As previously reported, the Northern Branch of the Trainers & Drivers Association has recently appointed a Youth Development Officer, Scott Phelan. Reports and feedback have so far been very positive, with Scott providing assistance to Junior Drivers on and off the track, to enhance their skill levels and demeanour.
A number of race situations that had the potential to attract fines or suspensions have been, thanks to experienced representation and assistance, resulted in only recommendations or warnings. At the same time, valuable lessons have been learnt, along with guidelines on how to handle the stress of being involved in a judicial hearing.
Apart from carrying out duties on race and trial days, Scott has attended and helped in running Cadet and Junior Field Days, reviewed the drives of Juniors on a weekly basis and passed on advice, assisted with workshops on various aspects of the Industry, and is in the process of engaging with all Juniors to discuss their goals on a one to one basis.
The establishment of the role would not have been possible without the financial support and sponsorship of the NI Owners Association, the NI Amateur Drivers Association, and HRNZ. It is the intention of the Branch to grow and evolve this position.
Other recent moves by the Branch include Chair Todd Macfarlane and Committee member Derek Balle being recruited onto the Auckland Trotting Club Racing Committee, and the staging of a Junior Drivers series at the Waikato – Bay of Plenty meetings over the Christmas period. These consisted of 6 races on grass and all – weather tracks, at a cost of $2300. The Branch provided $550 worth of Rebel Sports vouchers for the overall winner and place-getters in the Series.
Chairman Rob Lawson presided over the recent meeting of the National Council, and began by reporting on recent happenings from the HRNZ Board point of view. These included various political issues, matters of governance, and consideration being given to the size of the Board. A good deal had been reached surrounding the new HRNZ building in Birmingham Drive (we won’t be able to refer to happenings in Lincoln Road anymore), involving a competitive rental agreement, and an option to buy the building currently occupied by a long term tenant.
There was concern that despite claims to the contrary by the RIU, trainers with Cobalt levels that were unusually high but under the threshold, were not being advised of their situation, as was the case with the recent Dalgety and Brosnan cases. The meeting agreed that this was bordering on entrapment, as trainers had no way of being aware of high levels and taking remedial action. Other matters touched on included the Harness Jewels, and the far too long awaited establishment of a Canterbury Racing Bureau.
Employment issues surrounding Clerks of the Course were still on-going, along with a revision of the structure of sulky insurance.
On the subject of venue rationalisation, Rob Lawson outlined a joint venture proposal currently being investigated, which would see a purpose built harness track established between Auckland and Hamilton, with a race track and training facilities. This would be financed by the sale of the Cambridge and Pukekohe complexes, and had the approval of the Racing Board.
Ken Barron was supported when he questioned the wisdom of racing in the Autumn and Winter on the West Coast, Nelson and Blenheim, when the holiday crods that these Clubs enjoyed during December and January were absent. A promised substantial rise in TAB and Trackside costs may well result in the viability of those meetings coming under scrutiny.
Other matters discussed following on from the last meeting, included agreement that the new Whip Use Rules were working well, confirmation that driving standards of Juniors in the North had improved recently (see the appointment of a Youth Development Officer detailed in next weeks’ update), and the difficulty of selling a horse to Australia that had won a race carrying a stake of $15k or more, making it an M1 there.
Following discussion on various fees for drivers, the meeting decided that an application for an increase in the race driving fee of $5 would be submitted to HRNZ, the first increase for two years.
Various issues surrounding the Sires Stakes series were discussed, and a number of possible changes to the Handicapping system were aired. The latter would be considered at an upcoming meeting of the HRNZ handicapping Sub-Committee.
Reports were tabled from the three Branches, with Gordon Lee confirming that racing in the Otago/Southland region was progressing well, although he had received some negative reaction to the dropping of handicapping points for second and third place-getters. The meeting agreed that, as shown on the recent Box Seat question time programme, there would always be varying opinions on any handicapping system.
