Chair Rob Lawson recently convened another bi-annual meeting of the Association’s National Council, with the usual wide range of topics up for discussion.
First up was the on-going matters of sulky insurance and the employment of Clerks of the Course. With regard to the former, it now appeared that many trainers were including the more expensive carts under their personal contents insurance policies at a reasonable rate, valuing them for $2000 less than their cost, with that extra amount being made up from a Sulky Fund payout. The RIU were still apparently considering employing Clerks, as they now do judges, however Geoff Knight advised the meeting that Southland Harness, having employed three full time starters assistants, was considering taking on the Clerks as well.
Rob Lawson outlined the proposals for the new governance structure of the HRNZ Board which it was hoped would be in place by the end of the year. The reduced size of the Board would mean that the so-called Kindred Bodies, including the Trainers and Drivers Association, would no longer have direct representation. While this was disappointing in some respects, the meeting agreed that it was important to have the best people on the Board to make some vital decisions, regardless of their affiliations. It would still be possible, and very important, for the Association to meet with HRNZ representatives and make any relevant submissions. Rob reported that traditions were hindering progress in the Industry and this would be addressed under the new governance structure.
The Association had recently been involved in the structure investigation into the RIU and JCA, which it was hoped would alleviate some of the current issues. The selling of the TAB was discussed, with serious reservations being expressed at the wisdom of such a move, and the promised tax reductions and introduction of Racefields were welcomed, though this would only serve to bring funding levels back to where they were a year ago, if that.
Bulk funding by HRNZ was currently under review, with one possibility that it may be linked to KPI’s and other conditions. The matter of animal welfare was touched on, with Rob stressing that, whether we liked it or not, the issue was a very serious one that needed to be monitored carefully. He advised that micro-chipping, along with more online services, would be introduced in the near future, therefore streamlining a number of processes.
As usual, the subject of handicapping had a decent airing, with Rob Lawson advising that the future would see a move away from discretion, to be replaced by a matrix system, with possible discretion being afforded to R70’s and above. Through the Chair, new Council member Peter Blanchard asked each member three questions to gauge their opinion of the current rating system. The result was unanimous support, albeit with a couple of suggestions for minor alterations, for the current system.
Geoff Knight was supported in suggesting races be periodically programmed for horses that had won just one race, regardless of rating, and Peter Blanchard and Jay Abernethy both voiced concern that conditions were sometimes changed following nominations, with fillies and mares being given preference in preferential draws, making it almost impossible for struggling geldings to be competitive with younger, often more talented female horses.
The new concessions for two year-olds was announced, introduced as an incentive for connections to race these youngsters more. It was expected that the new Australian rating system would make the sale of horses there less attractive, as compared to the old C and M grades, they would not be able to race, virtually without significant penalty, under the new regime.
More to come next week