referred to the up-coming National Council meeting for consideration.

Dave Neal/Peter Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Another Bulls Eye

If anyone can remember as far back as 2010, discussion was raging among Clubs and trainers over the situation where, on a number of occasions, there were more horses on the second row of a mobile start than on the front. This scenario was unacceptable for a number of reasons, not the least safety, and the National Council voted for a change to what was known as either the Scratching Substitute System, or Bulls-Eye System.

Basically the idea was that emergencies in a race were not allocated a barrier draw, and if they gained a start, they took the draw of the horse that they replaced, similar to the way the greyhounds do it. Unfortunately the powers that be didn't share our enthusiasm for the idea, apparently because the Racing Board (TAB) ‘boffins' reckoned the punters would be confused. Apparently greyhound punters are more clued up than harness ones!

Anyway, following the introduction of the scratching penalty, emergencies rarely regained entry, so the idea went into recess....until this week, when the following appeared on a press release announcing the Interdominion Grand Final field:

‘Note that the Emergencies are not drawn into the field and take the place vacated by a scratching.'

For a while now, the Racing Board has been telling us that we need to change certain ways of doing things to accommodate and appease overseas punters. It's a well-known fact that Australian punters tend to place far more importance on barrier draws that their Kiwi equivalents, however with far more emphasis on fixed-odds betting here, the landscape is changing somewhat, particularly where major events are concerned and the fixed-odds markets open days, or even weeks before the race itself.

Under the current scenario what this means is that, if you place a bet on, say a horse drawn two on the second row because it is supposed to follow out a fast beginner and that front rower is scratched, you can find that your chances are reduced by having now drawn behind the slowest beginner in the race. Thus one of the main reasons that you backed your horse has been taken away and you have no recourse.

On the other hand, if you ignore a horse that is drawn too wide off the front and back another, only to find on race-day that, due to scratchings, that ignored horse is drawn one or even two places further in, once again you have no recourse.

The ideal place to trial this idea is the Harness Jewels, where it is almost unknown for a horse to be scratched, and hopefully will attract the interest of Australian punters. Imagine the introduction to the meeting where it is announced that number 14 (the emergency) is scratched from every event. How simple is that? Surely, even if there are one or two withdrawals there is ample opportunity to advise where the emergencies will draw.

The Association will be pushing for this to be trialled at the Jewels, so that everyone on either side of the Tasman can see the advantages and accept the concept for future events.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
The Big Question

Promising signs from the first couple of programmes in the new series of The Box Seat, which is basically harness racings' one and only purpose-built television outlet.

One section that will hopefully become a talking point is the "Big Question" where a topical subject is discussed in depth. This basically replaces "Keeping up with the Jones'" which became too personal, causing some backlash for both Mark Jones and the Trainers & Drivers Assn. The signs are promising, and it is to be hoped that the presenters will canvas the opinions of industry participants as well as pushing their own ‘barrows'.

This weeks' topic was the mile start at Addington, and there are a couple of items that need comment and clarification. First of all, at a meeting with Addington CEO late last year, the Greater Canterbury Branch were unanimous in requesting that the New Zealand Free-for-All not be run over a mile in future seasons.

A couple of apparent arguments that were put forward on the Box Seat by Club representative Brian Rabbitt seemed a little questionable, to say the least. Firstly, he maintained that the last race the other night, when Vice Chairman led all the way and went a phenomenal time, was a far more interesting spectacle, and drew more comment than the Interdominion heat won by Terror To Love. First of all, I'm not sure how interesting it is that one horse led all the way, and once the draw came out in the ID heat and the two best horses drew 1 & 2, it became virtually irrelevant. Perhaps that says more about the failure of the new Interdominion concept than the success of the mile race. I wonder if Addington officials enquired how many disgruntled punters there were after the mile, when, because of their draw, the favourites were unable to be put into the race at any point?

Another argument for the retention of the mile start was that the turnover on the Free-for-All has risen since the change. That's great, but I wonder how the turnover would have looked if the best horse in the race (and subsequent good thing beaten) Christen Me, had drawn 1 or 2 on the gate? I would suggest he would have been a $1.50 shot and betting would have gone through the floor!

As for the idea that mile racing would help with shorter times between races, I have grave doubts that the extra 350 metres difference between the two distances (about 20 seconds) is going to have a huge effect on that!

The main issue with the mile start is not the distance, it is the fact that the race starts on a bend. I was never any good at physics or the like, but anyone with eyes can see that there is a massive advantage to be gained by drawing an inside alley over a short distance. Has anyone not seen an athletics short distance race involving a bend? They have staggered starting points, scientifically measured so that every contestant covers the same distance. Why should that not apply to horses?

Please Addington, it was worth a try, but listen to your supporters and customers, and go back to a realistic starting point.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Innovations

Isn't it great that there are always people in our Industry who are able to think outside the square, and have the enthusiasm and energy to make their ideas happen.

In the past (and currently) we've had Interprovincial Drivers Championships, various Invited Drivers series, lady drivers events, Brothers In Arms, and now the Waikouaiti Club have come up with a "Youth versus Experience" series to be staged at their upcoming meeting on Tuesday 18 March.

This involves reinspersons aged over 50 pitted against a team of under 25's, with invitations issued not only to drivers in the North Island, but also a couple from across the ‘deetch'. Congratulations to Bruce Negus and the Waikouaiti team for making what would have been just another mundane Tuesday meeting into something special and unique. I presume they've covered the concept off with the Human Rights Commission!

With names such as Herlihy, McKendry, Ferguson, May and Beck for the ‘wrinklies', and Dunn, Ottley, Butcher and Williamson for the ‘babies' looking likely to front up for five penalty-free races, it promises to be a fascinating event which can only benefit both the drivers and owners involved. Hopefully the public will get behind the concept and make it an annual celebration.

What such a series does highlight is the enormous progress that has been made by our younger industry participants in the past couple of decades. Can you imagine a series like this going ahead say, twenty years ago? Back then, a Junior Driver (or was it Probationary) would be very lucky to get five drives a month, let alone that many in one day. Fifty years ago, it was probably more like five drives in a season!

Say what you like about HRNZ (and we often do), but a huge amount of credit has to go to that bodies' foresight in nurturing our younger generation and giving the opportunities to compete (and sometimes beat) their older, more experienced peers. After all, our code doesn't have the advantages that galloping can offer its' youngsters like weight allowances. It is good to see that, under the current guidance of people such as Natalie Gameson and Trevor Beaton, there is no resting on laurels either.

Another pleasing move, even though it seems it was forced on them, is the decision to move the Hororata Clubs' meeting next Friday to the Mt Harding racecourse. Arguably one of the most picturesque tracks on the World, the Methven track, which is solely harness racing, is sadly under-utilised and provides a superb surface (weather permitting of course) for horses to perform on. A country Club returning to the country - what a novel idea!

I note, with some astonishment, criticism of grass track racing in the NZ Harness Weekly, and a suggestion that it is on the way out. Obviously no-one has informed the connections of the hundreds of horses that are entered for these meetings, or the public, who turn up to such venues in their droves!

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Standing Starts - Again

Yes, they're on old chestnut and it's likely they will always be a discussion point. At the recent Greater Canterbury Branch meeting, Paul Nairn was the latest to express concern at some aspects of this method of starting races.

He is a firm supporter of standing starts, but his beef is that, on numerous occasions, it is the horse that misbehaves that gains an advantage over the ones that are well schooled, and well behaved. The latest glaring example of this was Prime Power at Alexandra Park, not once, but twice over the holiday period. The horse was rearing, dancing about and generally behaving in an unruly fashion, but at the precise moment when he was almost charging the barrier, it was released and he got a flyer. Hardly fair on the other runners. These horses are labelled unruly for a reason, and should not be advantaged. Paul feels that teaching a horse to stand is an integral part of training, and if the animal can't do that, as some can't, restrict it to mobiles. He also feels that badly behaved horses should face consequences.

I understand in Southland, the Clubs, horsemen and Starters have apparently reached agreement that if any horse is playing up behind the tapes, as long as it is not interfering with another runner, the race will be started and the offender will be left behind. In Canterbury it can vary, but on occasions at least the impression is that a misbehaving horse can gain an advantage over ones that have been standing for a while. At Forbury Park, who would know - to be honest the standing (and I use the word advisedly) starts there are bordering on farcical! I mean, apart from anything else, is gabbling something intelligible and yelling ‘Right" as loud as you can good for nervous horses?

The problem is, we are all one Country, and often horses and drivers move around New Zealand and are faced with wondering what policy the starter in that area is following. Often it's too late when they find out.

I recently attended a Starters meeting where a number of matters were covered off, but there was little, if any, mention of all starters doing their job the same way!?

We can only hope that when, as seems likely, the RIU take over the employment of these officials, some form of uniformity can be reached.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Greater Canterbury Branch January 2014

What with two or three race meetings a week, guys flitting back and forth across the Tasman, and Yearling Sales preparation, it was not too surprising that numbers at the first Committee meeting of the year were a bit thin.

Fortunately Edward Rennell kindly came along to give those who did show up, a rundown on some current and future developments. The first item of interest was progress on the recently introduced Points System, which Ken Barron and John Lischner both considered to be essential for progress in the Industry. While Edward was sympathetic, he advised that setting up the system by the HRNZ IT department would take over two months and the current priority was to set up facilities for online nominations, notifications and payments. He did undertake to investigate whether, as had been proposed, the points allocated to each horse could be calculated manually and indicated against the horses' name, as is being done by Addington Raceway. There was concern that some trainers were lining horses up in lower stake races to make them look good and protect their selling price, thereby disadvantaging the connections of lesser horses. The Points System would help to eliminate this practice.

Edward also advised that the payment of partial stakes to each individual owner/share-holder of a horse was being investigated, as opposed to the current policy of one payment to the first name on the papers.

He acknowledged that HRNZ had requested the Rangiora Club to reduce its' stakes for its' recent Tuesday meeting to avoid attracting horses from higher turnover meetings later in the week. However, he stressed that the recommendation was that the $12,000 reduction should be channeled onto the Clubs' other programmes later in the season.

