News -  Year 2015

 

National Council

 

 

 Memories

Being probably classed as being in the ‘senior’ category these days, one of the sections of the Harnessed I really enjoy is the ‘As It Was’ section with news briefs from a bygone year, and the many memories, both good and not so good, they inspire.

The December issue included a snippet which was of particular interest, concerning the make-up of the ‘NZHR Trainers and Drivers Assn. in 1999 - not quite accurate as the personnel listed made up only the Canterbury Branch of the organisation.

What was of interest however, was that of the twelve gentlemen named in the article, only two are still on that Committee, which indicates to me two points.

Firstly, over the years there have a been a large number of licence-holders who have given their time and efforts to improve the lot of their fellow trainers and drivers for a number of years, and have passed on the task to others when they find they have no more to offer – a very healthy situation.

The other point is that, having been privileged to be involved with so many of these people over the years, I am proud of what has been achieved by them.

Of course there is a third point….it makes me feel older! And on that note, I will, on behalf of the Trainers & Drivers National Council, wish you all a safe, prosperous and happy time over the holiday season, and look forward to discussing and reporting on all the important issues facing our Industry in 2016.

Pete Cook

 Important Health & Safety Update

During September and October, NZTR and HRNZ staff, along with WorkSafe representatives, carried out a series of Health and Safety workshops in regional centres. The workshops were well attended by Clubs, industry sector groups and RIU staff. As a result of the workshops, a series of health and safety templates and advisories have been created to assist in producing your own plans.

The documents below are now available on the HRNZ website, by clicking on the following link: http://www.hrnz.co.nz/health-safety.

If you would prefer them emailed or in another format please contact admin@hrnz.co.nz.

Sector Group Resources Available include:

• Summary of new Health and Safety Act - this is a legal overview of the new ACT and how it

impacts on trainers, breeders, drivers and jockeys

• Trainer/breeder - contractor induction

• Trainer/breeder - staff induction

• Induction doc – HRNZ stable staff (document suitable for people new to the stable

environment)

The Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force in April 2016 with additional health and safety requirements, as the Government looks to substantially reduce New Zealand’s work safety record.

It is important that health and safety is given a priority now and not delayed until next year. Both NZTR and HRNZ have resources to assist Clubs and can also advise other sector groups as to where they can get assistance and guidance and, if required, your local WorkSafe representative will also be available to assist.

In addition to the HRNZ website, the following WorkSafe websites have advice and forms to assist you:

http://www.saferfarms.org.nz/make-a-plan/

http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/guidance-by-industry/agriculture

http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/guidance-by-industry/construction

http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/information-guidance/guidance-by-industry/hsno

In case some of the trainers have tree plots as part of their farms or as shares:

http://forestry.worksafe.govt.nz/guides/

If you have any queries about the new legislation or the documentation provided, don’t hesitate to contact either Edward Rennell or Stuart Cashen on cashen@actrix.co.nz

 Sires Stakes Series

As the Association has a representative on the NZ Sires Stakes Board, we receive a copy of the minutes of their meetings. As with any meeting of this type, there are sometimes issues of importance discussed and, given the disturbing lack of entries in the heats for this years’ Colts and Geldings Series, I was interested to see the reaction of the Board.

To my surprise, the situation didn’t rate a mention.

For the record there were five heats of the Series this year, each carrying a stake of $22,000. The number of starters in these heats were, in chronological order, 8, 6, 6, 7, and 10. In fact, there is no chance that, had it not been for the four All Stars runners in the third heat, that race could not have gone ahead, at least as a tote race.

The Final on Cup Day, for a stake of $156,400 attracted 13 starters, which originated from just 7 stables!

Am I the only one that thinks there is a problem here?

Pete Cook

 JCA School

Having been involved in the formative years of our Judicial Control Authority, consisting of a number of meetings with its’ creator Judge Peter Trapski and his successor, the sadly recently departed Kristy MacDonald, I’ve got a reasonable idea of how the JCA works and how it relates to license-holders, the RIU, and other Industry bodies.

Despite that, I recently went along to an evening set up by the JCA in conjunction with the racing codes, to educate the young up and comers in racing on how the system works, and how they can make it work for them. There was a pleasing turn out of around 30 people, mostly youngsters, and I was impressed by both the two JCA presenters from Palmerston North, and the quality of the questions asked by those attending.

It was obvious to me that some of the issues and procedures that are almost second nature to myself and others on the Trainers & Drivers Assn., are quite foreign to a sizeable number of those involved in racing. While the audience was in the majority young, I would hazard a guess that there are quite a number of more senior horsemen and women for whom the current judicial system is a murky mystery, and sadly something to be feared.

If you fall into the latter category, it would be wise, as was recommended at the meeting, to have a look at the JCA website on a regular basis, and read the transcripts of the hearings so that procedures and the basics of how to handle yourself in a judicial hearing are not completely foreign should you find yourself in such a situation.

The JCA Board and staff are to be commended for taking this initiative to familiarise as many people as possible with what they are about.

Pete Cook
 

 Employment Agreement

While all the talk is currently about changes to the Health & Safety Act and the administration of same, it might be timely to remind trainers that they are legally bound to have employment contracts
with their employees. As previously advised, the Association is able to provide a legally binding Employment Agreement specifically designed for Stablehands, and other workers in the racing industry.

This has been kindly developed by Mary-Jane Thomas of Preston Russell Law of Invercargill, specialists in harness racing legal issues. There have been a number of unpleasant and sometimes costly incidents that have arisen from trainers failing to have a formal agreement with their staff, so to avoid such situations, it would be prudent to use this facility.

You will find a link to the downloadable agreement on the left hand side of the site home page.

Pete Cook

 National Council Meeting Report November 2015

Chairman Rob Lawson opened the recent meeting by welcoming the new members of the Council, Todd Macfarlane, Jay Abernethy and Logan Hollis, and congratulating them on their recent appointments.

A number of issues from the previous meeting were discussed:

JCA Penalty Guide; Rob advised that despite support from the HRNZ Board, efforts to have the new penalties reversed had failed to date. However, in general JCA panels were tending to find reasons not to impose the guideline penalties. He expressed disappointment at the loss of Kristy MacDonald from the Chair of the JCA, acknowledging her good work, and consideration and co-operation she had shown the Association.

HRNZ Annual Conference; The Association, through the efforts of Peter Ferguson, had defeated the ‘Clear day Rule’ put up by the RIU. Rob felt that this was assisted by the way the Rule had been written, and was a victory for common sense.

Whip Use; The meeting agreed that the recent publicity and animal welfare issue had not been helpful with this matter, with the Stratford case setting a precedent, and serving to stir up emotions.

Handicapping; Rob reported that the Handicapping Committee had agreed with the proposal to limit the number of penalty free races for 2 year-olds, and extending the Junior Driver concession from 30 to 50 wins, however had decided to leave the drop back level at 10 wins.

Travel Subsidies; Rob also advised that Travel Subsidies were continuing for now, however those present agreed that paying them for travel between Cambridge, Pukekohe and Auckland was unnecessary, and a waste of industry funds.

Sulky Widths; No further action had been taken on this issue in Australia and the controversy appeared to have diminished.

Scratching Penalty; Rob advised that the abolition of vet certificates and other alterations were still being negotiated.

AGENDA ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION:

HRNZ Report; Rob Lawson reported that the Strategic Vision for Clubs was progressing well in some regions, however there were some sticking points in others. In summary;

North – Kumeu and Morrinsville were raising objections

Central Districts – Progress in this area was moving slowly. The Manawatu had been advised by various industry bodies, including the Association, that their lights were both unsatisfactory at night, and pole shadows dangerous during the day. They were currently considering replacement options, however Rob felt that the considerable expense involved for 9 night meetings was unjustified.

Seddon Districts – The large area covered by these Clubs was proving an obstacle, with the Nelson Club facing serious problems.

Mid Canterbury – This involved some financially sound Clubs, and would require some delicate negotiations.

South Canterbury/Otago – Agreement in this area was a long way from being achieved.

Southland – Gordon Lee reported that while Southland Harness was managing fields etc, many Clubs were in effect, subsidising the Thoroughbred Clubs in the area, and centralisation would achieve little in correcting this due to most tracks being owned by the local communities.

Rob advised that the Cambridge and Auckland Clubs were working together to arrange a mutually suitable dates calendar for the 2016/17 season. There would be 15 less race dates throughout the Country next season due to the reduction in horse numbers – the Thoroughbred code would be losing 22 dates.

Driving Fee Increase; It was decided that, due to higher costs and the increase in penalties by the JCA, an application would be made for an increase in the losing driving fee. Various options on how this should be approached were discussed before a final resolution was agreed upon, and a submission to HRNZ would be prepared to enable the increase to come into effect on 1/8/16.

Health & Safety; Ken Barron and Todd Macfarlane advised they had attended recent workshops on the new law changes due to come into effect, and felt that the most important message was for trainers to have signage advising all visitors to report to a central area or ‘office’. There they would be compelled to sign a visitors’ book. Rob Lawson advised that suitable signage and templates to facilitate this were being developed by HRNZ. Employment contracts were also discussed and it was decided to place the one developed on behalf of the Association be placed as a link on the website.

Starting Issues; Those present expressed concern at the habitual hanging back from the mobile being practiced by some drivers, particularly in the Canterbury area. There was also concern at the inconsistency of how some starters advised of an imminent start from the stand, and priority often being given to unruly horses. Rob Lawson was to speak to RIU representatives on this matter, stressing that there was a need for consistency and co-operation between starters and drivers, with the Association fully supporting penalties for those who attempted to cheat.

Harnessed Online; $60 had been included in the current license fee for subscription to the online ‘Harnessed’ which was now defunct. It was decided that sooner than ask for a refund, the $60 should be taken off the next season fees. Rob Lawson agreed to discuss with HRNZ.

Sulky Insurance; Various options for insuring more expensive sulkies were discussed. Most present advised that their sulkies were covered under their personal insurance. Ken Barron questioned why it should be compulsory for a trainer to have his own sulky, as these days many drivers used their own sulky.

Strategy Document; Rob Lawson suggested that the Associations’ strategy document should be reviewed and updated. This would be undertaken by himself and Pete Cook.

GENERAL BUSINESS;

Junior Drivers; Jay Abernethy suggested that online nominations for these races should include drivers when they had been booked, so that other Juniors knew which horses were available, which would reduce the need to hassle trainers. Rob Lawson agreed to look into the idea. Ken Barron felt that the current system of Junior drivers concessions for some areas should be extended to nationwide, instead of specific Junior drivers races which often struggle to attract full fields.

Primary ITO; Jay Abernethy advised that the current Government run curriculum was not considered to be satisfactory, and the possibility of HRNZ taking over was being considered.

Handicapping; Todd Macfarlane outlined a proposal to allow three year olds to progress through the grades as normal, then re-handicap them accordingly at the end of the season, thereby preventing them from clogging up the C1 & 2 grades, while hopefully not being sold. However Ken Barron felt that such a move would encourage more selling as these horses would struggle to compete in the higher grades. Ken felt that there was a need for a new grade lower than maiden to cater for the hundreds of horses who qualify but are unable to be competitive in the current maiden ranks. Various options of provision for dropping back were discussed and Ken was asked to prepare a paper to be submitted to the Handicapping Sub-Committee, hopefully with support from the Auckland TC and the NZMTC.

Maiden Preferential Draws; Logan Hollis voiced concern at the current Auckland TC policy of preferential draws in maiden races, thereby often penalising fillies against colts and geldings. While there was sympathy for his concerns, it was understood that Kevin Smith had to use all means available to ensure a meeting took place.

Pete Cook

 Northern Branch AGM 2015

Outgoing President Peter Ferguson began his report by asking for a moments silence for members that had passed away. He advised the Northern Branch had again been active throughout the year and had a good relationship with all northern clubs. He commended the ATC for their development of Alexandra Park and the Franklin Park complex, and their forward thinking. The Branch continues to support young people in the industry, and he is still the rep for the branch on the Racing & Equine industry group. However the direction of this as regards benefiting our cadets is still open to discussion. There had been talk that HRNZ may take back, or have a more active part in this training, and hopefully this may be the case.

Congratulations to all those involved in the running, and the various awards winners at the northern dinner, which was again a success. The T & D National Council was again active through the year with regular meetings with RIU and the JCA, however it has been difficult getting across a common sense approach on some issues. One of these has been increasing JCA penalty guidelines, which appears to be an annual event, unjustified, and very hard on our members. In relation to this he felt that the Association should push for an increase in driving fees. Common sense did prevail as regards the “one clear day rule” thanks to arguments at the Annual Conference, but the Association seems to be constantly fending off Rule changes like this that it feels have no sound basis. Thanks was once again offered to our hard working Committee, Secretary & reps on committees at other clubs, who work tirelessly throughout the year for the Branch.

Peter concluded his report by advising that he would be stepping down, and asked for a nomination when the Committee was finalised. He added he had enjoyed his time as president & looked forward to remaining on the Committee.

Rob Lawson addressed the meeting and thanked Peter Ferguson for his outstanding contribution as President and asked the meeting to show their appreciation. Secretary Dave Neal asked for agreement from the meeting that a suitable recognition gift be agreed upon and presented to Peter Ferguson.

Secretary Dave Neal offered a big thank you to the Organising Committee and all those involved with the Northern Awards dinner. He also thanked the ATC for their continued support of our junior members involved in the dinner. The Northern Branch has continued its support of its members throughout the year, however like our President he reiterated the lack of contact with the education of these members and hoped that through HRNZ this could be improved. He re-iterated thanks to our Committee, Rob Lawson our hard working National President, and D Butcher our out-going Vice President. Special thanks to Peter Ferguson for all his work in an extended time as President. The demands of this position are heavy and Peter has been invaluable to the Branch in his time at the helm.

