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The ring-around once again delivered for punters last week, with five winners and four placegetters. Among them was Lady Mackendon ($6), who was labelled a ‘good thing’ by Mark Jones, Galleon’s Triumph ($6.60, and Russet Norkotah, who was tipped out by Josh Dickie and paid a phenomenal $20 for a place ($31FF). Let’s hope for a repeat performance this week: Forbury – Thursday Nathan Williamson: Rates Hope And Pray as a good each-way prospect at odds – race one. Jonny Cox: Believes that King Louie only has to run up to his best to be a serious contender in the fourth race on the card. Tim Williams: Thinks impressive last start winner Scottish Duchess can figure in the finish again – race five. Matthew Williamson: Has opted for last start winner Monnay despite her huge 60 metre handicap – race six. Ricky May: Expects Riga Doon to prove very hard to beat from his ace alley in the last race on the card. Addington – Friday Stephen McNally: Has opted for Hikoi in the first race on the card. She looks a strong chance on the back of a good trial performance. Craig Thornely: Thinks Playaway, who is drawn to get a nice trip, can figure in the finish at nice odds. Ken Barron:  Couldn’t spit Mighty Major – race four & Mighty Flying Major – Alexandra Park race seven. Both look to have very good chances. Terry Chmiel: Thinks stable newcomer Trips On Me can bob up at odds in the fifth race on the card. David Butt: Rates the chances of Stingray, who drops back to a C1 and will seek a penalty free win – race six. Anthony Butt: Has opted for Prestine, who looked to be travelling well before galloping last start – race eight. Alexandra Park – Friday Tony Herlihy: Rates Whisper Jet, who has been racing well and looks extremely well placed as his bet of the week – race one. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Crocket’s Cullen, who has trialled up stylishly and looks the winner of the eighth race on the card. Josh Dickie: Is keen on three-year-old trotting filly Katieellen Castleton, who was a good second last start and has worked on well during the week – race nine. Timaru – Sunday Mark Jones: Isn’t labelling anything a ‘good thing’ this week. However, he does like the chances of Kowhai Sunrise – race three. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Big Lucy – race seven  

There have been plenty of highs and a few lows in the debut season of the very smart harness racing  two year old, Mighty Flying Major. From his outstanding run on debut in the Sapling Stakes where he ran 1:54 when finishing a close second to Follow My Stars, to his galloping in the Harness Jewels where he scuttled amongst others, Follow My Stars, this son of Art Major has experienced all the highs and lows racing has to offer. For a while it seemed he always found one too good for himself, notching up four seconds in town hall company prior to the Jewels. Following the Jewels disaster, trainer Ken Barron decided to leave him in the North Island to race at Auckland and what an inspired decision that has turned out to be. Three starts have resulted in three wins, each one more impressive than the last. Last night at Auckland on a slushy track, he was three wide for the first 600 meters from his wide barrier draw of eight before working to the lead. From there he turned the race into a procession with driver Peter Ferguson hardly moving in the cart in the home straight as he cruised home 1 1/2 lengths clear of the competition. When one has a look at Mighty Flying Major's pedigree, you find one of the hottest commercial pedigrees in Australasia. Not only is he a half brother to such talented types as Flying Pocketlands 1:52.6 ($442,423) Mighty Flying Mac 1:58 ($127,484) and Mighty Flying Thomas 1:58.1 ($145,293) but Mighty Flying Major is also very closely related to Baby Bling 1:50.5 ($853,272) and Bling It On 1:51.7 ($565,210). Mighty Flying Mac always looked like a horse that would get better with time so his trainer Ken Barron must be looking forward to his three year old season with a lot of confidence. Mighty Flying Major Harnesslink media

