Following the regular round of regional awards nights, the HRNZ recognition of last season’s excellence was staged in late September. For me, a veteran of a few of these functions, there were several points of interest.
First of all, the venue. At last common sense has prevailed and instead of forking out money to an outside organisation in room and hire and catering, all the money was kept in house by staging the evening at Addington Raceway. And judging my feedback and personal thoughts, they turned on an evening as good as, if not better, than previous venues.
Secondly, from the ‘credit where credit’s due’ department, despite not being a paid up member of the Michael Guerin fan club, I have to admit his handling of the night was superb, mixing official duties with some light hearted banter – mind you it probably helped that many of those he interviewed had been there and done that a few times before, and with him!
Undoubted highlights were the recognition of two couples, Margo Nyhan and Pete Davis, and Colin & Julie DeFilippi, the former to acknowledge their incredible return from adversity and by their own admission the wonderful support from the harness racing ‘family’, and the latter receiving a well-deserved Achievement award.
Unfortunately, as with the Conference that preceded the night, there was a rather large elephant in the room. Consequently, it was most gratifying to hear leading driver Blair Orange give a short but from the heart speech on how he and his family have been affected by Operation Inca for the last, almost unbelievably, 13 months, with still no end in sight. He vehemently denied any race fixing on his part and, in no uncertain terms, told the Racing Integrity Unit what to do with itself.
What was just as pleasing was the footnote provided by the MC, that Blair had run the speech past HRNZ and received their blessing. Regrettably, his tirade was not allowed to be included in the Trackside coverage of the event, due to the matter still being in the hands of the police.
Terribly sad that one of our industry stars has to resort to such actions, but great that some people in the room, who may still be convinced of wrongdoing, were given a taste of the effect it is having on, not only the industry participants under suspicion, but the entire harness racing industry.