News Archives - 2014

 

National Council

 

 

Kiwis Rule

 

Congratulations to the Christen Me team for their superb victory at Menangle the other night. The win suggested two things to me personally.

 

First of all, it confirmed what I have been thinking and saying for some time now, that Christen Me is currently the best pacer in Australasia.

 

Secondly, and slightly more controversial, it makes some Australian trainers and drivers look a little dumb. For years now, one local commentator in particular has been saying that most of our top horses won’t be competitive in Australia because they lack gate speed. While that could be true to a certain extent, you would have to question how some drivers across the ‘deetch’ (often acting under instructions) judge the use of their horses’ gate speed.

 

Take the first 200 metres of the recent Miracle Mile. On paper it appeared that there were three likely early pace-makers so you would think that common sense might prevail and an attempt might be made to avoid suicidal cut-throat tactics. But no, the trainer of two of those horses proudly boasted pre-race that his two charges would be going for it. And they did, along with the other predicted front runner. Very flashy stuff, gate speed, trouble is the stake money isn’t paid out after 200 metres, and, not surprisingly, the three horses involved in the early burn were nowhere to be seen when it was!

 

I can only presume that, if one of those horses had been sensibly restrained, the connections would have been hung drawn and quartered for a change of tactics by the Stewards, particularly following the television interview. Perish the thought that there might be some form of surprise initiative shown!

 

Just another example of how ludicrous the Australian policy of declaring tactics (or change of same) before the race is, and how lucky we are that local Stewards are apparently not interested in it.

 

Still, Dexter isn’t complaining!

 

Peter Cook

 

Back To The Future

 

Being one of those crusty old buggers usually categorized as traditionalists, the recent announcement that the Auckland Trotting Cup is to revert to a standing start over 3200m is music to my ‘shell likes’.

 

I must admit, however, that I am surprised by the move, given the general scorn with which standing starts are viewed in the North. Perhaps the Club heard one of our leading drivers speaking of the glorious uncertainty of the standing start aspect of the New Zealand Cup. As the connections of Christen Me know only too well, many pre-race plans can come unstuck pretty fast if one horse is slow away, as opposed to the more predictable mobiles.

 

Having said that, is anyone else bored to tears with the media bleating on ad infinitum about the importance of the barrier draws in feature races like the Sires Stakes Final? Time after time the result suggests that often the so-called ‘worst’ draws can often be the ‘best’.

 

But back to the Auckland Cup. It just shows that sometimes the traditional way of doing things isn’t bad, and doesn’t need changing. Frankly the only thing that needs changing with regards to the NZ and Auckland Cups, is for someone to programme some races of similar distance and conditions, so that our top horses can find out what it feels like to run over that distance before the really big money is up. Surely it is ludicrous that, other than those two events, 3200m races for pacers are virtually non-existent.

 

Of course the other interesting news release from the Auckland Trotting Club was the decision to resort to staging their Cup over the holiday period, instead of blindly following the thoroughbreds into trying to contrive some sort of Carnival in the middle of March! At the risk of sounding a little parochial, there was always zero chance of replicating Canterbury’s Cup Week in Auckland. It’s a unique one-off occasion in the region, always has been, and always will be. Copies won’t work.

 

Anyhow, from a personal point of view, full credit to the Club in acknowledging that the decisions made a few years ago were the wrong ones, and returning to traditions.

 

Just one more thing – please no handicaps for the race – it was farcical for the New Zealand Cup, and would be the same for the Auckland equivalent.

 

Peter Cook

 

National Council Meeting Report

 

The Associations’ National Council met last Tuesday in Christchurch under the Chairmanship of Rob Lawson and, as usual, a large range of topics was discussed.

 

One of the main considerations was formulating a response to draft reports on a revised Penalty Guide from both the Judicial Control Authority and the Racing Integrity Unit. Obviously, as these reports are still in a draft stage, we are unable to detail our responses at this point, however when the final Guide is published we will comment further.

 

The current Scratching Penalty regime was reviewed and it was felt that the current situation which requires a veterinary certificate to permit a shorter stand down time had become somewhat irrelevant, an extra expense for owners, and nuisance value for the RIU. The Council will be recommending that there be a standard stand down of 5 days for all scratchings, increasing to 10 days for second and third occurrences within a three month period. After three months the penalty period would be reset to the minimum penalty.

 

Small field sizes are becoming a major concern in most if not all regions and everyone is looking for solutions. The meeting discussed many aspects of the problem including three year old concessions, field selection and programming. Agreement was reached that a recommendation be sent to the Handicapping Committee suggesting that, instead of nominations being published and trainers withdrawing en masse if a good horse is there, as is currently happening regularly, indicative fields be published on the internet showing a more accurate idea of the actual opposition.

 

There was concern at the aspects of testing regime for TC02, particularly following recent cases, which showed up perceived flaws in the current systems. Also, the meeting found that the information supplied to HRNZ concerning TC02 levels and statistics based on an Australian study, contradicted findings of other overseas studies of similar standing. In addition, the current requirement for horses to be at the track ninety minutes prior to their race was considered unnecessary, and a change to a standard sixty minutes was to be requested.

 

Other matters which were discussed during the meeting included light pole shadows, Starter Peter Lamb being appointed as an RIU Investigator, the standard of standing and mobile starting in Canterbury, in particular the slow speed of the mobile, and a suggestion that HRNZ staff take photos of license-holders at races and trials to expedite the introduction of photo ID licenses.

 

A request was to be forwarded that horses scratched from a Claiming race that start within 28 days of that race, should be entered at the same claiming price to ensure the integrity of these races was preserved.

 

A number of other matters were discussed at the meeting, however at this point, for various reasons they cannot be publicised, however rest assured you will hear about them in due course.

 

Peter Cook

 

 

Definition of a Horse Trainer

 

There can be very few occupations where the duties and responsibilities are as diverse as that of a horse trainer.

 

For the benefit of those who regularly pay monthly training bills and are unsure of whether they are getting value for money, I thought it might be interesting to give a rough outline of what they are paying for.

 

Let’s face it, your average punter doesn’t understand (and probably doesn’t really care) what goes on behind the scenes before a horse gets to the races. They sit in the stands, or more commonly these days in their lounge, look at the elegant horses, the well-presented and skillful men and women sitting behind them, and the well-known trainer who is sometimes interviewed before and after the race. You may have noticed the contrast in the different horse codes, with the majority of galloping trainers interviewed wearing a suit and tie – does that say anything about who is doing more hands on work?

 

To get that horse that those punters (and owners) are betting on to the races involves months of slow, laborious building up of fitness levels, consisting of jogging around (and around, and around) a track or these days maybe a beach, in all weathers. When a certain point is reached (a judgment call by the trainer) faster work is begun, which means gearing a horse up every time it works, including all manner of paraphernalia like saddles, boots, hopples and sulkies, all of which have to be purchased and maintained. After the work (regardless of conditions), the gear comes off, the horse is hosed down, rugged, and returned to a paddock or stall, and the gear used for another horse or put away for next time. This process alone can easily take up to half an hour for each horse, depending on the type of work.

 

When the trainer thinks the required fitness level has been reached (another judgment call), chances are it’s off to the workouts or trials. Racing gear (the correct stuff, otherwise a fine will be forthcoming), usually different from the work set, has to be washed and polished so that the owner, aforementioned punter, and the Stewards see a well turned out product stride out of the stables and onto the track. Oh, did I mention each horse should be shampooed, brushed, the mane and tail groomed and hooves oiled before it leaves the property?

 

So then it’s onto the float (not always the easiest task with some horses), a drive to wherever necessary taking sometimes an hour or so, waiting around, gearing up, racing, ungearing, and then a reverse of the above trip. Depending on various factors, such an outing can easily take more than three hours, sometimes twice that, out of a day. And that’s after working the rest of the team before you even start!

 

Providing things go to plan – and as we all know, where horses are concerned, they often don’t, this process may need to be repeated half a dozen times before the horse is ready to go to the real races themselves. Guess what, all the above preparations have to be completed even more thoroughly for a race start, and often the travelling time is considerably longer.

 

Try working out the hourly rate for all this time for maybe just one or two horses, and probably a stable-hand as well.

 

So there we are, the ‘glamorous’ side of being a horse trainer. What else do they have to do on a daily basis?

 

Horses, like any living thing, need to eat, and part of the skill of training is what feed, supplements, vitamins etc, etc., are required to be part of a diet. Each horse is different, and horses in different stages of work have special requirements. The trainer has to decide which feeds to use, how much of it, and whether those requirements are working – a lot of experiment there and, dare I say it, judgment calls.

 

Then there is the shoeing. Generally a specialist blacksmith is used, however many trainers have basic skills so they can quickly replace the odd shoe that might come off in a paddock, or when working at home.

 

The health and well-being of the animals in their care is another issue. That’s a 24 hour, seven day a week job, making sure they are healthy and happy, sensing signs of lameness or illness, and knowing whether to go to the expense of calling a vet (not a cheap option) or letting nature take its’ course with a few days off. (yet more judgement)

 

But wait, as someone famously once said, there’s more.

 

When the weary trainer comes in at night after a day at the trials or races, (unless it’s a night meeting when that time can be early the next morning when most of the owners and punters are tucked up in bed), and having fed his charges, he or she can sit down and relax by contacting (or being contacted by) owners eagerly awaiting news of their valuable steeds, speaking to agents about a possible sale or purchase of a horse, writing up accounts so they can feed the family, paying bills to keep suppliers happy, sorting out exciting things like ACC and GST, arranging work schedules for early the next morning, and sorting out nominations and race programmes for each horse for upcoming trials and races.

 

Oh yes, I nearly forgot, what about looking after staff and engaging drivers?

 

Anyone out there still think they’re not getting value for money from their trainer?

 

Peter Cook

 

Greater Canterbury October Meeting

 

Chairman Ken Barron presided over the recent meeting of the Greater Canterbury Branch.

 

The recent changes to the schedule of workouts and trials in the region appeared to be working well, and it seemed only a matter of time before there would be only qualifying heats followed by workouts in Canterbury. The Addington 2600 metre starting point came under scrutiny once again, with concern that it was too narrow for the new styles of sulkies, despite claims that it was actually wider than the 2000 metre start. Investigations are to be made to see if the drop away on the outside of the track at 2600m can be levelled to make more room.

 

Aspects of Starter Peter Lamb’s recent move to being employed by the RIU as a starter and investigator were discussed, and Mark Jones outlined the current situation concerning his case of a high TC02 level. It was obvious that there were a number of unsatisfactory elements surrounding both his, and other cases involving TC02, which needed to be resolved to prevent innocent trainers being caught.

 

The issue of shadows being cast by light poles at Addington was raised once again, and this was followed by long and detailed discussion on the on-going problem of field sizes in Canterbury. There were numerous examples of good nomination numbers being decimated when one or two very good horses are found to be entered. Suggestions included allocating three year-old concessions at the end of the season, limiting two year-old concessions, introducing conditioned racing to replace the class system, programming three year-old races and programming the top three year-olds out of C1 & 2 events, and introducing two or three classes of maiden races to cater for horses that were currently being sacked after qualifying.

 

The latter issue, along with the shadows and TC02 were among matters to be discussed at the upcoming National Council meeting scheduled for 18 November. Anyone who has any other matters they would like considered at that meeting should contact the undersigned and it will be placed on the agenda.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Important Licence Holders Information for Cup Week 2014

 

ENTRY TO THE COURSE - Any HRNZ Licenceholder that presents their Licence at the entrance gates on NZ Trotting Cup Day and Show Day will be admitted to the Racecourse free of charge. If you are a Licenceholder at the races in a non-working capacity and wish to purchase alcohol from one of the bars in a general public area, you will need to obtain a wristband. You will be able to obtain a wristband at the marquee near the entrance gates. Licenceholders are reminded of their obligations under the rules of harness racing relating to consumption of alcohol. Please advise your owners that Cup and Show Day tickets will not be mailed out and are to be collected from the Owners Ticket Office at the Horncastle Arena prior to entering the course at the following times:

 

Cup Day - Monday 10 November from 1.00pm to 5.00pm and Tuesday 11 November from 9.00am to 4.30pm

Show Day - Friday 14 November from 10.00am to 4.00pm...............read full details (click here)

 

2014 Ticket Office Cup & Show Day Owners Info & Map

 

We thank you for choosing to race your horse on 2014 Christchurch Casino New Zealand Trotting Cup Day and Show Day being held on Tuesday 11 November and Friday 14 November respectively.

 

The New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club (NZMTC) would very much like to take this opportunity to wish you the best of luck with your horse at this year’s Cup Carnival.

 

For Cup Day please collect your owner’s lanyards from the Owners Ticket Office at Horncastle Arena prior to entering the race course. These can be picked up at the following times:

 

Monday 10 November from 1.00pm to 5.00pm

Tuesday 11 November from 9.00am to 4.30pm

 

and will give you access to the following:...................read full details (click here)

 

Rubbish and S**t

 

In all the training establishments I’ve ever visited, it has always been the accepted protocol to pick up what horses and, indeed humans, drop on the ground in the stabling area and dispose of it in an appropriate place.

 

Therefore it is disappointing to hear from a couple of members that some trainers and their staff are leaving the Addington stable area littered with waste, both horse and man-made, when they leave. I haven't been given, or asked for any specific names, and hopefully it is a small minority spoiling it for the rest, so this is a general message to all - if you are one of the offenders, you will know who you are.