Last week was a great one for the Harnesslink ring-around with Matthew Williamson, Ken Barron, Scott Phelan, Josh Dickie, Jonny Cox, Craig Thornley, Ricky May, Anthony Butt, and Blair Orange all tipping out winners. Here are this week’s selections: Cambridge - Thursday Simon Lawson:  Expects Ton Tine to win again – race five. Alexandra Park – Friday Steve Richardson (Harnesslink): Thinks Russley Haste will prove very hard to beat in the fourth race on the card.  Scott Phelan: Has opted for the in form Cyamach in the Winter Cup - race seven.   Forbury – Friday   Mark Jones: Has declared Lady Mackendon as the biggest cert he has ever taken to the races. “It’s like Master Lavros in a maiden trot. Only a bad drive will get it beat.” Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Rip Roaring  - race two. John Dunn: Expects smart juvenile Robbie Burns to make it two wins from as many starts – race four. Josh Dickie: Has just an average book of drives this week, but rates Russet Norkotah, who will be at any old odds, as the best of them - race five. Matthew Williamson: Thinks Al Razza will prove very hard to beat again – race ten. Nathan Williamson: Will go head-to-head with brother Matthew, with the talented Sheeza Shark in the same event. Rangiora – Sunday Blair Orange: Rates Zakspatrol as his best chance of the week – race seven. Terry Chmiel: Has opted for That Guy Finn, who will shoot for three wins in a row in the same event – race seven. Ricky May: Has opted for smart three-year-old Explosive Art, who has been coming along in leaps and bounds in recent starts – race eight. Ken Barron: Thinks Livura will prove hard to beat in the ninth race on the card. Jonny Cox: Has a decent book of drives, but rates Galleon’s Triumph as the best of them – race eleven. Anthony Butt: Is bullish about the chances of smart 2yo Field Marshal in the last event on the card.      

Last week the ring-around produced five winners including Kowhai Sunrise (Mark Jones), who romped in at odds of $6.10. Let’s see what racings leading lads have got for us this week. Forbury Park – Thursday Gavin Smith & David Butt:  Have both opted for Eagles Nest, who is a lot better than his form suggests. However, he does run into a couple of smart types in Media Queen and Smokin Bird – race three. Stephen McNally: Has opted for Bonora Boy who will also attempt to break maidens in the third event. Nathan Williamson: Thinks the consistent Nickelson will get some money again tonight – race four. Matthew Williamson: Has a good book of drives, but rates Al Razza as the best of them – race nine. Tim Williams: Thinks Memorable can get a slice of the pie in the last race of the card. Alexandra Park – Friday Ken Barron: Has opted for last start winner Real Intentions as his bet of the week. She also competes in the first event. Scott Phelan: Thinks Prince Of Pops, who was an impressive last start winner, can double the dose on Friday. – race one. Josh Dickie: Has opted for debutant Connoisseur, who has been impressive at the trials.  He competes in the third race on the card. Blenheim– Friday Jonny Cox: Thinks capable trotter Free Dreams can win his stable debut – race five. Craig Thornley: Rates the chances of Al’s Courage, who was very good on both days of the Nelson circuit. Ricky May: Rates Franco Salisbury as his best drive of the week – race eight. Terry Chmiel: Thinks Swarovski will prove very hard to beat in the eighth race on the card. Anthony Butt: Is very bullish about the chances of Motu Prince Of Peru – race eleven. Blenheim - Sunday Blair Orange: Has opted for Vice Consul, who will come into the meeting fresh on the second day. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Vice Consul  

A low-key Ashburton Trotting Club meeting at Addington tonight should become one of the biggest nights in Blair Orange’s career. The leading horseman will head into tonight’s racing just one win shy of reaching his 100th driving win for the season – the first time the popular horseman has achieved the feat. It’s been a standout season in the sulky for Orange who well and truly surpassed his previous season best of 81 winners two months ago. With seven drives at tonight’s meeting, Orange has plenty of chances to reach the ton during the night, but many expect it to come early in proceedings when he teams up with Someardensomewhere for his soon-to-be former bosses Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Orange will finish up at New Zealand’s leading stable at the end of the month before connecting himself to the West Melton stable of Ken Barron in the new season. A milestone in the infamous blue and silver colours of Purdon would seem the most fitting result considering the impact the stable has had on Orange’s career – but from barrier nine over the 1950 metres the task isn’t going to be a simple one. The three-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere is good enough to overcome the small hurdle – but fresh up after not having raced since the end of December only adds to the mix. And it’s for that reason that a horse who was beaten by 46 lengths at her last start who may give Orange his best chance of the night. Up and coming trotter Jayceekay will be looking to atone for a last start flop, when she gave up the challenge a long way from home against a rampant Idle Bones – by helping Orange reach the 100 mark. The John Boylan trained mare has freakish ability when in the right frame of mind and if on song tonight will prove very tough to hold out in a graded trot for the C1 to C2 Trotters. She returned to the workouts at Motukarara last weekend and was a comprehensive winner suggesting the failure when last time produced might be able to be put down to a simple off night. Orange’s remaining drives for the night all have strong each way chances in their respective races including Jaccka Len for his good mate Mark Jones who has provided him with a large number of his winners this season. The Book of Blair for tonight at Addington Race 1: Jimmy Hoffa Race 2: Donsmedad Race 4: Someardensomewhere Race 5: Jayceekay Race 6: Washington Express Races 7: Strike On Command Race 8: Jaccka Len  By Matt Markham (Harness Racing New Zealand)

