Getting to the Races
Now that you have a racehorse, you are probably wondering how it will get to the races. Although your trainer is responsible for this, below is a step by step guide to illustrate how HRNZ and racing clubs around New Zealand put a meeting together.
Before your horse can start in a race it needs to be qualified, which means it must trial in front of Stipendiary Stewards satisfactorily, as well as running a time equal to or better than the qualifying time for that particular track. Two-year-olds need only trial satisfactorily in front of the Stipendiary Stewards to be eligible to run in two-year-old races but that does not mean they are fully qualified.
Once qualified, your horse can be nominated for a race at an official tote race meeting. Trainers will find upcoming programmed races on the HRNZ website under racing/programmes. Trainers will often set horses for races weeks in advance and they can determine suitable races through the tentative programmes, which are also available online or printed in the Harness Racing Weekly at the start of each month.
Nominations are made by your trainer via Harness Racing New Zealand’s (HRNZ) online nomination system, or to the racing secretary of the harness racing club holding the meeting via telephone or fax. With a number of races available to trainers your horse may be nominated for more than one race at more than one meeting. After the close of nominations the respective clubs will sort nominations into races and then send them through to the HRNZ Handicapping Department to be checked and posted to the website. Nominations are found on the HRNZ website under Racing/Nominations.
After nominations close the next step in the process are Withdrawals. This allows trainers to view the nominations for meetings around each region and determine where the best place is for your horse to start. Withdrawal times are clearly stated in the programme for each race meeting. Trainers may withdraw horses from a meeting for a raft of reasons. After the close of withdrawals the club will start making up their fields with the horses, which are now known as acceptors.
Clubs programme races to best utilise the horses currently racing in the region. Fields are selected from the available runners at the clubs discretion, in most cases. It is most likely the club will take into account each horse’s form and whether it accepted for another meeting. The greatest numbers of horses, racing at any one time are Maidens (non win horses). Field selection is harder for non-win races; criteria has been put in place to ensure as many horses as possible gain a race start. For a non-win race where the number of non-win acceptors which exceeds the safety limits, the field selection will be decided by the following criteria. First & second preference horses and then the field will be determined from the remaining acceptors. First preference is a horse placed first, second, third or fourth, in a race worth $1000.00 or over. Second Preference is awarded to a maiden horse that has won a non-win front official trial since its last official race start. The second preference status will be held for three official race starts.
Once fields have been selected the race club will send them through to HRNZ Handicapping Department where they will be checked and then an automotive system will determine the barrier draw. Once the barrier draw is completed the fields are checked again and then posted on the HRNZ website. Each owner registered for the HRNZ text service will receive a message giving their horse’s race meeting details such as the race, race start time and the barrier draw. Fields can be found on the HRNZ website under Racing/Fields.
Once fields are completed it is up to the trainer to engage a driver for the horse, most stables have regular drivers and the trainer a may have engaged a driver at time of nomination. Driver notification needs to be completed by the specified time which is usually 1pm, two days out from the race meeting, the exception being a Sunday meeting which requires driver notification three days out. This allows for the TAB and the racing media to publish the horses and their drivers for each meeting. Clubs have the right to change this time line but it must be stated in the programme.
There are specific pieces of gear that if changed must be notified to HRNZ. Any gear notification must be completed prior to the time drivers are required to be confirmed. The specified gear to be notified includes Fixed or Removable Deafeners, Blinds, Sliding Blinds, Pacifier, Half Hopples, No Whip or No Hopples (Free Legged Pacer). Trainers notify gear changes using the HRNZ online system or filling in Notifiable Gear form and sending it to HRNZ.