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National Council



Rule Changes

It’s always a bit of a surprise to me when, sometimes years after the HRNZ Rules have been changed or added to at an Annual Conference, license-holders who operate under those Rules claim to have no knowledge of them. Unfortunately for those people, as in the law of the land, ignorance is no defence.

So with that in mind, I will relay an update received from our recently appointed Chief Stipendiary Steward for Harness Racing, Nick Ydgren, outlining two changes to the HRNZ Rules made at the recent Annual Conference that have a direct effect on trainers and drivers, both having the full support of the Association.

‘The first relates to the new candy poles that are being installed across the country. These are placed fifty metres prior to each mobile start point. Drivers are now required to have their horses in position behind the mobile when they pass the candy pole. They shall then maintain their position until reaching the start point. This will ensure second line runners are no longer inconvenienced by a front line driver holding his horse back to gain a 'flying start'.

The second is that trainers no longer have to provide the horses papers when being presented for inspection. RIU Stewards are in possession of all the horse’s details (brands, markings and sex) and will notify HRNZ of any changes noticed at inspection time. This process can be further streamlined if Trainers ensure the brands are recently clipped and checked prior to presentation.’

So there we are, two relatively positive moves for our Industry that you should be aware of.

Pete Cook

P.S. Apologies for the photo, they are in Venice which has little to do with harness racing!

Extension of Nominations

At the risk of being labelled a broken record, I still cringe every time a Club extends the closing time for nominations, which is just about every meeting, every week.

At a time when all sectors of harness racing (particularly trainers) are continually being preached at to become more professional, this sort of thing just looks, well, amateurish. This week in particular the NZ Met held open their entries when the only other meeting in the South Island was in Gore. Hardly likely to be too many dual nominations! As it turned out the original number of entries for the meeting went from a very respectable total for this time of year of 142, to 138. Hardly a raging success. Yes, there was a shuffling of nominations around different events, but that can be done without extending nominations.

The powers that be tell me that there are a number of trainers who leave it until the last minute to nominate and very often cause the extension. Would it be such a bad idea to teach these apparently regular offenders a lesson, and let them explain to their owners why their fully fit horse isn’t starting this weekend? Would they do it again – I think we all know the answer to that one.

Which brings me to another regular question – why the hell don’t at least 90% of trainers use the brilliant online nomination system set up by HRNZ. When you have in front of you the horses name, the races it’s eligible for from North Cape to Bluff, and all it takes is the press of a keyboard button, why would you poke around going through all the programmes etc. for hours trying to find information that the HRNZ computer has already found? And it can be done on a Sunday night when there is no pressure of having to work horses, or other distractions.

It even sends you an e-mail confirming what you’ve done so you can check it. Come on, lets’ drag ourselves into the now not-so-new century and make life easier for everyone at the same time. Register now!

Just a reminder to get your tickets soon for the Northern and Canterbury Awards nights (not both though) on 3 September. Northern contact is Suzanne Herlihy 027 407 1057, or strike1won@xtra.co.nz, or for the Southern edition contact Robyn Boyle on 027 217 3643 – (03) 383 0503 - email: boyles4@xtra.co.nz

Pete Cook

Geoff Want

As has been the case at recent HRNZ Annual Conferences, the address from Harness Racing Australia Chairman Geoff Want, was an informative and entertaining highlight.

He began with an outline of how much money is involved in gambling on horse racing across the ditch, quoting, not surprisingly, some pretty sizeable amounts. However one staggering statistic to me was the amount of money spent on advertising for customers per annum by the wagering companies across the ditch. $600 million, with $500 million of that down to Tabcorp. Yes, you did read it right, that’s just on advertising!!

Breeding figures saw a slight decrease in stallion services to 5800 (about twice our number), which tends to beg the question why on earth they are so keen to buy our horses – must be something to do with quality, I suppose. Geoff reported that there had been a large number of trotting broodmares imported into Australia recently, adding more fuel to the idea that trotters are the way of the future.

Not surprisingly that word ‘integrity’ got an airing, and apparently Queensland has seen a merging of integrity departments of the three codes, and Victoria looks like going the same way. They can learn something from us, after all!