After having many impressive qualifiers earlier in the season that failed to amount to age group stardom, the progeny of Changeover have finally started to hit their straps on the racetrack. In the last month the 2.4 million-dollar earning son of In The Pocket has produced four impressive juvenile winners, none more so than Webb Ellis, who streeted his rivals by four lenghts at Forbury Park last night. His other recent winners include Risk, Sudden Change, and Nuala, who was ultra impressive on debut and his since been sold to leading Perth trainer Gary Hall Snr for a six figure sum. Risk will compete at Addington tonight, where he is sure to be competitive, while Prince Of Pop could well be Changeover’s latest two-year-old winner after the completion of racing at Alexandra Park tonight. But, while Webb Ellis was very impressive at Forbury Park last night, he wasn’t the only one doing Changeover proud. His little Christian Cullen ¾ sister, Change Time, was also a winner in the hands of trainer-driver Ken Barron. Change Time is the ninth winner from Vance Hanover mare Chaangerr, while her next foal, Change Stride, was a recent workout winner for leading trainers’, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen. Meanwhile, smart Love You three-year-old Father Christmas looks destined for better things after easily accounting for a field of C1 & faster trotters’ last night. The Phil Williamson trainer trotter, who is a close relation to Jo Anne, Dependable, Ima Gold Digger and Shirley Temple, has now won two of his four starts, but could well have been unbeaten if it wasn’t for a couple of costly gallops. By Mitchell Robertson  

Last week the ring-around produced four winners, all at relatively good value. This week we have a smaller ring-around than usual due to some technical problems, however I am sure it is still chock-a-block with winners. Forbury – Thursday  Nathan Williamson: Thinks Nickelson can give Father Christmas a run for his money in the fifth event tonight. John Dunn: Expects Alta Jerome to be hard to bowl from his handy barrier draw in race number six on the card. Tim Williams: Rates the chances of Queen Of The Crop in race eight. Matthew Williamson: Is very bullish about the chances of Lionel’s Meddle in the claimers’ event – race eleven. Alexandra Park – Friday Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Te Amo Bromac – race one. Josh Dickie: Rates the chances of Stellar Kamwood in the fourth event. Todd Mitchell: Rates the chances of Cyclone Prince, who finished sixth in the 3YO Emerald. He looks the one to beat in race number six. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Norvic Nightowl, who finished a creditable fourth in the 4YO Emerald. – race eight. Ashburton@Addington – Friday Ken Barron: Expects Mighty Major to prove very hard to beat in race one on the card. Blair Orange: Thinks he can bring up his 100th winner for the season aboard Someardensomewhere – race four. Cambridge – Sunday Scott Phelan: Thinks Megs First is a strong each-way chance in race eight. Simon Lawson: Rates the chances of Ton Tine in the same event. Ashburton – Sunday Ricky May:  Has opted for The Emperor Robyn, who looks well placed in the first event on Sunday. Mark Jones: who found some good place value in Eastburn Mara, has opted for Kowhai Whiz in the fourth event.              

