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National Council



Handicapping Changes

As a result of a submission from the Association’s National Council, HRNZ have recently announced changes to the current Points Handicapping system to come into force on 1 August. They are as follows:

-8 points for wins up to and including $10,000 (was $9,000)

- 10 points for wins over $10,000 (was $9,000)

- Trotters awarded same points as pacers

- Horses placing second and third will increase one point but can’t go past last winning or revised rating

- Non-win horses brought in line with winners – points for placings second and third only

- Reduced Age Group Caps: 2YO Trotters – R65, 3YO Trotters R85, 2YO Pacers R75, 3YO pacers R95

- Non-tote races up to $5,000 will be penalty free for non-win horses (applied retrospectively also)

- Unplaced horses in claiming races will drop points for placing fifth to last

- Horses above the age group caps and horses close to the caps will be re-rated at season’s end

While the above do not go as far as introducing all of the changes that were requested, they are definitely a step in the right direction and, bearing in mind that any Handicapping system is an evolving beast, there are still opportunities for further changes, depending on how the above pans out.

There will no doubt be those who will complain that HRNZ have not gone far enough, however these decisions are made by a panel of experts, including trainers, and I am told that factual statistics were introduced to illustrate the negative effects of some of the recommendations, it was difficult to argue.

As with any similar system, changes can benefit one party, but can also be detrimental to others. Perhaps we should look at it in a similar way to training a horse. Add or change one piece of gear and it can fix the current problem, only to introduce a new one. Add more than one piece of gear at once, and it can be impossible to know which one has worked.

Pete Cook

Support For Industry Personnel

Let’s face it, when most people think of the Racing Integrity unit, they think of that outfit that ‘polices’ racing, ensures that the Rules are complied with, and dishes out fines and/or suspensions. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to receive a communication from the head of that body, Mike Godber, describing some behind the scenes work being done to help look after the welfare of people involved in the Industry, something that is probably overdue. This is a copy of that communication:

“The RIU and the Salvation Army have entered into an agreement to run a twelve month trial providing programmes to support industry people who are having drug, alcohol, and gambling problems.

The trial will be centred on the Waikato/Auckland region but will be able to address issues in other parts of the country if necessary. The trial will encompass all three racing codes. It will involve a case worker that the Salvation Army will appoint to work with the industry. The industry will be involved in the selection process for the appointment to ensure that there will be buy in and support from industry participants for the person appointed to the role.

In addition to the drug, alcohol and gambling services the Salvation Army can also provide a full wraparound of social services be it, budgeting advice, and pastoral services.

Background to the Trial

The Salvation Army have been involved in providing services to New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) for a number of years. This commenced with the appointment of Andrew McKerrow as the Racing Chaplin and was primarily driven by Simon Cooper of NZTR. The relationship was passed on to the RIU when Simon Cooper left NZTR in 2016.

Andrew McKerrow’s work is funded by the Salvation Army and will continue to do so in the future. He has recently been provided with funding to allow him to work fulltime in Racing. His has primarily been involved in thoroughbred racing, examples of his work include support provided around the time of the Ross Doherty and Rebecca Black’s deaths. Andrew McKerrow grief counselled a number of riders following Ross Doherty’s suicide and took the service for Rebecca Black which was held at the Gore Race course. He also played a crucial role with Chris Johnson working on a rehabilitation programme after his drug positive in June 2016. In determining the penalty in that case the Judicial Control Authority discounted the penalty by one month (from three to two months) due to the rehabilitation programme being undertaken under Andrew McKerrow’s guidance.

It is important to acknowledge that the industry does not provide any funding for these services. In addition the industry does not pay for any of the programmes for drug or alcohol rehabilitation that licence holders may undertake. The cost of the programmes is met from the regional DHB budgets.

The Salvation Army is not in a position to expand its support to the industry throughout the country so the RIU and Salvation Army have been involved in discussions on how to replicate the success in Canterbury throughout the rest of New Zealand. Attached to this letter is a brief background paper setting out the need for the industry to have a strategy addressing drugs and alcohol dependency and problem gambling.

As a result of the discussions with the Salvation Army a twelve month trial has been devised which, while it will be primarily based in the Waikato/Auckland region will be able to address issues in other parts of the country during its operation. The trial will be funded by the NZRB.

The Details of the Trial

The trial requires the appointment of a full time case worker to provide the following services

• Education for employers, employees, Stable Hands, Dog Handlers, Junior Drivers and Apprentices.

• Advice and Education for Trainers, Club and RIU staff.

• One on one support and advice for participants with Drug, Alcohol and Gambling dependency issues.

• Alcohol and Drug dependency assessment for those returning positive tests.

• Referral to an appropriate level of treatment that meets the individuals need. Taking the person through the agreed treatment programme.

• Aftercare and follow up after the treatment has been concluded.

• Referral to Chaplaincy support if required.

• Assessment and advice where people with a history of Alcohol and Drug dependency wish to re-enter the industry.

The Next Steps

The Salvation Army is seeking a person to carry out the role of Case Worker based in the Waikato. The specific qualifications are that the person needs to be DAPAANZ registered or a registered health professional.