Dave also advised that this will be his last year in this position as Secretary, with business & other demands taking up a lot of time. This would give the Branch time to find a replacement for next year or sooner.

Under general business Rob Lawson advised that in light of the continued proposals to lift penalty guidelines and other rising costs the Association should ask for an increase in driving fees. Base figures of $100 for under $10,000 & $120 for over $10,000 were agreed to be discussed at the upcoming National Council meeting. It was the feeling of the meeting that the Association has to put forward a sound proposal and be forceful in comparing the situation of our drivers as regards jockeys etc.

The meeting discussed the state of the Alexandra Park track and the inconsistent surface which was causing problems. It was the feeling of the meeting that this track has slowly gone backwards since the work of John Denton, with basic work such as regular grading not being carried out. Also, there appeared to be no one in sole charge of the track which was their only responsibility. Discussion also took place on the state of the float park with stones and a rough surface being hazardous to horses. The condition of the horse urinals was also raised with the floors being slippery and dangerous to horses. Dave Neal was asked to e-mail Kevin Smith and also arrange a meeting with CEO Dominique Downing on these issues.

Logan Hollis asked the meeting if HRNZ had any plans to refund the $60 paid at licence time for the apparent cost of this publication. It was the feeling of the meeting that in its current form it almost does not exist, and certainly is not used much, if at all, by members. This would be discussed at National Council level. Also to be considered at that meeting was the situation surrounding starter Peter Lamb, whether there was a conflict of interest in the two positions that he currently held, and also the standard of his starting & whether the Canterbury branch were happy with it.

Steve Phillips advised that the establishment of a plan had been invaluable to the Amateur Drivers Association, and could be beneficial if the Branch were to establish one. This could include proposals, goals and anything else relevant, and this would be reviewed at agreed times. Dave Neal advised he would draw up a plan for next Committee meeting.

Incoming president Todd MacFarlane advised the meeting that the incoming and existing Worksafe and Health legislation was very important to members and would have serious consequences for those who did not comply. He had attended a workshop concerning this, and found it very helpful as regards compliance, signage etc. Rob Lawson advised that HRNZ had deals available on signage templates, and members were urged to get these in place. The Committee would follow this up at its’ next meeting.

Dave Neal/Pete Cook

 Northern Branch AGM

The recent Annual General Meeting of our Northern Branch has seen a changing of the guard on the Committee, after Peter Ferguson signalled his intention to stand down as President and David Butcher as 2IC.

Todd Macfarlane has been elected the new Branch President, with Jay Abernathy and Logan Hollis sharing duties as Vice – President.

Todd and Logan will be representing the North at the upcoming meeting of our National Council which has been scheduled for Sunday 8 November in Christchurch.

If anyone has any topics they would like discussed at the meeting, feel free to contact the undersigned.

More on the Northern AGM later.

Pete Cook

 Industry Forum II

When you consider that it is trainers that are more reliant than anyone in harness racing for their livelihood, it was disappointing to see only a handful present for the Canterbury edition of Industry Forums arranged by the NZ Standardbred Breeders.

Whether it’s a case of ‘I can’t be bothered going along’ or ‘that sort of thing doesn’t concern me’, it is extremely short-sighted to say the least, in fact, dumb. It’s no good grizzling to your mates at your local that the Industry is in a mess and why don’t they do something about it, when you can’t make the effort to find out what is being done, when it’s handed to you on a plate.

Perhaps the same attitude is a reflection of a comment made by a prominent owner at the aforementioned meeting, that many trainers are seriously deficient at communicating with their owners aka. Customers - but more on that later.

The forum, MC’ed by Breeders Chairman John Moody, began with another impressive presentation from Racing Board CEO John Allen. Speaking without a single note for over half an hour, he not only outlined a five point strategy for the Board to undertake (haven’t we heard a few of those over the years), he told us that each of these were already underway. Unlike many of his predecessors, John is clearly a man of action to back up his words. It is hard not to believe he could at last be the right man for the job. Obviously, time will judge him, but his positive ‘can do’ attitude is to be admired.

Addington CEO Dean Mckenzie had the unenviable task of being second up and, following an outline of what the NZ Met had achieved and where they were going, did a reasonable job of fielding some awkward questions from the floor. While we would all like to see more money being paid by the Club, it seems that they are making decisions that are sustainable, with no risk of embarrassing stake reductions in the future.

The third of the speakers was Edward Rennell who reeled off details, opinions and reasons, behind the current push for Club amalgamation. I’m sure he must know every word off by heart by now! Once again, while there is obviously some considerable work and negotiating to be done on this cause, questions put to him were answered satisfactorily.

Going back to arguably the most pertinent point raised from a trainers point of view, it was the criticism of communications between trainers and their owners, and a claim that owners were leaving the game as a result of this poor performance.

Speaking to the source of the statement after the meeting, I was told that an Australian trainer sent an e-mail from a phone at a trials meeting with a result, and details of when the horse was likely to race. It was difficult to argue why such actions couldn’t, and in fact shouldn’t, be standard practice by all trainers.

We all know trainers are busy people, but it’s obvious that many, including some high profile ones, fail to realise that their owners are their customers and, as such, deserve full and preferential service from the suppliers they are paying ie. Trainers.

If anyone has any suggestions on this matter, don’t hesitate to contact us, rest assured it will be discussed at the next National Council meeting.

Pete Cook

Industry Forum

There are probably two reasons why you read this website. Either you are interested in what is happening in the world of harness racing, or you don’t have a life and read any website you can find to pass the time.

If you fall into the first category (hopefully the case), you will be in the Canterbury area next week, and you want to learn more from the ‘movers and shakers’, then you have the perfect opportunity next Tuesday 13 October to both listen to, and ask questions of, those people.

With the likes of Racing Board CEO John Allen, who made such an impression at the Annual Conference, HRNZ CEO Edward Rennell, Addingtons’ Dean McKenzie and John Moody from the Standardbred Breeders Assn. (who incidentally have organised the evening), there is no shortage of knowledge and experience on offer.

The main focus of the evening is to give industry participants the opportunity to ask questions about the topics that matter to you, so instead of participating in tittle tattle and often ill-informed gossip and opinion groups down at your local watering hole, go along to hear things from the human version of ‘the horses’ mouth’.

Doors open at 6:30pm in the Blossom Lady Lounge at Addington Raceway for a 7pm start, with light supper provided along with the opportunity to purchase liquid refreshments.

Those intending to go should email kiely@harnessracing.co.nz and register.

See you there

Pete Cook

 Due Diligence

It’s a phrase that is usually associated with company takeovers and the like, but it was the catch phrase that came through strongly at the recent Canterbury area Health & Safety workshop which was attended by a woefully small number of trainers.

Loosely translated in regard to the new Health & Safety legislation that is due to become law next April, it means covering ones’ posterior by having the right processes and paperwork in place, in preparation for an unexpected incident or accident on a trainers premises. It also means the likely avoidance of a prosecution and hefty fine should such a happening occur.

Another worthwhile point that was stressed at the workshop was that these new stringent rules and regulations are not something that the codes or the Racing Board have come up with, but they are the law of the land and, consequently, HAVE to be complied with.

The presentation by Stu Cashen, who is responsible for co-ordinating the horse racing preparation for the new laws, included four papers that he has put together relating to various aspects of a trainers responsibilities. They are:

1. Impact of health and safety reforms on trainers

2. Impact of health and safety reforms on drivers

3. Contractor induction form

4. Staff Induction form

Actually along with the obvious requirements under the new legislation, there are some very useful tools for employing both staff and contractors in there, ensuring that they are fully aware of the responsibilities of both parties, and in the case of the staff induction, a useful way of advising a new staff member of their background and skill levels, what they can and can’t do in their new job, and helping both parties to understand each other without the discomfort and often embarrassment involved. Who hasn’t started in a new job and thought “should I do that, what are my duties, or who do I ask about that,?”

These forms are available by emailing Stu at cashen@actrix.co.nz.

However that is only a part of the story. Both the galloping and harness code bodies have nailed their colours to the mast of a company who specialises in producing Health & Safety policies for all walks of life, however the principal, Mike Osbourne is a horse trainer and breeder, so understands the specific requirements of the Racing Industry. He has already produced policy documents for a number of leading stables. His company (based in Canterbury) is called Countrywide Providence Group and he can be reached on 0800318177 or mike.osbourne@countrywideprovidence.co.nz.

Alternatively you can contact the people at your local WORKSAFE branch, who apparently are only too happy to both inspect your facilities and advise on the necessary actions.

The Trainers & Drivers Assn. cannot stress strongly enough that ALL industry participants need to act swiftly and properly on this issue – to ignore it is to risk serious consequences.

Pete Cook

 Greater Canterbury Branch AGM

Last week the Greater Canterbury Branch of the Association held its’ Annual General meeting, with around 30 license-holders in attendance. Prior to the AGM itself, HRNZ representatives Edward Rennell, Darrin Williams and Andrew Morris kindly came along to discuss various issues, the main one being problems around nominations and withdrawals in the Canterbury region.

Chairman Ken Barron welcomed the representatives from HRNZ and outlined his concerns at the current situations surrounding racing in the Canterbury area. These included horses trialling too often as opposed to racing, a problem shared with the galloping code where, last season, 15 trainers lined up more horses at the trials than on raceday, and the fact that it was too hard to win a race in the Canterbury region. He felt that a Racing Bureau, a revamp of programming, and a reduction of options for trainers would go some way to alleviating the problem.

He outlined three major changes that he felt were required, a) Unity between all factions and losing the current ‘them and us’ mentality to ensure progress on common issues, b) Changes in the current system of trialling horses including an abolition of trials in favour of workouts, and c) the realisation that uneconomic Clubs have to go.

It was most concerning to note that harness racing was losing market share to greyhounds, and he felt it was essential that the better horses should race at meetings staged by the bigger Clubs and for the best stakes. So far all attempts at achieving this had failed.

Andrew Morris responded by saying there was no silver bullet to solving the problem as there were many reasons to factor in.

Edward Rennell outlined the reasoning behind the current move to create ‘super clubs’ in various regions. These included the steep reduction in gaming revenue and stakes being maintained by many Clubs from their reserves, the cost of earthquake strengthening buildings, the need to develop training facilities, and the creation of a better framework to make better long term decisions including the allocation of dates to their particular areas, and new date structures and starting times. It was inevitable that some venues would close, and it was hoped that the number of Clubs would reduce from 45 to 9. He had sensed that there was an appetite for change but acknowledged that there would be problems in some areas.

On the subject of field sizes etc., Edward suggested that the Southland model was ideal and acknowledged there were issues with programming, along with funding etc. although field sizes were actually increasing slightly. He questioned why there were so many withdrawals, and why trainers travelled away from Canterbury when there were ample opportunities locally. He was in favour of paying substantial sums to all starters and reducing the winners’ stake to 50%, particularly at the Auckland meetings.

Darrin Williams explained that withdrawals prevented the splitting of fields, and also that the more horses that line up, the harder it makes it for the supposed better horses to actually win.

Michael House maintained that the answer was to have horses win more races, to encourage owners to stay in the Industry, however Darrin asked where the funding for these races would come from, and where they could be fitted into the calendar. Michael also suggested that Clubs should persevere with programming and running Claiming races.

Carla Robertson-Holmes asked if ‘closed nominations’ were being considered and was advised that there were pluses and minuses to this, with the likelihood that secretaries would be inundated with questions from trainers seeking information on nominated horses.

Colin DeFilippi questioned why various points systems for handicapping hadn’t been adopted. Darrin Williams advised that they had been seriously investigated but the same problems arose, for example, how points would be allocated for penalty free races, and how they would be calculated when winners race against non-winners.

In conclusion Edward Rennell advised that there was currently work being done on a completely revised dates calendar which, while preserving the traditionally successful days, would increase the standardisation of certain Clubs racing on certain days, and also encourage consistency for Sunday racing, including start times. He felt that selling horses overseas was not necessarily a bad thing, and export numbers were not rising alarmingly. He and Andrew Morris advised that they were always available for suggestions and discussion with any industry participant.

Bruce Negus suggested that the RIU were making harness racing an unfriendly work environment with their constant investigating creating a ‘fear factor’, however Edward felt that because many of the personnel were former licence-holders, the attitude towards participants had improved since the changes made by Cameron George. Bruce maintained that a hearing that he had recently been involved in concerning a driver betting on his own horse defied the logical perception of the driver being confident in his or her chances, and at a time when more turnover was needed, this seemed nonsensical. Kevin Townley suggested this was a result of Australian influence where corruption was far more prevalent. Edward advised that the Rule had been watered down from that proposed by the Racing Board, and unfortunately ignorance of the law was no excuse. It was suggested that the Trainers & Drivers Assn. be more pro-active in advising members of Relevant Rule changes.

Darrin Williams outlined the need for licence-holders to attend the Health & Safety workshops (30 September for the Canterbury one), as compliance would be compulsory. HRNZ were to provide templates and signage needed for trainers.

Due to the length of time of the above discussions, the AGM was an abbreviated affair. Items raised were as follows:

Clerks of the Course; Cran Dalgety expressed concern at the removal of one of these officials from Addington. It was found that until recently only Rangiora and Addington employed two Clerks. This prompted discussion on the safety aspect of the decision including race abandonments, and also other cost cutting measures introduced by Addington.