The proposed changes to the Premier racing schedule were outlined and discussed. This involves sets of two Premier meetings alternating between Auckland and Addington this season in March, April and May, leading up to the Harness Jewels. Added to the NZ Cup Week and Auckland December dates, this would mean six sets of two Premier meetings per season, with the likelihood of $20,000 minimum stakes. These dates would be set in concrete for the following five seasons, regardless of where Easter and Anzac Day fell, and provide much needed showcase meetings for the Code. HRNZ was currently in talks with the Auckland and NZ Metropolitan Clubs, and Edward acknowledged the support of the NZ Sires Stakes Board in planning and part funding the various new Group races that are planned to be included to enhance these programmes.

At the request of Dean Taylor, Edward agreed to approach the Forbury Club requesting that they programme two Junior Drivers races on one night instead of spreading them over two. This would help prevent these young people having to travel to Dunedin for just one drive in a night and show up for work the next day. Edward also advised that the criteria for selection of the NZ Junior Drivers Championships was being reviewed, due to the imbalance in the number of Juniors around the Country.

Other matters discussed in general included off shore betting, HRNZ presence at the Yearling Sales, possibly in the form of a registration desk, and some stake levels. Ken Barron expressed disappointment at the $5000 stakes being paid by the NZ Metropolitan club, particularly to 3yo trotters preparing for upcoming Group races. Despite the feeling that these were penalty free events, they were not, and he felt that this Club should lead the way in paying higher stakes.

Paul Nairn, while voicing his support for standing starts, expressed concern at misbehaving horses gaining an advantage when the tapes are released as they finally came into line, disadvantaging those who have been standing. He cited the recent example of Prime Power at Alexandra Park.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Shameless Self Promotion

There's an old saying that self-praise is no recommendation, but there is also an old adage that if you don't talk yourself up, no-one else is likely to.

So, given the glowing accolades I was giving the Roxburgh Club officials the other week for their voluntary efforts, I thought it might be timely to remind members how much time and effort the National Council and local Committee members of the Trainers & Drivers Association put in.

For the guys whose mug shots you can see on the left of this page (that reminds me I have to arrange for Ken Barron to be featured) what they do on behalf of license-holders is voluntary and financially unrewarded. In fact, by the time the likes of travel and phone calls are taken into account, there is actually a personal cost involved.

Some might think that these guys' involvement is restricted to a few meetings and the odd phone call, however, being in the middle of it all, I can tell another story. On an almost weekly basis, there are e-mails and phone calls going back and forth, among the Council in particular, on various issues (sometimes late into the evening), many of which come out of left field and require urgent attention. Add that to having to field queries, complaints and concerns from people at the trials and races and sometimes deal with officialdom at the same venues, and you can see how time-consuming their positions are. Oh yes, and maybe we should remember they have teams of horses organise and driving engagements to fufill at the same time too!

So perhaps the next time you are about to say, or hear someone else saying how useless the ‘bloody horsemans' association' is, remember that the people involved are doing it largely for the benefit of others and doing it because they are passionate about the Industry.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Licenses & Limits

HRNZ is currently undertaking a review of their licensing structure and have asked the Association for opinions on various proposals.

The first idea is the introduction of photo licences to give a more swept up look to the cards carried by all licence-holders. Apparently stock of the old style cards is almost exhausted so it seems a good time to review the system, and the costs involved in producing the photo version is not much more than the current model. Of course there would be some initial work to be done in obtaining and collating photos and HRNZ is conscious of not demanding that those involved have to supply a photo immediately, and will likely introduce this type of licence on a voluntary basis over a period of time.

The Association can see merit in this change, making the cards more professional, and assisting in policing stable and other access at major tracks.

There is also a proposal to combine the registration of colours (every 3 years) with trainers' licences, and the Association is suggesting a similar move with sulky WOFs.

Another proposal being investigated, and likely to proceed, is the introduction of a pay online facility for HRNZ customers (yes, that's you!). This could eventually be extended to the payment and registration of licences etc. by way of a "My HRNZ" facility.

This raised the idea among the National Council, of being able to withdraw, scratch, notify/change driver etc. directly onto the website, which has been in vogue in Australia for some time. There was concern is some circles that this would cause issues for Club Secretaries being unaware of the current situation. Following discussion, a proposal has been forwarded to HRNZ suggesting the following:

1. Nominate on line (with or without driver as is currently the case)

2. Nominations close and are posted on line- Trainer can then withdraw on line if they wish - Obviously if they want to change race they will have to ring.

3. Withdrawals close - trainer cannot withdraw now unless they scratch which will incur a Scratching Penalty and they must produce Vets certificate prior to say midday of races to ensure only 4 day stand down otherwise will be 10 day stand down.

What this would do is very quickly "teach" trainers that they cannot withdraw after withdrawal close.

4. Fields posted - with driver submitted at time of nomination. If no driver or driver changes must be done on line before close of driver notification time. - Only trainer can access and do this, that way the trainer must know who is driving it as they will have conversed with the trainer.

5. Again, any scratchings after that time and before 7.30 Raceday can be done on line with the scratching penalty provisions.

Anyone with any responses or suggestions on the above proposals, let us know.

The HRNZ Board is currently grappling with two decisions concerning illegal substances. On the one hand, they are pressing for the banning of all steroids, on the other they are deciding on whether to raise the allowable level of TC02 in horses from the current 35 m/mol to 36m/mol, which is apparently the level accepted by every other racing jurisdiction in the World. While the Association strongly supports the fight against drug use, there is one steroid, Boldenone, which is still very much subject to conjecture (in fact has been clinically proven) to be found in horses through other means than administration. It seems incongruous that the Board is adamant on the steroid issue to bring us into line with the rest of the World, yet (despite recommendations from the RIU and others dating back to 2012) is stalling on following the standard policy on TC02.

Apparently they have little concern that innocent trainers could be caught in the net and prosecuted for something they have not done.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Northern Minutes & Southern Hospitality

The Northern Branch held their last meeting of 2013 shortly before Christmas and, among other matters, discussed various issues to come out of the recent National Council and Starters meeting.

There was concern at the proposed blanket ban on steroids, and a feeling that the matter needs more investigation, particularly in the case of Boldenone, and also the TC02 level issue. There was also concern at the recently advertised ban on the use of leg wraps etc. and the fact that no consultation had taken place prior to its' release with either the Association, or apparently HRNZ.

Other matters covered at the meeting included the season date change proposal, points system, and Junior Driver concessions which were welcomed. The matter of appearance money was discussed, however it was hoped that the current travel subsidies would remain regardless.

Bernie Hackett expressed disappointment at unruly horses holding up starts and causing headaches for starters. The meeting agreed that Starters needed support in having these horses as a last priority, as that is the reason they are unruly. Bernie, being a sulky WOF agent, felt that it was confusing for some when their sulkies needed to be checked. He suggested that sulky WOFs could be done in conjunction with license renewals, a proposal which was supported.

*

Rumours had been rife that the Central Otago New Year circuit was the place to be at that time of year, and the opportunity arose for me to trek down there this year. I have fond memories of attending the Roxburgh races a few times when they had an Easter Monday date and, on consulting the Club Honours Board, was astounded to realise I was there when Bachelor Blue won the Cup in 1971! (Incidentally I had got to know the trainer of that horse, Barry Anderson quite well, and would be pleased if anyone could let me know what became of that gentleman).

What the trip reminded me of, was how the enthusiasm and hard work of the locals made the meeting into a great success, and attracted what was apparently a record crowd, and an on-course increase of $36k in turnover. President Bill Bain, along with Geoff Knight and their crew couldn't do enough to make visiting trainers and owners enjoy their time in Roxburgh, from the social and Calcutta function the night before the meeting, to the get together after the last race. I swear I have never seen so much meat as there was on the barbecue on Cup Eve, everything from wild pork to the traditional patties, steaks and sausages. I presume anyone with vegetarian leanings would have quietly snuck away in embarrassment!

What a great set-up they have at Roxburgh. Geoff and Jude Knight train about 30 horses in a complex that could easily house twice that many, with a swimming pool, gas hot water for washing horses in that chilly Central winter, a straight line training track (the old airstrip across the road), and of course the Roxburgh track itself. Having the Knights there is what they call a win/win situation, as it not only pays for the maintenance, but also ensures that the facilities are kept up to scratch for their annual day in the sun.

On behalf of all the visitors who were treated so wonderfully well, many thanks to the Club officials for all their efforts. I will know join the chorus of people recommending they check it out next year. I know I plan to return.

Dave Neal (Northern)/Peter Cook(Southern)

Click here to go back on top!
Another One Bites The Dust

It's traditional at this time of year for folks and organisations to look back at the rapidly closing year and assess happenings and progress.

For me there have been two major highlights concerning the Association over the past twelve months.

The first was a meeting of leading Canterbury trainers at the Yaldhurst Hotel on 9 May. Not only was this the largest meeting numbers wise that I can recall in the area, it proved to be the catalyst for some of the most radical changes to our handicapping and programming systems ever. It was testament to the support that this meeting attracted, and the fact that virtually all the recommendations that came out of it, have, or are about to be, instigated by HRNZ, that drastic action was overdue.

The second highlight was the granting by the HRNZ Board of extra funding for the Association, following the submission of a ‘business plan', so that it can afford to hold two face to face meetings per year again, and function as an effective body representing a large number of Industry participants.

Like everyone else, the site will go into racing mode for the next couple of weeks, but will return in the New Year with some fresh ideas and news.

Good luck for the holiday racing season wherever you are.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Perception - PR or a Plague

At this time of year, matters of administration tend to either dry up and/or be put on hold while our members get involved in what they do best, train and drive horses.

While the majority of workers in New Zealand are about to put their feet up for a week or two, because harness racing is part of the entertainment industry, the holiday period can be one of the busiest times of the year for horses and their connections.

If that sounds like an excuse for not being able to come up with anything in particular to put on this site this week, you're right - it is!

So, what I will do is reprint an e-mail sent to various industry figures earlier this week by our Otago/Southland Chairman, Gordon Lee. I've taken the liberty to edit/censor it a little, but the following is the general idea:

Consider the word perception,a word we consistently hear from HRNZ and the RIU. If we continue to keep making decisions for this Industry based on that stupid word, our Industry is in for huge failure. For those people who wish to listen,let me give you a lesson in grammar. The dictionary meaning of perception: "a process by which one detects or interprets information from a means relating to the senses or power of sensation". There is absolutely no mention of the word meaning factual,yet we allow so called intelligent people in this Industry to continually use it to justify their decisions which far too often is then interpreted as fact. These people need to take a step back and open their eyes to the fact they are dealing with human lives where their actions can so easily ruin individuals and families forever,when they are quite clearly innocent of any wrong doing.