At this time of year in harness racing in New Zealand with all the major races for 2 year old pacers having already being run, a lot of trainers tend to start their juveniles in maiden races to earn some stake money before they are turned out or head off to bigger targets offshore. Ken Barron did just that last weekend at Auckland, backing up Mighty Flying Major from Jewels action the week before in a maiden race in which he bolted in by five and a half lengths. This week Ken is at the other end of the country at Forbury Park with his very promising two year old, Regal Ideal. This 2 year old son of American Ideal and Shards A Flyin was a star at the early season trials back in November, accounting for such smart types as Hug The Wind, Kept Under Wraps and Iceobar. Bred by well known Australian breeder Neville Cranston, this son of American Ideal is bred to be good. Not only is his dam a full sister to the outstanding Sly Flyin 1:53.6 ($911,689) and  a half sister to the speedy filly, Spicey 1:57.9 ($183,183) but she is also a half sister to Sly Shard, the dam of Smiling Shard 1:53.7 ($1,089,831) and Pemberton Shard 1:55.8 ($161,129). Raced by two of the stalwarts of the Barron stable in Steve Thompson and Grant Dickey, Regal Image should be very hard to hold out in his debut start tomorrow. Harnesslink media

Following a hiatus of several years, the Canterbury Branches of the Standardbred Breeders Association, Owners Association, and the Trainers & Drivers Association, are combining to resurrect an Awards dinner to recognise the achievements of local harness racing participants. The event will be staged in the Silks Lounge at Addington Raceway on Saturday 27 September and will comprise of a buffet dinner interspersed with the presentation of the awards by Master of Ceremonies, Mark McNamara. Guests should arrive from 6:30pm onwards with the function itself commencing at 7:15. Numbers are limited to 300 and the ticket price is $50 per person, which includes an introductory drink and antipasto platter. The criteria for the winners will differ from those presented at the National Awards function, in that they will not necessarily be given to the Season leaders. More information on this aspect of the evening will be forthcoming in the near future. Should you wish to book tickets or require more information, please contact the following: OWNERS Assn: Barry Dent 021 653 499 bcdent@ihug.co.nz Greg Crawford 027 778 9493 gregc.doublee@xtra.co.nz HORSEMANS Assn: Ken Barron 027 4372532 kenbarron@xtra.co.nz Peter Cook 3433 713 petecee@clear.net.nz BREEDERS Assn: Robyn Boyle 027 2173643 boyles4@xtra.co.nz Noel Kennard 3479699 noel@goharness.co.nz By Peter Cook                            

Last week the ring-around produced six winners including Jewels champions Monbet, Venus Serena, and Supersonic Miss. Let’s see what good oil some of harness racing’s leading lads have come up with for us this week. Forbury Park – Thursday Jonny Cox: who has been enjoying a purple patch of form, has opted for Expressive Art in the third race on the card. Sam Ottley: Thinks Smoken Roman will prove very hard to beat in the fifth race on the card. Matthew Williamson: Rates Al Raza as a very good each-way chance on the seventh race on the card. Nathan Williamson: Thinks the very consistent Nickelson is a good each-way chance again – race eleven. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for the Phil Williamson trained Monnay in the same event. Alexandra Park – Friday Todd Mitchell: Thinks Princess Sophia, who is dropping back from Harness Jewels Company, can give a sight in race four. Ken Barron: Rates the chances of Pacquiao, who was a luckless fifth in the 4YO Emerald – race five. Jay Abernethy: Thinks Equulei can get herself into the finish of the last race on the card. Nelson – Friday Mark Jones: admits he doesn’t have a great team in this week, but rates Eastburn Mara as the best of them – race two. Anthony Butt: Has a tidy book of drives at Nelson but rates capable trotter Gregory R as the best of them – race five. Blair Orange: Has opted for smart mare Sunchita in the same event. John Dunn: Rates stable newcomer Cindi Arma the best of what is a very good book of drives on Friday – race six. Tim Williams: Think Here We Go Again is a very good chance in race nine provided she steps away. Craig Thornely: Has opted for Al’s Courage, who was huge in fifth last start after missing away. He looks the one to beat in the last race of the card. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Madiba Magic – race twelve.  