JCA; Mark Jones questioned the need for the JCA now that the relegation Rule had almost eliminated enquiries. He was advised that centralised video hearings were being investigated.

Sulky Fund; Kevin Townley questioned the current policy of this fund paying a maximum of $2000 when the new carts were worth far in excess of that figure. He suggested that a fee per start would be an acceptable alternative. Carla Robertson-Holmes advised that she had secured insurance with FMG for $180 per year per sulky, which included race incidents. Mark Jones suggested that HRNZ could set up a similar scheme and make a profit from it instead of insurance companies. This proposal was to be referred to the National Council for consideration.

Pete Cook

 Ambushed

You’ve probably heard the old saying that fastest is not always best – well I proved it last week!

Happily using that wonderful facility, cut and paste, I blindly copied published a list of the winners at the recent North Island awards from another website that shall remain nameless. Trouble is the list I copied gave details from last years’ respective event.

So with apologies to everyone involved, I’ll try to make amends by publishing this years’ award winners:

Dunstan Amateur Driver-of-the-Year: Cheree Finlay.

Premier Horse Transport Groom-of-the-Year: Monika Ranger.

Magness Video Ltd / Vid-Com Ltd Licence-to-Train/Owner-Trainer-of-the-Year: David Marshall.

Mitavite Junior Driver-of-the-Year: Kyle Marshall and Andre Poutama.

PGG Wrightson 2 year old Colt or Gelding -of-the-Year: Shandale.

PGG Wrightson 2 year old Filly-of-the-Year: Dream About Me.

Breckon Farms 2 year old Trotter-of-the-Year: High Gait.

Breckon Farms 3 year old Trotter-of-the-Year: Speeding Spur.

Crombie & Lockwood Bloodstock 3 year old Colt or Gelding-of-the-Year: Have Faith In Me.

Crombie & Lockwood 3 year old Filly-of-the-Year: The Orange Agent.

Garrards Horse & Hound Owners-of-the-Year: John, Trish, Moira Green and Peter Bult.

Caduceus Club Filly/Mare-of-the-Year: The Orange Agent.

Hygain Breeder-of-the-Year: Charles Roberts and Woodlands Stud.

IRT Driver-of-the-Year: Zac Butcher.

Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm Trainer-of-the-Year: Brian Hughes

Equine Veterinary Services Broodmare-of-the-Year: Splendid Dreams.

Woodlands Stud Stallion-of-the-Year: Bettor's Delight.

HRNZ Trotter-of-the-Year: Speeding Spur.

Auckland Trotting Club Aged Pacer-of-the-Year: Adore Me.

Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms Racing Achievement Award: Barry Purdon.

A Rocknroll Dance Alabar/Nevele R Stud Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing: Wendy and Peter Ferguson.

Next time I’ll double check!

Pete Cook

Deserved Awards

Last weekend saw the North Island and Canterbury awards nights held with both being a resounding success.

The Canterbury recipients were:

Woodlands Stud Outstanding Contribution to Canterbury Harness Racing 2015: Tony Abell

Stallions Australasia Trotting Broodmare of the Year: Belle Galleon

The Pres Trotting Breeders of the Year: Trevor Casey, Michael & Janice Bowden

Nevele R Stud Pacing Breeder of the Year: Jim & Dr. Susan Wakefield

Prodigal Seelster Pacing Broodmare of the Year: Lucinda Midfrew

NZ Cup Week Golf Most Winning Canterbury Owner of Trotters: Kevin Gardner & Rob Shaw

NZ Cup Week Golf Most Winning Canterbury Owner of Pacers: Lin Lang

Canty Trotting Owners Assn. Canterbury Harness Racing Owners of the Year: Phil & Glenys Kennard

Natalie Rasmussen & Mark Purdon Trainer's Award: Greg & Nina Hope

Dexter Dunn Driver's Award: Tim Williams

Stevie Golding Junior Driver's Award: Robbie Close

Canty Amateur Drivers' Association Amateur Drivers Champion: John McDermott

The North Island awards went to:

Glen Elgin Farm North Island Groom of the Year - Amanda Kiddie

Dunstan North Island Amateur Driver of the Year -John Kriechbaumer

Magness Video Ltd / Vid-Com Ltd North Island Licence to Train /Owner – Trainer of the Year - Andrew Grant

Mitavite North Island Junior Driver of the Year - Sailesh Abernethy

PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Beaudiene Boaz

PGG Wrightson North Island 2 year old Filly of the Year - Linda Lovegrace

Breckon Farms North Island 2 year old Trotter of the Year - Yagunnakissmeornot

Breckon Farms North Island 3 year old Trotter of the Year - Mum’s Pride

Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Colt or Gelding of the Year - Sky Major

Crombie Lockwood Bloodstock North Island 3 year old Filly of the Year - Ideal Belle

Garrards Horse and Hound North Island Owner of the Year - Charles Roberts

Caduceus Club North Island Filly / Mare of the year - Adore Me

Hygain North Island Breeder of the Year - Charles Roberts

IRT North Island Driver of the Year - Zac Butcher

Veterinary Associates Equine and Farm North Island Trainer of the Year - Barry Purdon

Equine Veterinary Services North Island Broodmare of the Year - Scuse Me

North Island Stallion of the Year - Bettor’s Delight

Harness Racing New Zealand North Island Trotter of the Year - Irish Whisper

Auckland Trotting Club North Island Aged Pacer of the Year - Adore Me

Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms North Island Racing Achievement Award - Maurice McKendry

A Rocknroll Dance/Alabar/Nevele R Stud North Island Award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing - Richard and Julija Brosnan

It was particularly pleasing to see the Association’s Northern Branch Chairman Peter Ferguson and wife Wendy acknowledged for their tireless efforts on behalf of the young people of the Industry.

Just a reminder that the Greater Canterbury Branch AGM is being held in Twiggers D, Addington Raceway next Tuesday 15 September at 7.30pm. Edward Rennell, Darrin Williams and Andrew Morris will be attending.

Pete Cook

 Health & Safety Update

Now that we’ve stopped laughing about worm farms and mini golf, reality has kicked in - the Health and Safety Reform Bill was passed into law on Thursday 27th August 2015 and will come into effect on 4 April 2016. This update has been issued by Stu Cashin:

The following are some examples of PCBU’s under the new Bill:

  • Racing clubs
  • Trainers (unless they are privately employed)
  • Jockeys and Drivers (junior drivers and apprentice jockeys will be employees)
  • NZRB, RIU and JCA
  • Security and catering companies engaged oncourse


The Bill was changed at a late stage on recommendations from the Select Committee.
The key changes were in the following areas:

  • Worker engagement and participation
  • -Multiple Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs)
  • -The duty of officers (for example the CEO)
  • -Volunteer workers
  • -Definition of workplace
  • -Duty of PCBUs who manage and control a workplace


KEY SELECT COMMITTEE CHANGES

Health and Safety Representatives

It is not mandatory to have health and safety representatives as part of the required worker participation practices – this is one way to support worker engagement on health and safety matters. But when one worker requests an elected health and safety representative, a PCBU must initiate the election of one or more health and safety representatives.

Select Committee change:
Small businesses with fewer than 20 workers in low-risk sectors are excluded from the requirement to have a health and safety representative when requested by workers.
This change does not stop smaller low - risk businesses from voluntarily deciding to have health and safety representatives as a way of meeting their worker participation obligations under the Bill.
All other businesses, including small businesses in high - risk sectors, will still have to initiate an election for a health and safety representative when requested. New regulations will outline in detail which high risk sectors would be subject to this requirement for small businesses.
Note at this stage the Racing Industry has been classified as high risk and unless this changes Clubs will have to follow the process above if staff express the wish to have a Health and Safety representative.

Powers and Training of Health and Safety Representatives

Health and Safety representatives will have the power to direct unsafe work to stop where there is a serious risk. Their powers are limited to the particular work group that they represent, and for health and safety purposes.

Multiple PCBUs

Under the Health and Safety Reform Bill, PCBUs have health and safety duties. These duties may overlapwith the duties of other PCBUs, for example in shared workplaces or where workers work for more than one PCBU. In these situations, the Bill requires them to consult, cooperate and co-ordinate with each other, so far as is reasonably practicable.
The need for duty holders to work together to meet their duties is not new and is required under the current law. The Health and Safety Reform Bill (unlike the current law) makes it clear how this should happen. The changes further clarify some provisions that relate to overlapping duties to make it clear how PCBUs must work together to discharge their overlapping duties.

Key Select Committee changes:

  • PCBUs must discharge their overlapping duties to the extent they have the ability to influence and control the matter (the previous wording talked about “capacity” to influence or control).
  • The changes to the Bill clarify that the duty to consult, cooperate and co – ordinate activities sits with the PCBU, not with all duty holders.


This legislation is critical to the Racing Industry on a raceday when there may be up to 30 different types of PCBU’s involved, it will be critical for clubs to have contracts with all PCBU’s that are not licensed by the code bodies.

The Duty of Officers

The Health and Safety Reform Bill has a new duty for an officer of a PCBU (such as a director, board member or partner) to exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU complies with its duties. This places a positive duty on people at the governance level of an organisation to actively engage in health and safety matters, reinforcing that health and safety is everyone’s responsibility.
The changes clarify how far down an organisation this duty applies and the extent of the duty.

Key Select Committee changes:

Other than those named persons holding specific roles in an organisation (such as directors or partners), the officer duty will apply only to other persons who have a very senior governance role in the organisation that allows them to exercise significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking (for example a chief executive).
To avoid doubt the Bill expressly recognises that this does not include a person who merely advises or makes recommendations to an officer of the organisation.
Club General Managers and CEO’s would become officers as would any paid directors or committee members. Volunteer directors and club committee members still have a duty as an officer but will not be liable for prosecution.

The Government will also make the following changes to the Bill:

  • -Making it clear that the extent of the officer’s duty takes into account the nature of the business or undertaking, the position of the officer and the nature of their responsibilities.
  • -Making it clear that officers must only do what is within their ability to influence and control when managing risks.


Volunteer Workers

The changes to the Bill’s provisions on volunteers recognise that volunteers contribute greatly to New Zealand communities and will ensure the new law will not negatively affect volunteering.

Key Select Committee changes:

The changes mean coverage of volunteers remains as it is under the current law, which distinguishes between casual volunteers and volunteer workers.
The information below explains how the Bill applies to volunteers.
If your organisation is a PCBU, does it have casual volunteers or volunteer workers?

Select Committee change:

Where volunteers carry out work for a PCBU, the revised Bill now distinguishes between casual volunteers and volunteer workers. Volunteer workers are people who regularly work for a PCBU with its knowledge and consent on an ongoing basis and are integral to the PCBU’s operations. This distinction is based on the existing Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
PCBUs will owe a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of volunteer workers as if they were any other worker. This ensures that these volunteers are afforded the protection of having the appropriate training, instruction or supervision needed to undertake their work safely just like any other worker.
For casual volunteers (those that do not fall under the definition of a volunteer worker) their health and safety will still be covered by the PCBU’s duty to other persons affected by the work of the business or undertaking.

WORKSHOPS WILL BE HELD FOR ALL CLUBS AS PREVIOUSLY ADVISED

Final confirmation and details will be provided to all attendees by Friday, 11 September.

RACE CLUB WORKSHOPS

Monday 28 September 2015 10.00 am –1.00pm Invercargill Ascot Park Hotel
Tuesday 29 September 2015 9.00am – 12.00pm Dunedin Forbury Park
Wednesday 30 September 2015 10.00am – 1.00pm Christchurch HRNZ Boardroom
Tuesday 13 October 2015 9 .00am –12.00pm Palmerston North Awapuni Racecourse
Wednesday 14 October 2015 **10.00am – 1.00pm Hamilton Te Rapa Racecourse
Thursday 15 October 2015 10.00am – 1.00pm Counties Pukekohe Park

The Workshop will cover clubs responsibilities and work through draft templates designed to assist clubs to become compliant.
Once all the workshops have been completed the templates will be updated, checked by a lawyer specialising in health and safety and circulated electronically for the clubs to adapt to their own purposes

Support from HRNZ and NZTR will be available as clubs undertake finalising their own health and safety plan. It is anticipated that all clubs will have a workable Health and Safety plan in place by 1 December 2015, well in advance of the new legislation and before the busy summer racing season starts.

SECTOR GROUPS

A further five Workshops are being held for Trainers, Jockeys and Breeders

SECTOR GROUP WORKSHOPS

Tuesday 29 September 2015 1.00pm – 2.30pm Dunedin Forbury Park
Wednesday 30 September 2015 1.30pm –3.00pm Christchurch HRNZ Boardroom
Tuesday 13 October 2015 1.00pm – 2.30pm Palmerston North Awapuni Racecourse
Wednesday 14 October 2015 **1.30pm – 3.00pm Hamilton Te Rapa Racecourse
Thursday 15 October 2015 1.30pm – 3.00pm Counties Pukekohe Racecourse

*Locations may change dependent on numbers

**Due to there being a race meeting at Avondale on Wednesday14th October, a second workshop will be scheduled in due course. More information on this to come. The sector group workshops will cover off PCBU responsibilities as they apply to the industry, some guidance material will be available and options presented for attendees to develop their own Health and Safety plans.