Don't know what I'm talking about ?? Well try that one on someone else. I'm living proof and I do know. So, by what means do we approach these issues that will give people a better understanding of our Rules? Obviously the RIU believes perception is extremely important because the they have not changed their position or approach,they have recently announced dumb statements about some race-day treatments etc. that are quite farcical, and further theyfailed to involve the NZT&DA in any consultation. The whole announcement gives the perception these treatments, some of which are simply icepacks, are a means of cheating. Why not tell the public the truth - they have NO effect on the performance of a horse. Simple. So let's get rid of all this theoretical rubbish and assumptions about corruption going on in the Industry, if Board members, RIU and the like keep running around saying and agreeing with 'dickheads' that the drug culture is rife in the Industry, we might as well all throw our licenses in now. These people need to grow up and show a bit of honesty, maturity and common sense. Try working with the license-holders instead of accusing them generally of being cheats. I have not ever heard one public statement where the license-holders have been given high accolades of honesty - why? Because, they don't believe it.

Gordon Lee/Peter Cook

Click here to go back on top!
RIU Notice

You will no doubt by now have seen the notice issued by the Racing Integrity Unit, entitled "Race day treatment of Racehorses Notice".

The Trainers and Drivers Association is disappointed with both the content of this document, and also the way that it has been presented.

First of all, there has been no consultation with the Association on the matters contained in the notice prior to its' publication. The RIU has, a number of times, been critical of articles written and comments made by representatives of the Association, and we have been asked to discuss any matters of concern or interest prior to going public. Sadly this policy appears only to apply to one party in this arrangement.

It is understood that the details of the notice have been worked out between the RIU and the Equine Veterinary Association, who have been described as "the professionals in the Industry who are the obvious group to consult". It seems the professionals who are most affected by these guidelines, i.e. trainers, are not considered to be quite so obvious, despite the stated RIU policy of "preventative action though providing information to participants".

The Association has been regularly told that the RIU merely exists to administer the HRNZ Rules, and do not make them, yet many of the items included in the notice do not appear to be covered under the Rules of Harness Racing. Rules 1004 (5) & (6) cover the possession of a prohibited substance and the race-day use of any substance by injection, nasal gastric tube, ventilator or nebulizer. The Association is fully supportive of these Rules, however we struggle to see where these or any other Rules cover the use of the likes of magnetic or ice boots. Such products are considered beneficial to the horses' welfare and are not performance enhancing.

Also, the paragraph entitled ‘Topical Applications' is considered vague at best. For instance, does a treatment for greasy heel such as EMU oil, which contains no medicaments, fall into this category or not?

Perhaps some constructive consultation with the Trainers & Drivers Association may have assisted in making this notice a useful tool to "assist trainers and veterinary surgeons in interpreting some of the ‘grey areas' associated with the definition of a race day treatment," instead of a document which creates more questions than answers, and will probably result in yet more costly and damaging legal arguments.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Greater Canterbury November 2013

Due to the raft of changes and refurbishments going on around Addington Raceway at present, what will be our last Branch meeting for the year was held in a corner of Spectators, the new (and excellent) eating place and bar adjacent to the birdcage.

We were joined by Dean Mckenzie, CEO of the Addington who outlined recent and future developments at the Raceway. These include the relocation of the administration offices from the building in the car park, to the space in front of the birdcage which used to house the RIU, race-day office, and winning owners room. While winning connections will temporarily be entertained in a marquee, the Stipes and race-day personnel will be situated in the suites in front of the car park on the roof of the stables. The old office block has been leased to the Rugby Union, so it's a win/win for all.

Plans are also in hand to relocate the drivers' room to above the stables, and to close in the popular barbeque area by the stables, so that it can be used in comfort in all weathers.

While Cup Day was a success as far as corporates and catering etc., Dean was concerned at a marked drop off in off course turnover, despite there being 6 more runners on the day compared to last year, which he puts down to the worrying trend in large punters using overseas betting agencies. He intends to stress this issue with the Racing Board. While it might seem beneficial from a personal point of view to use opposition to our TAB, it could be perceived as being rather short sighted, given that these other agencies contribute nothing towards stakes etc., and without that injection of finance, harness racing will fast disappear from the landscape. What do we bet on then - Australian greyhounds?

We were astounded to find that Dean knew nothing of the Associations' literally decades-old crusade to eliminate shadows caused by the light poles Addington. He agreed that, if there was a safety issue involved, action had to be taken, and Ken Barron will be conferring with Track Manager John Denton prior to the preparation a formal request for action on this issue.

Other matters that we discussed with Dean included the replacement of the troubled infield indicator (there were issues with technology compatibility to be sorted out by the Racing Board there), our assertion that the points system currently being trialled would only work properly if no horses were accepted for two races, and a request from the Club for horses preparing for a 1950m race to assemble adjacent to the Lindauer Lawn area. This would allow the public to be closer to the horses while, thanks to safety barriers, they would be far enough away not to cause problems. The meeting agreed to this, providing the mobile gate was not moved back from its' current position.

Dean outlined the initiatives being offered to connections to persuade them to start their horses at Addington, such as the Super Series where every starter was given $500 and $250 for the Final and Consolation respectively. Also the Met Multiplier had been an outstanding success for both the connections of the horse involved, and also to assist is getting tighter class races off the ground by increasing starters.

The controversial mile start at Addington got a decent airing with the Committee being unanimous that it should not be used for a race of the stature of the NZFFA. There was some agreement that the odd low grade mile race for fillies and mares would be acceptable. Dean acknowledged the concerns raised by those present, however reported that horse numbers and tote returns supported the retention of the mile start. This was countered by the fact that the favourite had drawn badly this year, thereby spreading the betting on other entrants. Dean advised that no decision had been made on the distance of next years' event.

Chairman Ken Barron led the meeting in praising Dean and his team for their ongoing efforts to improve Addington Raceway and, in particular, the splendid state of the track prepared by John Denton and Co.

In general business, an issue surrounding the recent race abandonment where it was perceived to be unfair that a horse that caused the interference that created the abandonment was permitted to start whereas the victim was unable to. However the meeting felt that scratching the perpetrator would be setting a dangerous precedent and did not support such action.

Other matter touched on included the interference Rule changes, regional secretaries, and concern over proposed changes to what gear is allowable to be on horses presented at the races. The meeting considered that items such as ice-boots and ‘back-on-tracks' were more for the welfare of the horse and not performance enhancing. Anthony Butt reported that Australian authorities have taken matters to an even more ridiculous stage and banned the use of Molasses!!

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Employment Agreement

As previously advised, the Association is now able to provide a legally binding Employment Agreement specifically designed for Stablehands and other horse workers.

This has been kindly provided by Mary-Jane Thomas of Preston Russell Law of Invercargill, specialists in harness racing legal issues. As an employer, you are legally bound to have a written employment agreement. I have heard a number of incidents that have arisen from trainers failing to have a formal agreement with their staff, so to avoid such situations, it would be prudent to use this facility.

Anyone requiring a copy (free of charge) of the Agreement, e-mail the undersigned on petecee@clear.net.nz.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Reflections

The curtain comes down on another Cup Week with its' usual mixture of highs and lows.

However, this years' edition saw what will probably go down as one of, if not the most momentous victories in our industrys' biggest race. In the space of less than four minutes, the harness racing fraternity, along with the odd once a year attendee who was still sober enough to understand what was going on, went from sadness and even despair when one of the participants in the predicted two horse war in the Cup disappeared out the back of the pack in a wild gallop, to grasping for superlatives as that same unfortunate animal demolished his rivals with a powerhouse display. Simply jaw dropping.

Congratulations to all concerned and, in particular, unassuming master reinsman Ricky May for doing almost the unthinkable feat of breaking Cecil Devines' cup winning record. I doubt if anyone reading this will be around to see that record broken, unless Ricky does it himself!

The other highlight for me was seeing Master Lavros monster the Dominion Handicap field and fulfil a plan years in the making for Mark Jones. An emotional moment for both him and owner Kypros Kotzikas who, with all due respect to the lady who was by his side, must have wished he could have shared the thrill with his lovely late wife Mary, who apparently doted on the horse.

Having said that about the winner, the feat of Paul Nairns' old warrior Stig to make a race of it with his younger rival was staggering. He just won't lie down.

Just a couple of other things I will remember from the week, the emotion and tears from Gerard O'Reilly as he brought Sires Stakes winner Tiger Tara back to the birdcage, and the other emotions surrounding the passing of two stalwarts of the Industry, John Devlin and Reg Curtin. Sincerest condolences to the families of these men, both of whom I was privileged to have had dealings with over the past years. Harness racing has lost two more irreplaceable characters.

Congratulations must go to the team at Addington Raceway for what appeared to be flawless organization of the carnival, which doesn't come by accident - just hard work. Also the people at Trackside who, once again captured the atmosphere and emotions of the day on Tuesday, are to be praised. No praise is high enough for the voice of Cup Week Mark McNamara. His unmatched skill and flair has become so established that we tend to take him for granted!

Sorry to end on a slightly critical note, but can we please ditch the idea of starting races on a bend i.e the mile. To quote our leading driver ‘It's an absolute joke."

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
National Council October 2013 (Part II)

Northern Branch Chairman Peter Ferguson described the Dates Committee meeting he had recently participated in as being ‘difficult', and wished Ken Barron luck when he attended the next edition.

Peter also outlined changes to the Equine Industry Training Organisation, that had now been incorporated into the much larger Primary ITO, which covered the likes of farm employees, etc. He advised that this organisation was responsible for the overall education of young people as well as the specialised aspects of the trades they were training for. Ken and Mark Jones spoke highly of the organisation of recent practical experience sessions for cadets that they had assisted in. Peter advised he would be requesting a change to Level 4 of the course which featured practical driving lessons, as most of those who had reached that level already had trial, or even race day driving licences.

The merits and otherwise of paying appearance monies were discussed at length, with many varied opinions expressed. These included whether such payments should be made to trainers or owners, whether trainers should pass on such subsidies to owners, and support for the concept, providing it didn't come out of the total stake money. Rob Lawson stressed that the Racing Board should make it clear if it's preference was for less races with more starters, or more races with less starters, so that any form of appearance money could be distributed to achieve the best results. The meeting felt that the new drop back and proposed points system would encourage more starters, and that an article on various aspects of handicapping should be a regular feature in the Harness Weekly. Ken advised that the recent Super Series finals at Addington had included appearance money for participants, however it was also reported that the money paid to Harness Jewel starters barely covered costs if inter-island travel was involved.

