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*What do Remiss, Valhalla, and Mattjestic Rebeck all have in common? well, apart from all having tested over the allowable TCO2 level they are all very nervous horses which became particularly stressed on the day the day in which the tested high. NZ Trainers and Drivers Association Secretary Peter T Cook, who has had his own personal experience with Valhalla, tells more. As you have probably read among the Remits being submitted to this years’ HRNZ Annual Conference, the Board, after a prolonged period of consideration, has finally decided to bring the allowable level of TC02 in line with pretty much every other jurisdiction in the World, i.e.36mmol/L, with a “guard band” of 1.0mmol/L. At the same time, however, they have also recommended an astonishingly large increase in the penalties involved for trainers who are found guilty for a first time. From a previously recommended $2-4000 for a first offence, the Board is proposing an automatic 2 year disqualification. The change has been likened to an increase from a ten year prison sentence to the death penalty in the real world. In other words, this would potentially be a career ending penalty for most, if not all trainers. The understanding is that most Australian states have a six month penalty for a first offence which is more realistic. Not only is this proposal totally out of “kilter’ with penalties attached to other charges, it is likely encourage someone whose career is in jeopardy and who had the financial wherewithal, to contest the matter in the Countrys’ legal system. All has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Do we really want thousands of dollars more of Industry money keeping lawyers in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to? And while the Association is strongly supportive of measures against cheats, there is no guarantee that such legal proceedings against HRNZ would not be successful. Such a penalty offers no window for either the RIU or JCA for anyone to be found innocent. With a fine, even though it goes against natural justice, that may reluctantly be acceptable, but a two year ban is a different story. This decision has been made following long awaited, and somewhat controversial, advice from the HRNZ Veterinary Advisor Andrew Grierson. It is interesting to note that, in the press release from HRNZ, Chairman Gary Allen is quoting as saying “any positive will in almost all certainty be the result of an administration of prohibited substances.” The use of the word “almost” is interesting, considering that, in the past and currently, the RIU appear to have a policy of totally ignoring any evidence put before them suggesting a trainers’ innocence. This time last year, I had cause to have discussions with him concerning a horse in the stable I help out in, Valhalla. Andrew reeled off statistics (same as those accompanying the remit) stating categorically that the chances of a horse returning a level of 36mmol/L rises from around 15,000 to just over 2 million for a level of 37 without having TC02 administered. On the day that he was tested, Valhalla (normally a nervous horse at the races at the best of times) attempted to climb the walls of the float en route to the track, was bathed in sweat, was very agitated, and his eyes were out on storks as he was geared up. The RIU, as I could have told them, found no evidence of either Bicarbonate or anything to administer it with in the stables. The official reading was 38.2 which presumably makes him by far the rarest horse on the planet! While the requirement to present drug free horses is understandably paramount, this needs to be balanced with the rules of natural justice, and disqualifying a trainer for two years for a high level of a substance already present in every horse, doesn’t seem to match those requirements. It is quite possible that a Court of Law may take the same view, particularly when there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the trainer. Mark Jones is currently enduring the same nightmare of presenting compelling evidence that he did not administer bicarb, only to have it totally ignored by the authorities. As for performance enhancement, both Valhalla and Remiss, Marks’ horse that is currently under investigation, both finished last in their respective races! Peter T Cook (Courtesy of the Trainers and Drivers Association)

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)

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)

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)

Or the past couple of months, Chairman Ken and the undersigned have attended meetings aimed at resurrecting a Greater Canterbury Awards night, in conjunction with representatives of the local Owners and Breeders Associations. As a result an Awards Dinner will be held on the evening of Saturday 27 September, in the Silks Lounge at Addington Raceway. The plan is for the awards to relate to excellence or exceptional achievements during the past season, and not necessarily for simply season leaders, as these were normally covered in the National Awards. Keep an eye out for more details. Kevin Townley expressed concern at the handicaps being given in discretionary handicaps, particularly the Country Cup finals and the 4&5 year old Trotters Championship. He suggested that handicaps based on money won would see fairer contests. A couple of issues surrounding Addington Raceway were raised, and replies from officials have subsequently been received on them. The initial comment was unanimous praise for the excellent condition of the track, and a note of thanks was sent to John Denton and his crew. The urgent need for a new drivers’ room at the venue was expressed, and it is understood that by Thursday 24 April, work will be completed on converting the old stable barbecue area into a drivers facility. Investigations are also underway as to how to solve the historical problem of the shadows from light poles at the Raceway. The initial idea of installing LED lighting has been shelved as the current technology has been found to be unsatisfactory at some other venues, both here and overseas. Tests were carried out involving turning the lights on to eliminate shadows with limited success, and this may be used as a temporary solution while other avenues are explored. Other matters raised at the meeting included Mark Jones suggesting a reduction in options for trial programmes to eliminate two and three horse fields, a letter was to be sent to the RIU congratulating the Stewards officiating at the recent Westport meeting on their handling of the unfortunate accident, and those present feeling that there were too many false starts, with Kevin Townley suggesting that Starters should be fined for faulty gear (eg. Starting mechanisms and tapes) in a similar way to trainers. Ken Barron questioned why, in the TAB Racing Calendar, the official starting time for night meetings was 5pm, when an earlier start could be preferable for all concerned. This was to be raised at the upcoming meeting with Racing Board CEO Chris Bayliss. By Peter T Cook (Courtesy on the NZ Trainers & Drivers Association)