THINGS YOU CAN DO NOW

  • Lead by example;
  • Make health and safety part of your workplace culture;
  • Familiarise yourself with the key concepts of the new legislation;
  • Review your current Health and Safety practices;
  • If not already being done, clubs should start regular Health and Safety meetings with club staff and the committee, and for trainers and breeders start regular meetings with your staff;
  • Induction for staff and contractors is critical to ensure that they are safe around your racetrack (venue) or training operation;
  • Identify Health and Safety risks and hazards at your racetrack (venue) and your training operation, review your risk and hazard management plan and take steps to ensure any risks and hazards are minimised.


For more information you can go to the WorkSafe web site:
http://www.business.govt.nz/worksafe/

or contact:
Stuart Cashen
cashen@actrix.co.nz
027 223 6726

 Upcoming Dates for the Diary

The date has been set for the Greater Canterbury Branch of the Association’s Annual General Meeting.

It will be held at 7.30pm on Tuesday 15 September in ‘Twiggers D’ in the Twiggers Stand at Addington. All licence-holders are welcome and drinks and nibbles will be on hand in case you’ve missed dinner! Guests will be Edward Rennell, Darrin Williams and Andrew Morris from HRNZ.

Unless you’ve been living in a dark and damp cave for the past few weeks, you’ll be aware that there will be awards nights for Canterbury and North Islands respectively on Saturday night 5 September. Tickets for both are selling really well, and in the case of the Canterbury one, numbers have already exceeded the pleasing turnout of the inaugural event last year. Don’t miss out on one of these great nights.

With regard to the Canterbury event, we are planning on displaying driver’s colours around the room and, with that in mind, if anyone would be happy to lend some colours in reasonable condition for the night, please contact the undersigned so I can arrange to collect them.

Pete Cook

 TC02 Results

Anyone who has perused the results of TC02 readings on the RIU website this calendar year, might have noticed, as I did, a heavy slant towards testing of standardbreds as opposed to thoroughbreds.

A quick tally up showed that of approximately 1500 tests carried out from 1 January 2015 to 31 July 2015, only around 200 were on gallopers. So I put the obvious question to RIU chief Mike Godber and received the following response:

“We don't see it as an imbalance. Our testing is targeted and based on a number of factors including intelligence we receive and results from previous testing.

The short answer is that in the 4 and a half years the RIU has been operating we have carried out over 3,500 thoroughbred TCO2 tests, there has never been a positive and in fact very few results over 34. While thoroughbreds have always had the international level (36) rather than the HRNZ level of 35, I don't believe they have ever had a reading in breach of the harness level.

Yes there has been markedly more TCO2 testing in harness over that period but that is because there have been 11 positive results and many results over 34. As you know there is also a significant history of TCO2 positives in harness pre RIU.

The ongoing issue of TCO2 in Harness racing was a major reason the RIU supported the 1 clear day rule for using alkinising agents which unfortunately was defeated at the recent HRNZ Conference, primarily it seemed through the influence of your association. I believe this was short sighted on your behalf.

In other areas RIU testing is greater in Thoroughbred and Greyhounds than in Harness. For example in general swabbing Thoroughbred and Greyhounds have over 3,000 samples tested each year while harness is around 2,500. Out of competition testing and cobalt testing has also been more weighted to thoroughbreds for similar reasons TCO2 is weighted to Harness. As I said above it depends on results and increasingly on intelligence gathered both in NZ and overseas.

In the end who is tested, how often, when, and where is the decision of the RIU.”

It appears that the arguments put up by the Association against the 1 clear day rule were not considered so short sighted by the Conference delegates, the majority of whom voted against gong the same way as Australia on this matter.

Pete Cook

Security & Resignation

The Association has been made aware of a number of incidents of theft from driver’s belongings at various racing venues in the last few months.

While crime is an almost inevitable aspect of our lives, these thefts are all the more distasteful, as the circumstances surrounding them suggest that the perpetrator is someone within harness racing. Measures are in place to catch this person and hopefully that will happen sooner than later.

However, in a drivers room, or any other facility, there is a limited amount that the authorities can do, given the busy nature and continual comings and goings.

There are a couple of simple solutions to the matter and it is suggested that these should be instigated immediately. If you have valuables, be it cash or otherwise, either keep it on your person (surely driving with cash in your pocket isn’t too much of a handicap), or give them to someone to look after. Sadly the World is no longer a place where front doors can be left open, and items can confidently be expected to remain where they are left in public. There is also the alternative of purchasing a cheap padlock and attaching it to lockers that are provided in many drivers’ facilities.

Incidentally, while we are on the subject of locking things, it seems that some trainers don’t bother securing their vehicles in float parks. While there are often officials about, particularly at the bigger venues, it is unreasonable to expect them to know everyone who should or should not be around each vehicle.

So the message is, take care with your property, the responsibility for it on a racecourse as much as anywhere else, is ultimately yours.

Loosely to do with crime and misbehavior, it was sad to learn, at the HRNZ Conference, of the resignation of JCA Chair, Kristy McDonald, apparently not totally of her own choice.

Kristy has always been open to interaction and frank discussion with the Trainers & Drivers Association, a point she made at the Conference, and while there has not always been agreement between the two parties, she has always been happy to listen to arguments, and often a satisfactory compromise has been achieved.

We thank her for her work with the JCA, which she has developed into a markedly better organisation than when she inherited it, and wish her well for the future. We can only hope her successor will be as competent, yet open minded.

Pete Cook   

JCA Judicial Hearing Guide


The Judicial Control Authority has recently released its’ new guide for Committees on protocols surrounding protest hearings:

Commencement of Hearing

Chairman opens proceedings and introduces Committee.

Requests confirmation that all parties have been given notice of the hearing and are present at the inquiry.

Chairman reads the information

Chairman inquires of all parties do they understand the protest rule and does any party require the rule to be read. The Rule will not be read out unless a request is made by a participant in which case it is to be read by the Committee panelist.

Introductory Comments by JCA Committee

The Chairman invites all persons present in the inquiry room to identify themselves and state their status or connection to the protest.

The Chairman inquires of parties who they nominate to speak on behalf of their position/horse’s interests.

Brief statement by the Chairman emphasising that the hearing must proceed in an efficient and timely way and setting out the process the Committee will follow at the hearing which is to include the following explanation of the process that will be followed:

Expectation is no more than two people are to speak for each party (those nominated by parties having already been identified). Note: that where an owner who is not one of the nominated representatives wishes to comment, a committee should exercise its discretion to allow a brief and focussed comment to be made in appropriate cases.

No right to cross examination. If any party wishes to ask questions those questions are to be put through the Chairman.

Each nominated person will only be given one opportunity to speak.

Inform parties after the completion of their evidence the Stipendiary Steward will be invited to provide his analysis of the protest and to express an opinion on the Protest merits.

The Hearing

Chairman invites the Stipendiary Steward (but not the Stipendiary Steward who will be asked to provide an opinion on the protest) to set the scene by showing all available films of the incident giving rise to the protest for the purpose of identifying the affected horses. No view will be expressed at that stage by the Stipendiary Steward.

Parties present evidence (in accordance with process outlined above).

Stipendiary Steward asked to provide his analysis and opinion on the Protest.

No expectation of further comment by parties (other than in exceptional circumstances or where a new issue arises that may require, in the interests of fairness, a limited opportunity for comment).

Conclusion

Chairman asks if everybody is satisfied they have had a fair hearing. [this is not an opportunity to repeat points already made].

Inform the parties the Committee’s decision will be provided to the Stipendiary Stewards for communication to the parties and raceday officials. The parties will not be required to reconvene in the inquiry room to hear the decision.

Inform the parties the Committee’s written decision with full reasons will be provided as soon as possible.

Everyone leaves the room while the Committee deliberates.

Decision Announcement

Judicial Committee record outcome (ie: protest upheld or protest dismissed) formally on the Information including directions as to payment of dividends and stakes. A Stipendiary Steward is then called into the room and given this to announce to the parties, raceday officials and TAB.

Note: there is to be no formal reconvening of the parties for announcement of the decision and no reasons are to be given for the decision at that time.

Pete Cook

 

  Northern Branch July 2015 Meeting

Chairman Peter Ferguson presided over the recent meeting prior to the HRNZ Annual conference.

Matters up for discussion included the new Health and Safety measures, where the committee discussed stringent rules, & how trainers & stables can fit within guidelines. Also it was felt that children of trainers who were of age & under supervision should be allowed into stable areas.

The Committee discussed all remits with agreement on all except - RULE 9 - PROHIBITED SUBSTANCES which was strongly rejected. Rob Lawson undertook to pursue this matter. The cost of the weekly (Harnessed) & what you are actually getting was also discussed & will be monitored. With regard to the Correspondence items, the Banks Peninsula proposal on dates was not agreed with, however the Taranaki proposal was agreed with in principal, but Southern support was unlikely.

Nominations for the upcoming Northern Awards Dinner were discussed and finalised, and these, along with the winners would be forwarded to the Dinner Committee.

The Committee also discussed the two top juniors not being in the recent NZ Championships through locality circumstances. There was agreement that this was less than ideal, and a proposal of a free card entry for top of each Island to alleviate this was mooted for consideration.

Peter Ferguson summarised a recent seminar attended by himself & Jay Abernethy involving representatives from the JCA, the RIU and cadets. This was advertised as a compulsory attendance for cadets by HRNZ but the turnout was disappointing. Peter reported that the day was good overall & some good points were covered. However some points he raised were answered very generally at best.

The matter of Todd Mitchells’ horse & injury sustained from standing on a nail on the track was considered. Subsequently to this, the club have paid for all vet costs. It was thought the nail had come from the building site, but this has been ruled out. The Club has now put stringent checks in place to eliminate this problem in the future. Secretary Dave Neal was to also contact K Smith about stones in the float park which are causing problems for horses.

Dave Neal/ Pete Cook

 Montecatini Memories II

So there I am being treated like a Lord, dining trackside at Montecatini and discussing the state of trotting in Italy and New Zealand with my host, silently praying to whoever was listening that my delicious spaghetti would remain intact within the confines of my stomach (hope you-re not eating your lunch) and looking out on the picturesque scene.

We were joined by another gentleman, who turned out to be an agent for buying and selling horses (a sort of Italian Paul Davies) who had made several trips to America and spoke quite good English. As the horses for the first race came onto the track, the newcomer, whose name was Franco Moni (I'm sure the late Wayne Francis would have enjoyed that one!) tried to persuade me that Italian trotting sires were the equal of anything available in America, and a lot cheaper. Not being an expert on trotting stallions, I pleaded ignorance (something I am somewhat expert at) and promised to talk to some people back home. I have subsequently been advised that, obviously, the Italian horses, being unknown, would be of no commercial value to breeders, but it was a nice idea.

Anyway the first of eight races was about to kick off which, believe it or not was a full-tote Amateur Drivers event! Yes I know, scary concept (or it was then), but actually they were quite proficient, and it transpires that almost all programmes in many parts of Europe contain a race for amateurs. Believe it or not there was also a full-tote saddle trot as well, but more about that later.

More friendly chat then, after the regular twenty minute interval, Race 2 got under way. Nothing unusual there, you might think, until I noticed that the horses were trotting towards the starting point in the wrong direction! Little did I know I was about to witness one of the most amazing things I have seen on a racecourse (and I've seen a few beauts). The horses, in a reasonable line, trotted a few metres past the start line the wrong way, then, at some pre-determined point, all did a 180 degree turn and headed back towards the start. The announcer called Uno, Duo and (I can't remember the word for three), and the field set off on their journey. Apparently there was a laser beam which no horse was allowed to be in front of after the three, otherwise a false start was declared. Quite the most bizarre and spectacular scenario to see these horses swing round almost in unison with virtually no problems. I had visions of how such a practice would work in an eighteen horse field at Methven!

My host Signor Baldi grinned at my astonishment and said he had heard that in Australasia we used silly strands pulled across in front of the horses in standing starts and proudly told me that when he was driving, he was recognised as a bit of an expert at getting his horse away in the local manner. Apparently, it was all in the area of the turn (about fifteen metres) which, to me seemed to simplify things a bit, but I suppose "When in Rome" (or in this case Florence) came into effect, and it did seem to work this time and on a few other races I saw from other venues on television.

Speaking of Trackside Italian Style, I was astonished to learn that this day, Wednesday, there were five trotting meetings being held in Italy, and two galloping meetings! A slight reversal from what Kiwis are used to, if only we could see the light and follow suit, making galloping the poor relation.

When I had recovered from the shock of my first swing round standing!?! start, Signor Baldi invited me to join him in his office which was situated on-course and I was introduced to his wife and his secretary (yes the same one I had caused so much distress to by ringing her from the bus station).

While he attended to a few matters, I sat watching the races on television, which to my delight included another couple of those interesting starts. When he returned he began to carry in what can only be an extremely generous and very embarrassing array of gifts such as caps, jacket, postcards, and a drivers gear bag to carry them in, all bearing the ANAGT logo (Trainers & Drivers Assn Italian style'') Despite my protests that I couldn't possibly accept such generosity, he followed these gifts up with a couple of recent Italian Stud Books, (which almost put my baggage overweight on the flight home!), and a statistical magazine on Italian Stallions. (No ladies there weren't any pictures of Sly Stallone) I lamely insisted that he had to come to New Zealand so I could repay his generosity, though how the hell I could hope to do that, heaven knows.

