Day At The Track
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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)

‘‘A BLIND man can see what’s happening, we’re running out of horses.’’ With that stark statement, North Auckland trainer Ray Green issued a warning that unless Harness Racing New Zealand got off its hands and did something to address the problem, the game would quickly die. Green went on the attack this week with the revelation that the number of mares served was down another 6.6% and for the first time in decades New Zealand’s foal crop will dip below 2000. Alarmingly, the number of mares bred is down to 2832, a drop of 28% on 10 years ago. And Green says that’s all down to the wonderful policy HRNZ had adopted to arrest the decline - ‘‘it’s called let’s do nothing.’’ ‘‘Breeders are quite rightly getting pissed off - the owners aren’t there to buy their horses any more because the costs are too high and stakes too low. And HRNZ is the enemy because it has done nothing to counter that.’’ Green, trainer for the powerful Lincoln Farms operation, said they had recently sold talented pacers Medley Moose, Hawkeye Bromac and Imhisdaughter to Australia because it made no sense to keep racing them here. ‘‘Medley Moose is a beautiful horse, I would love to have kept him, but we had a good offer for him and it would have been hard to win that sort of money here. The handicapping system is such that with one more win he would have been up against Terror To Love. You just have to sell them.’’ Green said owners are continually weighing up whether to take a punt and keep their horse or to sell them. ‘‘If an owner thinks his horse can win two more races, and perhaps another $10,000, if an Australian wants to give him $50,000 for his horse, it’s a no-brainer. ‘‘The Auckland Trotting Club, struggling to fill its fields, is offering higher stakes, hoping people will retain their horses. But horses will still be handicapped out of it too quickly and people will still want to sell them.’’ Green cited the case of a two-year-old in his stable who had won three races.‘‘He’s a c2 but if he wins another race over $15,000 he’ll start next year as a c3 horse and to get a run he’ll have to go in standing starts and have Besotted, our c9 horse, breathing down his neck.’’ Crazily, Besotted, who has never won a race over $15,000, is still rated an M0 in Australia and could go to Sydney and win two or three races really quickly. ‘‘They need to create more opportunities for horses to be viable here if they want to keep them. But people will not wait forever. Like cars, horses depreciate as they get older, and the more a horse wins here, the less it is worth over there. ‘‘The game’s going to die unless something is done but  the powers that be don’t seem to be interested.’’ HRNZ chief executive Edward Rennell said Green was completely wrong to say nothing was being done to solve the problem but there was no silver bullet. ‘‘Yes, the number being bred is of concern but what is encouraging is the wastage factor is less.’’ Rennell said the breeding decline was a worldwide problem. In Australia, standardbred breeding numbers dropped by 33% in the last 10 years and by 47% in North America, according to a report it commissioned from the New Zealand Standardbred Breeders’ Association. The thoroughbred code faced the same issue, he said. Rennell said while the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club had introduced a breeders’ bonus - in the last three months 34 $500 bonuses have been paid out to breeders of tote race winners at Addington - HRNZ did not agree that all stake payouts should incorporate the same bonus, a French initiative being promoted by Studholme Bloodstock’s Brian West. ‘‘There is a limited pool of funds and if you pay some of that to the breeders that’s less that goes to the owners,’’ Rennell said. ‘‘And we are trying to make ownership more attractive and viable.’’ Rennell said HRNZ had increased the minimum stake to $5000 this season and stakes were up overall by 6%. It would be examining whether to increase the $80 payout to every starter. HRNZ was also looking at reducing the number of races next season by 2%. In the 2005-06 season, 2435 races were run while that number rose to 2743 last year, putting more strain on field sizes. Discussions were also underway with the Sires’ Stakes Board, the breeders and two principal clubs on whether changes were needed to age group and premier racing. ‘‘But we think that the changes to the handicapping system are working because field sizes are up from 10.4 starters per race to 10.6.’’ While that might not sound much, it was a significant improvement when it covered 2700 races. Rennell said the handicapping sub-committee was meeting next week to review the performance of the new system and its age group concessions and would make a recommendation on whether it thought the drop back provision should be reduced from 10 starts. The challenge for HRNZ was not only to get more horses to the races but to better use the horse population – if every horse raced just once more in a season, field sizes could be maintained. Rennell said the number of horses sold to Australia was actually down on previous years. ‘‘It averages around 850 a season but that’s down 50-100 because of the new import levy.’’  Overall, exports were similar with about 100 sent to China. WASTAGE COSTS BREEDERS $11 MILLION HALF OF all the standardbred horses we breed never get to the races. And that disturbing fact, rather than the continuing decline in numbers, will be the immediate focus for the industry’s main breeding body. The annual cost to breeders of the high level of wastage is put at $11 million in a paper by Kiely Buttell, executive manager of the NZ Standardbred Breeders’ Association. ‘‘At an average service fee of $6000, plus vet costs, stud handling fees and agistment charges of a further $1500, the annual (wastage) cost to breeders is $11 million.’’  While figures show the percentage of the foal crop wasted dropped from 61% in 1995 to 53% in 2005, Buttell says the continuing high level is a major conern. ‘‘There will always be a percentage of the foal crop that is born with defects, die at an early age or suffer accidents that will impinge on their racing viability. ‘‘But we need to understand the percentage of horses that are deemed unviable for non injury related reasons and identify solutions to address this.’’ The NZSBA would also be focussing on conception rates. Only 71% of mares served in the latest breeding season were confirmed in foal, a figure which has been static in the last 20 years despite improvements in artificial insemination in other breeds. "Serving a mare three times and not getting her into foal is a massive cost to breeders.’’ Buttell said the association had engaged Palmerston North trainer and equine researcher Jasmine Tanner to scope a research project to investigate the quality parameters of chilled standardbred semen in New Zealand in order to improve conception rates in mares and increase the economic viability for broodmare owners. Funding would be sought from the NZ Equine Research Foundation but the industry might have to foot some of the bill itself, she said. Evidence suggested it was the smaller hobby breeder who was exiting the game, citing rising breeding costs along with declining stakes. That was a problem when breeders here raced 50% of horses. BARRY LICHTER Courtesy of the Sunday Star Times