 

Apparently, late in the evening at some recent meetings, the stalls and floor of the stables have been littered with drink bottles and used takeaway containers, not to mention horse poo that hasn't been picked up. If you don’t pick it up, someone else has to!

 

While the Addington stables are not perfect, they are a huge improvement on what we had before, so surely they are worth looking after. The image that is apparently being given to owners going to see their horses is of a slovenly bunch of people, too lazy to dispose of both their rubbish and the unavoidable droppings. I would seriously doubt if any trainer would tolerate such behaviour in their own stable area, so is it too much to ask to treat the Addington area with the same respect?

 

I have checked with officials who confirm that they are happy for ANYTHING to be deposited in the numerous bins provided, so let’s use them. If you see a fellow trainer not complying with basic tidiness, perhaps a quiet word would be helpful for the sake of the Industry.

 

While the reports I have received concern the Addington barn, the same thing may be happening around other tracks.

 

Please, for the sake of the Industry image use the bins provided and in the unlikely scenario there aren’t any, either ask for them, or at least take you rubbish home.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 Thank Goodness For Grass

 

That could be the catch cry of the Horses Union – come to think of it, it might be, if anyone could translate various neighs and snorts – but it is certainly a sentiment pervading through harness racing’s powers that be.

 

After what might be described as a scratchy start to the season as far as tote turnovers go, the two recent grass track meetings at Methven and Motukarara have seen spectacular increases, particularly off-course, on last season’s equivalent meetings. And that can be added to comparable spends on-course which, given the weather conditions at Motukarara, is pretty surprising.

 

No-one is sure why the dip occurred in August – was it the lack of public understanding of the new two-tiered television coverage? Surely not, given the blanket advertising campaign on how it would work, but then some people can watch something repeatedly and not take it in until it directly affects them!

 

Anyway, whatever the reason, it appears for now, anyway, that the trend has thankfully been reversed, partly thanks to the grass track meetings. Do I recall some person of questionable intelligence, not so long ago publicly suggesting that grass track racing should be abolished?!! Obviously (and thankfully) that opinion is not universally shared.

 

While on the subject of predictions, it appeared that at one stage the Addington Super Series races were going out of fashion, due apparently to the connections of horses being unwilling to line up against obvious stand outs. If the fields for the latest of the Series, being staged on Friday night are anything to go by, it appears that owners and trainers have realised that, even if their horses might be up against it for the winning stake, place money in $23,500 races is not too bad! And as far as the saleable value of a horse is concerned, surely astute Australians (not sure if that might be a contradiction in terms) can realize that just because a horse runs second to a budding superstar, that doesn’t suddenly make them a bad horse.

 

Oh, and while praising Addington for initiating and continuing with the Super Series, it would be remiss not to also give those involved in that venue credit for bowing to majority opinion, and diverting the NZ Free-for-All away from that horrible mile start. I get the impression they had mixed feelings on that one, but from the Association’s point of view, common sense has prevailed.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

Canterbury Awards Dinner

 

After about six months of meetings, some dodgy health issues, and sometimes feverish activity, the Combined Canterbury Awards Dinner finally happened last Saturday night.

 

As with any new enterprise, there were a few teething problems, mainly with ticket sales and a dodgy microphone (the latter will be rectified at short notice), but in general it was a success. The feedback the next day at Motukarara was easily positive enough to encourage the representatives of the three organisations (Owners, Breeders, and our Association) to begin tentative preparations for next year’s event.

 

For those who didn’t front on the night, the recipients of the Trainers & Drivers Awards were Geoff Dunn (Trainer), Blair Orange (Driver) and Katie Cox (Junior Driver). With the National Premiership Leaders all coming from Canterbury, the Committee felt that, while not diminishing their achievements in any way, it would be pointless duplicating their awards at another function, and so sought to recognize industry participants who are not, and likely never will be, in a position to win their respective premierships.

 

With some help from those attending our recent AGM, Ken Barron and I felt that the three winners richly deserved their accolades, and from comments received, it appears that most people agreed with this.

 

From the reactions of all of the eleven award winners on the night, there was genuine delight, some surprise and at times, emotion at their selection.

 

The final title of Outstanding Contribution to Canterbury Harness Racing went to a driver, Amanda Tomlinson, whose tireless efforts in establishing and organising Kids Karts in the region, made her a worthy and popular recipient.

 

Hopefully the night was successful enough to have people chasing tickets for next years’ edition (not yet though), particularly when it has been decided that the Annual Conference and therefore National Awards, will be held in Auckland next year.

 

Anyone who has any comments or suggestions on how to improve the evening is welcome to air their views to the undersigned.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Health & Safety (Part 2)

 

The scope of the NZTR health and safety project includes defining responsibilities for Clubs including race meetings and trials, discussion with the Trainers & Drivers Assn to implement changes required to comply with the Act, documenting PCBU’s involved in race-day operations, setting up templates/guidelines to assist clubs and trainers, and reviewing current H&S documentation.

 

There will also be training templates set up for all industry sector groups, including a website, all of which will have the approval of the new WorkSafe organisation that is already in existence. You would be surprised at the number of aspects of a training establishment that are covered by the legislation. Few stables wouldn’t have at least one type of chemical on site, but how many know the protocols surrounding the handling of them? Yes, I know, pedantic, but get used to it! Don’t forget as a trainer, you are responsible for the welfare of your staff, making you a PCBU.

 

Currently Stu Cashen is travelling around New Zealand meeting with representatives of Industry sectors and will also travel to Australia to see how the legislation is working over there. As he put it, the stricter rules have been in place in Victoria and New South Wales for a while now, and racing is still going on. He will also be consulting with a lawyer to work out the legal obligations for the Industry under the new Act.

 

While there are suggestions of workshops being held around the Country for interested persons, the meeting I attended felt that offering a web-based information service, and a facility for trainers to gain accreditation online was considered a more viable option. Details of how this will work will be established in the next few months. This information will be included in Stu’s monthly updates, which will be published on this site.

 

Specifically for trainers, examples of what is required include signage around stable areas (this may be arranged and made available from HRNZ at a discounted price), closed gates to prevent horses escaping onto public roads, and records of any injury to staff. More detail will be outlined on the website.

 

While no doubt many will see this new legislation as a nuisance, the consequences of ignoring it are daunting, and if we were to be honest, many of the precautions required are probably overdue. After all, when pylons were introduced onto New Zealand race tracks, there were those who felt they were unnecessary. Given the number of accidents they have prevented since their introduction, I would challenge anyone to deem them a bad idea now.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Mildura Cup Carnival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Health & Safety (Part 1)

 

Mention the words health and safety in the same sentence and the standard reaction from the majority is a rolling of the eyes, and the throwing up of the hands. These are traditionally followed by phrases like “nanny state” and “red tape”, and I suspect that the majority of horse trainers would follow that trend.

 

Unfortunately for these people (and numerous others), things are about to get a whole lot more “nanny state and red tapey” when a new Health and Safety at work Act is introduced, possibly as soon as April next year. It is described as the most significant reform of NZ health and safety for 20 years, and has been closely modelled on similar legislation in Australia.

 

Partly as a result of incidents such as the Pike River Mine disaster, the Bill imposes a “due diligence” on directors and senior management, breaches of which are deemed to be criminal offences with serious fines and even imprisonment attached. This due diligence requires these people to acquire and keep an up to date knowledge of work health and safety matters, and be aware of, and monitor the hazards and risks associated with those operations.

 

The Bill introduces the concept of the “PCBU” or Person Conducting Business or Undertaking – Trainers, that’s you! A legal opinion obtained by NZTR on the proposed changes states that, “All parties who have the ability to impact on health and safety in the racing industry will need to work together to eliminate or minimize risks to Health and Safety”.

 

Being admirably pro-active on this issue, NZTR have set up a project to address the issues, led by a very experienced racing man in Stu Cashen who, when he met with harness racing representatives the other day, impressed as someone with a good knowledge of racing who will press for a common sense approach in the submission that will be going forward to the Select Committee on the Bill.

 

It is obvious to anyone within racing that some standards that are set out for an average workplace, simply won’t work in a stable – firstly you can’t tell horses what to do, and secondly, short of chaining them up, horses are, by nature and size, unpredictable and dangerous.

 

The stated objectives of the project are:

 

1. Racing Industry employees and contractors, and others associated with racing industry related workplaces, including members of the public, are kept safe and healthy

 

2. The racing industry meets the requirements of the new health and safety legislation and associated regulations, and directors an responsible managers have confidence that their duties under both the current Health and Safety in Employment Act and the health and safety reform Bill are adequately addressed

 

3. The Directors, Committee members or responsible managers of racing Codes, Clubs and other related entities understand the provisions of the Health and Safety Reform Bill, including the practical application of the concept of a PCBU, the duties of care owed by various parties, including the extension to senior managers and Board or Committee members, and the modified structure of penalties.

 

While much of the above appears to concern administrators, it was made very clear by Stu that it also applied to every stable in the Country, no matter what size or what code.

 

Next week, I’ll outline the scope and programme of work involved in the project, along with some idea of what is involved for the average trainer.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Northern Branch AGM 2014

 

Chairman Peter Ferguson presided over the recent Northern Branch AGM held at the Franklin complex.

 

He began by outlining growing communication with Clubs, with Committee members involved in Harness Racing Waikato, and in particular Kevin Smith of the Auckland TC and also the new Pukekohe training complex. Peter is personally involved with the Equine ITO which is progressing well in educating our younger members and cadets. In his report, Peter also congratulated those responsible for another successful Northern Awards Dinner, and thanked the Committee and Secretary Dave Neal for their efforts and support throughout the year.

 

With regard to the National Council, Peter thanked described various issues tackled during the season, including many items included in Greater Canterbury Chairman Ken Barron’s Wish List that had been achieved. He also thanked retiring Chairman John Lischner for his fine work on behalf of the Association, and wished his successor Rob Lawson well in the role.

 

Secretary Dave Neal reported a satisfactory profit for the season, due partly to the Awards Dinner, and praised Peter Ferguson and David Butcher in particular for their commitment. He noted that the resignation of Chris Bayliss from the Racing Board was unfortunate after he had made an impression when the National Council met him in May.

 

Under General Business, Peter praised HRNZ Track Inspector john Denton for his ongoing work on the Alexandra Park surface, the results of which were starting to show.

 

Richard Brosnan raised concerns that tongue ties were being removed by horse club staff employees after the race, and whether there was an issue in regard to swabbing etc. Concern arose if these staff had been drinking coffee or been in contact with anything else that might compromise a swab. F Phelan (ATC starter) confirmed to the meeting that he directs his staff at the start to ask the driver first and get permission if they want anything done with the horse’s mouth. Also that staff are directed to not have anything at the start or between races that could affect a horse. Dave Neal was asked to contact Kevin Smith at the Auckland TC to see if a directive can be confirmed to include winners circle & other staff.

 

Rob Lawson advised the meeting that on behalf of the Association he was seeking legal advice with regard to the wording of the new Rule and where liability would fall. There was concern over changes from “strict” to “absolute” as regards any suspected administration. Guest and visiting veterinarian Virginia Brosnan added that in Australia under the “absolute” wording, a defence would not hold up that the trainer had taken all avenues to ensure the horse had not had its level artificially raised. R Lawson advised that this matter was on-going and we would see what arises after all the submissions have been forwarded. It was hoped that 6 months could be agreed upon for a first offence. Rob also took the time to clarify the new protest Rule to the meeting, and the benefits that would result with regards inquiries and the like.

 

At this stage of the meeting Virginia Brosnan, a leading vet from Melbourne, Australia gave a presentation to the meeting concerning the diagnosis of joint soreness in horses and the prognosis and treatment that was now available. The meeting found this to be very interesting and beneficial, and Virginia certainly gave those present a new insight into the way this form of problem can be helped. She advised that under the Garrards umbrella, they may be setting up a practice in NZ sometime in the future, and would seriously address the issue of cost to trainers.

 

Dave Neal/Peter Cook

 

Canterbury Issues


I know this site is supposed to represent the National Council, but there is a bit going on around the Canterbury area at present, so excuse me for hi-jacking it this week.

 

Addington Raceway has notified the Association that there are works on drainage etc. planned for the surrounding roads over the next twelve months. Those of us from Christchurch will no doubt be heard to mutter “so, what else is new”. The contractors have put out a plan of what they intend to do, however are unable at this time to give a timetable for the work. Keep an eye on this site for updates on this so you can plan trips to the Raceway around it.

 

Also from headquarters comes advice that owners tickets for Cup Week will not be posted out this year, due to the unreliability of the post and the obvious cost. Addington have put out the following:

 

Cup Week Owners Tickets - These will be available for collection from the Ticketing Office at Horncastle Arena on the Monday afternoon, Tuesday and Friday of Cup Week at the following times:

 

Monday 10 November - 1pm to 5pm
Tuesday 11 November - 9am to 4.30pm
Friday 14 November - 10am to 4pm

 

For those of you not aware, the Horncastle Arena is what used to be the CBS arena, just under new sponsorship.

 

Last but definitely not least, another reminder of the Woodlands Stud Combined Canterbury Harness Awards night, 6pm on Saturday 27 September at, you guessed it, Addington Raceway.

