Johnson believes he can benefit national body

By Duane Ranger

Newly elected Harness Racing New Zealand board member, Ross Johnson, believes his time on the Auckland Trotting Club can benefit the national body.

Johnson, who is also the managing director of the international race-horse transport company – IRT, and has been an Auckland Trotting Club director for the last three years, has been involved in harness racing since the early 1980s.

On August 1 the 54-year-old Clevedon resident took over from the now retired Steve Phillips as the North island representative on the HRNZ board.

“I know the Auckland Trotting Club is maximising its land and some really good things are happening there, but I see no reason why we can’t feed off the ATC and utilise some of their ideas and initiatives.

“I know that a lot of clubs don’t have the land and facilities that Auckland does but Ken Spicer and his team are heading in the right direction. I know what Auckland has done can benefit everyone and be used on a national platform,” Johnson said.

“I see it as my role to look after the industry as a whole and not just Auckland,” Johnson said.

He believes it is a great time to be involved in harness racing.

“The only reason I am on the Board is to promote our great sport. With the property development and the Auckland Blues there are some very exciting changes happening at Alexandra Park.

‘The only reason I’m on both Boards is to attract potential racing clients and ensure the well-being of every club in New Zealand, especially the North Island. This industry needs more new faces at the track and more new faces realising just how great our sport really is.

“We have to get behind every club. For me there is more to harness racing than just Auckland. I’m am devoted to looking at the big picture now,” Johnson said.

He said it was important for him to work through processes.

“If anything I can rush things a bit and now I know that I have to realise that results don’t come quick and you have to stick at it. I think my business acumen will help there,” Johnson said.

Johnson's love of harness racing all started from the late 1979 Boyden Hanover - Librette 21-win mare Indette, who was bred by Johnson’s parents, Colin and Margaret.

That 1979 Boyden Hanover - Librette (Armbro Del) mare won 19 of her 21 races at Alexandra Park in a career spanning from March 1982 until March 1988. She was the top 3-year-old trotter of 1984.

Indette was Librette's first foal and she also produced Dominion Handicap winner Chiola Cola and open class trotters Liberator and Marcol's Pride.

Indette’s second foal Inda Bank was her best.

“Her racing career was cut short by a throat abscess and she was only ever about 70 per right after her 3-year-old season.

“We started breeding heavily from her when Mum and Dad retired.” Johnson said.

But Johnson’s breeding prowess goes beyond Inda Bank.

He and his wife Janene Cole bred 2011 Breeders 2yo Pacing Crown champion with the Geoff Small trained and David Butcher driven Cowgirls N Indians. She also won the 2011 Harness Jewels 2yo Diamond Final.

That daughter of Real Desire and the late Barn Dance Betty won seven of her 12 starts and $375,723. That Breeder’s Crown Final was her last race.

Barn Dance Betty died in January 2011 after leaving three foals bred by Johnson, but Cowgirls N Indians has left two foals for Johnson and Cole.

“Cowgirls N Indians is the best Janene and I have bred and owned. She won two Group One races. We are also really enjoying watching The Almighty Johnson go around for Tony (Herlihy MNZM).

"He's by Majestic Son and out of Inda Bank and has done well for a 6-year-old. He's now won eight races and more than $100,000," said Johnson.

He said he was also looking forward to the racing career of Somethingaboutmary, who had one start for a second at Alexandra Park on July 28.

"I bred her with my good friend and ATC president, Bruce Carter. She is a brown 3-year-old Bettor's Delight filly, who is out of the unraced Artsplace mare, Saddle Ridge.

"Her oldest half -brother, The Bucket List (by Christian Cullen) won eight races here and 11 more in Australia. he's still racing," Johnson said.

“It’s great breeding with friends like Bruce and Mary. We have a real good time when we go to the track. To me racing is all about having fun,” he added.

Johnson believed the harness racing industry was an easy one to promote, not only because he was passionate about it, but more because of the people and the infrastructure the national body has.

“It’s a great industry to be involved in. It’s such an enjoyable past-time and career, and I want to make as much of an impact as I possibly can.

“With Ken at the helm I believe we can only do well. He is doing a wonderful job and I’m a team man and want to ensure both his and the HRNZ vision,” he said.

Johnson and Cole have two daughters.