Reports I’ve received back from the various workshops around the Country to discuss the new points handicapping system have been pretty positive.
Expectations that, particularly in the deep South, there could be fireworks proved to be unfounded, according to Southern Harness General Manager Jason Broad.
“The Dunedin area where 20-25 were in attendance, were well receptive to the new system. Very minimal questions came out of it, but there were questions regarding the higher graded horses in the South Island of regular racing, which is an endeavour to have a programme set for these type of horses.
The Southland meeting had 41 people there if I counted right, and while some questions and answers were put out there, I think people could find an overall place for the system and see how it goes.
The hardest part I think for all from the meetings, is where the discussion around Ratings R52-R55 would not mean a lot at this early stage of things.”
While there were some serious discussions during the Christchurch meeting, a good attendance seemed to be generally supportive at this stage.
It’s only natural that, as with any major changes in an Industry, there will be concerns, however it seems that the majority of these are based around the horses that various trainers have, and how they are directly affected. While that’s understandable, the system has to be suitable for as many as possible, and if there are changes made in one direction, it’s a fair bet that someone else will start complaining about the detrimental effects on them and their charges.
I’d maybe liken it to a parent being upset about their child’s treatment at school, having to conform with everyone else, despite a certain policy not being considered acceptable. Not sure about my parents, but I’m certain I grizzled about it!
In any case, regardless of all that waffle, it is pleasing to hear that the workshops were reasonably well attended and hopefully informative. In twelve months’ time we’ll all be talking about something else but handicapping – perhaps the long overdue retraction from a certain section of the media, admitting that their ‘sources’ got it wrong. Was that a pig just flew by?
As most will be aware, I’ve been around for a wee while, and in that time I’ve seen a few Handicapping Systems come and go. When I first started following the game, a non-winner was a 2.20 class and, as far as I can remember, every win would see a horse come down one grade (or second) to 2.19, 2.18 and so on until I seem to recall Cup Class being 2.10. No penalty frees’ or concessions in those days. Don’t ask me what those numbers meant or referred to, the thought of any horse having a mile rate of 2.20 next to its’ name seems ludicrous, even in those distant days.
Since I’ve been doing this job, I’ve heard that many grizzles about the current handicapping regime, I am finding my eyes glazing over much earlier than they used to. Recently I’ve had correspondence from the North Island slating the new points system that seems to be attacking me on a personal basis, as if I’m the one bright enough to have come up with the damned thing!
Anyway the point is, that while the North seems to have embraced the new idea in general, the Southerners are waiting with breath well and truly baited for the nationwide introduction on 12 March. Andrew Morris and Kevin Smith are working feverishly to make the transition as smooth as possible, but the success of the change will be judged on how familiar trainers are with its’ workings. One of the early concerns I heard was, how much education will there be from HRNZ before we have to use the new system. Well the answer to that is, plenty. Not only will there be information sent out in various forms (and not just via computer), a series of Regional Consultation Meetings are being staged around the Country, at time of writing some Northern area ones have already happened. However the dates and venues are as follows:
The importance of everyone involved in the industry, be they trainers or owners, attending one of these get togethers’ cannot be stressed too highly. This is the time to find out the details of what you will have to do very soon, and ask any questions or voice concerns that you might have. Complaining after 12 March that you don’t understand how it works, or it hasn’t been advertised enough will be met with some derision, especially from me!
Next Tuesday night, HRNZ CEO Edward Rennell has kindly offered to attend our Branch meeting to discuss dates, plans re resourcing, handicapping, Race Fields, training facilities, and anything else he can help with.
Anyone who has a matter that they would like to be brought up, let me know by e-mail by Monday and I will make sure it is covered off with him.
Chairman Todd Macfarlane opened the meeting by nominating Peter Blanchard for a position on the Committee, which was accepted.
The current sponsorship of a Junior Drivers series and associated prizes for the current series were discussed, the series having been well received. The current competition would use vouchers for prizes, but the idea of a scholarship was put forward for future series as well.
Some Trackside commentators came under the spotlight, and the Secretary was asked to send a letter to Trackside regarding race and post-race comments being made that could influence enquiries.
Rob Lawson reported that there had been anomalies between North and South Islands as regards the application of the admission of guilt reduction in fines. He had sent a letter to the JCA on this asking for the status quo to be returned, which had since been enforced. On the proposal to set up a training centre in Canterbury, Rob advised that when tracks such as Ashburton were not at full capacity, and with Andrew Stuart moving from Rangiora, the idea had been shelved. If a new facility was to be built you would expect other venues to be full.
The Committee discussed the current handicapping points system and concerns from trainers on certain aspects of it. The main point was the perceived inconsistency of discretion, and uncertainty of what some horses would receive. The Committee decided on the following points to be taken to next Handicapping Sub-Committee meeting by R Lawson.
1 – Strict guidelines for points. No discretion for wins under 8K = 5 points. 9K & over =8 points. It was felt that there had to be set criteria for this to take away doubt with trainers as to what their horse would receive, and establish a level playing field. It was hoped that adhering to this the system would self-level most horses and alleviate some other concerns.
2 – No points for placings under 2K. 1 point minimum over 2K, otherwise they stay the same. There was the strong feeling of the meeting that any money earned in this area, especially if you have travelled, only covers costs. It was also felt that discretion in this area was not being applied evenly.
3 - BAND WIDTH – If this is more than 6 points for a race, a preferential draw should apply. The Committee felt that there should be less preferential draw racing in general, and that the system would eventually make for closer band racing.
4 – 3YO’s should receive ½ points for every second win. 2YO’s should receive 1/2 points for races under 15K.
5 – R Trotters should only go to 50 points regardless of rating. A Pacer should receive only 5 points or stay on the same rating.
6 - DISCRETION APPLICATION – Trainers can apply to HRNZ for a points drop. At present this should be sent to E. Rennell who will forward to Andrew Morris to present to the appropriate committee. It was hoped trainers would be pro-active in this area, if they feel their horse does not warrant staying in a rating band.
The meeting also discussed the framing of races as regards whether they should be on rating or sex i.e fillies & mares etc. It was hoped that in this area, individual clubs will do a capable job of utilising horse numbers on what suits best.
The Secretary was asked to contact the Auckland Trotting Club regards swab & urinal boxes, where horses were still slipping on wet or sub-standard material.
Peter Blanchard suggested it was time an increase was made in this area in general, and that a minimum amount should be set. Costs were becoming prohibitive and fees had remained well behind these for many years. Concern at lack of younger people training and coming into the industry, and costs were the main factors for such a move. The Committee discussed this matter, and a minimum fee of $50 per day was proposed. The Secretary and Rob Lawson agreed to follow up on this idea.
Dave Neal/Pete Cook
Terms & Conditions of Training
Trainer - Owner Agreement