Ken Barron reported on good liaison with the new Addington CEO Peter Jensen, and again stressed the urgent need for the establishment of a Canterbury Racing Bureau, failing to understand why this had been delayed for so long.
Todd MacFarlane described a number of initiatives being undertaken by the Northern Branch and these will be covered in detail in next week’s update. He wished to acknowledge the contribution made to the industry by the soon to be departing Richard Brosnan, both on and off the track.
Rob Lawson was unanimously re-appointed to the position of the Association’s representative on the HRNZ Board.
During the recent meeting of the Trainers & Drivers Assn. National Council, there were two ‘guest appearances’.
The first was HRNZ Veterinary Advisor Andrew Grierson who discussed various matters involving drug use and withholding times. He advised that most of our Rules are based on those used in most other Countries, including the One Clear day Rule, the introduction of which he supported, and felt was important for the credibility of our Industry. This involves the prohibition of any substance being administered more than one day prior to racing, eg. nothing after midnight on Wednesday, if racing on Friday night. Various cases and conditions were discussed including two day meetings, where permission could be sought from the RIU to administer the day between races if deemed necessary. While the meeting had reservations, it was acknowledged that at least there was consultation prior to such rules being introduced, unlike Australia. Other issues covered included Cobalt, Kava (a sedative for highly strung horses), the electronic recording of medication, and Lasix, the introduction of which Andrew did not support, and advised there was increasing pressure for its’ ban for racing on in the US and Canada. The control of supplements and vitamins being sold by any other than vets was governed by the MPI, the publication of withholding times was refused by the Veterinary Assn. despite requests from Andrew, however he suggested that when using substances on the list it would be wise to add another 24 hours on the recommended time on the label.
The second of the guests was the Chief Harness Racing Steward, Nick Ydgren who joined the meeting for a general discussion. On the subject of whip use, he advised that the use of the word excessive should cease to be included in reports, and gave an assurance that would happen. He advised of a proposal by NZTR and the RIU that the JCA panel members not be required to be present on race-day, as a cost saving measure for the Industry. This idea was not supported by those present, who felt that the current system was working well, and doing away with the JCA would revert to the old (and Australian) system, which created numerous credibility and perception issues. Other discussion on this topic included the use of witnesses, and the pressure this put on individuals, the large number of appeals in Australia, and the difficulty of explaining to owners who have become accustomed to the two tier judicial hearing structure. It was planned to introduce a remit to the Annual Conference clarifying the difference between easing down and shifting ground (pushing out). This was questioned by Gordon Lee, given the character of our ‘contact racing’, and he suggested that it was time for a complete overhaul of the current driving rules. In answer to a question regarding the need for the ‘driving in a manner likely to cause interference’ rule, Nick maintained that it was rarely used, but provided a tool to cover unusual incidents not covered by the current rules. He asked whether unruly horses should be allowed to go up to the gate when it was possible, but this was not supported, the feeling being that they were put on the unruly to stay out of everyone else’s way, and the onus was on the drivers of these horses to position them correctly. On the matter of Starters, all present called for a consistent method of starting across the Country, suggesting that there were faults with drivers and starters. The practice of one of the starters ‘mixing it up’ was heavily criticised, along with special treatment being afforded to unruly horses. There was also a call for more communication from some starters to drivers. Nick agreed to arrange a meeting of all starters, and horsemen would be invited to attend. Other issues discussed included scratching penalties, some driver’s disrespectful conduct in hearings, which was denounced by all present, and the ten year age limit on helmets, the validity of which was questioned by Gordon. A system of recording the time of when helmets were purchased was to be investigated by the RIU.
Part two next week.
With the National Council meeting on this week, there isn’t much to write about yet, (report next week), however I thought it was appropriate to acknowledge one of the true legends and gentlemen of harness racing in this Country as he announces his ‘semi-retirement’ and move across the ditch.