The meeting unanimously supported the promotion of claiming races, and suggested that trainers should promote them to owners as being the only avenue available to their horse to win money. In addition, it should be emphasised to owners that claiming races were penalty free, also that their horse was unlikely to be sold and, if it was, they could always buy it back. Mark Jones was supported when he suggested that every horse four year old and older should have a registered claiming price, whatever that level might be, so that owners were more aware of their options. The meeting also considered that Clubs should programme Claiming races every week so they became the norm instead of a rarity.

A number of issues surrounding the RIU were discussed, along with Rob Lawsons' proposed change to Rule 869 covering disqualification and relegation. This was supported and would be referred to the HRNZ Rules Sub-Committee for consideration.

Chairman John Lischner outlined some matters involving gaming money, with some Trusts reportedly withholding funding for racing due to the Racing Board buying up their own sites. He also stressed that 15% of all stake money currently came for gaming funds, including almost all Harness Jewels prize money.

Ken Barron suggested that Tentative Programmes should be scrapped, with only Junior Driver and Group Races being advertised, and all other horses in general being catered for. He felt that Clubs felt a compulsion to run the races they had advertised, despite conditions having subsequently changed.

Following discussion on the topic, it was moved and supported unanimously that from the start of the 2015/16 season all nominations should be made online or by fax.

Once again the issue of Regional Secretaries was raised with concern that, despite the Correspondence Item promoted by the Association being supported at Annual conference level, no action had been forthcoming. While claims had been made that no cost cuts would be achieved by instigating this policy, a report that the Methven club was being charged $7000 per meeting ($28,000 per season) by Ashburton Racing to assemble its' fields suggested otherwise. However the meeting agreed that the main benefits of having Regional Secretaries would be efficiencies, and the advantage of one office having full knowledge of the circumstances surrounding all Clubs, trainers and horses in the area.

A number of the Council had been interviewed by the independent review of the JCA, although they felt that little had been achieved by this. However it was agreed that the performance of the JCA had improved markedly in recent times.

All in all, a very diverse and intense few hours of discussion, with many decisions made and many issues to be tackled in the future. Those present left with a feeling that the Association was in good heart, and would only grow in stature.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
National Council October 2013

The recent National Council meeting, presided over by John Lischner, proved how important it is that we have at least two face to face meetings a year, which will now be possible thanks to the recent increase in funding for the Association.

This was stressed in Johns' opening address, along with a plea that any matters relating to licence-holders be referred to the National Council, so that any submissions can be made to HRNZ or other bodies from one central source, instead of individuals going through the media. He also maintained that decisions made by the HRNZ Board, while sometimes unpopular, are made for the overall benefit of the Industry and to maximize wagering and profit. There were serious issues to be faced in the future in relation to the loss of gaming machine revenue, which made up 15% of current general stakes funding, and 100% of Harness Jewels finance. There was also the threat of a change to Section 16 of the Racing Act.

There were many and varied topics to be covered during the National Council meeting, some of which were able to be decided upon immediately, and others that will be ongoing for some time. The following is a brief summary of most of those topics, and the action that the Association plans to take:

Anabolic Steroid Ban; While the Association in no way condones the use of anabolic steroids, it was considered that the decision to introduce a blanket ban was being rushed, particularly when recent cases had proved that some steroids, such as Boldenone can be present in feed. It was planned to discuss this with officials from the thoroughbred code prior to making any submission. During the discussion on steroids, instances of the RIU suggesting that various leg wraps, ice boots and ‘Back On Track' items were illegal if used at the races. Rob Lawson advised that there was no Rule to cover a ban on such aids, which were simply for the horses' welfare, and in no way performance enhancing.

TC02 Testing; The Council fully supported a rise in the allowable limit to 36mmol/L as suggested by HRNZ veterinary consultant Andrew Grierson, which would bring New Zealand into line with all other Countries. However there was concern at the number of horses that have been found to have naturally high TC02 levels, which tended to contradict the statistics supplied to HRNZ (see the report mentioned in last weeks' post).

Change of Season; A proposal to change the season end from 31 July to 31 August was supported, the feeling being that this would assist in maintaining field sizes during that time, until the majority of horses re-appear in the Spring. However following a suggestion from HRNZ that the two and three year-old concessions could be extended to cover the month of August, it was agreed that this would be preferable to having to change the Racing Act. The Association would request this to be implemented from next season.

Points Ranking System; Hopefully, you will all be aware of the system (detailed on this site and in the Harness Weekly) drawn up by the Greater Canterbury Branch, in association with National Council members. Ken Barron and Mark Jones outlined the benefits of the system, and it was supported by other members. While trainers in the Southland considered that their current arrangement was working, Ken explained how the points ranking could improve it. Mark suggested that from say, 1 December this year, every horse should be given a points ranking next to its' name on the HRNZ site. That way, it would heighten the awareness of the system, and if Clubs wished to use it, the information was easily available to them. Mark was to discuss with HRNZ whether this was possible.

Funding; As previously explained, extra funding had been granted to the Association to ensure its' viability. It was decided to maintain the current funding regime to the three Branches, with the extra money ensuring that regular National Council meetings, and those with other bodies, could be held when required. It was also decided that a copy of the National Council minutes should be forward to HRNZ.

Trials/Amateur Licence; The meeting agreed that it should not be necessary for advanced Amateur drivers to hold a separate trials licence in order to drive at trial meetings.

Junior Driver Concessions; Peter Ferguson gained support for his push for more penalty free concessions for Junior Drivers in open events, particularly in the Central Districts. The meeting agreed that Juniors learnt more by driving against senior drivers than only among their peers, and the penalty free aspect was an incentive for connections of horses to support meetings away from the main centres. However there was no support for three year-olds being re-introduced into Junior Drivers events.

Betting Rules; Peter Ferguson also reported on his involvement in an HRNZ Sub-Committee on betting by drivers. While the Association supported a ban on drivers betting at windows in their driving apparel, it was considered unnecessary to impose any other restrictions. Those present felt that connections of a horse would welcome a driver betting on their horse, suggesting a level of confidence. However, in order to appease the authorities, it was decided to support the proposal that drivers should not be allowed to bet on any race that they are participating in.

Part II next week.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
National Council Revived

After what has been too long a break, the Associations' National Council will meet in person in Christchurch next Tuesday 29 October. We are grateful to the HRNZ Board for granting us extra funding so that we can resume our bi-annual meetings, and perform our functions in a proper fashion.

The agenda for the meeting is a comprehensive one, including the following:

- Disqualification/ Relegation Rule

- Anabolic Steroids Ban

- TC02 issues

- Change of Season (1st Sept) in line with Australia

- Points Ranking System

- Funding - Voice of NZTDA

- Trials Licence / Amateur Licence

- 3yo Concessions (Junior Drivers)

- Betting Rule- Drivers

- Recent Starters Meeting

- Handicapping - D Butcher / J Lischner

- Dates - K Barron / P Ferguson

- Rules - R Lawson / J Lischner

- Equine ITO - P Ferguson

- Race-day Appearance Money

- Claimers

- Meeting with NZRB - Chris Bayliss

- RIU Professionalism

As you can see, it will be a busy few hours! Anyone who has any thoughts or opinions to contribute to any of the above should e-mail through the website before Monday 28 October. A report on the meeting will be on this site as soon as possible.

If you have taken the time to read reports on the numerous legal issues that have peppered the Industry during the past few years, you will be familiar with the name Mary-Jane Thomas. Hailing from a strong Southland harness racing family, Mary-Jane has ‘taken up the cudgels' for numerous trainers and drivers, using her knowledge of the industry to good effect. She and her company, Preston Russell Law, have also carried out the odd task for the Association, often as a favour, so it is only fair that we should promote her to members. Obviously they deal with other matters than ‘horsey' ones, but with Mary-Janes' knowledge she is the ideal person to approach on any matters, from horse or property sale disputes to serious driving offences. A direct e-mail contact to her can be found in the favourite links section of this site.

The other recent matter of interest is the ‘power point' presentation from Chief Veterinarian for HRNZ Andrew Grierson on such things as anabolic steroids and TC02. Anyone who would like a copy of this presentation can e-mail the site.

Peter Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Points System Proposal

As indicated last week, the Greater Canterbury Branch has instigated the creation of a points system, purely for use in field selection, mainly for maidens and one win horses.

While there has been input and tinkering already from amongst the Associations' other Branches, the proposed system has not been discussed or ratified by the National Council, or HRNZ. The sole purpose of releasing it to the general public is to attract suggestions on how it can be improved, so anyone who has any comments or ideas, don't hesitate to contact the Association so that your ideas can be taken on board and discussed at the National Council meeting on 29 October.

The following is the proposal, to be linked into imminent changes to the Handicapping System;

All horses that qualify obtain 20 points (regardless time)

At a set date to be decided, any horse that has had more than 5 starts, points will be totalled up from their last five starts beginning with a 20 point starting figure.

Each start after this gains or loses the horse points.

Points System

1st 10 points 4th 2 points

2nd 6 points 5th 0 points

3rd 4 points 6th - last - 2 points

Penalty free wins still count regarding points. eg if you win a junior drivers race as a C1, you stay a C1 but the 10 points goes on your card.

Fields can be picked in Ascending or Descending order (ie bottom to top/top to bottom)

This would lead to trainers/drivers not being able to split horses and no influence from anyone in which race they can start in.

Horses would race like with like, i.e 0 - 12 points, 13 - 20 points, 21+ points

Stakes could be run at the same level for all point levels. Gives the lower points horses the chance to win as much money as the higher points horses.

Trainers would have an idea who they would be racing against at nomination closing time.

Only thing that can change is with withdrawals the medium point range may fluctuate up/down.

In addition to the above the Greater Canterbury Branch has issued an appeal to trainers and owners to support a push for more Claiming races in the region:

Attention South Island Owners and Trainers,

We aim to promote and foster Claiming Races in the South Island. We need you to register your horse as a claimer so we can increase the pool of Claiming horses and get more of these races off the ground.

Our region has the most trainers and horses, and the least number of Claiming horses.

The clubs cannot provide races without a pool of horses to target. All races are penalty free and can be preferential draw from a mobile or handicapped from a stand start. This would create fairer contests and be governed by your own claiming price.

