From the Chair

So much has happened over the last 12 months, a year of consultation and reshaping for the sport, a year in whichntraffic lights have a new meaning. To what extent the lockdowns have on our funding into next season won’t be known until around June 2022. It is reassuring that the TAB is meeting their budget, although we know thatnlockdowns have cost us nine race meetings and the loss of our stakes enhancement funding of around $900,000.

I came into the Chair of HRNZ in October 2020 promising a consultative approach, an organization open to critiquing its performance and one with zero tolerance for a lack of integrity. We have listened and consulted widely, particularly around the racing calendar and handicapping. The new calendar provides opportunity to drive up our turnover and export dollar and has gained the support of the TAB, who will target particular meetings with enhanced betting pools, such as first fours. HRNZ has employed a data analyst who starts in February and one of their tasks will be to look at the financial performance of all clubs and race days. Every aspect of our sport’s performance is open to review.

We are a national sport and the decisions that are made must be done with returns to the whole sport. The introduction of the new racing calendar is an example of where the comforts of the past have been let go and a new direction set. With falling horse numbers there will need to be further changes as we cannot sustain the number of races that are currently being run, especially if they are only fields of six or seven horses.

Racing New Zealand is currently conducting a review of all racing venues in the Canterbury area, this is a similar to the review that was undertaken in the Otago Southland area last year. It is anticipated that the results of the review should be known in the first quarter next year.

The conditions for the Country Cup series have been finalised and will be available on the HRNZ website this week. These conditions will be applied retrospectively to the handful of races that have already been run. The Country Cup series is an exciting opportunity for those horses less than Rating 85 at the time of their first start in the series and culminates with a $100,000 final at Easter.

Over the last few days further changes to the handicapping system have been announced and positive steps taken to promote junior drivers, giving them more exposure to the sport and opportunity to succeed. Many of the changes made to handicapping are to encourage owners to keep their horses racing for longer in New Zealand.

There is more transparency to the funding model to clubs than existed in previous years. We continue to reflect on the feedback given and will look to address anomalies as we refine the funding model for 2022/23 season.

Having been elected in 2017 and subsequently becoming the ATC representative on the HRNZ Board, Mr Ross Johnson is stepping down at the end of this year. I thank Ross for his commitment to the Board and wish him well. The ATC have appointed one of their current directors, Mr Shaun Brooks, to fill the subsequent vacancy.

The traffic light system has given us the opportunity to allow crowds back on course over the summer, albeit only those who are double vaccinated or hold a valid exemption certificate. The decision to make all race days, trials and harness workouts vaccinated events allows us to have unlimited numbers attending, which hopefully will help with turnover and the promotion of our sport. By being vaccinated events, there is less chance of them becoming a “super spreader” event and those attending can do so with more confidence.

I am grateful to the staff of HRNZ for their commitment, positivity and energy that they show in working for the sport. The staff are supported by a leadership team that lead by example and have a real presence across the sport.

The HRNZ Board is determined to deliver clear direction, messaging and results that continue to well position harness racing for the future.

The Board of Harness Racing New Zealand meets again on 26 January and has a Strategy Day and Board meeting planned for 8 and 9 March.

Enjoy the summer racing that’s before us, showcase the best of our sport to the public and have a very happy Christmas with family and friends.

John Coulam


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