As previously reported, the Northern Branch of the Trainers & Drivers Association has recently appointed a Youth Development Officer, Scott Phelan. Reports and feedback have so far been very positive, with Scott providing assistance to Junior Drivers on and off the track, to enhance their skill levels and demeanour.
A number of race situations that had the potential to attract fines or suspensions have been, thanks to experienced representation and assistance, resulted in only recommendations or warnings. At the same time, valuable lessons have been learnt, along with guidelines on how to handle the stress of being involved in a judicial hearing.
Apart from carrying out duties on race and trial days, Scott has attended and helped in running Cadet and Junior Field Days, reviewed the drives of Juniors on a weekly basis and passed on advice, assisted with workshops on various aspects of the Industry, and is in the process of engaging with all Juniors to discuss their goals on a one to one basis.
The establishment of the role would not have been possible without the financial support and sponsorship of the NI Owners Association, the NI Amateur Drivers Association, and HRNZ. It is the intention of the Branch to grow and evolve this position.
Other recent moves by the Branch include Chair Todd Macfarlane and Committee member Derek Balle being recruited onto the Auckland Trotting Club Racing Committee, and the staging of a Junior Drivers series at the Waikato – Bay of Plenty meetings over the Christmas period. These consisted of 6 races on grass and all – weather tracks, at a cost of $2300. The Branch provided $550 worth of Rebel Sports vouchers for the overall winner and place-getters in the Series.
Chairman Rob Lawson presided over the recent meeting of the National Council, and began by reporting on recent happenings from the HRNZ Board point of view. These included various political issues, matters of governance, and consideration being given to the size of the Board. A good deal had been reached surrounding the new HRNZ building in Birmingham Drive (we won’t be able to refer to happenings in Lincoln Road anymore), involving a competitive rental agreement, and an option to buy the building currently occupied by a long term tenant.
There was concern that despite claims to the contrary by the RIU, trainers with Cobalt levels that were unusually high but under the threshold, were not being advised of their situation, as was the case with the recent Dalgety and Brosnan cases. The meeting agreed that this was bordering on entrapment, as trainers had no way of being aware of high levels and taking remedial action. Other matters touched on included the Harness Jewels, and the far too long awaited establishment of a Canterbury Racing Bureau.
Employment issues surrounding Clerks of the Course were still on-going, along with a revision of the structure of sulky insurance.
On the subject of venue rationalisation, Rob Lawson outlined a joint venture proposal currently being investigated, which would see a purpose built harness track established between Auckland and Hamilton, with a race track and training facilities. This would be financed by the sale of the Cambridge and Pukekohe complexes, and had the approval of the Racing Board.
Ken Barron was supported when he questioned the wisdom of racing in the Autumn and Winter on the West Coast, Nelson and Blenheim, when the holiday crods that these Clubs enjoyed during December and January were absent. A promised substantial rise in TAB and Trackside costs may well result in the viability of those meetings coming under scrutiny.
Other matters discussed following on from the last meeting, included agreement that the new Whip Use Rules were working well, confirmation that driving standards of Juniors in the North had improved recently (see the appointment of a Youth Development Officer detailed in next weeks’ update), and the difficulty of selling a horse to Australia that had won a race carrying a stake of $15k or more, making it an M1 there.
Following discussion on various fees for drivers, the meeting decided that an application for an increase in the race driving fee of $5 would be submitted to HRNZ, the first increase for two years.
Various issues surrounding the Sires Stakes series were discussed, and a number of possible changes to the Handicapping system were aired. The latter would be considered at an upcoming meeting of the HRNZ handicapping Sub-Committee.
Reports were tabled from the three Branches, with Gordon Lee confirming that racing in the Otago/Southland region was progressing well, although he had received some negative reaction to the dropping of handicapping points for second and third place-getters. The meeting agreed that, as shown on the recent Box Seat question time programme, there would always be varying opinions on any handicapping system.
Ken Barron reported on good liaison with the new Addington CEO Peter Jensen, and again stressed the urgent need for the establishment of a Canterbury Racing Bureau, failing to understand why this had been delayed for so long.