 

Similar to the very successful Northern Awards, the night will have a distinctly Canterbury flavour, and without giving too much away, rumours that the night will just be a carbon copy of the HRNZ National Awards are seriously off the mark. Intriguing? – indeed, so arrange your tables and contact myself or the website to secure your tickets to discover what it’s all about, and enjoy an excellent value night out with like-minded folk.

 

Peter Cook

 

Greater Canterbury AGM 2014

 

When Chairman Ken Barron took over the position twelve months ago, one of his stated goals was to improve and streamline the way that Trial and Workout meetings were conducted in the Canterbury area.

 

To achieve this end, it was decided to invite representatives from all the relevant organisations to the Branch’s 2014 AGM to partake in something that, to anyone’s knowledge, had not happened before, a meeting of all interested parties involved in these events.

 

The outcome was a consensus that the days of official trials were numbered, particularly when it could cost up to $1200 per day to run them, largely due to the compulsion of having a pay by the hour ambulance present, whereas a paramedic would suffice for workouts. It was agreed that, following qualifying trials, workouts could be held, with any horse required to trial for the RIU being included in the first workout heats.

 

It was also suggested that a form of workouts circuit be established in the Canterbury area, with Motukarara on Saturdays, Rangiora on Mondays or Wednesdays, and Ashburton on Tuesdays. This met with general approval, along with a standard start time of 11am, apart from Ashburton which was governed by other users of their track. Ken reported that Addington had agreed to retain their current dates, but were happy to relinquish them if necessary.

 

Another issue covered was field sizes, with Ken requesting that where possible small fields be combined with less options offered, as two or three horse fields were of no use to anyone. The suggestion was that under 10 horses be one heat, with any larger number be split. It was acknowledged that scratchings can cause problems in this area.

 

It was encouraging to see representatives of these organisations reach a consensus on their future, which will be of benefit to both them and trainers.

 

As part of Kens’ Chairman’s Speech, he reviewed the aforementioned aims that he had outlined a year ago, along with relevant progress. These were;

 

1. Closer unity with other Branches of the Association - achieved

2. Introduce the interference Rule that was defeated at last years’ Annual Conference - achieved

3. Ensure the introduction of the Points System – partially achieved

4. Work to increase the number of race starters – on-going

5. Work together with Club Secretaries to gain more starters at Trials instead of spread over numerous workouts – good progress at this meeting

6. Push for faster uploading of Trackside trial videos on the website and wide shots of fields at the 1600/800 and 400 marks - achieved

7. Make the most of his appointment on the Race Dates Committee – very difficult.

8. Introduce concessions for mares in trotters races – not supported

9. Introduction of some form of appearance money – achieved at Addington

10. Change the New Zealand season to be in line with the Australian i.e 1 September – no support at HRNZ Board level

11. Change Committee meeting start time to 6pm and arrange to meet relevant industry participants at 5pm prior to the meeting.- achieved

 

Ken, somewhat modestly, considered he had achieved a pass mark on the above, but would continue working to achieve all his goals.

 

Under the heading of General Business, matters discussed at the meeting included the success of the Race Abandonment System, starting numbers at 2600 metre standing start races at Addington, the on-going issues with Addington lights, and details surrounding the up-coming Canterbury Combined Awards night on 27 September.

 

As advertised previously, tickets are now available for this function, and anyone interested can contact the undersigned.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Guidelines for Raceday Judicial Hearings


For a number of years the Trainers & Drivers Association has been in discussion with the Judicial Control Authority over the best way to ensure that drivers, in particular younger ones, should have a better understanding of the protocols involved, and their rights, in a judicial hearing.

 

The Association is pleased to advise that a document has now been produced in conjunction with the JCA to assist all involved in these very important matters, and has been reproduced below.

 

Introduction

At a recent meeting between the Trainers and Drivers Association and the Judicial Control Authority for Racing, the Association thought it would be helpful to have some guidelines about a driver’s rights in a raceday judicial hearing.

 

There are essentially three types of matters where a driver can be involved in a hearing on raceday. These are:

• a charge for breaching the Rules of Racing - often careless driving or excessive use of the whip

• a protest - most commonly under the Breaking Horse Regulations

• a request for a ruling - often relating to whether a horse started from the correct position.

Careless driving and excessive use of the whip are the most common raceday charges.

 

The following guidelines therefore focus on a driver’s rights in that type of hearing.

 

Representation at the hearing

It is expected that a junior driver will be assisted at a hearing by a senior driver, or a trainer.

 

An amateur or graduation driver may also be assisted at the hearing.

 

It is important to note that any driver can ask the Chairman of the Committee if they can be assisted or supported at the hearing by a senior driver or trainer.

 

The stipendiary steward and the driver who appears on a charge have equal status and rights before the Committee.

 

Asking for more time

The Chairman of the Committee decides what time the hearing will be held.

 

You will be advised of this by the person who hands you a copy of the charge document.

 

If you do not feel ready or need more time, you can ask the Chairman to put off the hearing until later in the day.

 

If the charge is serious, such as reckless or dangerous driving, then you may ask for the hearing to be put off to another day to allow you time to seek advice.

 

If you do make a request to the Chairman, he will decide whether or not to allow it. He may ask the stipendiary steward for comment on your request.

 

The charge

When charged, you will have received a copy of the details of the charge. This form is called an ‘Information.’

 

You will have signed this form and indicated on it whether you admit or deny the charge.

 

You may change your plea at the hearing when the Chairman asks whether you admit or deny the charge.

 

Hearing of the charge

At the hearing of the charge, the following will take place:

• the Information or charge will be read to you by the Chairman

• you will be asked whether you admit or deny the charge

If you admit the charge:

• the Chairman will declare that the charge is proved

• the stipendiary steward will be asked to show the judicial committee the films of the incident

• you will be invited to explain your version of the incident

If you deny the charge:

• the stipendiary steward will be asked to present the case against you, using the films and any witnesses (for example, other drivers or a stipendiary steward) he may have

• you have a right to ask questions of these witnesses

• you will then be given an opportunity to present your case using the films and any witnesses you may have – these may include other drivers, your horse’s trainer or any other person who you feel might be able to support your case.

Once you and the stipendiary steward have presented your cases, the Committee will consider the evidence and decide whether the charge is proved or not. If it is proved, the Committee will then commence its penalty hearing process.

 

Penalty hearing process

If you need more time to consider what you will say, or you would like to talk to a more experienced driver or trainer, you may ask the Chairman to delay the penalty hearing until later in the day.

 

The Chairman will first ask the stipendiary steward to tell the Committee what he believes the penalty should be.

 

You will then be asked to make your comments on what you think the penalty should be.

 

When considering your penalty comments, it might be useful to think about:

• the degree of carelessness you think was involved in your driving – low, mid range or high

• your driving record

• your horse’s racing manners

• the actions of another horse

• any other matters that were contributing factors to the incident

• what your future driving engagements are if a suspension is a possibility;

• if you are facing an excessive use of the whip charge then you may wish to relate your use of the whip to the whip guidelines and comment on your view of the excessiveness alleged by the stewards

You should also listen carefully to any comments made by the stipendiary steward. If you disagree with any of his comments, you can say so.

 

In particular you should comment on the level of any fine or suspension you think the charge may warrant. The Committee values your comments on this matter as much as the stipendiary stewards view.

 

Conclusion

It is important to remember that it is the Committee who runs the hearing.

 

If at any time you have any questions or concerns about the hearing, or the procedure to be followed, do not hesitate to ask the Chairman of the Committee.

 

Hopefully the above guidelines will allay any misconceptions about the running of a hearing, and assist in justice being served.

 

Peter Cook

 

HRNZ Annual Conference 2014


Twelve months on from the positive, almost euphoric, atmosphere that pervaded last years’ Conference after the address from then Racing Board CEO Chris Bayliss, Industry representatives were brought down to Earth with a resounding thud by his successor who suggested that the current level of funding would likely remain for the next three years. One can only hope his predictions are astray.

 

However from a Trainers & Drivers point of view, Association representatives were very satisfied with the outcomes.

 

Prior to the Conference business, we met with Kristy McDonald and Brent Williams of the JCA in what turned out to be a mutually beneficial discussion. We will shortly be in possession of a set of guidelines for defendants in a hearing, which will be published on the website.

 

Our first success came the day before the Conference began, when we were advised that the Remit covering TC02 levels and associated penalties, was being withdrawn. Thankfully, this was a result of intervention from the JCA and HRNZs’ legal advisor, Chris Lange, who felt that having a two year minimum for a first offence was out of line with penalties for other similar offences, and removed the option for discretion by a JCA panel.

 

What happens now, is that the permissible level of TC02 will be increased to 36 in the next month or so, and the penalties will be included as part of a review of the JCA Penalty Guide which is currently being undertaken. A definite victory for common sense.

 

The attempt by HRNZ, through a Correspondence Item, to do away with dual acceptors failed to gain the necessary majority to go ahead. Initially the Association was going to support this one, when we were told that the reason was to assist punters when they were taking multiple bets such as Pick Six and Quaddies. However, when we read a raft of other reasons for the move, many of which centred around “perception of horses not fully competing”, and animal welfare concerns, it was decided not to support the move. Once again, this was yet another instance of the HRNZ Board labelling trainers as potential cheats.

 

Our own Correspondence item requesting that drivers be paid a driving fee for horses scratched after the declaration of drivers was supported and will be introduced by the Board.

 

The other Remit that had the potential to create some controversy, was passed with relative ease. This covered the Rule surrounding interference early in a race, and the JCA having the discretion to award some of the prize-money to a horse that had been disadvantaged by interference during a race.

 

Greater Canterbury Branch Chairman Ken Barron expressed satisfaction with the experience of his first Conference, and met many new people. Along with Ricky May, representing the Methven Club, it was good to see some of our high profile horsemen gaining an insight into what makes their Industry tick.

 

Speaking of the Greater Canterbury Branch, the AGM will be held in the Silks Suite (off the Silks Lounge at Addington Raceway) at 6pm next Tuesday 19 August. We have invited representatives of local Workout and Trial organisations along to discuss any ideas they might have, and hopefully encourage a greater understanding of the issues facing both sides of the fence.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Annual Conference 2014

 

Once again your Association will be well represented at this weeks’ HRNZ Conference.

 

Peter Ferguson is the delegate, Ken Barron the official observer, and yours truly will go in as unofficial observer. Obviously outgoing Chairman John Lischner will be in attendance, and new Chairman Rob Lawson will also be there, officially representing Harness Racing Waikato.

 

The two major topics that we will be focused on are the changes to the interference Rule, which we will be supporting, and the very high penalty level attached to the increase in the allowable level of TCO2, which we will be strongly opposing.

 

We also have a meeting planned with Kristy McDonald and Brent Williams of the JCA, prior to the start of the Conference proper.

 

If any member has a topic that they would like us to bring up at these meetings, don’t hesitate to let me know through the website before Thursday night.

 

Peter T Cook

 

You Start – We Pay

 

That was the catch phrase unveiled by the NZ Metropolitan TC at a recent function to announce new initiatives at Addington Raceway.

 

There were plenty of positives surrounding stake increases, and also the official unveiling of the new facilities for various participants outlined in this column a few weeks ago. It was obvious a lot of effort has gone into making Addington closer to the premier venue that it should be, and particular interest was shown in the excellent new drivers’ lounge overlooking the track.

 

Personally I’ve never been a fan of appearance money for also-rans, considering that horse racing is about winning, and as much money as possible should be channeled into the pockets of connections of horses that cop a penalty.

 

However, recent successful incentives such as the Met Multiplier have softened that opinion, particularly when they result in more horses racing at the headquarters of harness racing which, for reasons unfathomable, trainers have tended to avoid in their droves.

 

As pointed out by Addington CEO Dean McKenzie in his excellent presentation, not only does the Multiplier reward connections for racing at Addington, it also adds horses to field numbers, often making the difference between that race happening, or being canned, and consequently affecting other horses, and the Club.

 

The new $140 per starter scheme is designed to cover not only the cost of the drivers fee, but also some, if not all of the cost of getting the horse to the track, one of those numerous ‘extra’ costs that owners have to bear.

 

Along with a somewhat overdue increase in the minimum stake paid at Addington (by a whopping 40%), across the board stake increases certainly send a positive message to trainers that Addington is on its’ way to returning to being on the pedestal that it has slipped off over the past thirty years, due predominantly to poor management.

 

The message is clear – there are even less reasons now not to race your horse at Addington.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Northern Branch July 2014

 

Two major issues were aired at the recent Northern Branch meeting, being the proposed changes to the TCO2 levels, and the field size for eh Harness Jewels.

 

While the well overdue increase in the allowable level of TCO2 in a horse was applauded, there was serious concern at the new regime of penalties that have been attached to it. Rob Lawson stated that all the HRNZ Board directives on this matter are based on New South Wales, which is the only Australian state to use such a draconian penalty schedule. There is deep concern that despite the questionable statistics being bandied about, there has, and will be, the possibility of an innocent trainer being severely punished through no fault of his or her own.

 

These thoughts are in line with those of the other Branches, and the Association representatives at the Annual Conference will be arguing strongly against the introduction of these penalties.

