Was at a meeting with Addington officials the other day, including the new CEO Brian Thompson, and I came away with a sense of ‘dejavu’.
For decades now, the word around experienced trainers has been that Canterbury is arguably the hardest place in the World to win a harness race and, on top of the ‘hardness’ ladder is our flagship track, Addington Raceway. From what I heard at the meeting, that perception appears to still be alive and well.
Okay, when it comes to the Premier grade and group races, that’s the way it is, and that’s the way it should be. But, particularly the way the points handicapping system is set up now, it is even more mystifying that people still hold that belief, than ever. Surely if your horse lines up in say, an R40 to R49 race at Addington, you are racing the same R40 – 49 horses you would be at Rangiora, Ashburton, Timaru or any other country track. Aren’t you? Of course there are those that perform better on a grass surface and that’s fair enough, but when you see more horses nominated for other all-weather tracks over the same weekend as Addington, it is head-shaking stuff. The stakes are better, on average the travel costs are less, the track surface is as good, if not better, and when you finish out of the money, the ‘appearance’ money is higher.
Why is this important? Addington Raceway, like it or not is the best harness facility in the Country, and even the Aussies acknowledge it as being superb. If it is to survive in its’ present state and maintain current stake levels, let alone prosper, it is essential that trainers utilise it – that’s how they make money out of racing. I’ve been a bit sceptical about the claim that the bigger the field the more turnover is generated, but something I heard at the meeting explained the rationale behind that sentiment. Personally I don’t take multiple or exotic bets, but there are plenty who do, and when they take a ‘field’ in say, a quaddie, the more horses in the field the higher the turnover. Makes mathematical sense, even to a dunce like me!
So next time you are choosing where to race your horse, don’t dismiss the Addington option as being too hard, give it a try and you might be pleasantly surprised. I have been.