A small change makes a big difference

By Michael Guerin

Sometimes the seemingly smallest change can make a very large difference.

And plenty of northern trainers are hoping one of the changes brought in to cater for the new racing programme as we prepare to return to racing might pre-empt a more permanent change for good.

Workouts and trials return around the country next week and in the Auckland region that will see a shift to Friday’s for the regular Pukekohe workouts and trials, starting next week.

The change is possible because neither Alexandra Park nor Cambridge will be racing on Friday for the remainder of the season as they have been given other dates as HRNZ and RITA test the waters for what could possibly work heading forward.

Racing will definitely return to Alexandra Park on Fridays next season.

Yet for now all the trainers spoken to love the idea of Friday workouts, or any weekday instead of Saturday, to give their staff at a chance at a normal Saturday.

At the moment trainers tend to race Friday night at Alexandra Park, many not getting to bed until well into the new day and then have to rise early the next morning to work horses before transporting others to the workouts.

Not only does that make for a brutal and potentially unsafe workload on a lack of sleep but after leaves many staff with no chance of a Saturday off.

“I have never been a fan of Saturday workouts,” says champion horseman Tony Herlihy.

“For me they come too close after the races on Friday night and sometimes after we have raced both Thursday and Friday.

“And it is hard for not only us but the staff. They want to be able to have some sort of weekend like other people and enjoy themselves a bit.

“I was actually one of the people who really resisted Saturday workouts and I wouldn’t go to them for a while until they became the norm and I had no choice.

“I think Friday is a good fit for now while we aren’t racing on Fridays and then I’d prefer to see them go back to a weekday.”

Herlihy has two horses ready to qualify in coming weeks and says he will support the return to racing date in the north of May 31 at Cambridge with small numbers and more so as his race team builds.

Josh Dickie, who trains with his father John, says they have good numbers in work and will also be at Cambridge although a couple of their team will need to wait for Auckland as the tentative Cambridge programmes of a R40 and faster 2200m trot will be too tough on better grade trotters.

“We don’t wan’t to be starting horses fresh up off a big handicap, that is how you can get to the bottom of them,” explains Josh Dickie.

“But we expect to have horses at Cambridge and at the workouts within two weeks.

“We love the idea of Friday workouts for now and a weekday heading forward because Saturday is tough on everybody.

“It is hard on the staff, telling them they have to work long hours on a Saturday and makes it harder for them to have anything like a normal life.”

One of the busier trainers in the north is Steve Telfer who has plenty of horses in work and could have 10 to 12 ready for May 31.

“I am not saying we will take that many to Cambridge and some of our might not get a start because it looks like the main pace there could be capped at R65 but we are hoping there is some flexibility around that as we have horses in the 70s and 80s (ratings) who we would like to take there.

“But we have a lot of horses back in work now and will have good numbers at the first two meetings.”

As for a shift away from Saturday morning workouts Telfer likes the idea of a change.

“We often work quite a few of ours fast on a Saturday at home so to have the option to have a busy morning there and be finished rather than going to the workouts the day after the races would suit us better.”

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