Two or even three day circuit racing has been around for decades and is a traditional, and often integral, part of the season’s calendar. The Christmas West Coast meetings are wonderfully patronised, although in recent years the horse numbers have dropped, and Nelson/Marlborough in January is similarly well supported.
Running these meetings when the majority of people are on holiday makes perfect sense, but can the same be said of holding a similar circuit in March or June?
Let’s take a look at things from an Industry point of view. The recent Westport meeting had 113 horses accepted for the first day. Of those, a total of 6 are trained on the West Coast. That means the connections of 107 had to pay to transport their horses a sizeable distance, and cover the cost of accommodation for trainers for the two days (actually, in most cases 3 nights). An estimate of the total would be about $70 – 80,000, possibly more. That’s apart from any extra expenses and workload to have their horses they leave at home worked and fed.
Then there’s the Racing Board/TAB. From memory, (not infallible) the cost of getting their mobile Trackside unit and staff there and accommodating them runs to about $30,000 for the two days. Oh yes, and don’t forget the tote staff and RIU/JCA expenses.
Talking strictly from the head and not the heart, wouldn’t it be better for the Industry if these meetings were held at Addington with its’ permanent facilities, or if you wanted to retain a ‘country’ feel, Rangiora? A ‘guesstimate’ would be a reduction in costs of maybe two thirds.
I know there will be those screaming about the locals losing interest in harness racing if their meetings are taken away from the area, however there is absolutely no suggestion of moving the flagship events at Christmas, which is where they are apparently financially viable.
Here’s an idea. How about the Racing Board paying for as many buses as it takes to transport the local enthusiasts to the Canterbury venue, and even chip in for accommodation. Whatever it cost, it would be a fraction of the current situation, and everyone would be catered for.
The North Island Branch has appointed Scott Phelan as Youth Development Officer for the region. The role has been created to assist the youth of the industry with their development and knowledge and act as a support role for any young person who may require assistance or advice.
Todd Macfarlane of the Branch explained that Phelan will be available for all youth in the industry on an open door approach. “There is a lot of talent out there and we want to help nurture them and help them be the best they can be,” said Macfarlane. “Scott will be available in a support role at race meetings and trials and can be contacted at any time.”
“He can also assist in enquires and view race videos, and if a rule has been breached he can also help explain what could have been done to help drivers learn from mistakes. The stipendiary stewards are also very supportive of Scott and we feel that this is a positive support base for cadets and young drivers and trainers.”
“The Trainers and Drivers Association also would like to thank the North Island Amateur and North Island Owners Associations for their support financially in creating this role.”
Anyone wishing to seek advice or support from Phelan is encouraged to contact him directly on 022-329-9455.
The Northern Harness Racing Cadets in conjunction with the North Island Branch of NZ Trainers & Drivers Association will also hold an Industry Field Day at Franklin Park Training Centre. This will be on Monday 26 March starting with lunch at 12 noon and the activities beginning at 12.30pm.
Both groups are encouraging the North Island harness trainers to send along their stable hands, cadets and junior drivers so they have the opportunity to gain knowledge from our industry leaders.
Speakers on the day will be Graeme Henley on pedigrees, Tony Grayling on stud duties from getting mares in foal until they are ready for the next step which is Yearling preparation. This topic will be covered by Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson. Brent Mangos and Steven Reid will part with their knowledge and opinions for selecting Yearlings to purchase and then following on Derek Balle and Owen Gillies will demonstrate how the breaking and gaiting process works. Syndication with ATC Syndicate Manager Andrew Jamieson will be the last topic on the day.
The day will have its share of fun along the way with quizzes, prizes and giveaways for those in attendance. Scott Phelan in his role as the Youth Development Officer along with a delegation of the North Island Trainers & Drivers will be there to co-ordinate and over-see the afternoon.
The North Island Trainers & Drivers have organised for an MVP Award for the 2017/18 season with a trip to leading trainer Gary Hall in Perth. This will be points based with all cadets and junior drivers eligible.
For any further information on the day contact Sally Waters the North Island Education & Training Co-ordinator on 027 494 2850.
If there was ever an example of the uncertainty of horse training, it has to be the recent run of ill-fortune experienced by the All Stars team.
Undisputedly the leading training set up in Australasia, sorting out the plans for their many superstar horses is almost as difficult as getting them ready for the respective races. However, as any owner or trainer knows, making long (or even sometimes short) term plans for horses can be a task fraught with danger and disappointment.
At the end of last year, the big money races in Australia looked to be almost totally at the mercy of the All Stars horses, it was just a question of which one would be set for, and probably win, which event. Two months later, after a succession of injuries and a pesky and obviously virulent Aussie bug, those plans lay in tatters on the planning room floor, with hardly a single victory from the entire team.
With all the top grade knowledge, facilities and care involved in that stable, it brings home to us all that the creatures that we are all devoted to, and that make up the fabric of the sport/industry we love, are just that – creatures. Just like us mere mortal humans, they are susceptible to ills and setbacks, no matter how much effort is made to try and avoid them.
It’s always been said that luck is essential on the track, but lack of it can make a huge difference even before we get as far as the races. If one or more of the All Stars horses hadn’t caught the bug, you wouldn’t need to be brave to say there could easily have been some very different results in major races since January 1.
Representatives from the Greater Canterbury Branch of the Association, along with other industry participants, met recently with the new Addington CEO, Peter Jensen for an exchange of views and information gathering.
Peter emphasised that he was there to listen to opinions of those present and that, while he would take them all into account, he could understandably give no guarantee that he would share those opinions and act on them.
A wide range of topics was covered, including race starters, programming and involvement in such by horsemen, and stake levels. Those present agreed that the Addington facility was underused, and in particular, the ‘close down’ for a month over Christmas and January was considered ridiculous by all. The idea of racing on Thursday nights for lower stakes was supported. There was a call for programming to cater for every horse every two weeks similar to the Southland model, and there was mixed feelings around the pros and cons of racing over 1950m and 2600m on a regular basis. There was also a call for some races catering for one win horses only within the rating system, so that these were not forced to race against horses that had multiple wins during their career. Also suggested, was horses only dropping back to a certain rating, which was apparently being investigated, and the need to cater for mares to prevent them from going overseas.
Other matters covered included the dire need for a Racing Bureau in Canterbury, the lack of post-race coverage of harness racing by Trackside compared to the thoroughbred code, and whether the promised big stakes being offered in Auckland would be attractive to local trainers.
Regarding the Addington complex, there was praise for the track surface, but criticism of the current driver’s room, citing a lack of size and facilities.
Various aspects of the Met Multiplier were discussed, along with preferences for either a 1950m or 2000m start, the latter being preferred by most.
The forthright and frank meeting gave Peter a good indication of the feelings of local horsemen on various issues, some of which will be built into future decisions surrounding Addington raceway.
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