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, October 12, 2013--Pan from Nantucket (Eric Goodell) was on his game from off the pace Saturday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $37,000 Open Pace. Leaving from post position No. 4, he watched early as Aracache Hanover (George Brennan) was hung out three-wide to secure the lead. He paid a 26-second price for the privilege, with 7-5 favorite Code Word (Brent Holland second and Great Vintage (Larry Stalbaum) third. After a swift :54.3 intermission, Statesman N (Jordan Stratton) moved from fourth, with Pan from Nantucket second-up and China Grill (Pat Lachance) third-over. Meanwhile, "Aracache" maintained the lead in and out of a 1:23.2 three-quarters, taking a three-quarter length lead into the lane. However, the early intervals would prove his undoing. "Nantucket" powered by, getting the jump on China Grill and whipping that one by a nose in 1:51.4. That effort matched a life-best, with Code Word, Statesman N and Aracache Hanover rounding out the payees. For Pan from Nantucket, a 5-year-old No Pan Intended gelding trained by Joe Godinez for owner Blindswitch Racing, he returned $28.80 (sixth choice) for his seventh win in 26 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $443.50, with the triple returning $1,362. The Raceway's five-night-per-week live schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available around the NYRA schedule. Frank Drucker

YONKERS, NY, Saturday, August 17, 2013--Statesman N (Jordan Stratton) snapped favored Malak Uswaad N (Eric Goodell) on the money Saturday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's $46,000 Open Pace. Watching early from post position No. 5, Statesman N saw China Grill (Steve Smith) seat Flem N Em N (Jason Bartlett) early Then, Mr. Hasani (Dan Dube) and 2-5 choice Malak Uswaad N stuck their noses in. It resulted in early fractions of :27.2 and 55-flat. Pancetta (Brent Holland) then moved from fifth, with Statesman N towed along. Mr. Hasani owned the lead in and out of a 1:23.1 three-quarters, but was about done entering the lane. Malak Uswaad N ducked in, Statesman N went wide and earned the nose nod in 1:51.3. China Grill, Mr. Hasani N and Pancetta settled for the small change. For Statesman N, a 6-year-old Down Under Christian Cullen gelding trained by Mark Harder co-owners Our Horse Cents and J&T Silva Stables and Peter Venturini, he returned $11.40 (second choice) for his sixth win (second consecutive) in 20 seasonal starts. The exacta paid $18.80, with the triple returning $46.80. The driving colony shared the wealth during the 13-race card. Holland won four races, while Stratton and Bartlett each won three. George Brennan added a couple, while Goodell won once. The Raceway's five-night-per-week live schedule continues, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available around the NYRA schedule. Frank Drucker

'Whoops! Wrong button!' - and there goes HK$30 million ... Yesterday's multi-million dollar betting blunder at Sha Tin might not have been that simple, but a betting software glitch certainly left a searing hole in plenty of punters' pockets, created an unexpected windfall for others and in the process spawned a host of highly entertaining conspiracy theories online and in the local press.

The Nanjing International Equestrian Venue in Jiangsu Province used to thunder with the sound of hoof beats, but now the only sound is the occasional squeal of tires. The once-proud racing track has been turned into a parking lot, with hoof prints covered in tire tracks, hurdles scattered willy-nilly, and overgrown weeds sprawling across the track.

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