Todd MacFarlane described a number of initiatives being undertaken by the Northern Branch and these will be covered in detail in next week’s update. He wished to acknowledge the contribution made to the industry by the soon to be departing Richard Brosnan, both on and off the track.
Rob Lawson was unanimously re-appointed to the position of the Association’s representative on the HRNZ Board.
During the recent meeting of the Trainers & Drivers Assn. National Council, there were two ‘guest appearances’.
The first was HRNZ Veterinary Advisor Andrew Grierson who discussed various matters involving drug use and withholding times. He advised that most of our Rules are based on those used in most other Countries, including the One Clear day Rule, the introduction of which he supported, and felt was important for the credibility of our Industry. This involves the prohibition of any substance being administered more than one day prior to racing, eg. nothing after midnight on Wednesday, if racing on Friday night. Various cases and conditions were discussed including two day meetings, where permission could be sought from the RIU to administer the day between races if deemed necessary. While the meeting had reservations, it was acknowledged that at least there was consultation prior to such rules being introduced, unlike Australia. Other issues covered included Cobalt, Kava (a sedative for highly strung horses), the electronic recording of medication, and Lasix, the introduction of which Andrew did not support, and advised there was increasing pressure for its’ ban for racing on in the US and Canada. The control of supplements and vitamins being sold by any other than vets was governed by the MPI, the publication of withholding times was refused by the Veterinary Assn. despite requests from Andrew, however he suggested that when using substances on the list it would be wise to add another 24 hours on the recommended time on the label.
The second of the guests was the Chief Harness Racing Steward, Nick Ydgren who joined the meeting for a general discussion. On the subject of whip use, he advised that the use of the word excessive should cease to be included in reports, and gave an assurance that would happen. He advised of a proposal by NZTR and the RIU that the JCA panel members not be required to be present on race-day, as a cost saving measure for the Industry. This idea was not supported by those present, who felt that the current system was working well, and doing away with the JCA would revert to the old (and Australian) system, which created numerous credibility and perception issues. Other discussion on this topic included the use of witnesses, and the pressure this put on individuals, the large number of appeals in Australia, and the difficulty of explaining to owners who have become accustomed to the two tier judicial hearing structure. It was planned to introduce a remit to the Annual Conference clarifying the difference between easing down and shifting ground (pushing out). This was questioned by Gordon Lee, given the character of our ‘contact racing’, and he suggested that it was time for a complete overhaul of the current driving rules. In answer to a question regarding the need for the ‘driving in a manner likely to cause interference’ rule, Nick maintained that it was rarely used, but provided a tool to cover unusual incidents not covered by the current rules. He asked whether unruly horses should be allowed to go up to the gate when it was possible, but this was not supported, the feeling being that they were put on the unruly to stay out of everyone else’s way, and the onus was on the drivers of these horses to position them correctly. On the matter of Starters, all present called for a consistent method of starting across the Country, suggesting that there were faults with drivers and starters. The practice of one of the starters ‘mixing it up’ was heavily criticised, along with special treatment being afforded to unruly horses. There was also a call for more communication from some starters to drivers. Nick agreed to arrange a meeting of all starters, and horsemen would be invited to attend. Other issues discussed included scratching penalties, some driver’s disrespectful conduct in hearings, which was denounced by all present, and the ten year age limit on helmets, the validity of which was questioned by Gordon. A system of recording the time of when helmets were purchased was to be investigated by the RIU.
Part two next week.
With the National Council meeting on this week, there isn’t much to write about yet, (report next week), however I thought it was appropriate to acknowledge one of the true legends and gentlemen of harness racing in this Country as he announces his ‘semi-retirement’ and move across the ditch.
For many decades Richard Brosnan has been part of the fabric of the game, from the time of his hey-day when his Kerrytown stable was capturing many of our major races, and his name was synonymous with some horse flesh that were, and still are, household names. Who can forget Bonnies Chance and No Response, and they were just the top of a large heap. Always a gentleman, and never scared to voice an opinion on Industry issues, Richard has given countless hours in administration, in an effort to better the lot of his fellow trainers and owners.
The Trainers & Drivers Assn. wishes to thank him and his family for all their efforts and thrills they have given us over the decades, and all the best for the future.
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