 

The other issue, which has subsequently been endorsed by the National Council, is to recommend that the field size for the Harness Jewels be restricted to 12 runners, which would include any Australian entry. This season there was confusion among trainers whether or not the 13 horses included any Australian horse, or whether the number would reduce to 12 if there was no trans – Tasman entry. This suggestion, along with a recommendation to use the Bulls- Eye barrier draw system for the Harness Jewels, has been submitted to HRNZ for consideration at their Jewels review meeting in August.

 

On a slightly lighter note, when Trackside last Saturday night at Albion Park to see The Mighty Quinn put up one of the most astonishing performances I’ve seen on a racecourse, I watched a chariot race which featured three dual horse actual chariots roaring around the track. Very spectacular, and it reminded me of a guy called Vincent Silvestro, who came to New Zealand many years ago to demonstrate his fireworks display on the back of a pacer.

 

No I’m not kidding, and to prove it for those of you too young to remember it, have a look at this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Blqc_tra88

 

Peter T Cook

 

TC02 Levels

 

As you have probably read among the Remits being submitted to this years’ HRNZ Annual Conference, the Board, after a prolonged period of consideration, has finally decided to bring the allowable level of TC02 in line with pretty much every other jurisdiction in the World, i.e.36mmol/L, with a “guard band” of 1.0mmol/L.

 

At the same time, however, they have also recommended an astonishingly large increase in the penalties involved for trainers who are found guilty for a first time. From a previously recommended $2-4000 for a first offence, the Board is proposing an automatic 2 year disqualification. The change has been likened to an increase from a ten year prison sentence to the death penalty in the real world.

 

In other words, this would potentially be a career ending penalty for most, if not all trainers. The understanding is that most Australian states have a six month penalty for a first offence which is more realistic.

 

Not only is this proposal totally out of “kilter’ with penalties attached to other charges, it is likely encourage someone whose career is in jeopardy and who had the financial wherewithal, to contest the matter in the Countrys’ legal system. All has a familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? Do we really want thousands of dollars more of Industry money keeping lawyers in the lifestyle they have become accustomed to?

 

And while the Association is strongly supportive of measures against cheats, there is no guarantee that such legal proceedings against HRNZ would not be successful. Such a penalty offers no window for either the RIU or JCA for anyone to be found innocent. With a fine, even though it goes against natural justice, that may reluctantly be acceptable, but a two year ban is a different story.

 

This decision has been made following long awaited, and somewhat controversial, advice from the HRNZ Veterinary Advisor Andrew Grierson. It is interesting to note that, in the press release from HRNZ, Chairman Gary Allen is quoting as saying “any positive will in almost all certainty be the result of an administration of prohibited substances.” The use of the word “almost” is interesting, considering that, in the past and currently, the RIU appear to have a policy of totally ignoring any evidence put before them suggesting a trainers’ innocence.

 

This time last year, I had cause to have discussions with him concerning a horse in the stable I help out in, Valhalla. Andrew reeled off statistics (same as those accompanying the remit) stating categorically that the chances of a horse returning a level of 36mmol/L rises from around 15,000 to just over 2 million for a level of 37 without having TC02 administered.

 

On the day that he was tested, Valhalla (normally a nervous horse at the races at the best of times) attempted to climb the walls of the float en route to the track, was bathed in sweat, was very agitated, and his eyes were out on storks as he was geared up. The RIU, as I could have told them, found no evidence of either Bicarbonate or anything to administer it with in the stables. The official reading was 38.2 which presumably makes him by far the rarest horse on the planet!

 

While the requirement to present drug free horses is understandably paramount, this needs to be balanced with the rules of natural justice, and disqualifying a trainer for two years for a high level of a substance already present in every horse, doesn’t seem to match those requirements. It is quite possible that a Court of Law may take the same view, particularly when there is no evidence of wrongdoing by the trainer. Mark Jones is currently enduring the same nightmare of presenting compelling evidence that he did not administer TC02, only to have it totally ignored by the authorities.

 

As for performance enhancement, both Valhalla and Remiss, Marks’ horse that is currently under investigation, both finished last in their respective races!

 

Peter T Cook

 

Apologies, there will be no update next week.

 

Another One Bites the Dust

 

Very disappointing to hear that NZ Racing Board CEO Chris Bayliss is departing at the end of next week.

 

Disappointing from a personal point of view, because it took nine months of wheeling and dealing to arrange for the Trainers & Drivers National Council to meet with him in May of this year.

 

Disappointing that, during that meeting, he impressed as being someone who had taken the time and trouble to do the background work before moving forward, and appeared to be on the verge of making some very necessary hard decisions to rectify numerous problems being faced by the Racing Industry.

 

Disappointing because whoever is chosen to replace him (a process which will inevitably take some time), however capable, will have to waste more valuable time going through a similar process to get up to speed with what is required, delays which the Industry can ill afford.

 

To date no information on the reasons for Chris’ exit has been forthcoming, so one can only speculate, but the circumstances and timing would suggest that it was not planned. Hopefully all will be revealed soon, to prevent further speculation and mis-information.

 

Whatever the reason or reasons, his departure is a serious setback for an Industry which has obviously been seriously mis-managed for a number of years, at a time when firm and decisive action is badly needed.

 

I guess all industry participants can hope for is a fast and successful succession process and, for those of you who hold religious beliefs, a short prayer to whoever you think can help.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Item of Correspondence

 

With this years’ HRNZ Annual Conference about six weeks away (slightly later this year than in the past), the discussion points and suggestions for Rule hanges are being collated prior to publication.

 

Your Association is involved, indirectly and directly, with two of the major issues. Firstly the interference Rule, details of which have been dealt with previously, and which is being put up by the HRNZ Board and supported by the Association.

 

Originally it was thought that the other item being put forward would require a Rule change, however the HRNZ legal eagles have deemed that the desired result can be achieved by a change to the Regulations, and that can be done by the Board.

 

However, to make sure that the proposal has the support of the Clubs, we are putting it forward in the form of an Item of Correspondence to the Annual Conference.

 

The proposal is that when a horse is scratched after the official driver notification time, the driving fee for that horse should be paid by the Club, as if the horse was starting.

 

There are two major reasons for introducing this policy, which is currently in force in Australia. The first is that, once the drivers are declared, anyone whose horse is scratched is unable to seek another drive in that race, thereby depriving him or her of a driving fee through no fault of their own. This can be particularly unfortunate when a driver has, say two or three drives and one is scratched, or has travelled to the meeting for one drive and it is late scratched.

 

Secondly it is obvious they are still committed to travel to that meeting for any remaining drives, yet may be unable to cover their costs, particularly if the scratched horse is one that they are most likely to feature with.

 

The Association understands that some Clubs put the money that is not paid to drivers when budgeted in the stakes breakdown into Trusts for various worthy purposes. However, given the scratching penalty is resulting in far fewer scratchings, the introduction of the new policy would have a minimal effect on this.

 

Peter T Cook

 

A Couple of Matters

 

The Association has received a request from the Rangiora Harness Racing Club for horses to be presented in correct number order in the birdcage prior to going on the track.

 

This would seem to be a fairly simple task, particularly when there is ample time to assemble in the parade ring adjacent to the stables, however there are still trainers who leave things until the last minute and cause problems. As the letter from the Club states, it is disappointing that the professionals cannot support the efforts of Club volunteers to have the horses presented in their correct order.

 

Basically the onus is on the Clerks of the Course and RUI to police this, and the Association fully supports any penalties issued to trainers who blatantly ignore their instructions for no apparent reason.

 

The Association has also received some advice for those trainers who wish to have SKY installed in their stable area for whatever reason, particularly following the dropping of Trackside from Freeview. Subsequent approaches by HRNZ and Trackside after a trainer had been charged the business rate of $150, Sky have agreed that, under the above circumstances, such installations will be charged only the domestic rate.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Addington Drivers Room

 



Ever since the lower floor of the main stand at Addington was transformed into offices, and the superb Spectators facility, it’s fair to say that drivers have not been very well catered for.

 

During that time, the Greater Canterbury Branch of the Trainers and Drivers Assn. has been kept in the loop by Addington officials, as they worked through the various options open to them to create a satisfactory permanent Drivers Lounge.

 

I am happy to report that Branch officials were recently given a tour of what the Club has come up with and, following a couple of suggestions, were more than happy with what is happening.

 

For those of us ancient enough to remember to old corporate boxes above Twiggers, those boxes are currently being refurbished and will become the hub of activity on race nights. The younger generation will know the area as the rooms overlooking the Lindauer Roof, which have, until recently, been the location for local radio stations until they found permanent homes after the earthquake.

 

The largest of the boxes, at the end nearest to the stairwell down to the stables, will serve as a lounge and changing area for drivers. The existing kitchen facilities will be transformed into a basic washing area, and an area will be curtained off for drivers to change if they wish. It was felt that the existing barbeque area at the stable entrance would suffice as a food outlet without introducing another in the lounge. There will, however, be tea and coffee making facilities. There will also be televisions showing the racing and any other sporting event that may be showing at the same time. The room offers a panoramic view of the track, and the option of sitting outside when the weather permits.

 

We were assured that, on Cup Day, secure access will be provided from the lounge to the stable stairway entrance.

 

The room next to the drivers lounge will house the RIU representatives, with the Club Secretarys’ office and Trackside presenters occupying the other two. The JCA will have their room at the back of the same floor of the building.

 

The whole complex will be ideal, allowing easy access for Stewards, Trackside presenters and officials, while providing drivers with a comfortable and private area to relax.

 

Work is currently underway on the refurbishments and it is hoped to have them at least partially functional by the beginning of July.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Canterbury Combined Awards Dinner

Following a hiatus of several years, the Canterbury Branches of the Standardbred Breeders Association, Owners Association, and the Trainers & Drivers Association, are combining to resurrect an Awards dinner to recognise the achievements of local harness racing participants.

 

The event will be staged in the Silks Lounge at Addington Raceway on Saturday 27 September and will comprise of a buffet dinner interspersed with the presentation of the awards by Master of Ceremonies, Mark McNamara. Guests should arrive from 6:30pm onwards with the function itself commencing at 7:15.

 

Numbers are limited to 300 and the ticket price is $50 per person, which includes an introductory drink and antipasto platter.

 

The criteria for the winners will differ from those presented at the National Awards function, in that they will not necessarily be given to the Season leaders. More information on this aspect of the evening will be forthcoming in the near future.

 

Should you wish to book tickets or require more information, please contact the following:

 

OWNERS Assn: Barry Dent 021 653 499 bcdent@ihug.co.nz

Greg Crawford 027 778 9493 gregc.doublee@xtra.co.nz

 

HORSEMANS Assn: Ken Barron 027 4372532 kenbarron@xtra.co.nz

Peter Cook 3433 713 petecee@clear.net.nz

 

BREEDERS Assn: Robyn Boyle 027 2173643 boyles4@xtra.co.nz

Noel Kennard 3479699 noel@goharness.co.nz

 

National Council Meeting Feedback

 

The following is a summary of feedback from HRNZ and the RIU on matters raised at the recent National Council meeting.

 

From Edward Rennell, HRNZ CEO:


Q. Can you advise any progress on extending the Three year-old concessions until the end of August, as suggested by Wayne Reid.

A. CONSIDERED BY HANDICPPING SUB-COMMITTEE 9 APRIL – NO SUPPORT FOR CHANGE TO STATUS QUO RE THIS.

 

Q. Bulls Eye Barrier Draw. There was full support at the Council meeting for using this as a one-off for the Harness Jewels. Is it too late for this year?

A. TOO LATE FOR THIS YEAR. CAN CONSIDER IN DEBRIEF FOR NEXT YEAR, WHICH WILL BE DONE IN LATE JUNE.

 

Q. There is a proposal to pay a full driving fee for declared drivers for scratched horses. The idea is to put up a Remit - is that the way to go?

A. LET ME CHECK – IF REMIT, I WILL GET CHRIS LANGE TO DRAFT AND PUT UNDER TDA NAME IN ORDER PAPER.

 

Q. It was suggested that larger excesses should be applied to Sulky Insurance to cover at least some of the larger costs involved recently. How would that be done?

A. COLIN HAIR, JENNY AND I DISCUSSED THIS WITH JOHN LISCHNER TODAY. SUBJECT TO COMPUTER WORK REQUIRED, ONE OPTION MIGHT BE TO GIVE TRAINERS AN OPTION OF PAYING RATE A OR B SAY, WHICH WILL THEN HAVE DIFFERENTIAL MAXIMUM PAYMENTS AVAILABLE. WE WILL DO SOME MORE ANALYSIS OF OPTIONS AND THEN BRING BACK FOR CONSULTATION. THIS NEEDS TO BE DONE PRIOR TO THE END OF MAY AND LICENCE RENEWALS BEING SENT OUT.

 

From Mike Godber, General Manager RIU:

 

Q. Has there been any progress on the RIU employing Starters, which the Association fully supports? Also has any thought been given to the RIU employing Clerks of the Course?

A. The matter of Starters and whether the RIU should employ them will be reviewed in the new season. The RIU contracting Clerks of the Course has not been considered. My initial thoughts are that local knowledge is pretty important in finding competent people who can do the job so Clubs are probably better placed to continue to find and contract Clerks of the Course than the RIU.