Chairman Ken Barron presided over a recent meeting of the Greater Canterbury Branch, with HRNZs’ Pete Ydgren along to discuss a number of issues. Pete raised the ‘old chestnut’ of the quality of communication between some trainers and their owners. Apparently the HRNZ Board has been made aware of some complaints in this area, however the Association has always felt that, as in any line of business, if an owner is unhappy with the service his trainer offers, he should look elsewhere. On closer inspection it appears that the majority of problems concern owners receiving bills for veterinarian services for which they either had no knowledge of, or had not expected to be as high as they were. The meeting suggested that owners should obtain quotes for veterinarian services directly, and not involve the trainer in the process. Ideas such as websites, text messages or e-mails were discussed, however the consensus was that most owners preferred to speak to trainers on the phone or in person. A suggestion that workshops be held to instruct trainers was felt to be a waste of time and money, so Pete is to compile a document suggesting methods of successful communications to owners. Another matter discussed with Pete was the introduction of the proposed points system for field selection. Apparently the implementation of this system would take one person in the HRNZ IT department ten weeks, so the Handicapping Sub-Committee, which met earlier that day, had agreed that a money-won system would be a more realistic, and possibly more efficient, option. Other issues covered with Pete Ydgren included the new HRNZ Business Plan which, unlike its’ predecessors contained time frame limits, and therefore consequences if the deadlines were not met. Items of interest included the introduction of Racing Bureaux, and an investigation into the restructuring of the HRNZ Board. Note this is only an investigation, and there is no guarantee that any changes will occur as a result. One possible scenario was the establishment of a Stakeholders Council which would forward suggestions and proposals to a Board of Management. Centralisation was discussed, with Pete advising that very few tracks were owned by the Clubs themselves, so that little advantage would be gained by closures. In addition, history suggests that any such closures would lead to a drop off of interest in that particular area, both from volunteers and punters. Anthony Butt expressed disappointment that the Ashburton Club meeting was scheduled for the day after the jewels, presenting travel issues for drivers attending both meetings. John Lischner summarised a number of issues and proposals being considered by the HRNZ Board. These included harness programmes being restricted to a maximum of 11 races instead of the current 12, the extension of the rating for open class trotters from C7 to C8, and the likely abolition of Invited Drivers series, which were proving costly and difficult to arrange. John advised that HRNZ Veterinary Consultant Andrew Grierson would be attending the Associations’ National Council on 2 May to discuss current drug related issues. Part 2 next week. By Peter T Cook (Courtesy of the NZ Harness Trainers & Drivers Association)

The NZ Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers Association has just been advised that, following research by their Veterinary Consultant, HRNZ will be testing for the substance Cobalt Chloride from April 14 2014. Authorities in New South Wales have recently begun testing for this substance and their lead has now been followed by the Thoroughbred code in Victoria. The permitted level is 200mg per litre of urine. We understand that normal Vitamin B12 injections contain some measure of Cobalt Chloride, however according to the Chief Veterinarian in New South Wales, manufacturers of this product are mindful of keeping the levels low so as not to affect a horses performance. Further information will be forthcoming in due course. By Peter T Cook (Courtesy of  the NZ Trainers and Drivers Association)  

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. 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. 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! By Peter T Cook (Courtesy of the NZ Harness Racing Trainers & Drivers Association)

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 (Courtesy of the New Zealand Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers Association)

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 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 To View more information on the Trainers and Drivers Assocation website click here.

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! To read Ken's full 'buisness plan' on the NZ Harness Racing Trainers & Drivers click here.

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