Then it was out to the track once again to watch some more races, one of which was trotted in 1.58.1 for the mile, and some more discussion with my new found mate Franco, who had vivid memories of Petite Evander winning in America and knew of her daughter Pride of Petite and also Lyell Creek. Stakes for the races were impressive for a minor mid-week meeting, ranging from 16,000 to 21,000 Euro (NZ$2 to one Euro), but I was surprised at the number of gallopers. Considering that they concentrate on trotters only, I had imagined that they would almost all be perfectly gaited, but not so. There was almost always at least one galloper in the eight horse fields. Also, should a horse gallop for more than fifty metres, a young ladies voice would cut into the on-course commentary and announce that "numero whatever" who had offended in such a manner was disqualified, and the driver of said animal would dutifully pull out of the race. (Once again images of maiden trot fields at Methven flashed through my mind). Incidentally the aforementioned announcer seemed to drone on in a bored fashion until about the 800metre mark, then suddenly became very animated leading up to the finish. Perhaps he was sick of being interrupted by the Disqualification Lady all the time!

Another interesting aspect of their racing scene that was explained to me was that there were around 8000 horses (all trotters of course) bred in Italy every year and consequently there were too many trying to race, many of which were basically no good. Believe it or not the Trainers and Drivers Assn was lobbying for the introduction of a entry fee for races to try and dissuade owners and trainers from lining their poorer horses up and cluttering up the fields! As you can imagine the concept of trying to stop horses racing sounded a touch foreign to someone who has, for years campaigned for the abolition of acceptance fees!

A couple more races saw the entrants for the Saddle trot out on the track, apparently ridden by a mixture of drivers and current or retired jumps jockeys. (There was a weight restriction, but I can't remember what it was) All seemed to be going swimmingly until the start of the race, which was one of those swing-round affairs. It appeared that some of the non-regulars couldn't get the hang of it, because there was always one who crossed the laser beam prematurely, and caused a siren to wail signalling a false start. Believe it or not there were five- yes five- false starts before they managed to get the thing underway, much to the chagrin of my host who got very agitated and whistled and yelled abuse at the starters. He later explained they he felt that they were being too picky, a sentiment no doubt shared by the jockeys and horses who had to line up six times. Things weren't improved when two horses collided on the first bend and one of the riders hit the deck, luckily avoiding injury. This did tend to temper my enthusiasm for their novel way of race starts and the matter was not raised again. Having said that, the guys who knew what they were doing seemed to make it work well.

After another couple of races spent leaning on the fence soaking up the late afternoon Tuscany sun (sounds a bit mushy for this column doesn't it, but I'm just telling it like it was), Signor Baldi announced that he had to leave for his drive to Rome (which he had postponed to fit me in - honestly there was no end to this man's hospitality) and that he had arranged for someone to drive me back to the outskirts of Florence where I would have to catch a taxi back to our apartment. (Yet another who refused to risk his vehicle in the narrow streets of the City) It transpired that my chauffeur was a horseman who was driving in the last race and who spoke not a word of English.

With Mrs (or Signora) Baldi doing a bit of translation, which wasn't easy as her English wasn't great (although, as I assured her, it left my Italian for dead), we watched my driver finish fourth in the last, then wandered back to the stables to meet up with him. I must admit, when I saw him close up, I did have some misgivings, as when he took off his helmet etc., he was bald with a long white beard, and obviously a fairly forthright character.

Anyway, Mrs Baldi managed to convince him that I wasn't American as he had first thought (I'm not sure what would have happened if I had been from the USA) and she left us to head towards the car park, him I suspect talking about me to a mate on a bicycle, and me wondering what form of transport a guy like this might have. I have to admit total astonishment when he unlocked the back of a very flash looking four-wheel drive Mercedes Benz! What was that about not judging a book by it's cover.

So I slung my newly acquired drivers bag full of goodies onto the pile of assorted junk strewn across the back of his vehicle and hooped in. We set off through the race traffic and out on the motorway in the direction of Florence and I admired the scenery while he made the obligatory call on his cell-phone and then answered three in-coming calls. That was okay in itself, what concerned me as that we were doing 160km/hr, and when he took his other hand off the steering wheel and started fiddling with the air-conditioning, I quickly and as calmly as I could assured him that the cold (or Freddo as it was indicated) air that I was being blasted with was fine, then under my breath pleaded with him to get at least one hand back on the wheel!

Anyway, he got us back to town in one piece and my very memorable day ended. As you can probably gather, it was a day I will never forget, and I hope both of you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed reliving it.

Pete Cook

 Montecatini Memories I

It’s always a bit difficult to come up with something interesting to write about harness racing at this time of year so, instead of writing nothing, I thought there might be some interest in sharing an account of an experience I had a few years back. So here goes:

A few years ago back my then partner and I decided that we were going to see a bit of the world before it self-destructs and made plans for a somewhat belated series of what the younger generation call "Big OE's". As the first of these included a trip to Italy, I made contact through the Internet with the President of the Italian Trainers & Drivers Assn (or ANAGT as it is known for short - I won't stress you with the full title) who suggested that I ring him when I arrive in his Country.

This I did, and the following is an account of the rather eventful day I enjoyed as a result. I will call it "Montecatini Memoirs".

The day after we arrived in Florence, I rang Il Presidente, Signor Gabriele Baldi (and before I hear the titters I can assure you that the gentleman had a far more impressive head of hair than yours truly - not that difficult I admit) on his cell-phone, and he advised that there were races at a track called Montecatini (about 40kms from Florence) on the following Wednesday, but as he was required to attend a meeting in Rome the following day, he would make some arrangements and send a fax to the apartment block where we were staying. This duly arrived saying that he had kindly changed his schedule to accommodate me and would I meet him at the airport at 12:30pm the next day. He, apparently like many other sensible people, was most reluctant to bring his car into the City of Florence, where the streets are about as wide as the average New Zealand driveway, with cars and/or scooters parked on one side and pedestrians playing chicken with the traffic on the other!

Great, I thought and arrived at the Bus station at 11:45am to catch the airport shuttle bus which left every half-hour on the half-hour. The noon edition of said shuttle duly arrived and I waited to jump on, taking little notice of the small cluster of officials gathered at the rear of the bus wearing concerned expressions. Noon came and went with no departure and no announcement (not that I would probably have understood it anyway, but something would have been nice just for the hell of it) so following an unsuccessful approach to one of the aforementioned officials who gabbled something in Italian, waved his arms in the air and disappeared into his office, I went into the Information Office to ask the Sheldon Murtha look-alike what was going on.

Unfortunately, he knew less of what was going on than I did because he was unaware that the bus in question hadn't left, and when I asked if he could contact the person I was meeting at the airport for me, he turned me down flat. When I returned to the platform I realised that the original bus had been replaced by one that presumably worked and the departure sign was showing 12:30pm.

Desperate to contact Signor Baldi, I asked an English speaking lady if I could borrow her cellphone to ring him and she kindly obliged. Unfortunately what I hadn't realised was that having left his cellphone number with my other half in case she needed to contact me, his fax that I had brought with me only had his office number on it. Also unfortunately, his office lady who I managed to contact spoke almost no English, and kindly informed me that Signor Baldi had gone to the airport to meet Mr Peter Cook, and no attempt to convince her that he would be unsuccessful in doing that seemed to work.

At this point, the lady whose cellphone I was using had to jump on her bus, so I thanked and paid her, then looked around to see the 12:30 edition of the airport shuttle disappearing into the distance!! I had no idea what the Italian word for what I felt at that moment was, so I used the English one, not really caring who heard me, and marched back into the Information Office to confront Sheldon. This time I must have got through, because he retreated into a back office and re-emerged on the coat tails of this attractive middle-aged lady looking rather out of place dressed in a mini-skirt and high-heels. The important thing to me though, was that she spoke fluent English, and was able to understand my frantic babble describing the situation I found myself in, and asked me what I wanted her to do. At my request, she got another one of her underlings to ring Signor Baldi's office lady to tell her in her own language to contact her boss on his cellphone to let him know I was running late.

My day improved immeasurably when after a couple of minutes, the guy on the phone advised us that there was no reply, and the good lady told me as nicely as she could that many offices in Italy close for lunch at 12:30pm!

Hopefully you can imagine my feelings as I sank into a seat on the 1pm shuttle and cursed every red traffic light on the way to the Airport, only to see Signor Baldi's Volvo still parked as arranged outside the Departure Terminal.

By the time we were half way to the Montecatini Raceway, my host, Signor Baldi, was convinced I had been a victim of cruel circumstances and had seemingly forgiven me, and I was able to enjoy a look at the pretty Tuscany countryside while chatting about various aspects of Italian and New Zealand racing.

When we reached the track, he led me through the very spread out stables (I later found that some trainers rode bicycles to and from the stables when they watched races (now there's an idea, Addington). However, they still managed to race every twenty minutes! He also introduced me to his son Stefano who, it later transpired belonged to long line of Baldis who had been training and driving trotters since the early 1900's. (In fact Gabriele proudly showed me a photograph of a race-meeting held in honour of the Baldi family where a number of generations and relatives had participated. (Their equivalent of the Jones/Butt dynasty I guess).

Anyway, on past the administration block and up into the stands where I got my first look at the track, which presented a very picturesque setting, a half-mile track of dark brown hue, surrounded by trees and with a backdrop of forest covered hills. (For those of you who have been to Victoria Park, Greymouth, it was a very similar setting, except the buildings between the track and the hills were slightly more, shall we say, swept up.)

I was then ushered to a table where outdoor trackside dining was in full swing (the first race was, luckily for me, still about half-an-hour away) and introduced to the President of the Track, an easy going gentleman dressed in an open-necked shirt, who spoke not a word of English.

At this juncture, I should explain that, due to an unfortunate mishap earlier in our trip, I had been given some tablets that had given me a severe case of, for lack of a better word, the trots. In an effort to curb this problem, I had decided to virtually starve myself (not easy for me) and had eaten virtually nothing for about 18 hours. So folks, if you can picture the scenario, here I am sitting at a table with two benevolent strangers, with a waiter sticking a substantial menu that I couldn't read under my nose, feeling decidedly uncomfortable, but not wishing to appear ungrateful.

However the gambler in me came to the fore, and deciding that food was going to either kill or cure me, I asked Gabriele to choose for me, and was pleasantly surprised when an entree of melon and a type of bacon turned up, which I enjoyed immensely, if a little nervously. Then the real test came when I was asked whether I wanted seafood or something else that I can't recall with my spaghetti dish. From some deep recess in my mind, I asked for the seafood and immediately questioned the wisdom of this type of fare on an upset stomach!

To cut an even longer story than you're already suffering short, I waded my way through about three-quarters of a huge plate full of delicious Italian food and even sampled the sizeable desert table, washed it down with copious quantities of sparkling mineral water (I was wise enough to turn down a glass of wine), and waited for the inevitable. Unbelievably the next couple of hours proved that I had cured my stomach ailment in one hit!

The dining area was quite large, with television sets attached to each table (similar to the Top of The Park in Auckland), and the view out onto the picturesque track, where horses were warming up for later races, was delightful.

Well that's all for now people. You never know, next week we might even get to talk about some horse racing!

TO BE CONTINUED

Pete Cook

 Fraud?

One of the more unusual items of news involving harness racing emerged from our neighbours across the Tasman the other day, involving a trainer who was found guilty of fraud.

Obviously not a good look for the industry and the guy has quite rightly been disqualified for 10 years on various charges. The thing that caught my interest however, was the nature of the fraud.

According to the article, the particulars of the charge were that ‘Mr Day (Snr) between 2009 and 5 May 2015, by way of dishonesty and deception, received money for training fees and other expenses from an owner for a horse referred to as ‘Miriyan’, a horse that did not and does not exist.’

Really!! I’ve owned a few horses in my time, and while I haven’t been one to hang around the stables making a nuisance of myself, I feel pretty certain that if I had been paying training fees for a horse for up to six years, I would have probably be keen to 1) see the animal, and 2) expect some sort of result, even if it was just a run at the trials.

Presumably there is some reasonable explanation for the situation, but it’s a bit hard to come up with one!

Pete Cook

 Northern Branch Meeting

The Association’s Northern Branch met recently to discuss a wide range of current issues.

Concern was raised at the new set-up surrounding Cadets, the feeling being that most of the learning is carried out in the workplace under the supervision of trainers or employers. The possibility of HRNZ renewing its’ involvement in the cadet training was to be investigated.

Recent meetings of the Greater Canterbury Branch and National Council were summarised. Matters of interest included praise for A. Grierson for his clarification of a number of points, including his conflict of interests, acceptance of a level of 200 for cobalt, and the importance of finding out thresholds for any substance used by trainers.

The Committee discussed back to back meetings in the North & frustration that programmes were still too similar, drawing on the same horses & hindering both clubs. There was also discussion over the actions of some swabbing stewards, with an example of a horse hitting the entrance of the swabbing box after causing problems, when the sample could have been taken outside.

Chairman Rob Lawson voiced concern at the substantial increase in fine levels for drivers, and suggested that a relative increase in driving fees would be sought, while changes to the current level of eligibility for Junior Concessions would be referred to the next National Council meeting.

Bob Lynch questioned whether clubs were screening tracks for holes in wet weather, reporting that one of his horses had sustained an injury which may have resulted in such a hole. While acknowledging that it was hard for Clubs to anticipate what effect the weather would have, the Committee felt that they needed to be vigilant, as visibility can also be an issue if a track becomes wet without being prepared for it.

The Branch once again discussed the matter of lighting and shadows at the Manawatu track, and discussions would be held to try and find an acceptable solution to the problem.

Nominations are now open for awards at the Northern Harness Racing Awards scheduled for 5 September. These will close on 15 July.

Dave Neal/Pete Cook

Footnote: Paul Nairn kindly responded to my question (see below) about why the close up sulkies of yesteryear were no longer used – “My pop had one of those carts hanging up. I think he told me they were banned because if a horse reared up, the cart could go under the horse - I think someone may have been killed that way.”

