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National Council



Northern Branch AGM 2017

Chairman Todd MacFarlane presided over this year’s Annual General Meeting before a reasonable turnout of memebers, along with Franklin Park General Manager Karen Blanchard, and Auckland TC CEO Dominique Dowding, who began the meeting with a future business presentation for the ATC.

This covered Governance levels at the ATC, racing contribution and funding, and updating the constitution from 2018 to include 8 directors, 5 elected and 3 appointed. Performance & revenue for the Club were good, with targets met and exceeded. This was achieved through current assets, and the future of the retail village and apartments. The end result of this would be a future of self -sustaining revenue which gave a positive outlook for racing at the venue. Further to this, the club is committed to the site and growing revenue further, along with improving racing and stake levels.

Karen Blanchard added that there had been considerable work done on an ownership drive for new people into the industry which had received a good response.

In his Report, Todd thanked the ATC for their pro-active developments and communication with himself and Derek Balle at Committee level. The new Junior Drivers series had been well received which the Branch had sponsored with Harness Racing Waikato. He also thanked Kerry Wells for working to get these races off the ground, and the meeting agreed that they should be continued. The recent Awards Night had been successful once again. Finally, Todd thanked Rob Lawson, the Branch Committee, and Secretary for their support during the season.

Secretary Dave Neal reported a profit for the year, despite the Branch being active with sponsorship of the Junior Drivers series, cadets, and assistance to members.

Logan Hollis advised that he would be stepping down from the Vice-President position but would remain on the Committee. It was decided that a Junior representative would be sought to come onto the Committee.

Matters discussed by the meeting included imminent changes to rules for whip use, protocol for stable inspections following some concerns over some being unannounced and at busiest times, the recent vote and decision to hold Saturday or Tuesday trials but not both, and seminars put on by the Auckland TC. relating to areas that trainers and drivers should be knowledgeable in, for which the Branch was most appreciative.

Peter Blanchard asked the meeting for opinions on the establishment of a driving master in the North to help juniors. Dave Neal advised that he had spoken to Natalie Gameson (HRNZ) about a mentor scheme, but this was in the early stages. He advised that the Branch had tried this in the past, but it was hard to maintain momentum. The meeting agreed that an actual master who was available on racenight for drivers would work better, and agreed to do further work in this area, and investigate the possibility of funding to establish this.

Rob Lawson advised that the RIU had asked for comment from HRNZ and the Kindred Bodies on the Penalty Guide Review, and he advised that he would monitor this closely, and ensure fairness for Association members. Peter Blanchard initiated discussion on the impact rising stakes will have on horse sales to Australia, advising that any over $15k will make a difference. The idea to canvas Australia to raise threshold was mooted. This would be discussed further by the National Council.

Michelle Wallis asked if distances could be varied for mobile trots. Recently these races had been 1700m, and many horses were compromised by the draw. The matter would be raised at the next programming meeting with a view to introducing some 2200m or 2700m events.

Dave Neal/Pete Cook

Galloping Trotters

The Association recently received the following communication from the RIU’s Nick Ydgren:

“As you are aware the regulations in relation to the standing down of breaking horses has been altered to re-include trotters. This is just to advise your members that we are now looking at the manners of trotters more actively than recent times.

Trotters who continue to break in their races will likely be sent back to the trials (workouts in the North Island). In saying this I will be advising the Stewards to show some leniency in the application of this regulation. “

Pete Cook

One Rule for All

When a person applies for a license, they have to sign a form saying that they will ‘abide by the Rules of Harness Racing.” That is as it should be, and it is recommended that, should he or she wish, they should familiarise themselves with those Rules.

If they decide not to have knowledge of the Rules, and they end up on the wrong end of a Judicial hearing, the first thing they are asked is, are they aware of the Rule that they are being charged under. If they say they didn’t know about the Rule they are being charged under, they are, as in a Court of Law, soon informed that ignorance cannot be used as a defence.

Recently, in a well-publicised case, a driver initially had his license suspended for two and a half years by the JCA panellists, at which point the defendant, being of mature years, decided to retire from driving. A couple of days later he received a phone call informing him that, under the Rules of Harness Racing, he cannot be suspended for more than twelve months on a driving offence, and he would have to go through the stress of a rehearing.

So this licence-holder, who has been involved in the Industry as an owner, breeder and trainer for many years, has suffered the distress and ignominy of being virtually barred for good, from what he loves to do, and has been subjected to the negative publicity associated with such a large penalty.

My question is, what has happened to the JCA panellists who, after all are employed to hear evidence, and hand out appropriate penalties as per the Rules which they are presumably supposed to be familiar with. Have they been reprimanded for their ignorance, publicly criticised, or maybe fined under the premise that ignorance is no excuse? Unfortunately unlike the publicity that surrounds a licence-holder being found guilty of a mistake or misdemeanour, we will probably never know.

Pete Cook

Footnote: Just to clear up a couple of points in last week’s piece about Phil Burrows, the incident happened in April 2016, not this year. Unbelievably the powers that be kept him hanging in limbo for 12 months before they announced they would be laying charges. I understand that the boy who was injured was not actually ‘playing’ around the water tanker, but sitting on it and, despite the Judge announcing the poor lad’s recovery was ‘incomplete’, he is now playing representative rugby.

A Lose/Lose Situation

Hands up those who are of a more mature vintage, who recall doing crazy things like climb all over machinery, vehicles, trees or anything else that, these days, would be considered foolhardy at best, or just plain stupid.

That’s what I thought, and those of you with hands still in your pockets, are either suffering from memory loss, or led extremely sheltered childhoods. Back in those days, such behaviour would probably have resulted in a serious parent ear-bashing, or a clip round the ear, or both.

Those of you who read the Trainers & Drivers website regularly will remember seeing details about the new Health & Safety regulations again and again and, etc. Unfortunately the dire predictions contained in some of that information, have recently become a reality for prominent North Canterbury trainer Phil Burrows. As you have probably heard, back in April this year, his son and his mate were playing on the property’s water truck (see first paragraph) when Phil began to use it for its’ designated purpose, tragically resulting in serious injuries to his son’s young friend.

That’s how easy it is, just one moment in time can change your whole life. There is no positive side to the incident, the obvious damage to the young boy, the distress of his parents, the utter shock and guilt for Phil, and the lingering memories for both families. Yes, it could have been worse, but both Phil and his son will, for many years, have to live with the guilt of not only what happened on the fateful day, but also the financial consequences.

As a result of charges brought by Health & Safety and the subsequent compensation awarded to the injured boy’s family, the Burrows family will be under a great deal of financial pressure for some years. There is no question that the compensation is deserved, but it is a high price, and a constant reminder of what can happen as a result of a momentary lapse of concentration. That’s what I mean by a lose/lose situation.

The point of further highlighting this awful occurrence, is to stress how easy it is for a life-changing incident to suddenly come out of just a normal day to day task. No one wants to put themselves through what the Burrows, or the other, families are going through, and, let’s face it, a horse training establishment is a prime site for such happenings.

Don’t be the next one in hospital, or court.

Pete Cook

Footnote: Anyone wishing to donate any assistance to the Burrows family can do so, either through myself, or direct to Phil. Anything would help relieve the pressure.







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