Worldwide, claiming races are seen as the ultimate way of placing your horse at the level you desire. All prices will be accepted, and we aim to run races with a claiming price up to $100,000 if we can get enough horses registered.

It is expected that the majority of horses to be in the $2000 to $25,000 bracket.

So please support us as we endeavour to get these races off the ground and therefore create a whole new lot of opportunities for our current horses.

As usual, should you have any feedback on anything in this column, don't hesitate to contact us.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Greater Canterbury Branch October 2013

New Chairman Ken Barron recently presided over his first Branch Committee meeting which was attended by Brain Rabbitt and Richard Bromley from the Addington Raceway Racing Department.

Brain advised that, during Cup Week, the storeroom opposite Garrards in the stable block would serve as a drivers lounge and, following a suggestion from Anthony Butt, it was agreed that this area would double as a drivers changing room. It was stressed that this was only a temporary measure with plans for a more permanent drivers' facility in the pipeline.

The subject of ‘Reserve races" was discussed at length with Ken and Mark Jones being supported in expressing frustration that these were still being included in the NZ Metropolitan Club programmes, as it was suspected that few trainers nominated for them because the words ‘Reserve Race' were attached. While Brian acknowledged that they received numerous calls asking if these events would go ahead, he felt that they were necessary in case all the standard programmed races were filled, which would cause problems with trying to gain extra TAB Trackside time-slots. However the meeting considered it most unlikely that, given the current struggle to fill fields, this was likely, and in any case, would be a good problem to have to face.

The proposed points system for field selection was discussed at length, with all present agreeing that it was a positive move. There had already been some tinkering with the details, and it was likely that the Branch would advertise the proposal in its' current form prior to ratification by the Associations' National Council. The education of trainers would be an essential part of the introduction of the system. There was also a call to programme and promote Claiming races, with the success of the Methven even being an encouraging sign. These races also need to be understood by trainers and owners as being a form of handicapping, in addition to a means of buying and selling.

The other major issue covered at the meeting was the proposal to change Rule 869(8) covering relegation for interference. Discussions had been held recently with the RIU, and the meeting agreed that the Rule needed to be changed to bring it into line with other overseas racing jurisdictions. There was also a call for a portion of any fine incurred by a driver for interference should be given to the connections of the horse which suffered that interference. These matters would also be finalised at an upcoming National Council meeting at the end of October.

Other issues discussed on the night included the proposal to invite Australian horses into the Jewels, which was opposed by most present, closer ties with the local Standardbred Breeders and Owners bodies, and a couple of issues surrounding aspects of Addington Raceway. To this end it was decided to invite CEO Dean Mackenzie to the next Branch meeting, following Cup Week.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Starters Meeting

Recently representatives of the Trainers & Drivers Association were invited to participate in a meeting of Race Starters from around New Zealand, along with members of the RIU, and Edward Rennell from HRNZ.

This was the first of such meeting for four years and it was generally agreed that such get-togethers should be held on a far more regular basis.

The meeting began with Edward outlining that the aim of all starters is to ensure every horse is given as fair a start as possible and to do so in a manner that is consistent nationwide.

The first item on the agenda was a review of the Starters Manual which included such matters as drug testing of officials, the proposal for shorter intervals between races, the need for Clubs to ensure a farrier is present at the start of every race where possible, and having guests on the mobile vehicle. The latter was agreed to, providing permission was gained from the Stewards and seat belts were worn.

One item to be discussed at length was the current directive concerning false starts. It was agreed that as long as the field reassembled at the start point following a false start, it was at the discretion of the Starter whether the horses should follow the gate round to that point, or stop and go back. A request was made to inform Trackside presenters of this directive, to avoid ill-informed comments.

Other issues covered off included the position of the starter for standing starts, starters wearing microphones (at their discretion), and race stopping and re-runs, which would, in future, be at the sole discretion of the Stewards. A re-run must be held within 45 minutes of the original start time, with a minimum number of horses involved.

A new initiative from the RIU that, unless a trotter interfered with another horse, it would not, in future, be stood down, gained support. The meeting agreed that punters knew the risks involved in backing trotters and making them trial against one or two horses had little value, and was an extra cost to owners.

General discussion concerned various aspects of standing starts, including drivers taking their horses an unnecessary distance away from the others when parading, and often gaining a running start. Various suggestions to prevent this were aired. The RIU and Trainers & Drivers representatives both assured the Starters that they would support them in taking action against drivers who tried to cheat the accepted starting procedures.

Following concern at the current unsatisfactory employment conditions of Starters, the RIU have agreed to look into whether they can be employed by that body, and investigate if such a move will be of benefit to the Industry as a whole.

All in all a worthwhile meeting, which is likely to lead to more dialogue and possible workshops involving these officials, who perform a vital task in the running of harness racing.

Peter T Cook

P.S. Don't forget the Northern Branch AGM October 1 at the Franklin Trotting Clubrooms

Click here to go back on top!
A Few Things Simmering

The last week has seen a lot of discussion and work behind the scenes on a number of issues, with many of them still ongoing.

As well as the controversy over the decision to invite Australian horses into the Jewels, the Association has been responding to request from the HRNZ Board for us to produce a "Business Plan". As the task of producing such a document fell in my lap I found it difficult to come up with such a document, especially given the Association often has no idea what issues and/or tasks it is going to have to grapple with from one day to another!

However, with some help from sources who know what these things involve, we have come up with a generic document entitled "A Statement of Responsibilities and Intentions". This will be presented to the Board at their next meeting and I will then reproduce it on the website.

Next Tuesday, 24 September the Association will be well represented at the Annual meeting of Open Race starters. Items up for discussion include a review of the Starters Manual, Starters Position at the start, Crash procedures and abandonment of races, the marshaling area for unruly horses, and a review of the mobile false start policy. A report on the meeting will be included in next weeks' update.

It would be fair to say that the majority of proposals that came out of the meeting of Canterbury trainers at the Yaldhurst Hotel in May have, or are likely, to be introduced following a recent meeting of the Handicapping Committee. However one request, that of doing away with ‘Reserve races' doesn't seem to have caught on. HRNZ have sent out advice to Clubs that they do not have to programme these races, and they are now optional. Whether Clubs have chosen to ignore that suggestion or haven't picked up on it, we don't know, but another reminder has been issued. It's difficult to understand why such races aren't simply programmed as normal ones, particularly at a time when field sizes are not exactly brimming.

Full credit, as someone once said, to HRNZ for the recently issued Licence Holders Directory and Diary. A very useful publication, professionally produced, and chock full of all the information any harness follower or participant could possibly want.

Finally, an early reminder that the Northern Branch is holding its' AGM on 1 October at the Franklin Trotting Clubrooms. If you can't be bothered to comment on what we do through the website, go along, meet the Committee, and have your say in person.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Jewels Controversy II

For the second year in a row, the HRNZ Board have, out of the blue as far as everyone else is concerned and with no consultation with, well anyone, decided to change the conditions surrounding our flagship race-day, the Harness Jewels.

Last time, along with the majority, I could see no sense in extending the four year-old Jewels to include five year-olds, when there was never going to be an issue of filling the fields, that being the reasoning behind attaching the same conditions to other major four year-old events. After much wailing and gnashing of teeth from numerous sources, the Board admitted the error of their ways and, at some considerable expense, separated the older horses out and gave them their own race.

One would have thought that, given the outcry that followed last years' decision, they would have trod carefully when considering tinkering with the ‘holy cow' again, but it appears they, once again, underestimated the backlash their actions would create from some sectors. Personally I can see both sides of the argument and, as the matter has not been discussed officially by the Association, I am not about to pass judgment here. What I will do is throw out some relative points from both sides of the fence.

There is an old saying that goes something like, ‘if you are standing still in business, you are going backwards'. The ‘Jewels', in particular the last one, was acknowledged by all as being one of the best race-days seen on either side of the Tasman. However, does that mean we should rest on our laurels and risk it stagnating? Whether you like it or not, the "Jewels' is a business venture that depends on financial support from a number of sources. Are there, as we are led to believe by certain media personalities, opportunities for beneficial gains from increased Australian participation?

Maybe (and I stress that word) offering ‘free spots' to the best that the Australians can produce will increase publicity on both sides of the Tasman, and possibly increase turnovers, although I remain sceptical that our TAB will be a significant beneficiary of any hike in betting from across the ‘deetch'. Why would the Aussies bet on our TAB any more than we do on theirs? What is more conceivable is that if there is a significant number of visiting horses, that could translate into an increase in visiting owners and supporters, by way of tour parties (I understand some interest has already been shown). That would enhance both the coffers and the atmosphere on the day.

The other financial benefit of such a move could be more mileage for sponsors without whom, as we are forever being told in after race speeches, we would not survive as an Industry. With stake levels such as those on offer on ‘Jewels' day, this is never more evident. Would more publicity in Australia be advantageous to local sponsors, or would we even attract Australian sponsors - who knows?

Most of the criticism of the decision seems to involve the fact that Kiwi horses will miss out after having battled to gain enough stake money to participate, and that's perfectly understandable. You can imagine the reaction from connections of the last qualifier, whether it be No.12 or No.13, when told that unfortunately, its' place has been taken by an invitee that has done all of its' racing off shore. I understand a decision on whether all the fields will have 13 horses regardless of the presence of a visitor or not, has yet to be made. I would humbly suggest that doing so would be a very good idea!

That raises another point, if the field size was restricted to 12 to allow all a fair chance when the Jewels were first dreamt up, how come that can be increased with the stroke of a pen? Apparently the RIU don't consider such a move to be a safety issue, just that it makes it that little more difficult to get in the money, as if it wasn't hard enough already.

The argument from Luke McCarthy that sending a horse over for the Jewels' early is expensive and a real hardship doesn't cut much ice with the writer - how does he think the major Kiwi trainers get on when they campaign horses in his neck of the woods? And because of the exchange rate, it costs them another 15 - 20% to do so.

One positive note that hasn't been widely noted. Should this plan come to fruition, I understand that if the horse initially selected by the Australian panel to represent in the various sections decides not to come to New Zealand, no further invitation will be made, thereby preventing a watering down of the honour.

There is one other relevant point to bring up. Last time the Jewels were held at Cambridge, there were four Southland horses eligible, yet, for whatever reasons, not one of them lined up in their respective race. Maybe when it comes to the crunch, the idea of starting in the Jewels might not be the magic attraction for those a long way from the action, and including a leading Australian horse might be better for the overall look and success of the event?

