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National Council Meeting October 2019

NZ Harness Trainers & Drivers Assn
Published by Pete Cook in News · 31 October 2019
Gordon Lee began the meeting by outlining the current situation regarding the National Council, and explaining why he was designated as the Interim Chair.
He and I outlined the major points from the recent Conference, fleshing out the report that had been circulated previously. Matters discussed included the meeting between HRNZ and the RIU, wagering, animal welfare, the remits on notifying surgical procedures and ‘blood spinning’, and the JCA presentation. In relation to the RIU, Ken Barron suggested that the RIU hotline should only operate on weekdays from 9am to 5pm to try and eliminate spur of the moment punter and crank callers. Gordon questioned the voting procedure at the Conference. The speech by B.Orange at the Awards Night was discussed, along with aspects of the JCA presentation insisting that it were totally independent of the RIU.

Ken reported that the current state of the rating handicapping system was probably now as good as any system could be, with the proviso that there were always alterations possible in the future, where considered necessary. The meeting agreed that programming, particularly in the Canterbury region was now the biggest issue, and a number of suggestions from Jason Broad on this were tabled and discussed. The establishment and regular meetings of a programming committee was considered to be essential. Jay Abernethy spoke of the difficulty in the North especially during the Winter months, where there is only one meeting per week, making it a long period of time for horses to lose the points necessary to drop back into a competitive grade. This could also be made more difficult by small trotting fields, where a horse could finish fifth and not drop a point, but be many lengths from the winner. Ken advised that some discretion can be applied where horses are obviously not racing competitively, but this would be on a set scale, and not a decision made by the handicapper. A suggestion that horses could win two races at lower stakes meetings such as Cambridge, as opposed to Auckland, had been rejected, because trainers of good horses would simply take advantage of easy kills.

With regard to my representation on the Sires Stakes Board, it was apparent that entries were holding up well, especially considering the reducing number of foals. A couple of issues raised at the last meeting would be tabled during the Board’s Cup Week meeting.

Under the heading of Branch reports, Geoff Knight advised that plans were still in place to employ 3 semi-professional starters assistants in Southland, with the balance of staff made up of cadets and juniors, and Clerks of the Course would follow shortly. The Nugget finals had received better numbers this season, with some of these races being won by maiden horses. He advised of a proposal to run two year old races as non-tote events in November, with a minimum of three entries. With regard to scratching penalties, the meeting agreed that it should be up to the RIU to place information on Infohorse, regarding if and when a veterinary certificate had been required for their horse, so that they could avoid incurring a longer scratching penalty.

Ken reported that the morale among Canterbury horse people was low, and that it was still difficult to encourage them to become involved in the Association. There had still been no movement on the out-dated payment of trial fees.

Jay advised that the Northern meetings were attracting new members and usually numbered 9 – 10 people These were normally held prior to Auckland TC programming committee meetings, which the Branch was a part of. He questioned progress on updating the Sulky Fund, however those present maintained the best way to handle the situation was to include the sulky on personal insurance, with a $2k excess which would be covered by HRNZ, thereby making it very cheap. He also expressed concern at the capabilities of some of the Clerks of the Course in his region. The meeting agreed it was a nationwide problem, with a suggestion that they should be employed by the RIU as part of the crash crew.

On the subject of the whip rule, following discussion the meeting unanimously agreed to accept the one hand on each rein rule change, but also strongly rejected  the continuation of the current 10 strike aspect, feeling that we should be in line with Australia, where this did not apply.

Various aspects of the current situation around Operation Inca were discussed, including the RIU currently charging N.McGrath following the dismissal of charges against him in the courts, and the dismissal of all but one of the charges against G.Bierne in the same forum.
At this point the meeting was joined by HRNZ Chair Ken Spicer and CEO Peter Jensen.

The following issues were discussed:
HRNZ Conference procedures; Both HRNZ reps agreed that the voting at the Conference had been flawed, and gave an assurance that more formal procedures would be followed in the future.
Canterbury Programming; Both HRNZ reps agreed that emphasis needed to be on programming, and handled by others than those who simply took entries, as per the Southland model. Ken Barron offered to approach the Clubs to facilitate this happening. The issue of trial and workout payments was also to be followed up.
Conference Remits; It was agreed by all present that some of the Conference remits concerned matters that had no relevance to Club representatives, and HRNZ planned to make more decisions at Board level in the future. Ken Spicer said that there would be a reduction in the number of sub-committees with basically handicapping, animal welfare, and rules and regulations being covered. He encouraged participation from the Association on these matters, and Gordon agreed to represent the Association at the rules and regulations meetings, possibly by video link.
Whip Rule; Peter Jensen conceded that falling in line with the Australian rules regarding whip use, particularly the dropping of a set strike number, made some sense, as long as there were no plans to change the rules across the Tasman in the near future. HRNZ would check that prior to a temporary whip rule committee being convened. The Association would be represented on this by drivers Jay Abernethy and Ken Barron, once again using a video link. Peter advised that the proposed start time for the new rules of 15 December would be put back until early in the new year. Discussion ensued on the possibility of a horse being disqualified due to excessive whip use by the driver, but this was not considered desirable.
RIU; Peter Jensen reported that, despite claims by the M.C. on the night, HRNZ had not been notified of the content of the speech at the Awards night made by B.Orange. He requested that drivers affected by Operation Inca make themselves available to the media, as it encourages turnover, and their boycott, while it may be understandable, had no effect on the RIU. He also announced that, at some point in the future, there would be no fines imposed for wrong numbers or gear on horses, unless they involved repeat offenders. He asked the meeting how the atmosphere was among horse people and was given examples by Gordon of how actions by the RIU were destroying any form of respect or pride in the occupation.

Pete Cook


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