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National Council



Open Communications

Following on from last week’s article concerning the performance or otherwise of the NZ Racing Board, there is one aspect that cannot be the subject of any criticism, and that is the continual opportunities for Industry participants to either listen to, or speak to the guy in charge, John Allen.

On numerous occasions he has fronted up to meetings that anyone can go along to, the latest of which are being held this week. Actually there is still one to go, at Addington Raceway starting at 12 on Monday 11 December.

In addition there are a couple of phone conferences scheduled in the next week, Friday, 8 December, 12.30pm-1pm, and Wednesday, 13 December, 12.30pm-1pm. Due to limitation on numbers, you need to register by e-mailing nzrb.news@nzrb.co.nz by 9am on the 8th, and 5pm on the 12th respectively.

These unprecedented opportunities are a breath of fresh air from our governing body, and should not be missed if you want to have your say.

Pete Cook

Racing Board Realities

There is currently a deal of discussion on the merits or otherwise of the current Racing Board policies and personnel. Trainers & Drivers Chairman Rob Lawson recently put a few of the relevant issues into perspective, and I felt it was worthwhile to share them with our members.

Race Abandonments: While the immediate effects of these is on Thoroughbred racing, unfortunately it does effect the Harness code in that it makes the “pie” smaller from which we receive our share - so they do cost us money.

At the recent Racing Board AGM and Course Caretaker meetings, discussion has been around “why do we have so many abandonments now in comparison to years gone by”. I think the consensus is two things – the tracks are being more artificially groomed these days which is not making them as resilient as they used to be and secondly, the Pike River crisis has made a massive difference to everybody because of the Health & Safety Act – in other words nobody is prepared to risk anything for fear of a major court case that will financially ruin them. The Answer to this whole conundrum is that the Clubs should “self-Fund” the new facilities.

Currently a consortium based in the Waikato is working on the development of a facility that would cater for All codes, and would not require any funding from the Racing Board or the Government. Each club will sell assets to fund the new facility and still have millions left over in the bank. So between us we will have a state of the art modern mini village, with an All Weather Galloping Track , a Grass galloping Track – Training Ploughs and other training facilities – a Thoroughbred Training precinct that will house up to 500 horses and a Harness Race Track , a Harness Jog Track, a Greyhound Racing Track, and Harness Training Facilities for up to 300 Horses - this is along with the necessary race stables, and stand and function rooms to cater for all types of crowds. The Racing Board has been advised of these proposals.

Rob is of the opinion that this model would also “fit” other regions – being Canterbury, Otago ( Wingatui) , Invercargill, and Palmerston North. These may be at different levels of scale, but he believes it is possible, and can be self-funded by the industry itself. That is NOT to get rid of country type tracks either - they are still a must as we have to continue to produce the Community Based enthusiasm for our sport at a local level.

The reality is that the Racing Board does not have the funds to finance all weather tracks anyway. It is unlikely the Government will see the merit in it because it they could not push it out nationally, and committing that type of funding to the Racing Industry is not politically acceptable – so the only thing the Government can do is smooth the path for compliance on the projects.

The reality of the immediate future however, is that there will be more abandonments than in times gone by - The Health & Safety Act and “El Nino” weather patterns will ensure that .

Racing Board AGM: The Racing Board AGM was quite good and John Allen again impressed - the man has a real passion and is genuinely interested in our industry and our people- he is actually a pleasure to converse with.

Overall they are doing a good job and certainly better than some years ago. Graeme Cooney has a big influence on that Board as well and is ensuring Harness is being promoted.

What Harness has proved is that we are reasonable, conservative, and balanced in our dealings with the Board and its people, and that has gained us kudos with Glenda Hughes in particular, and John Allen, in that we have always been prepared to talk to these people and not blast off to the media at every move. The reality is that although we always want progress and more money for stakes etc., etc., we are not in bad shape at all, and if the plans laid out by the Racing Board do occur we will reap the rewards in seasons to come, and have more stakes to distribute and the opportunity to strengthen our industry.

Rob Lawson/Pete Cook

Cup Week Musings

As usual, Cup Week was a life changing experience for both many horses and many people. Dreams were realised, dreams were shattered, opinions were confirmed, and opinions were demolished.

There’s no point in me saying much about Lazarus, if Mark says he’s a champion and the best he’s trained, what’s the point. Win lose or draw around that silly bike track that is Gloucester Park, he is quite likely the best we have ever seen, but that’s probably a pointless discussion as well!

As has been well documented, the emergence of our young human talent during the carnival has been a very encouraging, particularly at a time there needs to be strong incentives for people to take up harness racing. Okay, some have family connections, but the likes of Sheree Tomlinson and Sam Ottley don’t come from the traditional ‘dynasties’, and have made their way to the top through bloody hard work and ability, with some assistance from some excellent mentors.

As far as the horses go, the All Stars production line produced a few more stars to add to their problem of, where the hell can we race them so they’re not racing each other. I’m honestly not being cynical when I say it must be a logistical nightmare, and one that must take its’ toll, mentally and physically, in the future. I know we think they are making shed loads of money and, relative to most horse trainers, they are, but when you consider the money that leaders in other sports make and compare the workloads, there aren’t any comparisons. Sure they have excellent staff, but they don’t have coaches or managers and, at the end of the race day, they are the one’s ultimately responsible for what happens.

So now the Australasian spotlight turns to Perth – lovely city, but as stated above, rubbish track. The good, in fact excellent news is that the Interdoms won’t be held there again in the foreseeable future, with the new format and venues being announced this week. Thankfully this Country will be once again involved, and some form of the old traditions will be resurrected where they should be.

Gee, I wonder if there’ll be horses in the Final that have snuck in through the back door with distant placings, that might cause the favourite to cop a bad draw?

‘Get rid of them.’

Pete Cook

'No update this week'








That Time Again

Cup week, and specifically the New Zealand Cup, always brings out a bit of controversy, and providing it’s not too negative, the publicity surrounding it, can only help to promote and create interest in the great race.

Apart from the usual setbacks and below par performances that some of the runners have suffered in the lead up, the biggest gripe this year seems to be that there is one horse in particular that shouldn’t be there, and due to circumstances, has resulted in one of the favourites being (apparently) drawn badly.

Personally I struggle with the idea that the draw can make any difference in a standing start 3200 metre event. Over the years, any draw can be lucky or unlucky, I recall Blossom Lady galloping away from what was supposed to be the ideal number one, and that’s just one instance of many.

One journalist has been particularly outspoken on this issue, and I’m not going to say he’s wrong, but to criticise the Club for putting the horse in just because it affects the barrier draw of another horse is a little hypocritical. Would he still be ranting if that horse that ‘shouldn’t be there’ had drawn one on the second row…I doubt it. Most owners have a dream that they will never realise, and that is to have a runner in the New Zealand Cup. I wonder if that same journalist will be making the same noise if a horse he owns reaches a similar status, and is then denied a start by the Club?

Anyway, let’s bring on the biggest day/week of the year, and let’s forget that there is a screaming hot favourite. Do the Australians get bored with Winx just because she is paying nothing on the tote….doesn’t look like it. He’s the best we’ve got, so let’s revel in the magic when/if he wins the big race. If he doesn’t, we’ll have another super horse in our midst.

It’s the fiftieth Cup Day I’ve attended in a row, which is great in some ways, but makes me feel a bit ancient! Good fortune to all involved and have a great week.

Pete Cook







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