 

Q. Are there any plans to test frozen samples for Cobalt Chloride?

A. Regarding the potential to test frozen samples for cobalt I would advise yes that is definitely part of our testing policy. You can take it that this policy will not only apply to cobalt but to any new prohibited substance. There is no point in freezing samples and holding them for 6 months if you don't then take the opportunity to test them when a new substance comes about. I understand the Australians have also tested frozen samples when new tests come available.

 

Q. Can you clarify the policy concerning late scratching of horses that have been sold, and there are no emergencies in the field denied a start. There seem to have been inconsistencies in the level of fines for this recently.

A. The policy is that where a horse is scratched after being sold and it does not deny a horse a start and the trainer has been in contact with the stewards in the lead up to the sale the RIU will not charge.

 

While that is the general policy we do consider each case. Recently a trainer was charged even though the scratching did not deny another horse a start. The Stewards were advised the horse would be scratched at 5.50pm on the night of the races, and there had been no contact prior, advising the horse was possibly being sold.

 

There was another situation which may have caused this matter to be raised. I believe it was up north a trainer was charged $350 by the JCA who, in their decision, considered it a deliberate act when their horse was scratched around 10am on race day. Perhaps a week later at Methven, a horse was scratched 7pm the night before the races the fine was $250. The stewards who had noted the northern JCA decision submitted to the JCA that they did not consider the scratching a deliberate act and the result was a lower fine.

 

The variation in fines is ultimately down to the JCA and there may be some variation in circumstances.

 

Thanks to Edward and Mike for their prompt responses to our questions. There are further matters up for discussion and consideration, details of these will be posted at a later date.

 

Peter T Cook

 

National Council May 2014 (Pt.3)

 

The Council meeting proper began with consideration of a number of matters discussed at the previous meeting last October.

 

These included the proposal to Extend Three year old Concessions until the end of August to bring us into line with Australia, and the Points Ranking System which, following the recent Handicapping Committee meeting, appeared to have been set aside in favour of a money won system, however some Clubs were still resisting its’ introduction. Gordon Lee and Ken Barron disagreed on whether the current split stake system was working in Southland. Peter Ferguson suggested that each region was different and felt that nominations should be called for C0, C1 and C2 races with split conditions. He suggested that Clubs be lobbied to make better use of race conditions, however the Canterbury reps reported they were continually thwarted in these endeavours.

 

The RIU was to be asked about progress on whether Starters were to be employed by that organisation. Peter Ferguson also reported that pay scales for Clerks of the Course varied considerably, and suggested that the RIU could employ these also.

 

Ken Barron suggested that appearance money be paid (for example back to sixth placing in a twelve horse field), but should not come from the stakes paid to other place-getters. This was supported in general and would be discussed with the Owners, and Breeders organisations. Rob Lawson reminded the meeting that the role of the Association was to support license-holders, and such a move could take money away from that group.

 

The meeting then moved on to agenda items, with Rob Lawson reporting on an HRNZ Animal Welfare Sub-Committee that he had been part of. Basically it was to ensure that a policy document existed that showed HRNZ were being pro-active in the animal welfare field. The Committee took a reasoned point of view that whips were needed, and agreed that our whip use rules were better than the Australian equivalent. Ken Barron suggested the introduction of padded whips, however it was decided that such a move would not alter the perception issue.

 

Peter Ferguson suggested that half the driving fee should be paid if a horse is scratched after declaration time, as a driver is still committed to attend the meeting even if he or she is left with only one drive. Gordon Lee and Rob Lawson advised that the money from unused driving fees was being paid out in various bonus schemes in some areas, however the meeting agreed that the money involved in the proposal would barely effect those schemes. Following discussion it was decided that the Association should put up a remit to achieve the above, however asking that a full fee be paid to the drivers affected.

 

A proposal that the same sulkies be supplied by HRNZ for all races was considered, however the meeting felt that the financial problems involved made it impractical. Mark Jones suggested that larger excesses be applied to insurance for the more expensive sulkies. He also felt that there should be insurance cover for colours and drivers gear, etc.

 

Gordon Lee once again outlined the advantages of the Bulls-Eye Barrier Draw system, particularly in regard to fixed-odds betting. Following discussion, it was decided to write to HRNZ suggesting that this system be used for the Harness Jewels only, as is the case with the Miracle Mile and Interdominion Grand Final.

 

Ken Barron led discussion on the subject of the makeup of the HRNZ Board, with John Lischner advising that the HRNZ Strategic Plan contained an investigation into this, although that did not mean there would be a change. It appeared that the optimum Board size was seven, and the problem was to decide who missed out on representation, while maintaining a reasonable balance. It was decided that the opinions of the Council should be conveyed to HRNZ to be included in their deliberations.

 

Mark Jones, in suggesting the micro-chipping of all horses, suggested that much time, energy and paperwork could be saved by HRNZ and the RIU if this system was introduced. There was full support and a letter of recommendation was to be sent to HRNZ.

 

Consideration was given to various changes to the current scratching penalties, however it was decided that further consideration was needed before any recommendation was made.

 

Mark Jones was supported in suggesting that Clubs with no pylons and passing lanes should not be granted a license to race. Peter Ferguson and David Butcher also felt that lanes should be a consistent length. Following discussion the meeting agreed that the lane should be between 200m and 250m long, and these suggestions were to be made to HRNZ.

 

The current stakes limits applied to Three year-old Concessions were discussed, mostly around whether they were still relevant due to stake increases. There were various opinions on this topic with no agreement being reached at this point.

 

Following discussion it was decided that an increase in driving fees to $75 + GST should be applied for.

 

Due to the resignation of JohnLischner, a new Chairman needed to be appointed. John Lischner nominated Rob Lawson as the new Chairman, and this was seconded by Peter Ferguson and supported unanimously.

 

Rob Lawson expressed his thanks for his appointment and was supported by those present in paying tribute to John Lischner for his years of hard work as Chairman and representative on the HRNZ Board.

 

John Lischner in turn, expressed his thanks for the being given the opportunity to represent the Association, and wished his successor well for the future.

 

Next week, we will detail the feedback received on some of the above issues.

 

Peter T Cook

 

National Council May 2014 (Pt.2)

 

Also prior to the Council meeting proper, HRNZ CEO Edward Rennell came along to outline HRNZs’ plans for the Industry in the near future and discuss any issues that the Association may have.

 

He began with comments on Trackside, saying that he felt that the new format should have been fully set up prior to the launch, instead of on 1 August. He was hopeful that the new domestic only channel (Trackside 1) would benefit harness racing, particularly on the two meeting Fridays, when there would be no greyhound racing shown.

 

With regard to Industry funding, it was likely that extra funding would, once again be available this season, the question to be considered by the Board was how that would be allocated to Clubs. He outlined the proposal for next seasons’ Premier meetings, with Addington holding eight and Auckland six, all with $20,000 minimum stakes and, in conjunction with the Sires Stakes Board, five new feature races for three and four year-olds would be included in these meetings. Unfortunately, due to constraints of the Calendar, four of these Premier dates would clash with minor meetings in the other Island. However this format was planned to be a constant structure for five years, with suitable gaps between the meetings to ensure maximum inter-island participation. Next years’ Calendar had been virtually finalised with 3 or four less harness meetings that the current season scheduled.

 

This season was currently up on last season in regard to turnovers and horse participation, with stake levels up around 5%. Exports were slightly down on last season, with the reduction of Australian interest due to the new levy being offset by interest from China, which was considered to be moving in a positive direction. A major concern for the industry was the reduction of funds allocated from gaming money, and on-going problems with trusts etc.

 

Ken Barron questioned why the stakes for Sires Stakes, Sales, and Fillies Series heats should vary, when all participants paid the same payments. There was also a feeling that more money should be paid for heats, with a reduction in stakes for Finals, so that the money is spread more to connections who have paid up for the Series. Edward suggested these matters should be taken up with our representative on the Sires Stakes Board.

 

Edward also outlined details of remits that were planned to be submitted to the Annual Conference, including the change to the Protest Rule, which had been prepared by Rob.Lawson and the Rules Sub-Committee, and was supported by the National Council. Under the new Rule, the potentially disastrous situation surrounding the inquiry into interference at the start of the Sales Series Final by Alta Orlando would not have happened. Other remits would include ensure there would be more regular alcohol testing of drivers, the introduction of new Rules to cover Monte racing, and the banning of dual acceptors at the one meeting, which all present agreed offered an unfair advantage, and caused confusion for Pick Six etc. punters when a horse was left in two races.

 

Other issues covered with Edward included the underutilisation of a number of tracks, such as Cambridge, complications surrounding centralisation (HRNZ were investigating aspects of this in regard to the Reserves Act), the allocation of actual costs to Clubs instead of the current flat rate, the swabbing of claimed horses (Edward undertook to request that the RIU swab all claimed horses where practical), the independent review of the RIU, and the developing issue of Cobalt Chloride. Edward had asked HRNZ’s veterinary advisor to address the Council, however he had been unavailable, so he suggested that Association representatives meet with Andrew Grierson at the end of May, or hold a telephone conference with him to discuss drug related issues. A suggestion that Andrew could be perceived as having a conflict of interest due to his interest in Woodlands Stud was rejected by Edward, who considered that he simply provided opinions based on veterinary expertise. However Gordon Lee countered this by quoting his recent case involving Boldenone, where that opinion had proven to be flawed.

 

Edward advised that consideration was being given to standardising pay-outs to Clubs for on and off course turnovers, due to many on-course punters using new technology such as phones to place bets.

 

(Part 3 next week)

 

Peter T Cook

 

National Council May 2014 (Pt.1)

 

The Associations’ recent National Council bi-annual meeting was preceeded by a meeting with Chris Bayliss, CEO of the Racing Board.

 

Chris gave a short resume of his eighteen months in the job. His initial reaction had been amazement at a lack of data available, the myriad of varied stake-holders in the Racing and sporting Industries, and the amount of advice he had been given by all of those sectors. He had decided that the two main stakeholders that everything else focussed around were owners and punters.

 

He then proceeded to outline various aspects of the Industry that he had discovered, including New Zealand having the same number of tracks as the UK with 80million people, a reliance on gaming money, and that the Industry as a whole was grossly unprofitable. The TAB was the largest retailer in NZ and was a unique statutory body, and its’ size and influence were grossly under-estimated by punters. In answer to a question of ownership, Chris advised that no-one owned it, as the money lent by the Clubs to establish it, had been paid back. Income was around $180m with payment of stakes approximately $80m. This equated to a return of $62m to owners for costs of around $283m, meaning a return to owners of 22% (or a loss of 78%), the second lowest in the World after the UK. He also compared our situation with those of Singapore and Hong Kong where they had only one track each. He had spoken to the Prime Minister on a number of occasions, and reported that he was sympathetic towards the Industry, and would be producing an election manifesto to cover their partys’ plans for it.

 

Regarding technology, he advised that Trackside was the biggest broadcaster in NZ, with 7 of the existing 10 outside broadcast units in the Country. He advised that to change these to high definition technology would cost $10m each. The TAB IT systems were outdated 70’s technology which urgently needed replacement, and he described teletext at 29 year old ‘junk’ that no-one knew how to fix and parts were impossible to source.

 

Chris advised he had indentified numerous ways of improving the Industry and making money, however this all involved large investment and he would be having to make some big decisions in the near future to make up for the lack of action over the past ten years. TAB phone accounts had decreased in number from 200,000 to 100,000 in that time, and he felt it was important to spread to new markets to counter further decreases. Off-shore leakage was a serious problem, however he reported that the Government was sympathetic and were looking at ways of countering this, including a point of consumption tax, and a profit fee for overseas betting operators. It was hoped that the introduction of a new phone app. would help this situation. As from 1 August 2014, there would be no duplication of races on the two Trackside channels, and while Triple Trio had failed to reach expectations, overall turnover had risen 7% since its’ introduction, possibly due to the advertising campaign.

 

Other matters discussed with Chris included, the little recognised fact that the TAB does not pay Corporation Tax, racing accounts for 1% of GDP, a completely different dates calendar that he had commissioned that would increase turnover by an estimated $17m, and various aspects of Section 16 of the Racing Act including the fact that harness imported 14% of the Australian product yet received 29% of the turnover revenue. However he was conscious of the background of harness moving dates and time slots to accommodate Australian galloping races. Greyhounds would be the big benefactors of any changes to Section 16 due to the volume of races. Chris also spoke on centralisation, suggesting that proportioning TAB costs to the various codes could be looked at. He claimed that if 70% of the current meetings could be staged on 50% of the current venues, this would raise the profit margin by 50%.

 

In response to a question from Ken Barron re starting times and intervals for night meetings, Chris was sympathetic but stressed the need to fit around the Australian import. However, with the introduction of the two separate channels this should improve.

 

Part 2 next week.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Greater Canterbury Branch April 2014 (Pt.2)


For the past couple of months, Chairman Ken and the undersigned have attended meetings aimed at resurrecting a Greater Canterbury Awards night, in conjunction with representatives of the local Owners and Breeders Associations. As a result an Awards Dinner will be held on the evening of Saturday 27 September, in the Silks Lounge at Addington Raceway. The plan is for the awards to relate to excellence or exceptional achievements during the past season, and not necessarily for simply season leaders, as these were normally covered in the National Awards. Keep an eye out for more details.