For many decades Richard Brosnan has been part of the fabric of the game, from the time of his hey-day when his Kerrytown stable was capturing many of our major races, and his name was synonymous with some horse flesh that were, and still are, household names. Who can forget Bonnies Chance and No Response, and they were just the top of a large heap. Always a gentleman, and never scared to voice an opinion on Industry issues, Richard has given countless hours in administration, in an effort to better the lot of his fellow trainers and owners.
The Trainers & Drivers Assn. wishes to thank him and his family for all their efforts and thrills they have given us over the decades, and all the best for the future.
Well done to the ‘Box Seat’ crew for putting together a very interesting group of question answering sessions by Industry luminaries. There were good ideas, interesting ideas, radical ideas, and the odd idea from the past.
What the programme vividly illustrated was, how on earth can those on the HRNZ Board, love them or hate them, make decisions that are going to please everyone. The various conflicting opinions voiced in the programme, some completely opposite and often regionally based, prove that whatever happens in the harness racing industry, some people are going to moan, and as we know, it’s usually the moaners who get the most publicity. However, we live in a Country where many things are governed by a democratic process, and this game is one of them. Perhaps it isn’t the ideal way, and there are arguments to say that we would be better off with a ‘Benevolent Dictator’. However at present, accepting this concept will go a long way to pulling everyone together for the sake the survival of harness racing in this Country.
Speaking of democracy, the Trainers & Drivers National Council is scheduled to meet next Friday, including attendances by HRNZ Vet advisor Andrew Grierson, and the RIU’s Nick Ydgren. If anyone has any issue that they would like to be brought up at the meeting, don’t hesitate to e-mail them to the website, and they will be treated in a democratic fashion.
At last, something concrete and beneficial coming out of the Minister of Racing, a review of our ‘industry structures’.
While it’s easy to throw stones at our current administrators, especially when they don’t tend to see things the way you do, I have always had some sympathy for them, being hamstrung by an out-dated and rather poorly drafted Racing Act. How many other multi-million dollar industries have to operate under strict guidelines that were conceived in the first couple of years of the century? If they did, how many would survive.
Yes there have been a succession of very average administrators in the top Racing Board positions in that time, (for the record, the Association does not include the current incumbent in that list) but the underlying problem is that, in all codes, the people who are tasked with running the Racing Industry in this Country, cannot make any major decisions without checking with the grass roots, many of whom have no experience in large business whatsoever. I’m sorry, but the old adage of a ‘Conference of Clubs’ should have gone out the window decades ago.
While I’m a bit wary of a Thoroughbred breeder conducting the review, hopefully he can take an independent look at the entire game and make some hard recommendations, and maybe we can make some serious progress into the future for the benefit of all concerned.
For those of you who don’t have much of a life and like a good chuckle, I suggest you have a read of a few Stewards Reports on the Harness Racing Australia website. The best ones are those surrounding the ‘Change of Tactics’ rule that they try to enforce over there.
Here’s a couple of examples, believe it or not, from the same race:
Matthew Craven, driver of Vapar Jack, was questioned in relation to the tactics adopted during the early stages where Vapar Jack was driven forward to lead before surrendering that position racing around the first turn to Night Ninja. Mr Craven explained that he was aware that connections had advised an intention of a change of tactics for the gelding to be driven less aggressive, however added that once Flaming Lucky was a late scratching following that change being advised he felt that there was a lack of early gate speed from runners drawn to his inside. Mr Craven added that after assessing the gate speed shortly after the start he elected to drive Vapar Jack forward and was able to lead. Mr Craven further explained he was able to gain cover relatively quickly racing into the first turn when challenged by Night Ninja. Stewards recorded that comments of Mr Craven and in doing so were mindful that following the change of tactics being advised there was a late scratching and after viewing the replays with Mr Craven, it did appear that only one runner drawn to his inside had sufficient gate speed, that being They Wantano (barrier 1). The panel was also mindful that at the first available option Vapar Jack was able to gain cover when leading immediately after the start.