No doubt the discussion will continue for a while yet.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
New Chairmans' Goals

Following his recent election to Chairman of the Greater Canterbury Branch, Ken Barron has formulated a wish list (or I should probably say in the current corporate atmosphere ‘business plan'), which he hopes to achieve during his reign. He is realistic enough to understand that some of these goals will be easier to attain than others, but knowing Ken, he will not die wondering!

This is his list of aims:

1. Achieve closer unity with other Branches of the Association.

2. Introduce the Interference Rule that was defeated at last years' Annual Conference (he is very strong on this point).

3. Ensure the introduction of the Points System to supplement recent changes to programming/handicapping

4. Work with trainers and Clubs to increase the number of race starters

5. Work together with Club Secretaries to gain more starters at Trials instead of horses being spread over numerous workouts. Trial clubs need 80 horses to reach a break-even point to cover expenses (judges, starters). Many of the horses who go to workouts could easily run at official trials

6. Push for faster uploading of Trackside trial videos on the website, and wide shots of fields at the 1600/800 and 400 marks during race broadcasts, to aid punters in assessing horses' performances.

7. Make the most of his appointment on the HRNZ Race Dates Committee (always a challenge)

8. Introduce concessions for mares in trotters' races. Interestingly, this proposal was not supported by trotting supremo Kevin Townley, who maintained there was no difference in ability between the sexes when it came to trotters.

9. Push for the introduction of some form of race-day appearance money

10. Change the New Zealand season to be in line with the Australian i.e commencing 1 September. This issue was raised at the 1999 HRNZ Annual Conference, however rejected by the Board at the time, despite being supported by the Standardbred Breeders.

11. Change Committee meeting start times to 6pm, and arrange to meet relevant industry participants to discuss issues at 5pm prior to the meeting.

When Ken outlined these proposals at the AGM there was general support for all of them (with the exception of the trotters' one). As Anthony Butt put it, that was why he was standing down, to allow fresh blood and ideas!

Watch this space for progress.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Safety Vest Notice

NOTICE TO ALL LICENSED PERSONS

4th September 2013

TIPPERARY RIDE LITE VEST

The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) hereby gives notice that approval of the TIPPERARY RIDE LITE VEST for use by Licensed Drivers has been withdrawn effective immediately.The RIU takes this action in the interest of driver safety after being alerted to concerns that the Australian authorities had received expert reports advising that testing, of both new and used vests, had revealed that the Tipperary Ride Lite Vest did not comply with the SATRA Vest Standard.As a consequence the Australian Racing Board suspended the Tipperary Ride Lite Vest from its list of approved vests.Similarly as Harness Racing New Zealand applied the SATRA standard the prohibition was imposed.Therefore the TIPPERARY RIDE LITE VEST may not be worn by:1. Any licensed driver in a race or trial effective 5th September 2013The Australian authorities are working with the manufacturers of the Tipperary Ride Lite Vest to address the safety concerns and the RIU will be updated with developments.

Nigel McIntyre

Co-Chief Stipendiary Steward

RACING INTEGRITY UNIT

Click here to go back on top!
Greater Canterbury AGM 2013

A small but select group of members attended the recent AGM of the Greater Canterbury Branch, along with Edward Rennell and Andrew Morris from HRNZ who kindly gave up their evening to cover a few current issues and answer questions.

Edward outlined recent staff changes at HRNZ following the resignation of Kevin Craik who, prior to leaving, commented on a fear of burnout due to 95% of contacts to his handicapping role taking the form of complaints. Andrew Morris would become responsible for general handicapping matters. With the imminent resignation of Wayne Reid, Darrin Williams would take on registrations as well as overseeing handicapping. Pete Ydgren was responsible for media liaison, promotions, and the Weekly, with changes in the format of the latter likely to be imminent. Trevor Beaton had been employed on a one year contract and was reviewing methods of education for cadets. This was likely to involve more hands-on tasks as opposed to school type work. Edward acknowledged the assistance of a number of trainers in achieving this.

Turnover for the past season had been static, however the number of races required for funding purposes had been staged. Unfortunately field size numbers were down from 11.2 horses to 10.4 per race. Stakes had risen 5% but there was still concern at the money from gaming situation, ($7-8million per year) despite the Flavell Bill having been defeated. Clubs were being encouraged to claim this money to fund other things such as promotions and race day functions. Edward felt that, because politicians and others were only invited to major days like Cup Day, there was a perception that harness racing was an industry for ‘fat cats', and such people should come along to Thursday night meetings to get a better idea of the reality of the current situation.

The idea of publishing nominations sequentially was discussed with Edward suggesting that the first meeting may suffer as a result of this policy. The one nomination policy was showing promise, with Anthony Butt asking if original nominations could be given preference. The problem with that was that it could prevent trainers doing what they were being asked to do, that is, nominate new horses. Following a comment from Kevin Townley, it appeared that only trainers who had nominated a horse for a specific meeting were receiving texts advising that nominations had been extended. Edward agreed that was of little use and Andrew Morris was directed to extend the service to all trainers in the area.

In outlining his new role in the handicapping department, Andrew felt that he and Darrin Williams would work well together, however they had different philosophies on some matters. He offered an open door policy and was keen to hear various opinions. He was in the process of developing the planned points system and this should be ready to be looked at around December/January following consultation with the Association. Discussion had already taken place on various matters with trainers such as Ken Barron, Bruce Hutton and Mark Jones. Anthony Butt and M.Jones commented that they felt things were heading in the right direction in this area.

Edward spoke of the vast financial differences between Clubs in various regions of the Country, making it difficult for HRNZ set to set policies on a nationwide basis, comparing the Alaxandra park tenant Clubs with the Northern Southland Club. Progress was being made on an Age Group race review in conjunction with the Sires Stakes Board, and one proposal was to reduce the number of premier dates from 8 to 6, with at least 5 Group races at each meeting and a minimum of $20,000 for the supporting events.

During a subsequent question and answer session, matters discussed including the one horse - one race nomination policy, which was looking ‘promising', and whether HRNZ could pay stakes instead of Clubs so that GST could be avoided by owners. Edward advised that HRNZ had investigated various options of paying stakes and the current was the best of those. A battle with the IRD to exempt trainers and drivers percentages from GST had been lost on appeal - these payments were classed as ‘services'.

Another issue discussed was the assertion that the lowest level of horse racing in New Zealand was the highest in the World, and opportunities should exist for horses that qualify but struggle in the current maiden races and are often sacked. Edward acknowledged this, however gave examples of where different stake options had been programmed by Clubs, and the majority of trainers opted out of the high stake races, therefore making the supposed lower class events hard to win also. He gave an example of Group race winner Alto Christiano lining up in a maiden race against a full field, something that would not happen in New Zealand, and asserted that the Australians ‘had a mentality to race'. It was hoped that the proposed points system would help in this regard, as horses would handicap themselves based on their current form and race those of a similar level.

Other discussion topics were the future and viability of the Forbury Park and Cambridge clubs, a suggestion that four year-old awards be handed out for the past season, and a request for more fillies and mares races in Canterbury. In responding to the latter, Edward questioned the lack of support for the recent Golden Girl series.

John Versteeg asked for more maiden only and one-win only races for trotters to be programmed, maintaining that this would assist in horses progressing through the grades. All those present acknowledged that the trotter was the way of the future and as such, should gain more recognition. Edward reported that had the Auckland Club not been able to stage three trot races at their recent meetings, it was doubtful that those meetings would have gone ahead. He also advised that negotiations were underway with France to show more of our trotting Group races in that Country. Surprisingly, turnovers on the races that have been exported to France to date have exceeded the Australian turnover on the same races.

Finally Edward reported that, while HRNZ would be doing everything in its' power to increase stakes, the average prize money in New Zealand was currently the second highest in Australasia, after new South Wales.

In general business, Anthony Butt reported on a recent check of helmets and safety vests by the RIU, and urged members to make sure their equipment was up to standard. He also advised that the date of manufacture should be checked on helmets before purchase.

As reported previously Anthony has decided to stand down as Chairman of the Greater Canterbury Branch, and Ken Barron was voted in to replace him.

Anthonys' shoes will be very difficult ones to fill, he has been extremely active and pro-active as Chairman, both in the public eye and behind the scenes, being part of numerous Committees on a wide range of matters, and handling countless other issues and dramas that have cropped up during the years of his tenure. He has graciously agreed to continue to be part of the Committee, and will no doubt contribute much more in the future.

Ken has some ideas for the future, which will be detailed in a later update.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Strategic Forbury

Forbury Park in Dunedin has, for many years, been one of those racetracks that polarises people. The ‘powers that be' categorise it as a Strategic Venue and therefore essential to the welfare of the Industry, others consider it a cold hole that stages race meetings that would be better off held in either Canterbury or Southland, without the huge time and cost involved in travelling.

Personally I have a bit of a soft spot for the place, although I admit it would be more than ten years since I've been there in person. I'm one of those small punters that enjoys betting against hot favourites, and there is no place better to practice that art than Forbury!

A great deal of money and effort in upgrading the track, so that it is now recognized as one of the best surfaces in the Country, and ongoing development of the facilities have ensured that they can be used for numerous functions other that racing, to boost Club revenue.

Now, I don't profess to be an expert in the political upheavals that have been swirling around Forbury in the past few years (in fact, make that decades), but having spoken to Club President Peter Gillespie at the last two HRNZ Annual Conferences, there is no doubt that he has a passion for the place, has put in a huge amount of preparatory work, and seemingly has the skills to make it more successful.

It is with some sadness and even distress that I hear that his plans to establish a new governing body that would be more ‘business-savvy' has been scuppered by a vote taken at a special meeting the other night.

As previously stated, I don't know for sure whether that was a good move or not, although after speaking to Peter, I suspect it won't help the Club in the future, but I am seriously concerned at the way the matter was decided.

The Forbury Park Trotting Club has 195 registered members and yet only 30 bothered to turn up to a meeting that was quite possibly critical to the way the Club will function in the coming years. 21 of those who did attend voted for the proposal, 9 were against, which meant that the motion failed (by a mere 5%) to gain the 75% majority it needed to succeed. Or in other words, if just two more members had gone along and supported the idea, it would have been passed!

Now I know that the Club has to be operated on a democratic basis and all that, but let's remember we are talking about a multi-million dollar facility operating as part of a multi-million dollar industry. And because two people had better things to do that night, the entire course of the Club may have been drastically altered.