On handicapping, Geoff suggested that ‘everyone is looking for the miracle cure’ in his neck of the woods. HRA members believe that the current handicapping system is not the problem – the answer lies in programming. If that sounds familiar, it should do, I recall knowledgeable people in New Zealand saying the very same thing at least five years ago. Australia is holding a programming summit shortly – I hope they are more successful than we have been.

Interestingly enough, and obviously defending his decision to impose a new import fee structure, imports from here to Aussie have remained static, although Geoff did acknowledge there had been a reduction in lower priced horses.

In an earlier life, Geoff was heavily involved in the media, and he stressed the importance of the industry keeping ahead of trends in communication. His claim that the thoroughbred code in Australia wanted to ‘control the clock’ had a familiar ring to it! He recommended tuning into TrotsTV (harnessmediacentre.com.au) There had also been a significant increase in exporting of product to overseas markets, particularly Europe, and this should be encouraged at all costs.

Describing it as ‘the elephant in the room’ Geoff warned that ‘equine welfare is the biggest challenge we will face in the next decade’ and it will be essential to ‘satisfy everyone we warrant our social licence’. While his organisation has worked closely with the local RSPCA, and gained praise for their approach to animal welfare, Geoff warned that the recent live baiting scandal that has swept the greyhound code in Australia has empowered the fringe animal rights activists, and they would be closely monitoring the other racing codes for any misdemeanours. Some of these people ‘do not understand logic or rational debate, and want all racing banned’.

Related to this, Geoff spoke of the new whip laws introduced in his Country from 1 May, and predicted that whips may be a thing of the past in five years.

As usual, a sometimes sobering, sometimes positive address by Geoff Want, but always most informative and entertaining – worth the price of admission alone!

Pete Cook

Harness Racing Conference 2016

After the doom and gloom and hard talking that featured at last years’ Annual HRNZ Conference, there was probably (and hopefully) only one way for things to go. And fortunately they did.

The tone was set by the ultra-enthusiastic Racing Board CEO John Allen who once again impressed, speaking for over half an hour without a note in sight and, after (with tongue firmly in cheek) congratulating himself for lasting longer than many of his predecessors, proceeded to offer facts and figures to counter the popular belief that the Racing Board is the root of all the Industry’s ills.

As he put it, there is still a very long way to go, and progress is slow, however any progress in the current climate has to be positive, and the delegates were left in no doubt that, if there was one guy who could put us back on course for the future, John was that person. (His speech was recorded by Harnesslink.com and is available on that website – well worth a listen).

To their credit, four of the Racing Boards’ executives fronted up for a question and answer session and, once again, they impressed with their confidence and honesty, covering issues surrounding betting, Trackside, and customer services.

Other topics of interest over the two days included a sales pitch for ‘Fast Track” insurance, well worth investigating as for every policy taken out, money goes to racing, progress on the ‘Super Club” concept, which is making progress in the North and deep South, but striking some resistance in some areas in-between. A very impressive presentation was made by a couple of Southlanders on the set up in that area, and there is no doubt that harness participants have got their heads around making things work for them, and are about to reap the rewards.

Other presentations included a stunning overview of the Auckland TC commercial developments, discussion on the new handicapping points system, and a somewhat unnerving forum on how the new liquor licensing laws are being enforced and how they will affect Clubs. Some pretty scary stuff there, not to mention some way over the top actions by some of our police force. John Allen assured delegates that he was going into bat on this issue and was due to meet the Assistant Police Commissioner and the Minister in the near future, to argue on their behalf. Hopefully some common sense will prevail!

The Conference proper was more or less just a rubber stamping exercise, lasting less time than any I can recall, and was marked by the retirement speech of Gary Allen (later to be honoured at the Awards Night), a talented and tireless administrator and breeder, who is undoubtedly passionate about harness racing.

One of the highlights of the two days for me was the annual talk by Harness Racing Australia Chair, Geoff Want, always revealing and entertaining, and I’ll summarise that next week.

Pete Cook









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