Ellen Tormey, driver of Night Ninja (barrier 5), was questioned in relation to the tactics adopted on this gelding during the early stages when Night Ninja was driven forward, when of recent times when drawn wide on the track Night Ninja had been restrained. Ms Tormey explained after allowing Night Ninja to come out it was the intentions to find a position in the running line, however shortly after the start it appeared that Night Ninja would be unable to gain a position mid field. Ms Tormey explained that after it appeared that Night Ninja would be caught racing wide on the track in an endeavor to gain a position she elected to progress forward and was able to gain the lead racing around the first turn. Ms Tormey further added that following the scratching of runners to her inside this resulted in Night Ninja drawing barrier 5. In assessing the explanation of Ms Tormey and viewing the replays it was evident that Ms Tormey does not show vigour on her drive shortly after the start and allows Night Ninja to come across from barrier 5, it was further evident that Ms Tormey does look to her inside in an attempt to find a position mid field, however no positions eventuate. In assessing all these factors the comments of Ms Tormey were recorded as the panel were satisfied that there was no breach of the change of tactics rule.
Pretty much sums up in nutshell how daft the Rule is! Thankfully the Association has been assured that there is no appetite for the introduction of a similar statute on this side of the Tasman.
Having been somewhat reluctant to take on the position of representing the Trainers & Drivers Assn. on the Sires Stakes Board, I left the first meeting I attended recently, with a far more positive attitude towards the organisation.
Particularly pleasing was the realisation that merely putting all resources into races for young horses was no longer acceptable, and, in my opinion, recent new incentives such as the ‘Uncut Diamonds’ series and more races for trotters, mark a significant step forward in the role of the Sires Stakes entity.
The following is a summary of some of the issues discussed at the recent meeting, put together by new Secretary, Martin Pierson.
Bonus System Attached to Uncut Gem Races for Sales Horses
• That a $5,000 Bonus, on each of the 3 Uncut Gem Races, be paid to the first eligible Sales horse who has been paid both the Vendor and Purchaser payments (Level S & T), to finish with this bonus to be paid directly to the owner.
Sires Stakes Series for Trotting Fillies
• That a Sires Stakes 3YO Trotting Fillies race is to tentatively be programmed for the 2018/19 season for $20,000 subject to Sponsorship, date placement & eligibility.
• The NZ Sires Stakes office will relocate to the new HRNZ premises on Birmingham Drive in mid May 2018 with contact numbers etc. remaining the same.
HRNZ I.T. Online
• Work is continuing with HRNZ to introduce an online NZ Sires Stakes payment system through My HRNZ but this could still be 12 months away.
Sires Stakes 3YO Rossland Races
• In conjunction with the Auckland Trotting Club and the HRNZ Handicapper, the NZ Sires Stakes Board is looking at enhancing these two races re dates and the ratings system.
Massey University equine would like to improve its contribution to the equine industry. As key industry participants, Massey University is interested in your views on their past performance and to help them shape their future.
Members are invited to take part in this important consultation via the link below to an online survey. The survey will take approximately 5 minutes to complete and will be open until 5pm Friday 13th April 2018.
All comments made will be treated in strict confidence and a summary of results can be made available to you if you are interested.
If you have any questions, please contact Kylie Gibbard on 06 951 9189 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Two or even three day circuit racing has been around for decades and is a traditional, and often integral, part of the season’s calendar. The Christmas West Coast meetings are wonderfully patronised, although in recent years the horse numbers have dropped, and Nelson/Marlborough in January is similarly well supported.
Running these meetings when the majority of people are on holiday makes perfect sense, but can the same be said of holding a similar circuit in March or June?
