The Greater Canterbury branch recently hosted a meeting of invited license-holders to meet with HRNZ’s Gary Woodham and Catherine McDonald where a wide range of issues were discussed.
Included in these were the future of Forbury Park, where it was explained that only the track, and not the Club was closing. HRNZ was working through the legal issues of selling the track and where the proceeds would go. Venue reviews similar to that recently concluded in the South, would be conducted in Canterbury and the North Island.
Gary outlined plans for the introduction of a Code of Conduct for all Industry participants including the RIU, and also social media guidelines to prevent anonymous attacks on people in harness racing. This would be supported by a panel of experienced people appointed by HRNZ to review any possible breaches of the Code. He felt that there should be more emphasis on education than penalties, and was willing to change Rules to achieve that.
Catherine advised that a part time position had been established to contact all trainers to ascertain the status and whereabouts of all their horses, and to encourage trainers to regularly update this information. This was purely an information gathering exercise to update the HRNZ website.
Instead of following the Australian model and changing the race season dates, Gary advised that, as that would involve changes to the Racing Act which would take years, the plan was to change all horse’s ‘birthdays’ to 1 January. Work was underway at working out an attractive race schedule for the last five months of 2021, and then a full review of the calendar would be undertaken for 2022. This move would benefit breeders by eliminating the disadvantage of foals born after 1 January.
Both Catherine and Gary expressed frustration at the number of horses going to the trials instead of racing, and urged trainers to take horses to the races, even if they thought they might be a run short, because, on occasions this policy can produce surprisingly good results. There was general discussion about various aspects of programming and handicapping. The majority present felt that the current situation of basically two secretaries covering most meetings was working well, and there was no longer a need to establish a Canterbury Racing Bureau, with trainers being involved in programming.
Gary reported that despite the traditional local support for standing starts, the TAB advised that large scale overseas punters generally shied away from them. He also reported that the upcoming sale of Tabcorp in Australia would mean that the current contract with that body would cease, and this would allow HRNZ to approach a number of overseas betting agencies in an open market, achieving more lucrative deals for providing local product.
It is proposed to arrange a meeting of all local license-holders to attend an open forum with HRNZ officials in the near future.