The RIU is providing support in the appointment and will be involved along with key experienced industry people in the selection process.

The RIU and Salvation Army wish to employ someone with a knowledge of the industry. They would therefore ask you to help attract a suitably qualified person with an interest in racing by advertising the position through the members of your organisation.”

A summary of the position can be obtained from Mike Godber of the RIU.

On a totally different note, it would be remiss of the Association not to acknowledge the recent astounding achievements of a guy by the name of Dexter Dunn. If anyone had predicted say, ten years ago, that a 27 year-old would reach 2000 winners in this Country, they would have been ridiculed. Yet this young man has achieved the milestone with what can only be described as his freakish ability, and done it with aplomb. Congratulations Dex, may you long continue to be our champion.

Pete Cook

Northern Branch Meeting June 2017

The recent Northern Branch meeting, chaired by Todd Macfarlane, dealt with the usual varied bunch of issues.

Secretary Dave Neal advised that he had discussed driving fees for the Pukekohe workouts with Karen Blanchard and they were working through what was involved to process the fee as per official trials. Dave undertook to update the Committee once the ATC had looked into it.

Rob Lawson advised that the recent Handicapping Committee meeting had discussed discretion, and maximum points levels. No points for placings had been proposed, however as of 1 August it had been decided that there would be no points for fourth placings. Maximum levels set were 2yo trotters - 65, 3yo trotters 75, 2yo pacers75, and 3yo pacers 95.


The Committee finalised nominations for trainer, driver, junior driver, licence to train, and groom, for the upcoming Northern Awards Night. Suggestions were also discussed for Outstanding Achievement and achievement awards. These were to be forwarded to the dinner Committee.

Consideration was given to the HRNZ Conference Remits, and the Committee only objected to one Remit that being the first one - rule 403(2) & 100(1) The Committee unanimous in considering that in its current form it was too vague, and needed more work before being introduced. The Committee also felt that this remit should have been discussed in consultation with Association and vets, and finalised before it was put up.

Rob Lawson outlined stake improvements for the Cambridge Raceway. The Club will now pay to 5th. Minimum stakes with ratings as follows - 60 6k up to 8k, 70 up to 8.5k, 70+ up to 9k. Maidens would also enjoy an increase up to $7655. The Committee welcomed this incentive and all agreed it was very positive news.

The committee was advised that Kevin Smith was now doing fields for the Auckland TC now as handicapper, and this will also soon include Cambridge. This was seen as the start of the racing bureau that had been proposed. Rob Lawson advised that proposal for the new Waikato Racing complex was ongoing, with it hinging on decision from Te Rapa. Land and building plans had been outlined, but things such as agreements for selling of current venues etc. would have to be finalised.

The Committee discussed recent meetings arranged by licence-holders objecting to the scrubbing of the Auckland TC $150 payment at end of the season. There was disappointment that the Branch was not approached to discuss this and asked for their viewpoint. However the Committee agreed that as long as money was put back into stakes, there was no problem with ending the payment. Recent announcements of stake increases at Alexandra Park, and the proposal of further incentives ultimately leading to $30k minimum races in the future, have supported this decision. The Committee was unanimous that matters such as this must go through the Association, as the Branch has always enforced this with its members. Dave Neal was to contact Dominique Dowding and advise that the Branch supported her referral of anything of this nature back to the Branch for discussion and a decision, and also to commend the club on recent stake announcements. The Committee noted that those who were unhappy with the ending of the bonus payment had been invited to the Committee meeting, but did not attend.

Peter Ferguson advised that Northern cadets were still not using a stopwatch when doing time trials, which was ludicrous. Most trainers were now very reluctant to offer horses for this purpose for this reason. It was also considered that the standard of dress code was not good enough for these tests. Dave Neal was asked to contact cadet branch and voice these concerns. Logan Hollis advised that the Auckland TC had put on several very worthwhile seminars on matters that a trainer would need to know or improve on. Topics included budgets, legal matters, stipes and judicial, and basically anything related to industry. More were planned for near future and the Branch was appreciative of the clubs work in this area.

Dave Neal/Pete Cook

Conference Remits

As has been the case in recent years, the remits for this years’ HRNZ Annual Conference at the end of July fall pretty much into the ‘housekeeping’ category, all the controversial issues being dealt with in workshops and informal discussions.

One that might create some discussion is the one put up by the Trainers & Drivers Assn. requesting that entrance and acceptance fees be abolished on all races except some Group One events. In 2006, the Rules were changed so that acceptance fees could only be charged on Group and Listed races. Since then, many thousands have been paid in acceptance and/or sustaining payments to compete in some Group races, which have artificially bolstered the stake levels for no other reason than to make them look more impressive. Very often that money is paid back to owners in ‘appearance’ money following the race. That might be good for the Clubs concerned, but is an unnecessary impost on owners and, most importantly, an unwanted donation to the Government coffers in the form of the GST that such payments attract, for non-registered owners.

Hopefully, for the sake of the Industry overall, delegates will see the futility of these payments, and vote to scrap them from the start of the 2018/19 season.

Pete Cook








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