 

Kevin Townley expressed concern at the handicaps being given in discretionary handicaps, particularly the Country Cup finals and the 4&5 year old Trotters Championship. He suggested that handicaps based on money won would see fairer contests.

 

A couple of issues surrounding Addington Raceway were raised, and replies from officials have subsequently been received on them. The initial comment was unanimous praise for the excellent condition of the track, and a note of thanks was sent to John Denton and his crew. The urgent need for a new drivers’ room at the venue was expressed, and it is understood that by Thursday 24 April, work will be completed on converting the old stable barbecue area into a drivers facility. Investigations are also underway as to how to solve the historical problem of the shadows from light poles at the Raceway. The initial idea of installing LED lighting has been shelved as the current technology has been found to be unsatisfactory at some other venues, both here and overseas. Tests were carried out involving turning the lights on to eliminate shadows with limited success, and this may be used as a temporary solution while other avenues are explored.

 

Other matters raised at the meeting included Mark Jones suggesting a reduction in options for trial programmes to eliminate two and three horse fields, a letter was to be sent to the RIU congratulating the Stewards officiating at the recent Westport meeting on their handling of the unfortunate accident, and those present feeling that there were too many false starts, with Kevin Townley suggesting that Starters should be fined for faulty gear (eg. Starting mechanisms and tapes) in a similar way to trainers.

 

Ken Barron questioned why, in the TAB Racing Calendar, the official starting time for night meetings was 5pm, when an earlier start could be preferable for all concerned. This was to be raised at the upcoming meeting with Racing Board CEO Chris Bayliss.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Greater Canterbury Branch April 2014 (Part 1)

 

Chairman Ken Barron presided over a recent meeting of the Greater Canterbury Branch, with HRNZs’ Pete Ydgren along to discuss a number of issues. 

 

Pete raised the ‘old chestnut’ of the quality of communication between some trainers and their owners. Apparently the HRNZ Board has been made aware of some complaints in this area, however the Association has always felt that, as in any line of business, if an owner is unhappy with the service his trainer offers, he should look elsewhere. On closer inspection it appears that the majority of problems concern owners receiving bills for veterinarian services for which they either had no knowledge of, or had not expected to be as high as they were. The meeting suggested that owners should obtain quotes for veterinarian services directly, and not involve the trainer in the process.

 

Ideas such as websites, text messages or e-mails were discussed, however the consensus was that most owners preferred to speak to trainers on the phone or in person. A suggestion that workshops be held to instruct trainers was felt to be a waste of time and money, so Pete is to compile a document suggesting methods of successful communications to owners.

 

Another matter discussed with Pete was the introduction of the proposed points system for field selection. Apparently the implementation of this system would take one person in the HRNZ IT department ten weeks, so the Handicapping Sub-Committee, which met earlier that day, had agreed that a money-won system would be a more realistic, and possibly more efficient, option.

 

Other issues covered with Pete Ydgren included the new HRNZ Business Plan which, unlike its’ predecessors contained time frame limits, and therefore consequences if the deadlines were not met. Items of interest included the introduction of Racing Bureaux, and an investigation into the restructuring of the HRNZ Board. Note this is only an investigation, and there is no guarantee that any changes will occur as a result. One possible scenario was the establishment of a Stakeholders Council which would forward suggestions and proposals to a Board of Management.

 

Centralisation was discussed, with Pete advising that very few tracks were owned by the Clubs themselves, so that little advantage would be gained by closures. In addition, history suggests that any such closures would lead to a drop off of interest in that particular area, both from volunteers and punters.

 

Anthony Butt expressed disappointment that the Ashburton Club meeting was scheduled for the day after the jewels, presenting travel issues for drivers attending both meetings.

 

John Lischner summarised a number of issues and proposals being considered by the HRNZ Board. These included harness programmes being restricted to a maximum of 11 races instead of the current 12, the extension of the rating for open class trotters from C7 to C8, and the likely abolition of Invited Drivers series, which were proving costly and difficult to arrange. John advised that HRNZ Veterinary Consultant Andrew Grierson would be attending the Associations’ National Council on 2 May to discuss current drug related issues.

 

Part 2 next week.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Cobalt Chloride

 

Your Association has just been advised that, following research by their Veterinary Consultant, HRNZ will be testing for the substance Cobalt Chloride from April 14 2014.

 

Authorities in New South Wales have recently begun testing for this substance and their lead has now been followed by the Thoroughbred code in Victoria. The permitted level is 200mg per litre of urine.

 

We understand that normal Vitamin B12 injections contain some measure of Cobalt Chloride, however according to the Chief Veterinarian in New South Wales, manufacturers of this product are mindful of keeping the levels low so as not to affect a horses performance.

 

Further information will be forthcoming in due course.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Items of Interest

 

A few bits and pieces of interest this week. The first a positive move for the Greater Canterbury area with the proposed resurrection of an Awards Night for that particular region. This was dropped from the calendar when the National Awards night became regularly based in Christchurch a while back, but it was thought that the time was right to bring it back.

 

Representatives of the local Breeders, Owners and Trainers & Drivers bodies have held two meetings to date and plans are progressing nicely. This organisation is represented by Chairman Ken Barron and myself, and the date of the function is Saturday 27 September, to be held in the Silks Lounge, Addington Raceway. Watch this space for more details closer to the event.

 

It is concerning to hear rumblings that some folks are concerned that an odd horse or two have benefitted too well from the recently introduced Drop Back system, originally instigated by the Association. This was always going to happen, and I can recall it being raised as a possibility at the initial meeting when the idea was first mooted. There are two things that need to be taken into account by those critics. Firstly, the drop back has not been the magic bullet for a great number of horses who, despite being let up, still battle to be competitive. Secondly, surely if an owner has been paying training fees for ten race starts for little return which probably equates to an outlay of probably three months, or around $3-4000, is it so terrible that he or she should be rewarded for that by receiving a winning stake or even two? Let’s not forget that horse has provided income for the Clubs it lined up at – isn’t that what HRNZ are always going on about – getting more horses to the races?

 

The one that I hear often quoted is the Captain Peacock situation. The owners of that horse raced him regularly for three years without winning a race. Does anyone really begrudge them getting a percentage of that back by winning a race or two? Another beneficiary is highlighted on the HRNZ website this week, old Our Southern Man. Surely this is good news for the Industry and should not be the subject of petty jealousy and be stomped on!

 

As some of you will know, this site has been hosted by Harnesslink since its’ inception and that organisation has been most helpful and obliging during that time. However they have decided to retire their website builder (whatever that means) from 30 April this year and are unable to cater for us after that date. Not being particularly au fait with that sort of thing, it threw me into a bit of a flat spin, however a knight in shining armour has appeared over the horizon in the form of Ross Pagan aka. www.ruralwebs.co.nz. Ross already hosts a number of sites for trainers and others involved in the Industry. He has redesigned the site and will be hosting us from now on. You don’t have to do anything as the name remains the same, but he has asked if there are any improvements or changes we required, so if anyone out there has any suggestions (preferably positive), don’t hesitate to contact the undersigned.

 

Peter T Cook

 

Interesting Decision

 

Currently the Association is working on a number of issues leading up to our National Council meeting on 2 May, however there are no finalised outcomes to report on as yet.

 

While some members are like me and have no lives outside harness racing and read the decisions on the JCA website, there may be a few that do not. For their benefit, I thought it would be useful to reproduce here a recent decision concerning one of our leading drivers, Blair Orange.

 

I am not going to comment on the decision, however it may go some way to allay suspicions that I still hear on a regular basis, that the JCA will always side with the RIU.

 

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE HELD AT CHRISTCHURCH IN THE MATTER of Information No. A4304 BETWEEN N G McINTYRE, Co-Chief Stipendiary Steward for the Racing Integrity Unit Informant AND BLAIR NATHAN ORANGE of Rolleston, Licensed Open Driver Respondent

 

Date of Hearing: Friday, 21 March 2014

Venue: Addington Raceway, Christchurch

Judicial Committee: R G McKenzie, Chairman - S C Ching, Committee Member

Present: Mr N G McIntyre (the Informant) Mr B N Orange (the Respondent) Mr S P Renault (Registrar)

Date of Decision: 21 March 2014

 

DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

 

THE CHARGE

[1] Information No. A4304 alleges that Mr Orange, as the driver of ROCKNROLL ARDEN in Race 12, Direct Security Services Mobile Pace, at the meeting of Auckland Trotting Club held at Alexandra Park Raceway, Auckland, on 7 March 2014, "failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures available between the 500 and 300 metres to ensure that ROCKNROLL ARDEN was given every opportunity to obtain the best possible finishing place".

 

[2] Mr McIntyre produced a letter dated 14 March 2014 from Mr M R Godber, Operations Manager for the Racing Integrity Unit, authorising the filing of the information pursuant to Rule 1103 (4) (c).

 

[3] Mr Orange was present at the hearing of the information. The charge was read to him, together with the relevant Rule, and he indicated that he denied the charge.

 

THE RULE

 

[4] The relevant Rule is as follows:

868 (2) Every horseman shall take all reasonable and permissible measures at all times during the race to ensure that his horse is given full opportunity to win the race or to obtain the best possible position and/or finishing place.

 

INFORMANT'S SUBMISSIONS

 

[5] Mr Orange was the driver of ROCKNROLL ARDEN which was correctly entered for and raced in Race 12, Direct Security Services Mobile Pace, at the Auckland Trotting Club's meeting at Alexandra Park on 7 March 2014.

 

[6] The race was contested over 2200 metres from a mobile start. ROCKNROLL ARDEN drew barrier 6 and started from barrier 5 following a scratching. ROCKNROLL ARDEN was the win and place favourite.

 

[7] It is the allegation of the Stipendiary Stewards that Mr Orange failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures between the 500 and 300 metres to ensure that ROCKNROLL ARDEN was given every opportunity to obtain the best possible finishing place.

 

[8] ROCKNROLL ARDEN underwent a post-race veterinary examination which failed to detect any abnormalities on the night. This was noted in the Stewards' Report.

 

[9] Mr McIntyre then showed video replays of the relevant part of the race from approximately the 1300 metres to the finish, with particular reference to that part between the 500 metres and the 300 metres.

 

[10] He pointed out ROCKNROLL ARDEN, driven by Mr Orange, positioned in the one/one from the 1300 metres following REAL STAR (M W McKendry), which was 6/5 in the betting.

 

[11] Passing the 1000 metres, RUSSLEY HASTE (A G Herlihy), which was 4/4 in the betting, improved 3-wide and attempted to gain the parked position from the overracing REAL STAR. REAL STAR did not yield the parked position and this resulted in RUSSLEY HASTE being forced to race 3-wide without cover until the 300 metres. During this part of the race, ROCKNROLL ARDEN was directly behind REAL STAR. The sectional time for the quarter between the 800 and the 400 metres was 28 seconds.

 

[12] Mr McIntyre said that the Stewards had no concerns over Mr Orange's drive prior to the 500 metres.

 

[13] The Stewards were submitting that, due to what happened directly in front of Mr Orange, where both REAL STAR and RUSSLEY HASTE raced at a fast pace without cover for some time, it was unreasonable and not permissible for Mr Orange to stay in his position and leave it to chance, when a clear run to the outside of RUSSLEY HASTE was available which would have allowed ROCKNROLL ARDEN a clear an unobstructed run to the line.

 

[14] Mr McIntyre submitted that it was almost inevitable that both REAL STAR and RUSSLEY HASTE would not have been able to sustain their very hard runs and that, as a consequence, they would have succumbed and yielded ground.

 

[15] In addition, because the run from the 800 metres to the 400 metres was run at high speed, then it was highly probable that back runners would be able to "swoop" over the latter stages and these runners would be coming wide round RUSSLEY HASTE.

 

[16] By staying in, Mr Orange ultimately became covered up by the improving SWEET ARTS (S D T Phelan) and became held up until passing the 180 metres. Once ROCKNROLL ARDEN was clear, the horse made ground well, finishing in 2nd placing, beaten by a neck. Mr McIntyre, when asked by the Committee, estimated that ROCKNROLL ARDEN had made up 2½ lengths on ROCKNRUBY in the final straight.

 

[17] Mr Orange had some time to make a decision due to no horse shifting to his outside until the final 300 metres.

 

[18] Finally, Mr McIntyre submitted, ROCKNROLL ARDEN was on a significant downgrade from the horses which the filly had been racing.

 

SUBMISSIONS BY THE RESPONDENT

 

[19] Mr Orange said the he is employed by trainer, Mark Purdon, the previous trainer of RUSSLEY HASTE. He showed a video replay of the race from approximately the 1300 metres and submitted that Mr Herlihy had used the whip on that horse from the time he pulled out. He pulled the horse's earplugs at the same time. He had asked his horse from the 1100 or 1200 metres to "run flat out" to try to get to the parked position off Mr McKendry.

 

[20] Mr Orange said that he was aware of this. RUSSLEY HASTE commenced to pace roughly and hang. He said that he did not believe that Mr Herlihy could keep asking his horse for more and have it carry on. Mr Orange reminded the Committee that he knew Mr Herlihy's horse.

 

[21] Mr Orange submitted that Mr McKendry's stature did not change. His horse, REAL STAR, was travelling as well as the leader and the trailing horse and a lot better than RUSSLEY HASTE. Mr Orange had every reason to believe that REAL STAR was going to "keep running" at that stage, having regard to the hold that Mr McKendry had on REAL STAR. At this point, Mr Orange said that he asked himself why, even when he had the chance to come out, would he come out onto the back of a horse that had been under a vigorous drive from the 1100 metres and was going to be tiring.