Let’s take a look at things from an Industry point of view. The recent Westport meeting had 113 horses accepted for the first day. Of those, a total of 6 are trained on the West Coast. That means the connections of 107 had to pay to transport their horses a sizeable distance, and cover the cost of accommodation for trainers for the two days (actually, in most cases 3 nights). An estimate of the total would be about $70 – 80,000, possibly more. That’s apart from any extra expenses and workload to have their horses they leave at home worked and fed.
Then there’s the Racing Board/TAB. From memory, (not infallible) the cost of getting their mobile Trackside unit and staff there and accommodating them runs to about $30,000 for the two days. Oh yes, and don’t forget the tote staff and RIU/JCA expenses.
Talking strictly from the head and not the heart, wouldn’t it be better for the Industry if these meetings were held at Addington with its’ permanent facilities, or if you wanted to retain a ‘country’ feel, Rangiora? A ‘guesstimate’ would be a reduction in costs of maybe two thirds.
I know there will be those screaming about the locals losing interest in harness racing if their meetings are taken away from the area, however there is absolutely no suggestion of moving the flagship events at Christmas, which is where they are apparently financially viable.
Here’s an idea. How about the Racing Board paying for as many buses as it takes to transport the local enthusiasts to the Canterbury venue, and even chip in for accommodation. Whatever it cost, it would be a fraction of the current situation, and everyone would be catered for.
The North Island Branch has appointed Scott Phelan as Youth Development Officer for the region. The role has been created to assist the youth of the industry with their development and knowledge and act as a support role for any young person who may require assistance or advice.
Todd Macfarlane of the Branch explained that Phelan will be available for all youth in the industry on an open door approach. “There is a lot of talent out there and we want to help nurture them and help them be the best they can be,” said Macfarlane. “Scott will be available in a support role at race meetings and trials and can be contacted at any time.”
“He can also assist in enquires and view race videos, and if a rule has been breached he can also help explain what could have been done to help drivers learn from mistakes. The stipendiary stewards are also very supportive of Scott and we feel that this is a positive support base for cadets and young drivers and trainers.”
“The Trainers and Drivers Association also would like to thank the North Island Amateur and North Island Owners Associations for their support financially in creating this role.”
Anyone wishing to seek advice or support from Phelan is encouraged to contact him directly on 022-329-9455.
The Northern Harness Racing Cadets in conjunction with the North Island Branch of NZ Trainers & Drivers Association will also hold an Industry Field Day at Franklin Park Training Centre. This will be on Monday 26 March starting with lunch at 12 noon and the activities beginning at 12.30pm.
Both groups are encouraging the North Island harness trainers to send along their stable hands, cadets and junior drivers so they have the opportunity to gain knowledge from our industry leaders.
Speakers on the day will be Graeme Henley on pedigrees, Tony Grayling on stud duties from getting mares in foal until they are ready for the next step which is Yearling preparation. This topic will be covered by Logan Hollis and Shane Robertson. Brent Mangos and Steven Reid will part with their knowledge and opinions for selecting Yearlings to purchase and then following on Derek Balle and Owen Gillies will demonstrate how the breaking and gaiting process works. Syndication with ATC Syndicate Manager Andrew Jamieson will be the last topic on the day.
The day will have its share of fun along the way with quizzes, prizes and giveaways for those in attendance. Scott Phelan in his role as the Youth Development Officer along with a delegation of the North Island Trainers & Drivers will be there to co-ordinate and over-see the afternoon.
The North Island Trainers & Drivers have organised for an MVP Award for the 2017/18 season with a trip to leading trainer Gary Hall in Perth. This will be points based with all cadets and junior drivers eligible.
For any further information on the day contact Sally Waters the North Island Education & Training Co-ordinator on 027 494 2850.
If there was ever an example of the uncertainty of horse training, it has to be the recent run of ill-fortune experienced by the All Stars team.
Undisputedly the leading training set up in Australasia, sorting out the plans for their many superstar horses is almost as difficult as getting them ready for the respective races. However, as any owner or trainer knows, making long (or even sometimes short) term plans for horses can be a task fraught with danger and disappointment.