Question: Is what happened at Forbury indicative of why harness racing is currently beset with problems, with a few well-meaning amateurs (some possibly with personal agendas) making decisions affecting the future of our multi-million dollar business?

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
The Calm Before the.....Big Season?

As usual there is plenty going on in the Association's week, but most of it involves preparation for upcoming events.

The Northern Branch is busily involved in the organization of another of their very successful Northern Awards nights, this years' edition to be held at Alexandra Park on Saturday 31 August. If past years are anything to go by, tickets will be in short supply by now, so a call to Suzanne Herlihy on (09)2981757 would be a wise move if you're planning on going along to what is a brilliant evening.

On a slightly more serious note, the Greater Canterbury Branch is holding its' Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 27 August in the Addington Raceway Canteen (which is doubling as a Board room at present). A 7pm start and the guest will be new HRNZ Handicapper Andrew Morris. Anyone license-holder who wishes to come along will be welcome, or if you can't make it, e-mail the undersigned with anything you would like the meeting to discuss.

On an even more serious note, the Associations' National Council has been invited to meet with NZ Racing Board CEO Chris Bayliss to "discuss strategies in the running of the TAB, to gain broad perspectives and to hear concerns and ideas of industry stakeholders in relation to the current and future prospects of the industry as a whole."

Unfortunately due to financial and logistical problems, we were unable to accept the invitation for a face to face meeting, however a telephone link-up is being arranged for 3 September. Once again, any license-holder who has an issue that they would like to be discussed with Chris should contact the website. Obviously a report on both of the above meetings will be on the website soon after they happen.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
The Media - Love'em or...

Once again the panel discussion at the HRNZ Annual Conference provided a highlight, and once again it sparked some fascinating debate.

This year the panelists, Mick Guerin, Adam Hamilton (happily doing a little extra work for the cost of importing him for the Awards night), HRNZ's Pete Ydgren, and indisputably the best looking of the bunch, Monique Cairns (Manager, Corporate Affairs, NZ Racing Board), tackled the thorny subject of how harness racing should handle the media.

It's no secret that the printed media is shrinking rather alarmingly and that the future for the daily newspaper is somewhat bleak, however the organisations that produce them are trying desperately to keep up with technology, and will, in the near future at least, continue in some form or another. Some, such as Jamie Searle of the Southland Times (http://www.stuff.co.nz/southland-times/sport/racing/) and Matt Smith of the Otago Daily Times (http://www.odt.co.nz/sport/racing) are excellent exponents of this, with almost daily updates on their respective websites. They do not simply focus on their local regions either.

The most interesting comment from the two media representatives was that journalists are notoriously lazy (their words not mine, before the arrows start flying), and that they like nothing more than a story and a photo or two being handed to them on a plate. Their suggestion was to ‘buddy up' to your local members of the ‘fourth estate', treat them as your mates, and keep them informed. Believe it or not, the public are interested in hearing about something out of the ordinary that happened in your stable, or to a horse that people know the name of. It makes good copy, and helps both the journalists and the Industry, not to mention getting your name out there. You only have to watch the mainstream television news to understand that, on a quiet news day, they drag out some odd-ball human interest story (often more interesting than the main news stories) to fill in the hours viewing that they are required to produce.

Another point raised was using an accident to promote the Industry. Actually that's probably already happening to a certain extent - probably 80% of harness coverage on the main networks is made up of accidents and mishaps. Why should we be shy about this? How much coverage does motorsport get apart from the crashes? We know our sport is made as safe as possible safe by all the safeguards that have been introduced in the past decades, such as pylons. People (and therefore the media) enjoy watching crashes, especially when both the equine and human participants walk away with just a bruise or two.

The old saying that ‘any publicity is good publicity' is corny but still very relevant. I still recall the anticipation of massive fallout from infamous "Blue Magic" saga - contrary to expectations, turnover on harness racing went up the following season!

So, trainers, if you've got a story to tell (and who hasn't) have a chat to your local racing reporter (if you can find him of course) and maybe you can be the start of a "Harness Anecdote of the Week" series that the readers will enjoy and look forward to.

The media is forever hungry, and it is our responsibility to keep them fed.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
HRNZ Annual Conference

I've been to more HRNZ Annual Conferences than I would care to remember - I even went to some when they were the Trotting Conference Annual Conference, which was a bit confusing!

It would be fair to say that I've heard quite a few different Racing Ministers and just as many Chairmen and CEO's of the New Zealand Racing Board, or whatever it was called in past years. Most, if not all have ‘talked the talk', but sadly few have followed that up with much ‘walk', fading into obscurity or disgrace, or both!

So, to the ears of an old cynic, there was a somewhat refreshingly different air about the talk given by the latest Racing Board CEO Chris Bayliss. Some of his predecessors have done reasonable jobs of trying to pull our Industry up by its' proverbial bootstraps, some, such as the last expensive import from the UK, have been bloody awful.

However, they seem to have all been guilty of looking at the problem from the top, and trying to solve the high profile issues, maybe to make their mark, or maybe to justify their salaries. Chris Bayliss is different.

Instead of rushing in with great gusto and a big stick, he has taken one or even more steps back, delved deep into the dark recesses of the New Zealand Racing Industry, and actually discovered why things are happening, and what is the best way to deal with them.

Unfortunately there were so many facts and figures being bandied about during his address, trying to take it in and write it all down was beyond me, but I managed to make a few notes. For instance, it was rather sobering to hear that, while owners' costs came in at around $283m, the returns were about $68m, or 24%. The aim was to get that to around 30% at least, which would compare favourably with other countries. On the other hand, about 45% of the horses that lined up last season actually won a race, which was a little more encouraging.

Australians (and other overseas markets) were obviously targets for turnover growth with only 4% of their betting being on our harness racing, and there were various strategies being considered to achieve this, along with incentives both here and overseas. A Lotto type product run by the TAB looks to be a certainty in the near future.

Other issues covered included the growth of sports betting, (surprisingly the highest turnover on any sport by the TAB is basketball!), the establishment of a media liaison desk, and plans to re-jig the television channels to avoid the current duplication. This would involve having a dedicated local content channel with longer lead-in times (yay), and the other concentrating on the race a minute overseas stuff. It was estimated that this would enable the second channel to broadcast another 5000 races per year, with a relative increase in turnover.

This was certainly one of the more positive Conferences I've been to, and the general feeling was that the future of our game was in the best hands it's been in for a good while.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
TC02 Testing

Following a request from the Association the RIU have agreed to change their policy regarding the use of the I-STAT hand tester for TC02 levels.

From 1 August a trainer will be advised prior to the race if the level recorded on the I-STAT machine be 36 or higher.  The RIU will then inquire into the matter immediatley, and the trainer will be given the option to scratch the horse.

While charges could still be laid for presenting the horse to race, a trainer who decides to scratch, will be given credit for his or her actions at a subsequent hearing.

In addition, the RIU will henceforth publish the results of all tests done for TC02 blood testing on their website at the earliest possible moment, so that a trainer can be made aware if a horse is recording a level close to the limit. This is something the Association has also been requesting for a while.

The RIU is to be commended for making these policy changes to ensure that trainers are fully informed of the TC02 level that their horse is recording, and act accordingly.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Hopple Issues

As you may recall, over the past few months, mention has been made on this site of problems being experienced with a brand of gear as a result of a number of breakages of virtually new hopples etc.

The Association has been liaising with representatives of the RIU to try and sort out the problem, and Greater Canterbury Branch Chairman Anthony Butt recently met with representatives of the company concerned, Zilco Ltd.

It seems that there has been a problem with the Deluxe model of hopples in the past, in particular those manufactured in 2008/9.

In an attempt to rectify this, Zilco has put an extra strap around the block. This has worked to a degree, but to start with they have made this strap too long and the stitching was coming away on it on the inside of the loop near the block. They have now made theextra strap shorter and sown it into the loop in a better way so it shouldn't come away now. On the right is a photo of the new hopple and where the changes have been made. 

The Association suggests that all trainers check their Zilco Deluxe hopples to ensure that their current hopples have the new strap sown in. Anyone who is using older hopples that they are not sure about, should replace them.

The Association acknowledges that Zilco have worked hard to resolve this issue, and are they are confident that there should be no more problems.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
National Council July Phone-Link

The National Council recently held a telephone link-up prior to the HRNZ Annual Conference.

The only Remit to be presented that is related to the Association is the one concerning on-course betting by drivers. While it is understood that this Country and Germany are the only two places where on-course betting is permitted by horsemen, and the Racing Board are keen to bring us into line with international policy, there is a feeling that the change is unnecessary. The Association fully supports a Rule that prevents anyone in driving gear placing an on-course bet, however, given the number of hobby trainer drivers in New Zealand, any change seems to be somewhat draconian to such people. Conference delegate Peter Ferguson was given leave to speak against the Remit.

Peter expressed concern at the large number of trotters being stood down and asked to trial in the North. He argued that horses could learn little from starting in 2 or 3 horse trials, and the current policy was causing horse shortages. The meeting agreed that punters knew the horses that could gallop, but felt that this was only an issue in the North.

The current issue of trainers not being advised of TC02 levels recorded on the new ISTAT pre-race was discussed. It was considered that no-one benefitted from this policy, and an approach was to be made to the RIU asking that it should be changed. Concern was also expressed at the level of fines being handed out for undue use of the whip, with little or no consideration being given to whether the horse was being actually hit or not.

Complaints had been received over the performance of some Clerks of the Course, and it was suggested that every track should have two of these officials on duty. Unfortunately the cost of this, and a lack of capable Clerks made this virtually impossible. However, there were some problems that could be rectified. An example was given of the single Clerk at the Blenheim track who was stationed on the galloping track with a full length running rail between him and the all-weather track. This made it impossible for him to obtain immediate access to any incident that might occur. Anthony Butt agreed to speak with Dave Ferriman on this matter. Anthony also advised the meeting that he was due to have an informal meeting with a gear manufacturer over the continuing problem of new or near-new gear breakages.

Other matters discussed during the link-up included the criteria involved in voting for the Annual Awards, and whether or not it should include Australian form, and varying opinions on the merits or otherwise of the Auckland TC policy of open nominations. Peter Ferguson advised that there had already been consultation with trainers over this, and advised that another meeting with the Club was scheduled for 7 August. Any trainers who are continually grumbling into their beer, or sounding off in the media, are urged to go along to this meeting and air their views to the Club and Kevin Smith.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
The Grass is Greener

Like a large number of our horses, I'm heading across the ‘deetch' this week for a few days of warmth, however, I'm definitely coming back.