 

[22] To come into the straight 4-wide at Alexandra, which he would have to have done, you lose a length or two - it is one of the worst bends in racing, he submitted. It is very hard to come wide and win a race.

 

[23] Mr Orange explained to the Committee that his thinking was that Mr McKendry's horse was travelling a lot better than Mr Herlihy's at that stage. He reasoned that RUSSLEY HASTE would stop and enable him to come out underneath that runner thereby saving himself at least 4 lengths by not having to go wide.

 

[24] He also had the option, Mr Orange submitted, to wait for the passing lane and get straight onto the back of the leader ROCKN RUBY when the trailing horse took the passing lane. He believed that he had "a couple of options". He said that, as a driver, he was always thinking ahead about what was going to happen in the next 50 metres. A driver has to make a decision "there and then". He believed that he had made the best decision to win the race to save ground with his filly. The question also arose - would ROCKNROLL ARDEN have won the race had she come wide? The answer would never be known, he said. ROCKN RUBY had "kicked" and was holding his filly at the finish, he submitted. He demonstrated this on the video.

 

[25] When Mr McKendry went for his horse, although appearing to be travelling well, it gave him nothing, Mr Orange submitted. Horses are inclined to do this, he said. He believed that Mr McKendry's horse would have carried him further than it actually did. At the same time as Mr McKendry went for his horse, he got a run straight away, Mr Orange said. He questioned whether the filly had been held up that much.

 

[26] Mr Orange submitted that he had given his filly every chance, having regard to the way the race was run. The trainer, Mr Purdon, and the owner were more that satisfied with the way he had driven the filly, he said, hence he was driving it in the race later on this night.

 

[27] Mr McIntyre was given the opportunity to comment. He said that, obviously, a horse wide on the track turning for home was going to lose ground. However, he said, Mr Orange only needed to go one horse wider to get onto Mr Herlihy's back, and then go and have his momentum up. Mr Orange had taken the chance that Mr McKendry would continue to take him into the race, Mr McIntyre said.

 

[28] Mr McIntyre agreed with Mr Orange that RUSSLEY HASTE had been under a drive from the 1000 metres but, Mr McIntyre said, that horse had lost no ground until the 300 metres. Mr McIntyre agreed with Mr Orange that Mr McKendry's horse was "on the bit".

 

CLOSING SUBMISSIONS OF THE INFORMANT

 

[29] Mr McIntyre submitted that the Rule does not exist to punish a driver who makes a sudden decision which is right or wrong in the end. The Rule exists to ensure that all actions are reasonable and permissible at all times.

 

[30] The Informant is not in possession of any evidence that questions the integrity of Mr Orange. However, the Informant does question his failure to fulfil an obligation which is placed on every driver when they step onto the racetrack.

 

[31] Mr McIntyre referred to a quote from the Honourable Mr Justice W R Haylen in Harness Racing NSW v Fitzpatrick. In a ruling dated 20 May 2009, he said the following:

 

Perhaps to throw my own interpretation into the mix I might view it this way - that the sort of culpable action that is required to amount to a breach of this rule might be such that in normal circumstances a reasonable and knowledgeable harness racing spectator might be expected to exclaim with words to the effect "What on earth is he doing?" or "My goodness look at that" or some such exclamation.

 

[32] It is absolutely imperative that, when circumstances permit, drivers meet their requirements within the Rules. In this particular case, the Stewards say that the evidence overwhelmingly supports a charge brought under the Rule. If this race is viewed objectively as a "punter", Mr McIntyre submitted, that punter would be asking questions regarding the drive of Mr Orange. The onus is solely on Mr Orange to ensure those questions do not arise.

 

[33] A breach of this particular Rule is one that invariably jeopardises the integrity of harness racing for reasons which are self-evident. Harness races are based on the requirement that all contestants in a race are given every possible opportunity by their drivers. This has to be the case in order that the betting public, so important to the industry, can have confidence that they have had a run for their money when they have invested their money on contestants in a harness race. Any suggestion that a horse has not been given every possible opportunity will result in loss of public confidence in harness racing.

 

[34] The drive by Mr Orange between the 500 and 300 metres has fallen well short of what a reasonable-minded person would expect. Had Mr Orange shifted to the outside between the 500 and 300 metres it is reasonable to think he would have won the race.

 

REASONS FOR DECISION

 

[35] The Committee believes that the test to be applied to Mr Orange in respect of Rule 868 (2) is whether he gave a reasonable and reasoned response to the situations that arose between the 500 and 300 metres and whether he displayed professional competence in his drive on ROCKNROLL ARDEN. It is a well-established principle that an error of judgement does not amount to a breach of the Rule. For a charge under the Rule to be proved, it needs to be shown that a driver has displayed culpable behaviour - that is to say, that his drive was blameworthy on an objective basis.

 

[36] The opinion of Mr Orange's drive formed by the Stewards was understandable. Their observation that he did not bring his horse out between the 500 and 300 metres, when he was able to, was quite correct.

 

[37] The Stewards were not alleging that Mr Orange had not reasonably and appropriately driven ROCKNROLL ARDEN up until the 500 metres.

 

[38] It was agreed by the parties that it was permissible for Mr Orange to shift his drive outwards between the 500 and 300 metres. It was also reasonable for him to do so.

 

[39] This Committee has had the benefit of hearing Mr Orange's explanation for the course of action adopted by him.

 

[40] Mr Orange submitted to the Committee that there were other options available to him, which were both reasonable and permissible.

 

[41] Mr Orange told the Committee that he had other options open to him during the relevant part of the race. Specifically, he could wait for RUSSLEY HASTE, which had had a hard run 3-wide in the open when Mr Herlihy had driven it hard in an attempt to get past REAL STAR to the parked position, to stop thereby giving Mr Orange the opportunity to obtain a run for his horse on the inside of a tiring RUSSLEY HASTE.

 

[42] Mr Orange rightly observed that had he pulled his horse out when, according to the Stewards, he ought to have, he would have been required to go 4-wide around a tiring RUSSLEY HASTE, which is not generally a wise move at that particular track. He said that was not an option that he favoured, based on his knowledge and experience of the Alexandra Park track. He said that it was disadvantageous to be wide on the track turning for home there. We accept Mr Orange's explanation that he did not go wide because of his knowledge of the track.

 

[43] In his judgement and experience, Mr Orange favoured either the option already referred to - waiting for Mr Herlihy's horse to stop which he expected on reasonable grounds would happen - or, he said, to wait for the passing lane when the trailing horse would take the passing lane leaving, in all likelihood, a clear run for himself for the length of the straight.

 

[44] In support of his submission that the other two options were reasonable, Mr Orange submitted that both the leader, ROCKN RUBY, driven by Mr B Mangos, and REAL STAR, driven by Mr McKendry, were still travelling well at that stage of the race. The video evidence supported this. Mr Orange's assessment of that was reasonable. It is significant that ROCKN RUBY went on to win the race.

 

[45] The Committee has considered all relevant matters in making an objective judgement as to whether Mr Orange's actions were reasonable and whether he drove his horse to obtain the best possible placing in the field. On the facts, the sole issue is whether he was giving his horse full opportunity to win the race - it was win or finish 2nd.

 

[46] The Committee finds that the decision made by Mr Orange between the 500 and 300 metres, to remain on the back of REAL STAR, was a reasonable and reasoned response to the situation as it was unfolding and was professionally competent.

 

[47] The Committee finds that there was nothing culpable about Mr Orange's decision and that part of his drive was not blameworthy. The course adopted by him was a reasonable and permissible one to give ROCKNROLL ARDEN a full opportunity to win. If Mr Orange is guilty of anything, he is guilty of a mere error of judgement.

 

[48] Furthermore, there was no certainty that ROCKNROLL ARDEN would have won the race had Mr Orange adopted the tactics which the Stewards alleged he should have.

 

[49] We are of the view that the charge should be dismissed.

 

DECISION

[50] The charge was dismissed.

 

COSTS

[51] No order for costs was made.

 

R G McKenzie S C Ching

CHAIR COMMITTEE MEMBER

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

To Bet Or Not To Bet; That Is The Question

 

Last year it was brought to the Associations' attention that there was a push by the Racing Board through the RIU to ban all drivers from on-course betting. Apparently this was to appease punters in Asia who obviously think that the majority of people involved in Harness Racing in the Country have read too many Dick Francis novels.

 

The initial approach by HRNZ was to propose a change to the Rule at last years' Annual Conference which effectively banned horsemen from betting on any race at a meeting they had a drive in. In other words, if a trainer with one horse at a meeting they drove in the first race had a bet in the last race of the day, they would be in breach of Rule 505. Thankfully the Club reps at the Conference thought this was as ridiculous as we did, and threw it out.

 

At the Associations' National Council meeting in October it was agreed that while the Association supported a ban on drivers betting at windows in their driving apparel, it was considered unnecessary to impose any other restrictions. It was felt that some connections of a horse would welcome a driver betting on their horse, suggesting a level of confidence. However, in order to appease the authorities, it was decided to support the proposal that drivers should not be allowed to bet on any race that they are participating in.

 

Subsequently Northern Branch Chairman Peter Ferguson was co-opted onto an HRNZ Sub-Committee and common sense has prevailed with the following amendments to the relevant Rule:

 

1 Rule 505 - Betting by Horseman

 

Rule 505(1) was amended to state:

 

"505 (1) A horseman may not bet on any horse or combination of horses in a race, in which he or she is driving;

 

(2) A breach of this sub-rule (1) is declared to be a serious racing offence;

 

(3) After placing a bet on a horse or combination of horses in a race, a horseman may not accept a drive in that race without the approval of a Stipendiary Steward."

 

2 Rule 505B - Betting on Drivers Challenge

 

Rule 505B is re-numbered as rule 505A.

 

3 Rule 505B - Betting in Drivers Gear

 

A new rule 505B is inserted which states:

 

"505B A horseman who is dressed in his or her driving gear or apparel may not place a bet at a racecourse."

 

4 Rule 505A - Laying

 

Rule 505A is re-numbered as rule 505C.

 

5 Rule 505(2) - Providing Record of Bets

 

Rule 505(2) is re-numbered as rule 505D.

 

The Association applauds HRNZ for being flexible in this matter and realising the folly of the original proposal.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

What Makes News

 

For some time now I have given up watching mainstream television, mainly because I can't handle the countless mind-numbing reality shows, and the news is full of petty bickering and points scoring between politicians who should know better (Election year hasn't helped that!).

 

My spies tell me that the potentially horrific smash at Westport last week was shown on the News (not sure which channel) making it obvious that the general media is only interested in harness racing when there is a crash, or some form of drug related sensation. Thankfully that doesn't happen very often so that coverage is minimal. The only other recent positive coverage was Zac Butchers' wonderful display of showmanship on beating his dad in the Drivers' premiership eighteen months ago.

 

Got me thinking though, if the mainstream channels want sensationalism, why not give it to them. A reality show featuring nasty harness racing crashes? Obviously permission would need to be granted by the people involved in the incidents, but it would surely rate higher than "Outer Mongolias' Ugliest Bodies" or "What I found In My Great Uncles Garage", or some of the other drivel currently on offer! You know the old saying, any publicity etc., etc. Maybe sponsorship could be gained from a manufacturer of safety gear?

 

While on the subject of Westport, it is slightly sad to see that the Club, renowned for being both forward thinking and extremely hospitable, refuses to acknowledge the need for a passing lane at Patterson Park.

 

Using the Stipes' Report from last Friday as a guide, there were a total of 26 horses who were ‘denied clear racing room' in the straight. When I broached this with a Club official, I received a similar response that I probably would have given myself about 10 years ago - that there is still (usually) only one winner in each race.

 

While that is difficult to argue with, one of the suggestions put forward was that punters needed to back drivers who didn't drive for luck, and moaned when they were unlucky. That argument tends to collapse when the drivers on some of those denied a run the other day included Jim Curtin, Robbie Holmes, Pete Davis and Gavin Smith, all of whom are virtual stalwarts of West Coast harness racing.

 

The problem is that for every one of those 26 horses denied a run, there are dozens of disgruntled punters (aka customers) with a nasty taste in their mouth. Yes I admit, I had that taste four times during the day!

 

Come on Westport, move with the times on this one, and move a few marker pegs.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

Northern Branch February 2014

 

The Associations' Northern Branch recently met to discuss the latest issues facing that area, and began by giving a vote of support to Northern starter Frank Phelan. Those present acknowledged, however, that all starters should come under scrutiny as part of the job and, on occasions could do things better.

 

(As an aside to this topic, the Association received a communication from Mr Brian Macey, the owner of Prime Power, who was singled out for criticism in a recent article on standing starts. Brian agreed with Paul Nairns' comments concerning poorly behaved horses from standing starts, and reported that his horse had recently been given intensive standing start practice. The happy outcome was Prime Power stood perfectly last week, began beautifully, and duly won. Congratulations to the connections on making the effort - it goes to prove that it can be done for most horses)

 

Matters arising from the Canterbury minutes were covered, including online nominations, the bulls-eye barrier draw, and the introduction of photo licences, all of which were supported.

