I’m going to start the New Year off by putting my neck on the block and talking about Junior Drivers. Not many topics get emotions stirred up more than the young people in our Industry and the opportunities they get, some say too many, some say not enough.
It goes without saying that we need young people coming through to ensure the future of harness racing, and the only way they are going to measure up in a tough profession, is to work hard, practice, and watch the way senior drivers behave on the track.
Now before I go any further and run the risk of being hung drawn and quartered, in an effort to avoid being accused of serious bias, let me say that I have in the past given opportunities to a number of Junior drivers on my horses, both in their specific events, and also open races.
Having been down South recently, it seems that almost every meeting is programming a Junior Drivers race, none of which have attracted a full field. From more than one source, I was hearing that if they couldn’t engage one of the leading Juniors, connections of horses weren’t interested in giving opportunities to the up and comers, and given that at least half of the drivers in those races in the South were from Canterbury, it was the young locals that were missing out. Of course there are some horses that are just not suitable for inexperienced drivers, but I wonder if there is a train of thought that putting a horse in a field full of novices might be a risk.
I’m not sure there is a definitive answer here, but maybe, instead of ‘flooding the market’ with specific Junior events, it might be more beneficial to schedule a few more where a penalty free clause is included in an open race, if a driver with less than a certain number of wins is engaged. In my mind, these young people are going to learn far more driving in races amongst seasoned professionals than those restricted to their own limited experience.
As an aside, I do wish the people on Trackside would desist from categorising certain races as being ‘typecast’. Surely, dragging out the ‘they either go very fast or very slow’ mantra for Junior (and for that matter Amateur) races, does become rather tiresome, and does little to encourage either punters or owners to support them. And what really rasps is that when they do go either fast or slow, they quickly justify their comments, but when the times are quite ordinary events, nothing is said! There are the odd senior professional races that are run at unusual tempo’s too, guys.
The Trainers’ & Drivers’ Association wishes all members and other Industry participants a Merry Christmas and a prosperous holiday period, not that, strictly speaking, it is any kind of holiday for horse trainers, given the amount of racing!
P.S. the attached illustration is not a suggestion of how you should treat your horse over Christmas….unless of course you won Lazarus.
As we all know there are plenty of people in our Industry who carry out tasks and duties, both in and out of the public eye, and who are taken for granted by the majority of people who benefit from their efforts.
In my mind, none of these deserve more credit than starter’s assistants, who, at every single race meeting, risk serious injury or worse, dealing with highly strung half-tonne animals that are fizzing with pre-race adrenalin. It’s their unenviable job to make sure that every horse is parading in the right order, facing in the right direction, not in the way of any other horse, and in the case of standing starts, as ready as possible to step away to the satisfaction of drivers, owners and punters alike.
The risks that these people take, whether they be volunteers or paid officials, were brought into focus last week when arguably one of the best and most popular in the business was flung against a concrete wall by a recalcitrant horse in the Addington stable area. Known to one and all as simply ‘Blinks’ (very few know his real name!), his red, white and black helmet has been a source of assistance and efficiency around Canterbury and other race tracks for many years.
Unfortunately what was initially thought to be a dislocated shoulder has become an injury requiring surgery. Hopefully the recovery will be swift and straightforward, and this unsung hero can be back giving drivers a helping hand sooner than later.
Following on from last week’s article concerning the performance or otherwise of the NZ Racing Board, there is one aspect that cannot be the subject of any criticism, and that is the continual opportunities for Industry participants to either listen to, or speak to the guy in charge, John Allen.
On numerous occasions he has fronted up to meetings that anyone can go along to, the latest of which are being held this week. Actually there is still one to go, at Addington Raceway starting at 12 on Monday 11 December.
In addition there are a couple of phone conferences scheduled in the next week, Friday, 8 December, 12.30pm-1pm, and Wednesday, 13 December, 12.30pm-1pm. Due to limitation on numbers, you need to register by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org by 9am on the 8th, and 5pm on the 12th respectively.
These unprecedented opportunities are a breath of fresh air from our governing body, and should not be missed if you want to have your say.
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