Sounds like a good reason to stop using them!

Pete Cook

 Addington Stable Entry

Addington Raceway is currently undertaking a review of race night costs, something which has not been done for many years, if ever.

Many of the proposed changes will have little if any, effect on trainers and drivers, however there is one that the Association has been advised of, which may cause some initial confusion.

Until now, access to the stable area has been possible through the door next to Garrards, and has been policed by an official checking that unauthorised people do not enter the stables. It has been decided that, at a saving of thousands of dollars every season, that official will be done away with.

What that means is that, from next Friday, access through the outside doors to both the stables and Garrards on race night will be impossible, however a system is being installed so that those leaving the stables can exit through the glass door as before. In other words, you won’t be able to go in through those doors on race night, but you will be able to go out.

Access from the stable area to Garrards and the men’s driver’s room will remain the same.

This may cause a minor inconvenience initially, however when the cost savings are taken into account, it is a sensible move.

Pete Cook

 Canterbury Harness Awards Night

Following the great success of the inaugural Canterbury Awards night last year, the Association, along with the local Owners and Breeders organisations are currently planning this year’s event.

After working around rugby, racing and booking dates, we have settled on 5 September, the venue Silks lounge once again, and we are thrilled to announce that, for the second time, the major sponsor will be Woodlands Stud. Mark McNamara will again be the MC on the night.

The ticket price will be the same as last year, $50, and there may be concessions for Junior Drivers. Further details will be forthcoming soon, however mark 5 September on your calendars now and organise your groups for another great night.

Pete Cook

 Back to the Future?

As you will be aware there has been much talk lately of the myriad of new sullies available in Australasia, and whether or not the allowable width should be altered. Apparently one of the advantages of the wider cart is that the driver is closer to the horse, similar to the American scenario.


I happened to be skimming through a couple of old trotting books someone had kindly donated the other day and something struck me. Have a look at the photos next door of Reta Peter (a trotter who won the 1920 and 21 new Zealand Cups – yes I did say a trotter), along with the legendary Harold Logan (in colour). Take note of how close the driver is to the rear end of the horse and relate it to the recent discussions.

My question is, when and how, did sulkies in Australasia lengthen out to their present average – and why?

Pete Cook

 


 Snipers

I get a little testy with people who stand on the sidelines and take pot-shots at authority, referring to them as snipers.

Having just read an article (superbly timed of course, on the eve of one of the most positive days of the year) by a gentleman who runs a well-known website basically slagging off at everyone who runs harness racing in this Country, and having nothing relevant to write about this week, I thought I would have a ‘snipe’ back at him.

It would be fair to say that I’ve done my fair share of criticising over the decades, but at the same time, I’ve put a bit of effort into helping organise a body that is now making a significant contribution to the running of the Industry. I stand to be corrected, but to my knowledge, my original sniper has never sat on a Club or any other committee, and certainly has never been close to seeking a position on the HRNZ Board. As far as I can tell, all he has done for the past 30 odd years is make money from harness racing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all of his criticism is unfounded, not by a long way, but, in a similar way to the opposition in Parliament, it is very easy for him to put forward ideas and then criticise the powers that be for not listening to them without hearing contrary arguments.

Handicapping is a perfect example. He claims that he has heard from “a lot of trainers’ who consider the current handicapping system is “worst (sic) now than it has ever been”. Well, guess what, I speak to a lot of trainers too, who reckon it is the best that it has ever been, and that is reflected by the number of complaints to HRNZ, which are at their lowest number ever. Perhaps he should speak to Ken Barron, David Butcher, Mark Jones and Hamish Hunter all of whom sit on the Handicapping Committee – or is he only talking to other ‘snipers’?

I suspect that a lot of his ‘lot of trainers’, are in the upper North Island where obviously things are not the best. Perhaps they would be better putting their efforts into finding new owners that complaining to our friend.

To illustrate how some of the aforementioned think, one highly rated and skilled trainer asked a lesser trainer why he bothered racing lower grade horses. Presumably he felt that there was no room in the Industry for anything but the best animals. Good trainer he may be, but he can only be described as naïve in his philosophy, which would result in Clubs staging about 3 or 4 races per meeting. He would no doubt be the first to complain when his higher grade stakes plummeted along with Club incomes.

End of rant.

Pete Cook

Easter Sunday – Part 2


Following on from my question as to why we are not permitted to hold a race meeting on Easter Sunday, I contacted our Racing Minister, Nathan Guy, for his opinion. After a month of awaiting a reply, I contacted his secretary and received a response a day later. The following is a summary of the exchanges.

The Query

“Good afternoon Minister,

I am making enquiries as to why there is a ban on race meetings on Easter Sunday in this Country. (See Section 44 of the Racing Act). It seems ridiculous that the NZ TAB is open on that day, however patrons can only bet on races from overseas, mainly Australia, where there is no such ban. Also there is no ban on gaming in Casinos or pubs on that day, which suggests that there are no gaming issues involved.

Your thoughts would be appreciated.”

The Minister’s Response

“You wrote about what you see as a discrepancy between the TAB being able to trade on Easter Sunday, accepting bets on overseas racing, while racing clubs in New Zealand are unable to hold meetings.

The current ban on Easter Sunday race meetings is something that many New Zealanders are comfortable with and there are no current plans to amend this provision. However, I have passed your correspondence to my officials so it can be considered as part of any future review of the Racing Act 2003.”

My Response(to his Secretary)

“Many thanks for arranging the Ministers' response. Would it be possible to ask him the source of his claim that the ban is 'something that many New Zealanders are comfortable with'? Has he carried out a survey? If so I would be most interested to see the results. I have spoken to many people on this subject, both racing people and non-racing people, and religious and non- religious, and not one person I have asked can see any reason why there should not be racing on Easter Sunday. Even the Dept. of Internal Affairs have no problem with it.

Could he please advise where he obtained the basis for his claim.”

The Minister’s further response. (and from his Secretary)

"I am advised by the Department that the issue of racing on Easter Sunday was considered by Parliament during the passage of the Racing Act 2003. The Bill was reported back by the Select Committee with the ban lifted. However, a wide range of views were expressed to the Government of the day and in the event, Parliament voted to retain the ban on racing on Easter Sunday, along with the bans on racing on Christmas Day, Good Friday and AnzacDay.

You will be aware that the Minister's current priorities for the Racing portfolio include addressing the issue of offshore online wagering and providing the bloodstock industry with more certainty around tax rules. The issue of racing on Easter Sunday can be reconsidered when the Act is next reviewed or amended.”

My further response

“Thanks for the response, however there are a couple of comments that I would like you to pass on to the Minister, if you would be so kind. First of all, racing is not banned on Anzac day, simply not allowed to start before 1pm.

Secondly, I would humbly suggest that what was the standard in many walks of life in 2003 (12 years ago) has changed a great deal since. While I understand the need to address the offshore gambling issue, perhaps it is time to consider a review of the Racing Act to be considered also.”

Pete Cook


 Two year old Trotters

Not personally being a fan of racing two year old trotters, I just happened to catch a race in Australia for those horses that caught my interest.

It was a standing start over (I think) 1700m for two year old trotters. Smugly thinking the start would be a complete farce I was rather taken aback when seven of the eight starters trotted off the mark faultlessly. I would suggest that is a far better strike rate than similar races in this Country from behind the mobile.

What is also surprising is that, generally speaking, the Australian racing scene is very much mobile start orientated, yet here are arguably the riskiest beginners in the business, being asked to stand and begin from behind a barrier strand – and doing it successfully.

There would appear to be two advantages to this option. We sometimes hear of young trotters being ‘overcooked’ through becoming stirred up behind the mobile gate. Maybe this could be an alternative worth investigating. The other plus would be that, because there are not many horses in the category, in the main all two year olds have to race each other, whether they be first starters, or Group race winners. We are always hearing the powers that be complaining that horses are going to trials instead of races. Perhaps a few standing starts, either restricted to non-winners, or with handicaps for the good horses, might be beneficial to all?

Pete Cook


 National Council Meeting Report

As usual, a wide range of topics were discussed at the recent Trainers & Drivers Assn National Council meeting in Auckland.

Chairman Rob Lawson began by summarising various issues facing the HRNZ Board, such as Industry funding, the TABCORP agreement, KPI’s, and opportunities for turnover growth. It was hoped that the latter could be helped by beaming our trotting races into France in conjunction with Australia.

Rob also outlined issues surrounding the JCA penalty Guide review, and subsequent to his objection to increases in careless driving and whip use penalties in line with the Thoroughbred code, HRNZ had written to the JCA advising them that these were unacceptable, due to the disparity in losing fess. Other items not supported by the Council were the ‘one clear day’ clause in addition to the 12am on race day for alkaline agents, (which effectively made it 48 hours), and making the acquisition of prohibited substances an offence. However, there was support for the 8 day stand down period for Inter-Articular Corticosteroid treatment.

Other issues debated included the upcoming changes to the Health & Safety Act, the future of travel subsidies, with a suggestion that the latter could be paid by Clubs, and responses from the HRNZ Board to proposals from the last Council meeting. Rob advised there had been support for scrapping veterinary certificates for scratchings, and the insistence that a claimer be entered at the same price in its’ next race, following a stand down for a scratching. However there was no support for changing the time for horses to be at the races 60 minutes prior to the event they were involved in.

There was much debate on the issue of whether the allowable widths for sulkies should be increased, covering such issues as safety, the driver being closer to the horse, changing racing patterns, and comparisons to the USA where most races are mobile miles and there is no contact, compared to local conditions of standing and mobiles, varying distances, and legal pushing out. A vote was taken, with the majority of those present supporting the status quo, and a watch on developments, prior to submitting any recommendations.

A number of issues concerning the RIU were discussed including whip use, the scratching of a horse at the start after it was deemed unfit to start, and permission for a trainer to drive an outside horse other than one he trained but is owned by his or her employee, the latter being considered a victory for common sense which could now be used as a precedent.

Another topic subject to lengthy discussion was Handicapping and as a result a submission will be sent to the HRNZ Handicapping Sub Committee which is due to meet on 30 June.

A total of six hours then for the two meetings and, as always, much progress made in the ongoing development of the Association.

Pete Cook


 ANDREW GRIERSON

Prior to the recent bi-annual meeting, the Trainers & Drivers National Council met with Andrew Grierson (HRNZ Veterinary Consultant) to discuss various matters pertaining to drug use and other relevant matters. He began by outlining his involvement in racing, which included racing and breeding thoroughbreds and standardbreds, and owning drug companies that he had set up under the banner of Caledonian Holdings, which supplied product in New Zealand and overseas. He stated that suggestions of conflicts of interest involving him had been considered and dismissed by the Veterinary Association, which had the power to reject him for his position. He also stressed that he had no connection to either the RIU or the JCA, and was only used by them in an advisory capacity.

Matters outlined by Andrew included a need for the same Rules on drug use to apply for both horse codes, however using the example of Australia where guidelines were different for various States, this could prove difficult. All his recommendations were based on overseas experiences and research, as this Country did not have the resources to carry out its’ own studies.

There was general discussion on Cobalt (permitted level of 200), Bute (suggesting a 5 day stand down from fast work), and the limited benefits of various vitamin products. Also the ‘one clear day’ policy for some drugs was debated, along with a recommendation of 8 clear days stand down period for Interarticular Corticosteroids. Other items covered included nasal strips, Omeprazole, Meloxicam and Boost, the latter capable of being stored in the body for 5 days, and therefore does not need to be used the day before a race.

Andrew supported a policy of doing away with a swabbing steward, with a trainer simply being asked to present a horse ten minutes after the race. He advised that the Veterinary Council (as opposed to the Veterinary Assn.) had used its power to take disciplinary action against vets who had broken rules or protocols in the past, including the suspension or removal of licences. He agreed that there were enough restrictions on alkalinising agents in place already, and felt that the use of Back on Track bandages or similar at the races was acceptable, and simply a public perception issue.

On the subject of withholding times, he advised that, while he was unable to provide the Association with a list, this could be obtained from all veterinarians, however it should be noted that there were regular updates. International threshold levels were now available to all on the internet.

The meeting involved frank and informative debate and the Association thanks Andrew for making himself available.

Pete Cook

  National Council Meeting

The Trainers & Drivers National Council meets in Auckland next Friday 24 April, with a comprehensive and varied agenda to get through.

Prior to the meeting proper we will be hosting the HRNZ veterinary consultant Andrew Grierson to discuss issues surrounding banned substances and other veterinary matters.

Any member who has a topic that they would like discussed, contact the website, and it can be added to the agenda – providing it is not already on there.

Watch this space for reports on the outcome of these meetings

Pete Cook

 Easter Sunday

I know the Easter Trading debate is a bit of a prickly subject within the corridors of power in this Country, but surely the New Zealand Racing Industry has a good case for being discriminated against.

Without getting involved in religious arguments and the like, I don’t have a problem with shop employees being given days off, they sure deserve them, and I dare say the compulsive shopping brigade probably need a day or two off as well.

But here’s the anomaly. Racing is permitted on Easter Sunday in Australia and consequently the NZ TAB is open for business. Not only that, but Casinos are also permitted to operate on the Sunday, so it is obviously not an anti-gambling issue.

It just seems wrong that, on a day when there is precious little else to do, some pressure on the stretched dates schedule could be relieved by staging a couple of race meetings on Easter Sunday, with every chance of spectacular results.

Maybe it’s time for pressure to be put on your local MP for a change.