At the end of last year, the big money races in Australia looked to be almost totally at the mercy of the All Stars horses, it was just a question of which one would be set for, and probably win, which event. Two months later, after a succession of injuries and a pesky and obviously virulent Aussie bug, those plans lay in tatters on the planning room floor, with hardly a single victory from the entire team.
With all the top grade knowledge, facilities and care involved in that stable, it brings home to us all that the creatures that we are all devoted to, and that make up the fabric of the sport/industry we love, are just that – creatures. Just like us mere mortal humans, they are susceptible to ills and setbacks, no matter how much effort is made to try and avoid them.
It’s always been said that luck is essential on the track, but lack of it can make a huge difference even before we get as far as the races. If one or more of the All Stars horses hadn’t caught the bug, you wouldn’t need to be brave to say there could easily have been some very different results in major races since January 1.
Representatives from the Greater Canterbury Branch of the Association, along with other industry participants, met recently with the new Addington CEO, Peter Jensen for an exchange of views and information gathering.
Peter emphasised that he was there to listen to opinions of those present and that, while he would take them all into account, he could understandably give no guarantee that he would share those opinions and act on them.
A wide range of topics was covered, including race starters, programming and involvement in such by horsemen, and stake levels. Those present agreed that the Addington facility was underused, and in particular, the ‘close down’ for a month over Christmas and January was considered ridiculous by all. The idea of racing on Thursday nights for lower stakes was supported. There was a call for programming to cater for every horse every two weeks similar to the Southland model, and there was mixed feelings around the pros and cons of racing over 1950m and 2600m on a regular basis. There was also a call for some races catering for one win horses only within the rating system, so that these were not forced to race against horses that had multiple wins during their career. Also suggested, was horses only dropping back to a certain rating, which was apparently being investigated, and the need to cater for mares to prevent them from going overseas.
Other matters covered included the dire need for a Racing Bureau in Canterbury, the lack of post-race coverage of harness racing by Trackside compared to the thoroughbred code, and whether the promised big stakes being offered in Auckland would be attractive to local trainers.
Regarding the Addington complex, there was praise for the track surface, but criticism of the current driver’s room, citing a lack of size and facilities.
Various aspects of the Met Multiplier were discussed, along with preferences for either a 1950m or 2000m start, the latter being preferred by most.
The forthright and frank meeting gave Peter a good indication of the feelings of local horsemen on various issues, some of which will be built into future decisions surrounding Addington raceway.
Every now and then, an idea or proposal emerges from the shadowy halls of the Racing Industry administration that makes you sit up and take notice, then think, what a great idea. The following is a great example of one of those:
Later this year the equine industry will be presented with a new evolution in horse care technology.
Thanks to the generosity of the equine industry, and also the efforts of the New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust (NZHAT), five custom built horse ambulances are on target to be rolled out by December.
The New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust was established after meetings between vets, equine codes and the Racing Integrity Unit established that welfare outcomes for horses would be improved with the provision of appropriate custom built horse ambulances.
The Trust itself was formed by members of the New Zealand Equine Vet Association, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, Harness Racing New Zealand and the Racing Integrity Unit.
NZHAT Trust Chair Martin Burns is also General Manager of Racing and Equine Welfare for NZTR and is extremely grateful for the support the Trust has received.
“When established in mid-2016 the initial goal was to have the first five equine ambulances delivered by July 2018. Thanks to the generosity of donors, sponsors and grant providers, we have raised sufficient funds though manufacturing lead-times mean we now expect to meet this goal by December 2018. But we are happy that this is not a big miss in terms of our intended timing.”
Burns noted that the evidence has been present in recent news and media around the importance of the equine ambulance.
“The first aid provided by an equine ambulance to Gingernuts when injured last year at Flemington, and his subsequent progress to recovery, indicates the improvement to welfare outcomes that may be provided by having this technology available.”
