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Ken Barron presided over a recent Greater Canterbury Branch Committee meeting, which was also attended by Peter Jensen, Peter Larkin, Andrew Morris and Brian Rabbitt.
The 1980m start point at Addington had been trialled for 3 meetings and there had been no negative responses. There had also been a good distribution of winners from all sorts of draws. Peter Jensen advised that, unless any problems surfaced on the final night of the trials, that he would settle on the 1980m as being the future distance, including next year’s Harness Jewels. Andrew Morris advised that, should it become the norm, HRNZ would adjust track records accordingly.
Peter Jensen advised that progress is being made in establishing a racing bureau in Canterbury. Some concern has been expressed over independence should Addington run the Bureau, and he understood those concerns, however he felt these could be resolved to the benefit of the Industry as a whole and its future sustainability. Ken Barron described the current situation as a ‘hotch-potch’ with horses being nominated for multiple meetings, and fields for the Friday meetings being decimated when trainers pulled out in favour of racing on the Sunday. He called for acceptances for the Friday meeting to be finalised before the nominations for the Sunday meeting are put online, so that connections had to make a choice of whether to race or not. This received some support, however Michael Heenan expressed concern that it could disadvantage the Sunday clubs who could lose races. Peter Jensen agreed to discuss the nomination and acceptance times with B. Rabbitt. Andrew Morris stated that the aim of HRNZ was to run as many races as possible regardless of the venue, and questioned whether the current situation was such a big problem. Ken Barron and Brian Rabbitt questioned why trainers would enter 50 more horses for a meeting at Rangiora where the stakes were $30k less than Addington. Peter Jensen expressed disappointment that local trainers would travel to Oamaru and, particularly Forbury, for lower stakes instead of supporting the local clubs.
The change to readmitting Amateur Drivers races into the Met Multiplier scheme, albeit with conditions, was welcomed and this should see more horses qualify in the coming season. Mark Jones offered congratulations to the NZMTC on this initiative, and for only reducing the bonus by $500 to $7000 despite facing financial pressure for a larger reduction. He feels that more and more of his owners were expressing interest in chasing the bonus.
Kevin Townley led a call for more 2600m mobiles to be programmed at Addington, instead of the 1980’s, so that trainers had choices. Mark Jones suggested that the common argument for sprint races made it easier on the horses to back up, is more in the minds of trainers, than based on facts.
There was lengthy discussion over various aspects of the points handicapping system. These included a proposal that points be awarded to placed maidens, (not supported), and the current use of discretionary handicaps (not supported).
Peter Larkin distributed copies of a proposed preferential barrier draw grid for the Ashburton track. Ken Barron was supported in suggesting that the best horse should be given number one on the second row, theoretically behind the lowest rated horse. Statistics showed that by far the least successful draws on smaller tracks were 13 and 14. The following set up was suggested in ranking order, highest to lowest: 10/14/13-11/9-1. Mark Jones called for the introduction of a standard grid for the whole Country.
The meeting agreed that the number of horses of two year olds racing this season had reduced significantly. Various reasons for this were put forward, and possible solutions were discussed.
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Hopefully most of you don’t bother reading anything that Martin Van Beynen writes about harness racing in the Christchurch Press, and hopefully most other people don’t either. Just to refresh the memory, this is the guy who, eighteen months ago, claimed to have information from a ‘reliable source’ that there was race-fixing happening in our Industry. Sadly the editor felt that such drivel was worth a place on the front page – despite investigations by the police and the RIU, which found not a shred of evidence that it was true.
Obviously a man who knows diddly-squat about harness racing and merely enjoys chucking dirt wherever he thinks it might stick, this week he spouted forth with his second ever article about the game, this time suggesting that it was riddled with sexism, following one isolated incident.
It was therefore most pleasing to read a rather more balanced article in the Otago Daily Times, written by Jonny Turner, that is based on facts and informed opinions, rather than sensationalism. It’s well worth a read. /www.odt.co.nz/sport/racing/top-females-say-sexism-not-problem-harness-racing.
Harness racing, and indeed horse racing in general, is somewhat unique, in that these days males and females compete at the same level, and in the same contests, as opposed to other sports where they are usually separated. When an All Black slags off at a Springbok in the bottom of a scrum, is that racism, or is it just the adrenalin charged comment in the heat of the moment? I’m not suggesting for a moment that using foul language against a member of the opposite sex is acceptable, but to suggest that it is rife and the poor defenceless ladies don’t sometimes give as good as they get, is simply naïve. Race driving is a high pressure situation and no place for shrinking violets who can’t handle a bit of verbal cut and thrust. Those ladies out there, many of whom are leaders in their field, expect no special treatment and give none back.
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