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

Congratulations to Matthew Williamson, Ricky May, Todd Mitchell, Joshua Dickie, Jonny Cox, and Nathan Williamson who all produced ‘the goods’ last week. The best result was Katieellen Castleton, who was backed into a closing price of $6.50. Let’s see what good oil the boys have come up with on this massive week of harness racing. Addington - Thursday Colin DeFilippi: Has opted for Strathfield Sun, who recovered well to finish fourth after an early gallop last start - race one. Gavin Smith: Was impressed with Karanga Red Fantasy’s fresh-up second behind Anton Oliver, and think she can go one better in race six tonight. Mark Jones: Has opted for Rock Till You Drop on the back of a couple of impressive workout performances. - race six. Ricky May: Is bullish about the chances of Nevertheless, who has been very good in his last two starts - race seven. Franklin - Friday Jay Abernethy: Likes the chances of Pacific Rapture, who produced a big performance after breaking behind the mobile last start- race six. Simon Lawson: Has opted for the consistent Gold Elite - race eight. Josh Dickie: Rates Kippenberger as a good each-way chance- race nine Forbury Park - Friday Nathan Williamson: Thinks Mr Majestic can break his maiden status in the first race on Friday. Tim Williams: Believes it won’t be long before Mordecai cracks maidens. Probably Friday night- race three. Cambridge Harness Jewels - Saturday Greg Hope: Thinks he has Monbet right back on top of his game and expects him to prove very hard to beat in the 2YO Ruby - race two. Steve Richardson (T.A.B): Has also opted for Monbet on the back of an impressive workout at Cambridge. - race two. John Dunn: Thinks Venus Serena has a cracking winning chance despite her tricky second-line - race three. David Butt: Thinks One Over Da Moon only needs a touch of luck to be a major player in the 3YO Ruby - race four. Ken Barron: Thinks that if Majestic Time is at her best come Saturday she will be a force to be reckoned with - race four. Anthony Butt: Has opted for smart filly Joannes A Delight, who should strip a better horse this week after missing work last week due to a foot abscess - race five. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Supersonic Miss - race five Todd Mitchell: Is very happy with Prime Power, who will attempt to defend his Jewels title on Saturday - race seven. Matt Markham (HRNZ): Rates Prime Power as the bet of the day on Harness Jewels Day - race seven. Ashburton - Sunday Dexter Dunn: Has a good book of drives on Jewels Day, but has instead opted for Artismee in race two on Sunday Stephen McNally: Thinks Hikoi is closing in rapidly on his maiden win- race five. Terry Chmiel: Thinks last start winner That Guy Finn, can repeat the dose on Sunday - race seven. Sam Ottley: Rates the chances of Mattjestic Rebeck - race nine. Invercargill - Monday Jonny Cox: Is bullish about the chances of King Louie - race five. Clark Barron:  Rates Royal Taz as his best chance of the weekend - race eleven.  