Pete Cook

 Alcohol Sponsorship

The Government is currently considering a range of proposals that could restrict the sponsorship and advertising revenue racing clubs are able access from alcohol companies.

The proposals include banning alcohol sponsorship of sport. This would have a significant financial impact on racing clubs across the country.

HRNZ is taking the opportunity to influence the outcome of those discussions if they engage with the Government early. The Government wants to understand how valuable alcohol advertising and sponsorship is to racing clubs.

On 17 December 2014, the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship, chaired by Graham Lowe, released 14 recommendations to further restrict alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

These recommendations include:

•Ban alcohol sponsorship of sports

•Ban alcohol sponsorship of all streamed and broadcast sports

•Ban alcohol sponsorship (naming rights) at all venues

•Introduce additional restrictions on external advertising on licensed venues and outlets

•Introduce a sponsorship replacement funding programme

•Introduce a targeted programme to reduce reliance on alcohol sponsorship funding

Currently Government officials are working to quantify the impact of these recommendations on sport. Obtaining first-hand information from clubs is the first step in advocating for the industry on this issue.

HRNZ is collecting information on the value of alcohol advertising and sponsorship to the industry on behalf of all harness stakeholders.

The Ministry of Health and Sport NZ are conducting a similar exercise with other sporting organisations across the country. The information being gathered will form the basis of a paper that will go to Cabinet in April.

 

  An Imperfection?

There has been a long running debate over whether sportsmen and women should have to be perfect, and role models for the younger generation who admire and often mimic them.

Harness racing is blessed in this Country in having Dexter Dunn. He is presentable (I was going to say good looking but I don’t want to be taken out of context), articulate, great with the media and anyone else he comes into contact with for that matter, and his skills as a reinsman in New Zealand are already bordering on legendary. Oh yes, and he’s the World Champion driver too.

So of course, everyone who sits behind a horse wants to emulate our top driver, be they young aspiring drivers or old codgers working their way through the Amateur ranks. And there is the problem. Since his return from America, Dexter leans way further back in the sulky than almost any other driver in this Country, and obviously results show this suits him perfectly.

However, whether we like it or not Dexter is, (in the words of Kirstin Barclay on Trackside a couple of years ago) a freak. He has the talent, poise and balance to be able to have full control of horses despite sometime sitting almost horizontal, similar to his American counterparts. Unfortunately, even our latest sulkies are not as close to the horse as those used in the USA, and obviously the further away from the horse a driver is, the less control he or she has, should an emergency occur. There has already been one accident and several close calls as a result of drivers leaning too far back and being caught out.

So, the point is, while many of us live in the sad delusion we are Dexter Dunns’, we are not and never will be, so for the sake of safety, make sure when you are driving a horse, you are close enough to it have full control in the case of an emergency, and put up with being one of the large bunch of drivers who are not champions.

Pete Cook

 UFO’s and Invited Drivers

The RIU have advised the Association that, following the recent controversy over sulky widths in Australia, the authorities across the Tasman have banned the use of NEW UFO sulkies. This applies only to carts purchased after 16 March 2015 – if you have one bought before that date you will be allowed to use it in Australia. Following inquiries by the RIU, there are no plans to follow this move in New Zealand.

Congratulations to those involved in this week’s meeting at Waikouaiti which featured guest drivers from around New Zealand along with Lance Justice and Amanda Turnbull from across the ditch. I know that a huge amount of work went in to arranging this event, particularly through Bruce Negus, and it is great to see some of the best drivers in Australasia competing at a lowly Tuesday grass track meeting and having a ball doing it. Hopefully it is now established as a regular fixture on the racing calendar, and will grow in status. Along with a financial reward for the winning driver, the Club also provided a lucrative prize for the most successful trainer on the day, and a nice touch, of rugs for the connections of all place-getters.

The only criticism I have is that there appears to have been more publicity about it after the event than before it!

Pete Cook

  Two Weeks of Magic

It’s not often that an Interdominion Grand final is overshadowed by other events in Australasia, but the win of Beautide, however meritorious, barely rated a mention in the media, certainly on this side of the Tasman. Perhaps that reflects the New South Wales pseudo Interdoms format which, hopefully, will disappear without a trace.

Given this is a horseman’s website, it is fitting to headline Dexter Dunn’s winning the World Drivers Championship. Sure, there is a certain amount of luck involved with these events, but Dexter was so dominant, winning by the biggest margin ever, even the most cynical would have to admit he is a fitting champion. There was certainly no argument from his rival drivers, and that was after scoring virtually no points in the first round! Can he really get any better?

As far as the horses go, I feel for those who get to vote for the Horse of the Year title this year. How does one separate statistics from emotions when choosing between Adore me and Christen Me? Personally, I reckon the voting should be null and void in that category, and a joint title be awarded. Neither horse deserves to lose.

There’s an interesting aspect to the careers of these two superstars. Every five minutes during the Yearling Sales we hear the auctioneers talking up a horse that will ‘come early’ and be ‘bound to make a two year-old’. As noted on the ‘Box Seat’, there are very few two year-olds fronting up to the races at present. I’m sure in some quarters there is the fear of being beaten up by the big stables, but could it be that buyers at the sales are becoming realistic enough to let their young horses mature before pushing them for the ultimate effort and an instant return. Let’s hope so – if we are short of horses, the last thing we need is young horses being ruined by greed. Adore Me had one (unsuccessful) start as a two year-old, and Christen Me didn’t race until he was three. Interesting also to note that at that time, they were both in the Mark Purdon barn.

Peter Cook

 Reminder Time

Generally speaking Club Secretaries around the Country do a pretty good job. Yes, like everyone they make mistakes, and sometimes they upset people (mainly trainers), and sometimes they cop abuse as a result.

However there are two sides to the story, so I thought it might be timely to remind trainers of their responsibilities in regard to nominations and withdrawals.

The Association has heard that there are trainers out there who find it difficult to nominate their horses by the allotted time, and when they ring after that time, expect the Club Secretary to oblige by slotting them in. Really?? How difficult is it to nominate a horse before a certain time when programmes are publicised weeks ahead? Why leave it to the last minute – simply nominate anyway then withdraw if circumstances change.

Apparently even that scenario is too difficult for some trainers, who demand to withdraw their horse after the scheduled time, despite generally having ample time to do so, sometimes overnight! There is some urgency required to collate and submit fields, and the last thing a Secretary needs is the continual phone calls from inefficient or lazy trainers.

Another related issue is trainers getting upset when their horse is transferred to another race, when they have not specified the Do Not Transfer condition. It is a Club Secretary’s duty to ensure as many fields and horses are carded for their meeting – why should they have to ring a trainer who has not done his or her job and check?

Come on trainers, if the vast majority can do their job properly, surely everyone can. It is simply not good enough to abuse Club Secretaries when they take action in line with their duties that might not suit. Maybe it would pay to remember when that same official did you a favour in the past.

While we are on reminders, don’t forget that the Association has an Employment Contract for Stable-hands drawn up by Invercargill lawyer Mary-Jane Thomas. Anyone wanting a copy, just e-mail the undersigned.

Pete Cook

Canterbury Branch Meeting with HRNZ 23/2/15

Representatives of the Great Canterbury Branch (Ken Barron, Paul Nairn and Kevin Townley) met with Edward Rennell and Andrew Morris to discuss matters of mutual interest.

Initially John Toohey (HRNZ IT Manager) outlined a number of new innovations being worked on by his department, the major one being the splitting of stakes payments to owners, which should be up and running in the next month. This will involve issuing split invoices to up to 8 owners on net stakes earned by the horse they jointly own. Hopefully most of these can be delivered by e-mail, therefore minimizing costs.

John advised that historical season by season statistics on the HRNZ website were now available back to 1976, and these could be filtered to obtain various statistics.

John and Andrew Morris were asked about the possibility of being able to lodge withdrawals on mobile phones, in addition to the current tasks. While they felt that there were security issues involved with this, they would give the matter consideration. Another related topic discussed was the possibility of indicating on the website alongside nominations, how a large field would be split, whether by money won for C1’s, or number of starts for C0’s. There were a number of complex issues surrounding the introduction of such an innovation, however the HRNZ reps agreed to investigate and report back. Ken Barron favoured the programming of less races, the having the fields split to suit the various classes. He also felt that such a policy should be adopted for trials and workouts so that trainers would become familiar with the concept.

John Toohey reported that the HRNZ Trainers Package, which produced personalized invoices and other aids, was not being used as much as they would have liked, however he did acknowledge that the cost involved made it more tailored towards larger stables. A variation in costs for smaller trainers would be considered.

Edward gave an overview of the current situation of the Industry. As at 2 February, compared to last season, filed sizes were up 3.6%, average starts per horse up 1.82%, the number of races with less than eight runners was down 44%, and the average winning dividend was up .93%. In line with the latter there was a 17% drop favourites paying less than $2. Given these figures, a drop in the yield from fixed odds betting of 16% would suggest that the bookmakers at the TAB Sportsdesk may be underperforming. Overall turnover was up from last season at this point.

Other matters covered by Edward included the ratio of horses trained in areas of the Country compared to race meetings there, and the matter of venue ownership as it relates to centralization.

Edward outlined plans for the upcoming season in regards to dates. It was envisaged that there would be nine less race meetings, those selected being poor performing dates, mostly in the lower North Island. Also it was hoped that Forbury dates would be spread, with concentration on Winter months where the Club was most successful. Unfortunately there would still be clashes of other meetings with Premier dates, mainly because Addington and Auckland were primarily interested in racing on Friday nights. Edward also outlined issues surrounding Racing Board distribution and funding which were delaying the release of the Draft Dates Calendar, however he hoped would be resolved in the next few weeks.

A number of handicapping issues were discussed, including how to combine trials and workouts, the need for discretionary handicaps, the drop back system, and splitting of fields. It was agreed that in general the drop back was working well, although it was causing problems for lesser C1 horses. Ken Barron felt that the age restrictions on C1 races were not working, and suggested that an open race split into two or three fields on merit would encourage more of the ‘battlers’ to line up against like horses. Those in the lower part of the higher grade would soon drop down and then be at the top of the lower grade, and theoretically be competitive. Those present agreed that the current 10 start system for dropping back was working.

Pete Cook

 Greater Canterbury Branch

The Branch will hold its’ first meeting of the year next Monday 23 February (lateness is due to circuit racing, yearling sales etc.).

We are fortunate enough to have Edward Rennell and Andrew Morris coming along to discuss various issues. If any member has a question they would like to ask these gentlemen, e-mail through the site and we will endeavour to get a response.

Pete Cook

 Workouts or Trials

Let’s face it, these days – come to think of it for the past few years – the defining line between workouts and trial meetings, particularly in the South Island, has become pretty blurred.

Open class horses regularly line up at workouts, despite them not being officially recognised by HRNZ, and educating young horses takes place at both.

Under the current system in Canterbury, there is one official trial meeting scheduled per week, with venues split between Addington, Ashburton, Motukarara, and Rangiora. However intermingled with those are regular workouts at the latter three venues on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Wednesdays respectively. (Addington are not particularly interested in holding workouts) Throw in a few Methven workouts in the Summer, and you have somewhat of a mess!

Under the current situation, if a trainer in Rangiora has a horse ready to qualify in a certain week, he is forced to either travel long distances to the other venues, or tread water until the local meeting comes around, both of which involves extra, and unnecessary, costs to the owner.

So here is what the Greater Canterbury branch proposes for the future. Forget official trial meetings – many of them lose money anyway. Continue to have the regular workouts on the day mentioned above, which seem to suit most, and should a horse or horses from nearby (or anywhere for that matter) need to qualify, simply programme one or more qualifying heats during the workouts.

There may be an issue with RIU being present to inspect the qualifiers, however it is hard to see any insurmountable issues, particularly when the workouts are recorded on video anyway.

Any comments or suggestions on the proposal are welcome prior to our next Branch meeting on 23 February.

Peter Cook

1000 From Nothing

It was a special night at Addington last Friday for a number of reasons, a mixture of stars and newcomers made for competitive racing, a first Group win for Brad Mowbray, but really the night belonged to our newest member of the 1000 club, Blair Orange.

In typically humble fashion, Blair only found time to speak of the people who had given him opportunities so that he could reach the wonderful milestone. However we all know how difficult it is to become the highly respected horseman that he undoubtedly is, when you don’t have either a family history in harness racing, or a very large silver spoon hanging out of your mouth. What was obviously understated was that, if those trainers and owners who gave him those chances hadn’t had the confidence in his ability, they wouldn’t have been forthcoming.

While the latter milestone on its’ own was great, and reason for celebrations, the input from one other should not go unmentioned. In harness racing, as in any other public walk of life, no-one is immune from making a “dork’ of themselves, be they trainer, driver, administrator, presenter, (or even Association Secretary).

However, when someone goes out of their way to being the subject of ridicule for the benefit of another Industry participant, that takes a very special talent. How lucky we are to have a superb commentator, who prides himself on accuracy, yet can come up with a clever line mid-race at will. Is there anyone else who comes to mind, apart from Mark McNamara, that would have the guts to don a full body orange suit in public to promote the game? The look on Blair’s face was simply priceless.

Am I right in thinking that such behaviour would not be contemplated by our sister horse code? If so, I’m glad I’m a harness follower – vive la difference!

Pete Cook

Feel the Width

Now that the furore over the lack of communication concerning sulky widths which decimated the Ballarat Cup has died down somewhat, authorities on both sides of the Tasman are mulling over the reasons behind it, and their next move.

At this stage, opinions in this Country seemed to be divided as to whether to allow carts wider than the current standard of 1300mm, probably either 1350mm or 1400mm. Below are some of the arguments that have surfaced - members can judge for themselves, based on the pros and cons.

