2 year old Sustaining Series 39 Payments Up

If you were wondering whether the change of birthdates was a positive one for the industry, the two-year-old sustaining payments with the New Zealand Sires Stakes Board provided a perfect litmus test.

If you were wondering whether the change of birthdates was a positive one for the industry, the two-year-old sustaining payments with the New Zealand Sires Stakes Board provided a perfect litmus test. Breeders and owners had a deadline of December 1st to make their yearlings eligible for the riches available in ‘Series 39’ and the results have been extremely encouraging.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, industry participants will be aware Harness Racing New Zealand made wholesale changes to the structure of the racing calendar as a result of changing the birth date of Standardbreds from August 1st to January 1st.

One was of the key outcomes of the changes made to the schedule was placing several of the age group classics at the back end of the calendar gives every young horse time to develop and a chance to fulfil its potential.

Back in October, New Zealand Sires Stakes Chairman, Peter Evans was quoted as saying; “The changes to the calendar are going to have a big impact on the series we administer going forward and no more so the two-year-old division. “We are anticipating further growth in payments and ultimately growth in numbers of horses nominating for heats for the series going forward as a result. There has never been a better time to make your pacer or trotter Sires Stakes eligible.”

The proof is in the pudding as they say and despite a shrinking foal crop, the sustaining payments are up across all three categories including the number of fillies now eligible for the trotting series.


SERIES 39: 163 Colts & Geldings; 159 Fillies; 89 Trotters (47 fillies); 411 Total

SERIES 38: 119 Colts & Geldings; 100 Fillies; 50 Trotters (22 Fillies); 269 Total

SERIES 37: 101 Colts & Geldings; 118 Fillies; 62 Trotters (30 Fillies); 281 Total

SERIES 36: 105 Colts & Geldings; 115 Fillies; 59 Trotters (32 Fillies); 279 Total


Bearing in mind the sustaining payments do not reflect the number of yearlings who were fully paid up as foals or yearlings (that number brings the total eligible pool for Series 39 closer to 570), it’s hard to argue that breeders and owners have voted with their feet in favour of the changes.

Sustaining payments are up a whopping 52% on last year’s total with significant increases for male and females of either gait.

“Having spent a considerable amount of time over the last month or so taking payments and communicating directly with those making the payments, it’s clear to me that breeders and owners can see the benefits of the changes,” said Martin Pierson of the Sires Stakes Board.

“The payments are well up on previous years and the feedback from the participants is that having the season extended provides a much greater opportunity to be ready for each series. Obviously not every horse will make the final, but the disadvantage of being a later maturing type is not as great as it once was,” he said.

The change to horses’ birthdates in New Zealand and subsequent changes to the Group, Listed and Feature Racing Schedule for the 2022 season, every rising two-year-old in the country will now have close to 12 months from the sustaining payment to work their way into contention.

Under the previous model where horses turned a year older on the 1st of August, payments were made less than five months out from their respective Sires Stakes Series finals which were traditionally held in April and May. The increased sustaining payments and having a greater pool of eligibility should correlate to improved field sizes when it comes to the qualifying heats which will be an added bonus for the industry and clubs where the races are programmed.

Going forward, the increased payments will also provide the Sires Stakes Board with the impetus to continue plotting pathways which provide greater returns to owners. 

“Aspirational races and stake money will always be at our core, but so too is providing returns to owners for different types of horses and going forward having an increased pool will allow us to look at what different opportunities we can provide,” said Pierson.

That is evident in the feature programme with the inaugural running of this years $20,000 Sires Stakes Classique Feature for two-year-old trotting fillies with the investment coming after continued growth in this sector of the sport.

Although the sustaining payments are only a small indicator of success, as we embark on implementation of a brand new racing calendar over the next 12 months it is certainly encouraging to see industry participants backing the changes and putting their money where their mouth is.

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