“It’s most important to ensure the best chances of recovery for horses, whether racing injuries or when necessary to transport for surgeries or treatments,” said Burns. “Beyond that, it’s also important to help demonstrate the deserved levels of care our horses should be provided.”
The inclusion of the equine codes along with the RIU and Vets association has been crucial in ensuring all bases are covered.
“None of us really has the knowledge or resources to make this a success alone. The combination among trustees of Vets and racing authorities has been essential in building the necessary momentum and in considering the planning and logistics. The Trust is also open to the future direct involvement of other equine sports,” explained Burns.
Fellow NZHAT Trustee Dr Peter Gillespie who with Dr Bill Bishop represents the New Zealand Equine Vet Association says the fact that the ambulances are made in Dunedin is also a huge benefit.
“It’s wonderful that we can have these ambulances made locally, not only for the local economy but also the fact that they are costing close to half the price to be made here, rather than having them built offshore,” Gillespie said. “We can be involved in the process each step of the way and speak to the engineer about what will work best. It also means that they will be designed specifically for New Zealand conditions.”
“The engineer building the ambulances was involved in making the new starting gates at Wingatui and has been instrumental in designing a full suspension system for the ambulances, which means they can be dropped right to the ground and then raised again. This is really important as it means when a horse is injured on the track it will put far less stress on the animal than having to walk up or down a ramp,” explained Gillespie.
Gillespie also said the New Zealand Vets Association have investigated and sourced the very latest technology in supporting injured horses, and have sourced full limb supports that will work in conjunction with a support stall in the ambulance. This will take pressure off the injured area and support the horse as it is transported for further care or surgery.
“That’s the main purpose of the equine ambulance. To make the process as less stressful as possible for the animal, and ensure that it is supported and safe during the process of transportation off the track,” said Gillespie. “With the first five ambulances due to be delivered this year, the Trust will now aim to attract funding for a further three which will enable more comprehensive deployment to equestrian sports events up and down the country.”
The New Zealand Horse Ambulance Trust thanks the following sponsors for their generous support: Racing Ministers Safety Development Fund, Bendigo Valley Sports Trust, Salient Trust, Charlie Roberts, NZRB Animal Welfare Fund, Rodmor Trust, Kevin & Jo Hickman/Valachi Downs, NZ Bloodstock and Cambridge Equine Hospital.
See, told you.
Over the years, there has been a fair bit of criticism (including from this source) of the performance of some Clerks of the Course, and much of it has been justified. So I figured, to be fair and balance the ledger a touch, I would relate a recent experience at the Geraldine TC meeting last week.
First of all, credit must go to the Geraldine Club for providing two of these officials instead of the normal one for many meetings. I know it’s an extra expense, but that extra person and horse can be very valuable on occasions.
To say it was a rather forgettable day personally would be an understatement, with one horse failing to score up and the other retired due to injury! However, in the next boxes to us were two gentlemen who were there to perform the duties of Clerks of the Course, and during the preparations and aftermath, we got to know them a little. The two guys, Messrs. Phiskie and Wiggins, were professional, courteous, and friendly, and provided much needed assistance to their ‘neighbours’ when it was required, both on and off the track.
It is to be hoped that my experience with these gentlemen is a sign that Clerks are becoming more professional and efficient nationwide, so that they instill confidence in the participants they are there to help and protect.
An interesting and most unusual scenario unfolded at the recent Cambridge meeting when, during the course of a Junior Drivers event, the ‘lap to run’ signal was given one lap too soon.
The Stewards on the night looked into the possibility of declaring the race null and void, but common sense prevailed and the result was declared as they passed the post. Discretion was apparently given to the drivers who may have made moves at the wrong time due to their inexperience, however “Drivers were reminded that ultimately it is their obligation to be aware of the distance of any race that they participate in.”