- From what I understand, Australia and New Zealand are the only harness racing jurisdictions in the World that have the 1300mm limit

- Changing the rules governing cart specifications puts pressure on trainers to upgrade to the ‘latest technology’, which is an expense beyond many, and will inevitably have to be passed onto owners

- While the wider options would only be optional, this would mean that the difference between the narrower 1300mm carts and 1400mm maximum ones may cause serious issues in a race situation.

- Given the more fluid and longer stretching gait of trotters and, to a lesser extent pacers these days, the current carts may well restrict horses from performing at 100% of their ability

- When the authorities make a decision, it should be for a set period of years, so that any new cart purchased is not going to be outdated for a reasonable length of time

Presumably it makes sense for the same criteria to cover Australia and New Zealand, so it is important for a joint decision to be reached so that manufacturers can standardise, and a repeat of the Ballarat situation can be avoided.

Peter Cook

 Health & Safety Reform Bill Update

As predicted the select committee dealing with the new Health & Safety Reform Bill were unable to report back on schedule due to the election, and are due to do so in March 2015.

As a result of the delay, the Bill is not expected to pass into law any earlier than late 2015. There is also likely to be a transitional period before the provisions of the Act come into force, in order to allow businesses to prepare for the changes. However, the Racing Industry will still target 1 August 2015 to start their compliance program.

As outlined previously, while many may consider the new regulations to be an overkill and ‘nanny state’ material, nevertheless ignoring the changes is not an option so below are some of the details of what is involved. It is in your own interests as a trainer to not only be aware of these, but to act accordingly.

What the Bill is setting out to achieve.

No one goes to work expecting to get hurt, sick or killed. But in New Zealand, far too many people do.

On average, 75 people per year die on the job, 1 in 10 is harmed and 600 - 900 die from work-related diseases - all coming at a cost of $3.5 billion per year. And that’s doesn’t count the social and psychological costs on the friends, family, loved ones and co-workers of those people hurt on the job. In 2013, Government announced its Working Safer reform package, aimed at bringing down New Zealand’s workplace injury and death toll by 25 per cent by 2020. Perhaps the most important part of this is the new Health and Safety Reform Bill, which will make every workplace responsible for the health and safety of all workers.

How will the Bill affect liability.

The main duty of care for Health and Safety is held by the company (the person conducting the business or undertaking or “PCBU”).Officers do not have to directly ensure the health and safety of the PCBU’s workers. Their role is to exercise due diligence to ensure that the PCBU meets its health and safety obligations.

The main duty of care is held by the company (the person conducting the business or undertaking or “PCBU”). While officers will have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure the company is fulfilling its obligations to keep its workers and others safe, the main duty remains with the PCBU. Officers’ due diligence duty supports the PCBU’s primary duty of care - it does not replace it.

The duties of officers and the PCBU are independent of each other. This means that a PCBU can fail to meet its duty, whether or not the officers have exercised due diligence. Should this happen and the officers have exercised due diligence, the officers would not be personally liable for any health and safety failings and the focus would be on the PCBU.

Who is an “officer” under the Bill?

Directors are officers under the Bill. In addition, a person is an officer if he or she makes decisions that affect the whole or substantial part of the business of the PCBU (for example a chief executive):

•For a PCBU that is a company, its directors are officers;

•For a PCBU that is a partnership, its partners are officers (in limited partnerships, only general partners are officers);

•For other types of business structures or undertakings, people who hold a position comparable to a Director of a company will be an officer (such as a Board Member).

In addition, a person who makes decisions that affect the whole, or a substantial part of the business of the PCBU is an officer. These are the most senior people who are the guiding mind and will of the organisation.

Once the Bill has been finalised we will be providing guidance on who the officers are at each level of the Racing Industry to ensure that everyone understands their responsibility without having to wade through a lot of legislation.

What does “due diligence” mean?

Due diligence means that officers must take reasonable steps to ensure that the PCBU complies with its health and safety obligations. This includes staying up to date on health and safety issues, understanding the nature of the operations and the hazards and risks that come with them, and making sure that there are appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise those risks.

Due diligence as it is defined in the Bill is broadly the same as the concept of due diligence that directors already know in a wider business sense (for example, managing financial risk or business objectives). The Bill defines due diligence as including taking reasonable steps:

a) to acquire, and keep up-to-date, knowledge of work health and safety matters; and

b) to gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking of the PCBU and generally of the hazards and risks associated with those operations; and

c) to ensure that the PCBU has available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking; and

d) to ensure that the PCBU has appropriate processes for receiving and considering information regarding incidents, hazards, and risks and for responding in a timely way to that information; and

e) to ensure that the PCBU has, and implements, processes for complying with any duty or obligation of the PCBU under this Act; and

f) to verify the provision and use of the resources and processes referred to in paragraphs (c) to (e).

How does the Bill change officers’ potential risk of liability?

The Bill is fairer to officers than the current law and more consistent with their governance role. It encourages officers to pro-actively undertake due diligence to ensure that health and safety is a priority for their organisation, because this will remove their risk of liability (see “What does “due diligence” mean in the context of the Bill?” above).

Under existing law, officers are incentivised to avoid inquiring into health and safety matters because the risk of liability is reduced if they are not involved. Right now, officers are liable for any health and safety failure by the company if they authorised, sanctioned, agreed to or participated in that failure – whether or not the company is charged. Under the Bill, officers will only be liable if it is proved that they failed to carry out proper due diligence as part of the governance role. Further, because it is their responsibility to be pro-active (known as a “positive duty”), any failure to exercise due diligence must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

This makes the Bill more consistent with officers’ governance role, as it is simply broadening the concept of due diligence that all directors already know in a wider business sense to include health and safety.

Are officers responsible for what goes on in another business if there are overlapping duties? Not directly. An officer’s duty is to exercise due diligence for their own PCBU, to ensure that it is meeting its health and safety duties.

When two or more PCBUs work together, they may have overlapping duties. Each PCBU has an obligation to collaborate and consult with the others to make sure that the environment is safe and that no worker is left unprotected. In this situation, the officers’ duty still lies at the governance level—to take reasonable steps to ensure the PCBU has and implements processes to collaborate and consult with the other PCBUs.

Each raceday will see many differing PCBU’s working together and it will be essential to ensure that each PCBU understands their responsibilities to ensure that no one is exposed to any safety risks.

How does the Bill change penalties for officers?

The most likely charge against an officer is that officer has failed to meet its due diligence duty. The maximum penalty for this charge has decreased significantly, from $250,000 to $100,000.

Should a failure to meet the due diligence duty be proven to have exposed an individual to a risk of death or serious injury, the penalty has been slightly increased, from $250,000 to $300,000.

The maximum penalties for reckless conduct have significantly increased for both individuals and PCBUs, but prosecutions for this charge are likely to be very rare. This is because the burden of proof is very high, and also because other charges may be more appropriate in the circumstances (such conduct would likely overlap with offences under the Crimes Act).

There are three categories of offence:

Category 1 Reckless conduct—applies to a person who has a Health and Safety duty and, without reasonable excuse, engages in conduct that exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness, and is reckless as to the risk. The maximum penalty for an officer is $600,000, five years’ imprisonment, or both.

Category 2 Failure exposing to serious risk—applies to a person who fails to comply with their Health and Safety duty, and the failure exposes an individual to a risk of death or serious injury or illness. The maximum fine for an officer is $300,000.

Category 3 Failure--applies to a person who fails to comply with their health and safety duty. The maximum fine for an officer is $100,000.

Currently, the offence broadly equivalent to category 1 carries a maximum fine of $500,000, 2 years imprisonment or both. Conduct that could be charged under category 2 or 3 carries a maximum fine of $250,000.

So, for those of you who are still awake, it sounds a bit of a pain. But prevention is always better than cure and the last thing anyone wants is a trainer being hauled into the legal system following a serious accident on his or her property – well, make that the second last thing after the serious accident itself of course!

Further updates as they come to hand.

Peter Cook

 To Buy or not to Buy

To buy, or not to buy, that is the question—whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer the Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune, (with apologies to William Shakespeare).

Now that the hectic Christmas and New Year racing circuits are drawing to a close, that phrase (or something similar) describes what is going through the minds of trainers throughout Australasia as the annual round of yearling sales draws close.

For the larger public trainers in particular, studying the catalogue, hopping on the various bus tours around the vendors’ properties, and talking to prospective owners is a process that certainly sets the scene for some future outrageous fortunes, both good and bad! Decisions made in the next month, be they calculated or spur of the moment, can turn around incomes and sometimes careers, sending them either through the roof or through the floor, depending on the success of purchases made.

There are basically three types of trainers purchasing horses from the yearling sales. The first is your high profile trainer with a big team who normally also have big spending owners behind them. While their job is easier in a financial sense, they have the pressure of being responsible for recommending the outlay of large sums of someone else’s cash, and being tasked with turning that money into a very successful racehorse.

The second is the mid-sized trainer (probably the majority of the professional ranks), who either has a small band of loyal owners who have been with them for decades, or alternatively makes a living from buying horses themselves and developing them for either the Ready-to-Run sale, or overseas buyers who prefer to purchase horses that are ready to race. Obviously the latter comes with its’ own pressures. The trainer is spending his own money and taking the risks involved in buying a yearling, and also has to stand the costs involved in educating it to the standard required if that is possible. However, as with any purchase of a young horse, success can bring good rewards that don’t have to be shared with owners.

The third category of trainer attending the Yearling Sales is the enthusiastic owner – trainer who simply wants the enjoyment (hopefully) of buying a horse or two (often with limited finances), to spend many hours, months and/or years pottering around in the hope that one day it might result in that much treasured picture on the wall.

Whatever category a trainer falls into, there is one thing for certain. Without horses that trainer is either out of business, or out of a time-consuming hobby, and while it may not appeal to all, the Yearling Sales are an ideal venue to stock up.

By the way, speaking of the recently concluded circuits, is there anywhere better to experience harness racing than the new year Central Otago circuit? Three days of good racing on three very different tracks, set in a magical part of the World with (this year anyway) balmy temperatures. Truly grass roots racing at its’ sublime best.

Peter Cook

 Reminiscing

After a number of years gathering dust and being liberally decorated with graffiti, the old Addington stable blocks are no longer. (See recent picture)

Seeing them pulled down to make way for yet another Addington Raceway development did bring on a brief wave of nostalgia, and I’m sure many of you have memories, both fond and otherwise, of what went on in that small, often wind and rain swept, rectangle. I have no idea when they were built, but they were certainly the hub of activity when I first went to Addington back in the mid-60s.

Having worked your way through memory lane, however, let us be thankful for the rather more user friendly facility the Raceway enjoys now.

Having vented on the RIU last week concerning their newly introduced ‘Crimestoppers’ line, it was interesting to watch the totally unacceptable, almost surreal, situation unfold at Ballarat the other night. While I regularly hear reports from our members on how the RIU Stewards have been big on consultation, communication and helpfulness, it seems that the administration still harbours remnants of the old ‘us and them’ scenario when it comes to Industry participants. Their Australian counterparts have just learned the hard way, that often that policy is not the best for anyone concerned.

That’s it for this year, except to wish everyone a safe and successful holiday period from the Trainers & Drivers Assn.

Peter T Cook

 Integrity

It’s been an interesting few days involving issues of integrity in Harness Racing one way or another. At this stage ‘Operation Chestnut’, involving the workings of a trust fund is in its’ infancy with much water to go under bridges and, hopefully a positive solution for the O’Brien family.

However a couple of matters that can be commented on involve the Racing Integrity Unit and their workings. Recently horseman Frank Phelan, who also doubles as the starter for the Auckland Trotting Club admitted a charge of not racing a horse on its’ merits and, along with a suspension, copped a $500 fine. The fact that a suspension and not a disqualification was handed down was apparently a result of the efforts of a number of people, including Trainers & Drivers Association Chairman Rob Lawson, to reach a conclusion which didn’t leave the ATC without a starter. The subsequent newspaper article attributed to Barry Lichter suggesting that, due to recent winnings, the fine would be laughed off is, at best in poor taste, and at worst insulting. Do we really need this type of journalism?

The second matter that surfaced this week was the announcement that an ‘Anonymous Racing Integrity Line’ has been launched by the RIU. Despite regular assurances from that body to the Trainers & Drivers that we should work together, the first the Association knew of this move was through the media – so much for consultation.

And what will such a facility achieve?

We are constantly having the words ‘public perception’ thrust down our throats to justify all types of measures introduced into the Industry. Surely the introduction of a ‘Crimestoppers’ type of service gives the perception that the Industry is rife with cheats, criminals, and miscreants, who for some reason or another, the RIU cannot discover without anonymous tip-offs. No one likes, or wants cheats in Harness Racing, but I would suggest that by far the majority of calls to this new ‘hot line’ will be as a result of pub gossip, rumour and innuendo. Do we really need this type of drivel to be the subject of expensive investigation?

To compare it to the similar Police facility is rather misleading. The major part of their information is based on actual witness information of actual crimes. A racing equivalent will often be as a result of personal opinions, for example a disgruntled and often ignorant punter seeking retribution for his or her poor judgement, or someone who has read a Derek Francis novel and noticed a similar scenario in this Country.

Wouldn’t it be better for all concerned for the RIU to give out a message that generally all is well within the Racing Industry as a result of the sterling efforts of the RIU, instead of suggesting that we are mired in a cesspool of corruption?

Peter Cook

 

 

 

 

 

 

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