More than 50 prominent breeders and industry officials from around the country attended this year’s Annual Breeders’ Conference which was held at the Hornby Workingmens Club in Christchurch on May 16. Sponsored once again by Noel Kennard’s unique website Harnessworld.org, this was the third edition of an annual conference for breeders and it continues to mould itself into an enjoyable and informative few hours for those who attend. NZSBA Chairman John Mooney touched on this in his opening address, “the aim was to make this year’s Conference more generalised and about the industry,” Mooney said. HRNZ’s General Manager Edward Rennell provided a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) during his presentation of an industry overview of the season to date, with all figures quoted being as at May 12. Consistent with the same period last year were the number of totalisator races staged so far (2276 compared to 2262); total domestic turnover ($193.3m/$193m) and domestic market share (static at 29.7 percent). Marginal positives were recorded in the areas of horses’ total number of starts (24,300/23,697); average field size (10.7/10.5); average starts per horse (8.04/7.58); the amount of races with less than eight starters (244/269); total stakes paid ($24.25m/$23.07m) and total net stakes ($23.78m/$22.76m), while fixed odds turnover showed a substantial increase of nearly 23 percent to $50.5m (from $41.1m as at the same time last season). Rennell reported that the areas of decline included the total number of individual starters (3022/3127); off-course turnover ($127.6m/$135.4m); on-course turnover ($15.2m/$16.5m), and betting on our exported telecasts ($101.9m/$125.3m). He said that the key issues facing the industry at present included participation numbers; Funding; Internationalisation; the export of NZ harness racing; the Business/Strategic Plans; Dates; an Age Group/Premier Racing Review, and Gaming. HRNZ’s Commercial Development Manager Pete Ydgren outlined their Communications Review and gave an insight into their immediate plans. The Harness Racing Weekly and HRNZ Marketing Departments are to merge, and the current magazine that gets mailed out every seven days will now change to a monthly publication focussing on the industry – but at the same time an electronic version of the weekly magazine will still be available online and be “racing focussed”. Monique Cairns, the NZRB’s Executive General Manager – Strategy & Transformation, said during her presentation that the NZ Racing Board was now “moving into Year Two of our five-year strategy”. “We’ve got a portfolio of 20 key initiatives to support our strategy,” she said, “seven of which were prioritised for implementation during the current season.” These included digitising the business; strategic retail growth; product innovation; broadcasting; their VIPs, and Government relations. She went on to say that the industry has avoided making the hard decisions, and that increased funding has shielded it. “Historically, industry initiatives have not delivered and we have an ageing infrastructure. Change is inevitable,” she added. Next behind the rostrum was well-known trainer/driver Ken Barron, who was very entertaining and didn’t pull any punches during a Q&A session with ‘MC’ Mick Guerin. As a major buyer at the Yearling Sales, Barron was quizzed about the sort of things he looks for in a horse and what advice he’d give breeders in that respect. “Thanks to artificial insemination, these days you can virtually breed to any stallion in the world,” he said. “But if your yearling isn’t by one of the top four or five sires, you’re not in the race.” However, Barron was quick to say that he still likes to assess an individual on its merits before considering its bloodlines. “My owners look at the page in the catalogue – I look at the horse,” he said, adding that some of his and former training partner John Lischner’s best horses over the years were by nondescript and ‘unfashionable’ stallions. Barron believes that “slowly but surely, we’re becoming Americanised”. “Our handicapping, our stakes, and the structure of our industry – they’re all geared towards two and 3-year-old racing,” he said. “And it’s a fact: a horse’s earning ability reduces dramatically once it turns four on August 1, so people are always trying to buy early-maturers. “If a breeder’s got a family that tends to take time – go to a stallion that leaves them early and it’ll speed up the process.” From an industry point of view, Barron said it was “crucial” that a couple of things are changed as soon as possible. “Like handicapping – we’re underutilising the conditions,” he said. “We know there’s too many racetracks, and too much leakage of horses overseas. Well, how about categorising horses? There’s no reason why we couldn’t have A, B and C grades within each class. “Stakes is not the ‘magic bullet’ answer that everyone thinks it is. “In Australasia, the two venues that pay the most stakes are Auckland and Menangle – yet they’ve got the least amount of horses racing there.” Barron addressed the issue of falling broodmare numbers, but sees it as positive, saying the spinoff is better mares being used, better stallions getting chosen and a better product as a result. “I’d be surprised if the five hundred or so that we’ve lost are from the top end,” he offered. “Figures show that there’s more horses getting to the track, even though there’s less mares being bred from.” Following a panel of open discussion where the guest speakers answered questions from the floor, this year’s Breeders’ Conference was concluded with Addington Raceway’s Dean McKenzie having a sit-down discussion with Guerin as to what his organisation was doing for owners and the industry. “Considering that we hold 20 percent of racing at our venue, plus the biggest race of any Code in the country, if racing at Addington is strong then it’s got to be dragging harness racing in the right direction,” he said. “In 1999, 80 percent of our income came from racing and 20 percent of it came from other business ventures; these days, it’s 49 percent and 51 percent. “The only intention of our Club is to generate more revenue to put back into the game.” One common view of all the guest speakers was that the governance of harness racing at an HRNZ Board Level needs to be looked at. By John Robinson