As many of you will know, also this week, sees an important meeting of the HRNZ Handicapping Committee where, mainly as a result of proposals put forward by a bunch of Canterbury trainers recently (see below), there will be some robust discussion on what is right and/or wrong with the current handicapping system.

Unfortunately I won't be able to report on the outcome of that meeting until I return, however I am becoming rather angry at some of the comments being made, particularly those asking why we can't have a system like Australia.

There are a number of reasons why that can't happen - here are the important ones;

1) Whereas New Zealand has a population of 4 million, Australia has 22 million, or over five times more. Hypothetically, if the same percentage of people bet on racing in both countries, our turnover would be multiplied by five times and, as stake levels are directly related to turnover, our stakes would be five times higher than they are now. I doubt if there would be many complaints if that were the case.

2) Because their population and turnovers are much higher, they can support and finance a meeting a day in the major racing States, therefore are able to cater for all range of horses. Can you imagine how long this Country (let alone region) could sustain a meeting a day without going down the gurgler?

3) We all know that while trainers in New Zealand have a hungry market for selling horses (how many times have we heard trainers say selling is the only way they make money?), the Australians have very limited options in that direction. Consequently, they race their horses more often, week after week, until they run them into the ground. While a lot is made of the success enjoyed by some average horses when they are exported, there are plenty who don't even recoup their purchase price and end up in places like South Australia racing for total stakes of $1500 per race - no that's not a misprint!

4) Trainers in this Country often find themselves in a ‘Catch 22' situation where they have a nice horse but they and/or their owners are scared to line them up in case they come up against one or two better ones, and the saleable value of the horse takes a hit. That means they are reluctant to race the horse that could create turnover, and the Club and consequently its' stakes levels suffer. There are valid arguments for both sides of that situation, however it's not the fault of the Handicapping System!

5) Speaking of being scared to race a horse, there is the other scenario happening far too often, where maybe 15 or more horses are nominated for a race, yet when a horse of outstanding ability is included, there are often mass withdrawals, meaning the race is canned, and everyone loses. Compare that to Australia where they are happy to line up one win horses against the likes of Alta Christiano for example, and perhaps you can see how futile it is to suggest that we should adopt the same system as them. Obviously, often earning place money for the owners is less important than maintaining the sale price. Once again, not the fault of the Handicapping System.

No, the Handicapping System isn't perfect, in fact there probably hasn't been one anywhere that is, but let's at least keep the arguments and criticisms to ones that include common sense. See you soon.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Reality Bites

Few hate messing with harness racing traditions more than the writer, but sometimes, sooner or later, reality kicks in, and changes need to happen.

The proposal to amalgamate all the Clubs that currently race at Alexandra Park, to be discussed at a 9 July meeting, has been coming for a very long time. I recall talking to a stalwart of the Franklin Trotting Club some five years ago, who spoke of doom and gloom when it came to the Clubs' financial future, so I would be surprised if many involved in Northern harness racing are shocked at what is being suggested - saddened certainly, but not shocked.

The current situation borders on the farcical, with an Auckland Trotting Club meeting regularly paying over $10,000 in stakes for all races one week, followed the next week by one of the host meetings offering an average of $6000 per race. Oddly enough, the Auckland meeting attracts relatively reasonable entries, and the other struggles along with a number of 6-7 horse fields. Often the same standard of horses is involved, sometimes even the same horses.

That's a result of trainers understandably aiming to maximize their horses' earnings, but your average punter couldn't give a hoot, and refuses to bet on the smaller fields. Result - the host Clubs (who pay a healthy premium to race at Alexandra Park) sink further into the mire with every race meeting they hold. Quite obviously that cannot be allowed to continue.

The move will make life less complicated for both trainers and administrators, who can race and programme on a more regular and structured basis, hopefully for better stakes.

There is also the huge promised carrot for the Industry of extending the Pukekohe training facility. Not surprisingly, the chances of the average young trainer having the wherewithal to purchase his or her own property in any part of the Country are bordering on the impossible, let alone the Auckland/Waikato area. This would be a massive leg up to anyone wishing to start a career from scratch.

Having said all that, it is hoped that some of the traditional races are allowed to continue, similar to the situation when the three Addington Clubs amalgamated, and even more importantly, the voluntary personnel that have served the smaller Clubs so well in the past, can be welcomed into the fold of the new organization with open arms, and not be cast adrift with a sour taste in their mouths.

Speaking of industry stalwarts, I was lucky enough to have time enough to have my second look through the amazing Hall of Fame at Alexandra Park recently. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted like a long lost friend by an acquaintance of many moons ago, former Racing Minister Gilbert Myles who, with his usual flair and ‘gift of the gab', gave my partner and I a fascinating trip down memory lane, and showed that his enthusiasm for the game had not diminished one bit.

The exhibition is one that anyone keen on memories and the history of our wonderful ‘sport' could easily spend a week going through (and that's without sleep breaks!) and still miss something. It is a real credit to the people who have put it together and nurtured, and I guarantee Gilbert will welcome you with open arms and a good story, should you pass through the doors.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Bits and Pieces

Nothing major to report to date this week, just the challenges for trainers of working and maintaining the fitness of horses around a storm (I refuse to call it a ‘weather bomb') that is sweeping its' way up the Country.

Full marks to HRNZ for pre-empting (Trackside's favourite word) the problems surrounding the Forbury Park meeting scheduled for the middle of the mayhem, and shifting it to Saturday, weather permitting. That way the connections are not robbed of an opportunity to race, and the Industry doesn't lose valuable turnover.

Having experienced and survived the Oamaru meeting last Sunday, it shows that, unlike our cousins across the Tasman where someone only has to spit on the track and the meeting is ditched, races can go ahead, even under the most challenging conditions. It is a huge credit to the track preparers that this can happen, and I heard no-one complaining that the Oamaru track was unacceptable, barring the obvious lake. This follows a superb surface being presented at Nelson, just weeks after the track had been partly washed away.

Even though the Greater Canterbury Branch asked the NZ Met Club to experiment with changing the 1950m start back to the old 2000m for a couple of months, it would be fair to say that not everyone thought it was a good idea. The ‘jury' will deliver its' verdict at the end of July.

One thing the change has done is indicate how far the trotting breed in this Country has progressed in the past few years. The two Breeders Crown heats held last week saw the existing two and three year old national records bettered by about four and three seconds respectively. Given that there were small numbers contesting the heats, you would imagine that a full race field would see an even more substantial reduction in those times. You would presume that the record book for both pacers and trotters will be re-written next season if the change is persevered with.

I suppose, considering where he finished on the points table, it would be daft to congratulate Northern Branch Vice-Chairman David Butcher on his performance at the recent World Drivers Championships. However, it's possible that this might be one of those occasions that participation was more important than the result, and I'm sure David will have not only enjoyed himself immensely, but gained valuable ides of ‘how the other half trot', so to speak. Whatever the outcome, I know he considered it a huge honour to represent his Country overseas and I'm sure he was a perfect ambassador for New Zealand, albeit without understanding a lot of what the locals were saying! It will be interesting to see who is selected to attend the next World Drivers Championships in Sydney in 2015.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
Programming Progress

Last week saw the proposals resulting from the recent meeting of Canterbury trainers (see below) tabled at the HRNZ Board meeting. As a result, some progress has been made, and other issues are to be considered by the HRNZ handicapping Committee in July.

The following is a summary of a report on progress from the Association's Board member, John Lischner:

1) Sequential nominations; Darrin Williams (HRNZ Handicapper) is to consult with Canterbury Clubs with the aim of introducing staggered closing times of nominations, to be published in sequence.

2) One horse, one nomination per meeting; This was to be incorporated into programmes and trialed for the balance of the season in Canterbury.

3) Abolition of Reserve races; This was approved, however it will require a change to Programming and general Conditions.

4) Drop Back System; Referred to Handicapping Sub-Committee. However, in Canterbury, Darrin Williams is to incorporate additional drop back conditions into programmes.

5) Points system for field selection; The NZ Metropolitan club is to prepare a submission on this for presentation at the Handicapping Committee meeting.

6) Addington start points and field sizes; Mobile events will be restricted to twelve starters (eight on the front row and four on the second) during June and July. A change from the Addington 1950m start to 2000m will also be trialed during that time.

7) Fillies and mares races and Junior concessions for trotters races; Darrin Williams would be addressing these issues on an on-going basis.

8) Two year-old maiden events; Addington would stage one of these at all of their June and July meetings. If there are seven or more acceptors, they will be tote events, six or less they would be $2000 non-tote races.

Changes to 2 and 3 year old concessions will be discussed at a full Handicapping Sub-Committee meeting on 10 July.

There will be two changes to the make-up of that Committee with Rob Lawson replacing David Butcher (who will be overseas), and Ken Barron replacing Anthony Butt, who has resigned. Others involved are John Lischner, Pat O'Brien, Hamish Hunter, Mark Jones, Kevin Smith, Steve Phillips, Erin Crawford and Brian Rabbitt.

Peter T Cook

Click here to go back on top!
DRUG WITHHOLDING TIMES

Originally the plan for this week's update was a final look at happenings at the Annual Conference, however due to developments during the week and the current furore over drugs etc, things have changed.

After years of trying by the Association and even attempts by the RIU, we have been fortunate enough to obtain a list of guidelines to prohibited substance withholding times dated October 2011. It must be stressed that this list contains only guidelines and that extra time, generally at least 24 hours, should be added to the recommended times as insurance. The NZ Harness Racing Trainers & Drivers Assn. takes no responsibility for the accuracy of this information. It should also be noted that these times can change regularly and are not relevant to Hong Kong testing procedures, but should be applicable to New Zealand testing regimes.

On a personal note, I'm astounded at the range of substances available, and it should be noted that there are some herbal remedies that carry a withholding time. I would also like to apologise for any spelling mistakes - typing out what is in effect a list of words from a foreign language was a bit of a mission!

Peter T Cook

Apologies, due to technical difficulties surrounding the size of the file, even with the help of Jules from Harnesslink, I am unable to put a readable copy of the withholding times on our small site. I have circulated it to our Committees so you can contact them, or e-mail me at petecee@clear.net.nz and I will send a copy back.

PTC

 

Click here to go back on top!
PRINT    BOOKMARK