This raises two points to me, what would have happened if the same set of circumstances had occurred in a race involving senior professionals? Would they have treated in a similar fashion? It would take Hercule Poirot to successfully investigate whether each driver had either heard the signal and/or reacted to it, and it would be very easy to fabricate answers to any relevant questions. Even if such investigations were successfully carried out, what would they be charged with? Incompetency would be pretty difficult to prove, given the circumstances.
If however, charges were brought against drivers concerned and they were fined or suspended, surely some action should be taken against the official who caused the confusion. Apparently he was severely reprimanded, which while obviously not a pleasant experience, carries no financial penalty whatsoever.
Double standard…you decide.
As those of you who take any interest in the murky world of handicapping will know, it is often pointed out that it is a living beast, which should always be subject to alteration and (hopefully) improvement, when necessary.
At the Association’s last National Council meeting, delegates came up with three proposals that they considered were necessary to streamline the recently established points system. These suggestions were placed before the HRNZ Handicapping Committee and have subsequently been approved, albeit with slight alterations.
The changes, which come into force on 1 February, are as follows:
- Horses placing second, third, fourth or fifth in an Official Race will have no change made to their Rating.
- - Horses placing sixth to last will lose at least one point.
- - Only race winners and horses placing sixth to last may be subject to Handicapper's Discretion.
I’ve been to more meetings, seminars or addresses in my time that I care to think about and one of the common theme’s is questions that are asked and unable to be answered on the spot tend to be forgotten in the mists of time.
It was therefore refreshing to see a public follow-up from the recent meetings organised and hosted by Racing Board CEO John Allen, addressing those issues that he didn’t cover on the day. For those who weren’t there or who haven’t caught up with the announcement, the following are the details that have been released. Q. Has NZRB costed the financial benefit that the 'racefields' legislation will provide?
A. Yes, we estimate the new legislation will bring an additional $4.9 million in annualised net profit in 2017/18, rising to $8.9 million in 2018/19, and to $11.9 million for 2019/20.
Q. Has NZRB met with the new Racing Minister as yet?
A. Yes, the Minister recently met with the NZRB Board in Auckland. There was a positive and wide-ranging discussion and the NZRB reiterated their support to help implement the Minister's policy agenda as soon as possible. NZRB believes those policies will significantly enhance both the competitiveness and sustainability of the New Zealand racing industry.
Q. Will NZRB consider returning TAB Trackside to Freeview?
A. We know this has not been a popular change, and while the decision was made for sound commercial reasons back in 2013, with the world and technology changing rapidly, as are people’s viewing habits, we are actively looking into what possibilities new technology now provides and how that could shape how we offer Trackside content in the future.
While there may be further consideration of returning to Freeview, it is not simply a binary choice between Sky and Freeview anymore due to the proliferation of digital delivery services (Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV etc). NZRB has initiated a piece of work to determine its future content distribution strategy which will look at the benefits of making its content more widely accessible, to give customers more choice about how they interact with the content, and to allow the industry to have greater control over its own content on its own platforms (e.g. TAB and code websites and social media platforms). TAB Trackside 1 and 2 can be viewed via the TAB App or tab.co.nz with a positive account balance.
Q. Are we able to commingle Saturday night Harness racing?
A. NZRB maximises the opportunity to commingle whenever possible, however we are reliant on Tabcorp’s schedules and what NZ product they show to their Australian customers as to when we commingle - if they are not showing the product then we don’t commingle, and unfortunately Saturday night Harness is one of our products that usually falls into this category.
Q. Why does NZRB still produce Best Bets when the Informant Form Guide is available?
A. We have a loyal customer base of around 1,500 purchasing Best Bets each week, so the requirement to produce this publication is largely customer driven. We have recently changed to a new third party supplier for print and distribution which we anticipate will generate greater savings and efficiencies, and we are continuing to develop and improve the book to meet our customers’ betting information needs.
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