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National Council



Life –Changing Fate

If ever there was an occurrence that brings home that old adage that you should live every day as if it’s your last, it was the horrific experience two of the best-loved people in our Industry suffered on Waitangi Day.

If they had been five seconds earlier or five seconds later on that road, I wouldn’t be writing this, and their lives would be chugging along happily as they have done for years, caring for their beloved horses, and lining them up at race meetings all over the South Island.

With no apology whatsoever for being rather mushy and sentimental, not for the first time their misfortune has brought out the best in the participants in harness racing, showing the World that an industry that is currently under public scrutiny and pressure from several quarters, has a huge heart, and an unswerving willingness to help it’s fellow participants in their hour of need.

To see such instant support materialise makes me proud to be a part of it, and reminds us all what a special game we are involved in. Needless to say, Margo and Pete’s needs will be on-going so if you haven’t already contributed to their help fund, please do so.

I have been made aware that, while the ‘Give a Little’ idea is a very worthy exercise, the site does take what some consider to be a rather over-sized percentage of any money collected, so the following dedicated bank account has been set up for any further donations, where all money collected will go to the needy recipients.


Pete Cook

Field Selection

It’s less prevalent nowadays, but I still hear the odd owner grizzling about a lack of communication from their trainer. I accept that not all trainers are experts in that field, and there is always room for improvement. However there are ways that other industry participants can make to easier for these people to ply their trade, and make decisions on behalf of owners.

One of these would be for Clubs to indicate in their programmes, how fields are to be selected. This is particularly frustrating at this time of year in the Canterbury region when there are often far too many horses to squeeze in to the allocated number of races, especially at the grass track meetings.

I know that clause No. 4. says that ‘In the event any race or races are split on the Programme, unless specific in the individual race conditions, races will be split and selected at the clubs discretion, with consideration given to Ratings in the first instance.’ That’s all very nice except it tells the trainer nothing of how the ratings will be considered, either from the bottom or the top.

I recall when the points system was introduced, it was proposed that these type of fields would be selected from the bottom up one week, and from the top down the following week, so everyone gets a chance at starting. That seems to have gone out the window, although admittedly some Clubs are good at indicating how they are selecting. I suppose in the case of one day Clubs that makes it a bit more tricky as they don’t want the lower rated horses, but it needs to be remembered that we are an Industry and selfish attitudes only serve to damage that.

The situation was brought home to me a while back when I rang a Club Secretary to ask how the balance of the field for a race where one win horses would be given preference, would be selected, and found he didn’t know. Having promised to find out, he came back a bit later and said the person responsible for selecting the field didn’t know either!

It doesn’t matter how these decisions are made, either on high to low ratings, vice versa, or even on form, but it would be a big help to know prior to nomination or acceptance time, so that everyone knows where they are and can make decisions based on information available.

Pete Cook


You probably don’t need to be told that, despite the relatively quiet night the Kiwis experienced at Melton the other night, our horses have an almost unbelievable record across the Tasman.

On Harnesslink the other day, they produced an itemised account of what happened in the 2017-18 season alone – see below:

14 individual New Zealand-bred Group One winners claimed twenty-two Group One pacing features in Australia

Five individual New Zealand-bred trotters claimed a Group One feature in Australia

Kiwi horses claimed 32% of all eligible Group One races in Australia

Kiwi pacers were a dominant force claiming 71% of all combined eligible Group One races in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales

Kiwi trotters triumphed in 19% of all Group One features in Victoria

New Zealand standardbreds laid claim to 41% of all stakes races in Australia

Nearly half (47%) of all pacing eligible stakes races in Australia were won by New Zealand-breds

50% of all trotting stakes races in Queensland last season were claimed by kiwi horses

New Zealand was the leading source of eligible Group One winners in Western Australia & New South Wales

New Zealand-bred horses won 91% of all eligible pacing Group One races in Western Australia

10 of the 16 eligible pacing stakes races in Queensland were won by New Zealand-bred horses

67% of all eligible pacing stakes races in Western Australia were claimed by kiwi horses

59% of all combined eligible pacing stakes races in Western Australia, Queensland and New South Wales were won by New Zealand-breds

Lazarus, Ultimate Machete, Franco Edward and Let It Ride all achieved Group One doubles in Australia.

If anyone needed an incentive, either a breeder in this Country to breed for the future, a local trainer to purchase, educate and sell, or trainer/owners in Australia to buy a horse at the upcoming sales, those stunning statistics should be a clincher.

Pete Cook

Technology Overkill

I know I’m going to be accused of being a fossil (not for the first time), and of criticising progress, but I reckon that, in our industry, there is a certain amount of technology for technology’s sake creeping in that is simply unnecessary, and waste of money that we can’t afford.

For instance, the recently introduced ‘innovations’ that sometimes appear on screen during races at Addington. Not only do we have graphic notifications (that are often wrong anyway) of the first three placings and what they are paying – and I can accept there is some value there – but we now have under those, an indication of what horses are running fourth, fifth and sixth. Is that really necessary, for heaven’s sake? I’m one of those old fashioned buggers who like to actually watch the horses go round, and I get very testy when, because of this extra information, the graphics quite often cover some of them up during a race.

And then, just to get my dander up even further, they have another graphic stuck in the top right hand corner showing how fast the horses are going and the sectionals (the latter very often at odds with the ones that Mark Mac reads out). If there is anyone out there who can tell me the value of knowing how many kilometres an hour a horse is travelling at a certain part of a race, I’m dying to hear it, because it’s completely lost on me!

While I’m on a roll, another thing I would put in the category of useless marketing ploys, would be the coloured and/or patterned horse numbers which seem to be the in-thing up North. I normally go by colours so it doesn’t really affect my viewing, but surely anyone in their right mind can see that trying to pick up numbers against a striped background, or a blue number on a green background for instance, is almost impossible. I don’t take much notice of the greyhound code, but I know they have certain colours for certain numbers, and I presume this is some ill-conceived attempt to copy that. Trouble is that, for a start, much of the saddlecloth is covered by the sulky shaft, and even those who know the colour code used on the dogs might be able to identify one to eight, but what happens after that?

Has anyone seen a guide to what colours saddlecloths 9 – 15 or higher wear? It might be in the racebook, I don’t know, but that’s not much help for off-course viewers. What is wrong with dark coloured numbers on a white background or vice versa? They stand out like dog’s unmentionables – isn’t that the whole point?

Pete Cook








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