 

Concern was expressed at inconsistencies shown by the RIU in penalising the connections of horses that were late scratched due to being sold. Some received no penalty, while fines tended to vary from $200 to $350, and no bearing seemed to be given to whether or not another horse on the ballot had been denied a start. A letter has been drafted, and the matter was to be referred to the National Council for consideration.

 

The state of Northern all-weather tracks was discussed, with the Cambridge and Manawatu surfaces being praised thanks to the use of conditioners etc., however there was concern over the consistency of Alexandra Park, partly due to the material containing a large amount of shell. It was decided to invite ATC officials to the next Branch meeting to discuss this and other matters.

 

Chairman Peter Ferguson reported that horses that are claimed are still not being swabbed as a matter of course. The Committee felt that this should take place to ensure the integrity and safety of all concerned. (This opinion was subsequently supported at National Council level and a letter has been forward to the RIU).

 

The matter of the payment of driving fees for those engaged for horses that are subsequently scratched was discussed. It is understood that jockeys receive half of their fee if this occurs, and the feeling is that drivers should receive the same, instead of the full amount being retained by the Club. The main point to this argument is that for most drivers, it does not take many of these to mean breaking even or losing money after expenses on a nights racing. Also, after drivers are declared, the chances of gaining another drive after a scratching were virtually non-existent. This matter will be referred to the up-coming National Council meeting for consideration.

 

Dave Neal/Peter Cook

 

 

Another Bulls Eye

 

If anyone can remember as far back as 2010, discussion was raging among Clubs and trainers over the situation where, on a number of occasions, there were more horses on the second row of a mobile start than on the front. This scenario was unacceptable for a number of reasons, not the least safety, and the National Council voted for a change to what was known as either the Scratching Substitute System, or Bulls-Eye System.

 

Basically the idea was that emergencies in a race were not allocated a barrier draw, and if they gained a start, they took the draw of the horse that they replaced, similar to the way the greyhounds do it. Unfortunately the powers that be didn't share our enthusiasm for the idea, apparently because the Racing Board (TAB) ‘boffins' reckoned the punters would be confused. Apparently greyhound punters are more clued up than harness ones!

 

Anyway, following the introduction of the scratching penalty, emergencies rarely regained entry, so the idea went into recess....until this week, when the following appeared on a press release announcing the Interdominion Grand Final field:

 

‘Note that the Emergencies are not drawn into the field and take the place vacated by a scratching.'

 

For a while now, the Racing Board has been telling us that we need to change certain ways of doing things to accommodate and appease overseas punters. It's a well-known fact that Australian punters tend to place far more importance on barrier draws that their Kiwi equivalents, however with far more emphasis on fixed-odds betting here, the landscape is changing somewhat, particularly where major events are concerned and the fixed-odds markets open days, or even weeks before the race itself.

 

Under the current scenario what this means is that, if you place a bet on, say a horse drawn two on the second row because it is supposed to follow out a fast beginner and that front rower is scratched, you can find that your chances are reduced by having now drawn behind the slowest beginner in the race. Thus one of the main reasons that you backed your horse has been taken away and you have no recourse.

 

On the other hand, if you ignore a horse that is drawn too wide off the front and back another, only to find on race-day that, due to scratchings, that ignored horse is drawn one or even two places further in, once again you have no recourse.

 

The ideal place to trial this idea is the Harness Jewels, where it is almost unknown for a horse to be scratched, and hopefully will attract the interest of Australian punters. Imagine the introduction to the meeting where it is announced that number 14 (the emergency) is scratched from every event. How simple is that? Surely, even if there are one or two withdrawals there is ample opportunity to advise where the emergencies will draw.

 

The Association will be pushing for this to be trialled at the Jewels, so that everyone on either side of the Tasman can see the advantages and accept the concept for future events.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

The Big Question

 

Promising signs from the first couple of programmes in the new series of The Box Seat, which is basically harness racings' one and only purpose-built television outlet.

 

One section that will hopefully become a talking point is the "Big Question" where a topical subject is discussed in depth. This basically replaces "Keeping up with the Jones'" which became too personal, causing some backlash for both Mark Jones and the Trainers & Drivers Assn. The signs are promising, and it is to be hoped that the presenters will canvas the opinions of industry participants as well as pushing their own ‘barrows'.

 

This weeks' topic was the mile start at Addington, and there are a couple of items that need comment and clarification. First of all, at a meeting with Addington CEO late last year, the Greater Canterbury Branch were unanimous in requesting that the New Zealand Free-for-All not be run over a mile in future seasons.

 

A couple of apparent arguments that were put forward on the Box Seat by Club representative Brian Rabbitt seemed a little questionable, to say the least. Firstly, he maintained that the last race the other night, when Vice Chairman led all the way and went a phenomenal time, was a far more interesting spectacle, and drew more comment than the Interdominion heat won by Terror To Love. First of all, I'm not sure how interesting it is that one horse led all the way, and once the draw came out in the ID heat and the two best horses drew 1 & 2, it became virtually irrelevant. Perhaps that says more about the failure of the new Interdominion concept than the success of the mile race. I wonder if Addington officials enquired how many disgruntled punters there were after the mile, when, because of their draw, the favourites were unable to be put into the race at any point?

 

Another argument for the retention of the mile start was that the turnover on the Free-for-All has risen since the change. That's great, but I wonder how the turnover would have looked if the best horse in the race (and subsequent good thing beaten) Christen Me, had drawn 1 or 2 on the gate? I would suggest he would have been a $1.50 shot and betting would have gone through the floor!

 

As for the idea that mile racing would help with shorter times between races, I have grave doubts that the extra 350 metres difference between the two distances (about 20 seconds) is going to have a huge effect on that!

 

The main issue with the mile start is not the distance, it is the fact that the race starts on a bend. I was never any good at physics or the like, but anyone with eyes can see that there is a massive advantage to be gained by drawing an inside alley over a short distance. Has anyone not seen an athletics short distance race involving a bend? They have staggered starting points, scientifically measured so that every contestant covers the same distance. Why should that not apply to horses?

 

Please Addington, it was worth a try, but listen to your supporters and customers, and go back to a realistic starting point.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

Innovations

 

Isn't it great that there are always people in our Industry who are able to think outside the square, and have the enthusiasm and energy to make their ideas happen.

 

In the past (and currently) we've had Interprovincial Drivers Championships, various Invited Drivers series, lady drivers events, Brothers In Arms, and now the Waikouaiti Club have come up with a "Youth versus Experience" series to be staged at their upcoming meeting on Tuesday 18 March.

 

This involves reinspersons aged over 50 pitted against a team of under 25's, with invitations issued not only to drivers in the North Island, but also a couple from across the ‘deetch'. Congratulations to Bruce Negus and the Waikouaiti team for making what would have been just another mundane Tuesday meeting into something special and unique. I presume they've covered the concept off with the Human Rights Commission!

 

 

With names such as Herlihy, McKendry, Ferguson, May and Beck for the ‘wrinklies', and Dunn, Ottley, Butcher and Williamson for the ‘babies' looking likely to front up for five penalty-free races, it promises to be a fascinating event which can only benefit both the drivers and owners involved. Hopefully the public will get behind the concept and make it an annual celebration.

 

What such a series does highlight is the enormous progress that has been made by our younger industry participants in the past couple of decades. Can you imagine a series like this going ahead say, twenty years ago? Back then, a Junior Driver (or was it Probationary) would be very lucky to get five drives a month, let alone that many in one day. Fifty years ago, it was probably more like five drives in a season!

 

Say what you like about HRNZ (and we often do), but a huge amount of credit has to go to that bodies' foresight in nurturing our younger generation and giving the opportunities to compete (and sometimes beat) their older, more experienced peers. After all, our code doesn't have the advantages that galloping can offer its' youngsters like weight allowances. It is good to see that, under the current guidance of people such as Natalie Gameson and Trevor Beaton, there is no resting on laurels either.

 

Another pleasing move, even though it seems it was forced on them, is the decision to move the Hororata Clubs' meeting next Friday to the Mt Harding racecourse. Arguably one of the most picturesque tracks on the World, the Methven track, which is solely harness racing, is sadly under-utilised and provides a superb surface (weather permitting of course) for horses to perform on. A country Club returning to the country - what a novel idea!

 

I note, with some astonishment, criticism of grass track racing in the NZ Harness Weekly, and a suggestion that it is on the way out. Obviously no-one has informed the connections of the hundreds of horses that are entered for these meetings, or the public, who turn up to such venues in their droves!

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

Standing Starts - Again

 

Yes, they're on old chestnut and it's likely they will always be a discussion point. At the recent Greater Canterbury Branch meeting, Paul Nairn was the latest to express concern at some aspects of this method of starting races.

 

He is a firm supporter of standing starts, but his beef is that, on numerous occasions, it is the horse that misbehaves that gains an advantage over the ones that are well schooled, and well behaved. The latest glaring example of this was Prime Power at Alexandra Park, not once, but twice over the holiday period. The horse was rearing, dancing about and generally behaving in an unruly fashion, but at the precise moment when he was almost charging the barrier, it was released and he got a flyer. Hardly fair on the other runners. These horses are labelled unruly for a reason, and should not be advantaged. Paul feels that teaching a horse to stand is an integral part of training, and if the animal can't do that, as some can't, restrict it to mobiles. He also feels that badly behaved horses should face consequences.

 

I understand in Southland, the Clubs, horsemen and Starters have apparently reached agreement that if any horse is playing up behind the tapes, as long as it is not interfering with another runner, the race will be started and the offender will be left behind. In Canterbury it can vary, but on occasions at least the impression is that a misbehaving horse can gain an advantage over ones that have been standing for a while. At Forbury Park, who would know - to be honest the standing (and I use the word advisedly) starts there are bordering on farcical! I mean, apart from anything else, is gabbling something intelligible and yelling ‘Right" as loud as you can good for nervous horses?

 

The problem is, we are all one Country, and often horses and drivers move around New Zealand and are faced with wondering what policy the starter in that area is following. Often it's too late when they find out.

 

I recently attended a Starters meeting where a number of matters were covered off, but there was little, if any, mention of all starters doing their job the same way!?

 

We can only hope that when, as seems likely, the RIU take over the employment of these officials, some form of uniformity can be reached.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

Greater Canterbury Branch January 2014

 

What with two or three race meetings a week, guys flitting back and forth across the Tasman, and Yearling Sales preparation, it was not too surprising that numbers at the first Committee meeting of the year were a bit thin.

 

Fortunately Edward Rennell kindly came along to give those who did show up, a rundown on some current and future developments. The first item of interest was progress on the recently introduced Points System, which Ken Barron and John Lischner both considered to be essential for progress in the Industry. While Edward was sympathetic, he advised that setting up the system by the HRNZ IT department would take over two months and the current priority was to set up facilities for online nominations, notifications and payments. He did undertake to investigate whether, as had been proposed, the points allocated to each horse could be calculated manually and indicated against the horses' name, as is being done by Addington Raceway. There was concern that some trainers were lining horses up in lower stake races to make them look good and protect their selling price, thereby disadvantaging the connections of lesser horses. The Points System would help to eliminate this practice.

 

Edward also advised that the payment of partial stakes to each individual owner/share-holder of a horse was being investigated, as opposed to the current policy of one payment to the first name on the papers.

 

He acknowledged that HRNZ had requested the Rangiora Club to reduce its' stakes for its' recent Tuesday meeting to avoid attracting horses from higher turnover meetings later in the week. However, he stressed that the recommendation was that the $12,000 reduction should be channeled onto the Clubs' other programmes later in the season.

 

The proposed changes to the Premier racing schedule were outlined and discussed. This involves sets of two Premier meetings alternating between Auckland and Addington this season in March, April and May, leading up to the Harness Jewels. Added to the NZ Cup Week and Auckland December dates, this would mean six sets of two Premier meetings per season, with the likelihood of $20,000 minimum stakes. These dates would be set in concrete for the following five seasons, regardless of where Easter and Anzac Day fell, and provide much needed showcase meetings for the Code. HRNZ was currently in talks with the Auckland and NZ Metropolitan Clubs, and Edward acknowledged the support of the NZ Sires Stakes Board in planning and part funding the various new Group races that are planned to be included to enhance these programmes.

 

At the request of Dean Taylor, Edward agreed to approach the Forbury Club requesting that they programme two Junior Drivers races on one night instead of spreading them over two. This would help prevent these young people having to travel to Dunedin for just one drive in a night and show up for work the next day. Edward also advised that the criteria for selection of the NZ Junior Drivers Championships was being reviewed, due to the imbalance in the number of Juniors around the Country.

 

Other matters discussed in general included off shore betting, HRNZ presence at the Yearling Sales, possibly in the form of a registration desk, and some stake levels. Ken Barron expressed disappointment at the $5000 stakes being paid by the NZ Metropolitan club, particularly to 3yo trotters preparing for upcoming Group races. Despite the feeling that these were penalty free events, they were not, and he felt that this Club should lead the way in paying higher stakes.

 

Paul Nairn, while voicing his support for standing starts, expressed concern at misbehaving horses gaining an advantage when the tapes are released as they finally came into line, disadvantaging those who have been standing. He cited the recent example of Prime Power at Alexandra Park.

 

Peter T Cook

 

 

 

 

 

 

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