Also prior to the Council meeting proper, HRNZ CEO Edward Rennell came along to outline HRNZs’ plans for the Industry in the near future and discuss any issues that the Association may have. He began with comments on Trackside, saying that he felt that the new format should have been fully set up prior to the launch, instead of on 1 August. He was hopeful that the new domestic only channel (Trackside 1) would benefit harness racing, particularly on the two meeting Fridays, when there would be no greyhound racing shown. With regard to Industry funding, it was likely that extra funding would, once again be available this season, the question to be considered by the Board was how that would be allocated to Clubs. He outlined the proposal for next seasons’ Premier meetings, with Addington holding eight and Auckland six, all with $20,000 minimum stakes and, in conjunction with the Sires Stakes Board, five new feature races for three and four year-olds would be included in these meetings. Unfortunately, due to constraints of the Calendar, four of these Premier dates would clash with minor meetings in the other Island. However this format was planned to be a constant structure for five years, with suitable gaps between the meetings to ensure maximum inter-island participation. Next years’ Calendar had been virtually finalised with 3 or four less harness meetings that the current season scheduled. This season was currently up on last season in regard to turnovers and horse participation, with stake levels up around 5%. Exports were slightly down on last season, with the reduction of Australian interest due to the new levy being offset by interest from China, which was considered to be moving in a positive direction. A major concern for the industry was the reduction of funds allocated from gaming money, and on-going problems with trusts etc. Ken Barron questioned why the stakes for Sires Stakes, Sales, and Fillies Series heats should vary, when all participants paid the same payments. There was also a feeling that more money should be paid for heats, with a reduction in stakes for Finals, so that the money is spread more to connections who have paid up for the Series. Edward suggested these matters should be taken up with our representative on the Sires Stakes Board. Edward also outlined details of remits that were planned to be submitted to the Annual Conference, including the change to the Protest Rule, which had been prepared by Rob.Lawson and the Rules Sub-Committee, and was supported by the National Council. Under the new Rule, the potentially disastrous situation surrounding the inquiry into interference at the start of the Sales Series Final by Alta Orlando would not have happened. Other remits would include ensure there would be more regular alcohol testing of drivers, the introduction of new Rules to cover Monte racing, and the banning of dual acceptors at the one meeting, which all present agreed offered an unfair advantage, and caused confusion for Pick Six etc. punters when a horse was left in two races. Other issues covered with Edward included the underutilisation of a number of tracks, such as Cambridge, complications surrounding centralisation (HRNZ were investigating aspects of this in regard to the Reserves Act), the allocation of actual costs to Clubs instead of the current flat rate, the swabbing of claimed horses (Edward undertook to request that the RIU swab all claimed horses where practical), the independent review of the RIU, and the developing issue of Cobalt Chloride. Edward had asked HRNZ’s veterinary advisor to address the Council, however he had been unavailable, so he suggested that Association representatives meet with Andrew Grierson at the end of May, or hold a telephone conference with him to discuss drug related issues. A suggestion that Andrew could be perceived as having a conflict of interest due to his interest in Woodlands Stud was rejected by Edward, who considered that he simply provided opinions based on veterinary expertise. However Gordon Lee countered this by quoting his recent case involving Boldenone, where that opinion had proven to be flawed. Edward advised that consideration was being given to standardising pay-outs to Clubs for on and off course turnovers, due to many on-course punters using new technology such as phones to place bets. (Part 3 next week) Peter T Cook (NZ Trainers & Drivers Association)

Last week the Harnesslink ring-around produced four winners as well as a string of minor placegetters. Let’s see if we can add to that tally this week: Cambridge - Thursday Simon Lawson: Thinks handy two-year-old Blinding Light will prove hard to in the first race on the card. Todd Mitchell: Rates the chances of Jovani, who was a good fresh up second - race one. Manawatu - Friday Stephen Richardson (T.A.B): Has opted for Kilkeel Lady as his bet of the week - race three. Addington - Friday Terry Chmiel: Thinks that That Guy Finn will give him his best chance of greeting the judge this weekend - race three. Blair Orange: Has opted for Jayceekay, who backed up his dazzling debut win with a cracking third last start. He looks the one to beat in race five. Ken Barron: Likes the chances of smart two-year-old trotter B D Love in the same event - race five. Colin DeFilippi:  Thinks the consistent Rise And Shine can break through for a maiden win - race nine. John Dunn: Is bullish about the chances of smart two-year-old Say My Name in the Sires Stakes Final - race ten. Jonny Cox:  Thinks Jaccka Justy will prove hard to beat despite his 40 metre handicap - race eleven. Mitchell Robertson (Harnesslink): Messini - race twelve. Invercargill - Saturday Tim Williams: Will be Popular if he can rein the filly with that exact name home in the first race on the card. Nathan Williamson:  Thinks handy trialist Splash Cola can kick her career of with a win - race four. Andrew Armour: Is bullish about the chances of the very capable B D Windermere - race nine. Matthew Williamson: Rates capable trotter Zhenya as his bet of the week - race twelve. Oamaru - Sunday Ricky May:  Has opted for Mach Winger on the back of a dazzling performance at the Ashburton trials - race five. Mark Jones: Thinks Juneamy Castleton looks well placed in race six on the card. Anthony Butt: Thinks smart two-year-old Field Marshal can make it back-to-back wins despite his wide barrier draw - race nine.  

