$7000 Minimum Stakes When Racing Returns

By Michael Guerin

The harness racing industry at last has some certainty around stakes levels for the remainder of the season.

And while they will be a drop on recent winter levels that decrease will not be by anywhere as much as some feared.

After all three codes met with RITA on Thursday they were able to ascertain the level of funding they will be guaranteed between when racing resumes, which for harness will be on May 29 and the end of the season.

That will see minimums guaranteed to $7000, with Addington’s Friday night meetings and all Alexandra Park meetings to race for $8500 with two $12,000 races per night.

Only four clubs will race for the remainder of the season and all four have the option to add more to those minimum stakes if needed, although in the current climate that would seem doubtful.

For Cambridge and Invercargill $7000 stakes will not be a huge drop on their usual winter stakes and most owners will be happy to cop that while those racing at Addington and Alexandra Park will be hoping that the new season see some sort of increases.

ATC president Rod Croon says that can’t happen for the ATC in the near future.

“With so many of our other income streams drying up during the lock down we won’t be in a position to add to the HRNZ stakes until at least the first of our two developments open,” says Croon.

While the ATC has dug themselves an almighty hole with the two developments, the details of which are still at the centre of legal action, Croon is adamant the ATC have the backing of their banks to weather the storm.

In announcing the new stake levels HRNZ chief executive Peter Jensen reiterated they are only for the remainder of the season, with RITA unable to give any clarity over stake levels for next season because the full extent of how much the Covid-19 close down of racing and almost all sport worldwide has cost the TAB is still impossible to work out.

Jensen also said there will be changes to the rating system to reflect horses getting less rating points for winning lesser stake races but while HRNZ had looked at making all the winter comeback races penalty free that will not be happening.

He also said HRNZ had discussed whether harness racing could return even a week earlier than the scheduled May 29 date but that is still unlikely.

The $7000 minimum is actually higher than the normal $6000 minimum stakes allowed under normal circumstances and while stakes for better grade horses will be lower than usual, the overall stakes payout for a winter meeting for this season will be down only 10-15 per cent on comparable meetings last season.

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