The Associations’ recent National Council bi-annual meeting was preceeded by a meeting with Chris Bayliss, CEO of the Racing Board. Chris gave a short resume of his eighteen months in the job. His initial reaction had been amazement at a lack of data available, the myriad of varied stake-holders in the Racing and sporting Industries, and the amount of advice he had been given by all of those sectors. He had decided that the two main stakeholders that everything else focussed around were owners and punters. He then proceeded to outline various aspects of the Industry that he had discovered, including New Zealand having the same number of tracks as the UK with 80million people, a reliance on gaming money, and that the Industry as a whole was grossly unprofitable. The TAB was the largest retailer in NZ and was a unique statutory body, and its’ size and influence were grossly under-estimated by punters. In answer to a question of ownership, Chris advised that no-one owned it, as the money lent by the Clubs to establish it, had been paid back. Income was around $180m with payment of stakes approximately $80m. This equated to a return of $62m to owners for costs of around $283m, meaning a return to owners of 22% (or a loss of 78%), the second lowest in the World after the UK. He also compared our situation with those of Singapore and Hong Kong where they had only one track each. He had spoken to the Prime Minister on a number of occasions, and reported that he was sympathetic towards the Industry, and would be producing an election manifesto to cover their partys’ plans for it. Regarding technology, he advised that Trackside was the biggest broadcaster in NZ, with 7 of the existing 10 outside broadcast units in the Country. He advised that to change these to high definition technology would cost $10m each. The TAB IT systems were outdated 70’s technology which urgently needed replacement, and he described teletext at 29 year old ‘junk’ that no-one knew how to fix and parts were impossible to source. Chris advised he had indentified numerous ways of improving the Industry and making money, however this all involved large investment and he would be having to make some big decisions in the near future to make up for the lack of action over the past ten years. TAB phone accounts had decreased in number from 200,000 to 100,000 in that time, and he felt it was important to spread to new markets to counter further decreases. Off-shore leakage was a serious problem, however he reported that the Government was sympathetic and were looking at ways of countering this, including a point of consumption tax, and a profit fee for overseas betting operators. It was hoped that the introduction of a new phone app. would help this situation. As from 1 August 2014, there would be no duplication of races on the two Trackside channels, and while Triple Trio had failed to reach expectations, overall turnover had risen 7% since its’ introduction, possibly due to the advertising campaign. Other matters discussed with Chris included, the little recognised fact that the TAB does not pay Corporation Tax, racing accounts for 1% of GDP, a completely different dates calendar that he had commissioned that would increase turnover by an estimated $17m, and various aspects of Section 16 of the Racing Act including the fact that harness imported 14% of the Australian product yet received 29% of the turnover revenue. However he was conscious of the background of harness moving dates and time slots to accommodate Australian galloping races. Greyhounds would be the big benefactors of any changes to Section 16 due to the volume of races. Chris also spoke on centralisation, suggesting that proportioning TAB costs to the various codes could be looked at. He claimed that if 70% of the current meetings could be staged on 50% of the current venues, this would raise the profit margin by 50%. In response to a question from Ken Barron re starting times and intervals for night meetings, Chris was sympathetic but stressed the need to fit around the Australian import. However, with the introduction of the two separate channels this should improve. Part 2 next week. By Peter T Cook (NZ Trainers & Drivers Association)

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