From the Chair

Moving to the orange traffic light has meant people back on course and how nice it is to have the ability to move around more freely.

Over the last month we have seen the benefits of the review of the racing calendar with improved Gross Betting Revenue (GBR) achieved on many meetings and aspirational events held. From the outset, the HRNZ vision has been to create events that capture the imagination of the participants as they plan out racing programmes for their horses in pursuit of better returns. The Country Cups final produced a competitive field and good turnover. The series generated good interest throughout our summer and early autumn meetings. Likewise the RATTO races at Addington attracted good fields and high interest. The plan is that in the future RATTO races will be held in Southland and the North Island as well.

The RACE by Grins at Cambridge lived up to expectation with the benefits to our sport not only financial but the RACE created the interest and hype so often lacking with many race days. The hope was that the RACE would attract Australian horses and interest and we weren’t disappointed. Another plus is that two of the Australian horses have stayed on for the Auckland Autumn Carnival of Racing. Congratulations and thank you to David Branch and the enthusiastic team at Cambridge for making the vision of a slot race a reality.

The Board of Harness Racing New Zealand met in Christchurch last week where further work was undertaken on writing HRNZ’s Strategic Plan for the next five years and the agreeing on a vision statement that will underpin the Board’s focus going forward. Once the detail has been finalised this document will be shared with the industry. One thing is clear, more needs to be done to showcase horses and people in our sport. No matter where you are in New Zealand find ways to get out and tell the good news stories, introduce the participants, drivers, trainers, owners and horses to the public. Let the good news drown out the negative comments and actions of a few who do our sport more harm than good.

This year HRNZ has employed its own in house analyst, Ollie Partridge, who demonstrated to the HRNZ Board the dashboard that has been developed to monitor and review the performance of race days and races. The information will be used to ensure that we are carding the races that give us the best return and that contribute to our sport thriving. New key performance indicators are being developed that will provide relevant data to the HRNZ Board and club administrators to help them best utilise the available horse population and programme for improved returns to the sport.

For many years I had a simplistic view that turnover alone drove the distribution from the TAB to HRNZ and on to clubs. I have subsequently learnt that turnover is not the sole measure or the only form of income. HRNZ currently receives 32.5% of the profit from imported and sports betting which represents our shareholder return, all racing codes benefit when sports betting is doing well. Another significant return to HRNZ is based on our actual domestic Gross Betting Revenue (GBR) performance, currently at 26.44% over the last three years. Gross Betting Revenue is turnover less the amount paid to the punters and the direct costs of TAB NZ for providing their service. We are as much reliant on the other codes to succeed as they are for us to do well.

The return on exporting harness to Australia and elsewhere comes directly back to HRNZ. This is an area which we are focused on growing and events such as the RACE by Grins, the New Zealand Cup and other Group and feature races help. Starting races on time is also crucial, as if an event is running late it can often be bounced from a busy television schedule of races in Australia. Earlier in this article I referred to Gross Betting Revenue, this is the profit on the meeting. While not all race meetings will return a profit, our job is to ensure that most do. At HRNZ we are analysing the data to ensure we can maximise the profit for the good of the sport.

The Sapere Canterbury Regional Review was independently commissioned by Racing New Zealand as part of an overall review of racing initiated by the then Minister for Racing, Wintson Peters, in June 2020. This report looks at the viability of racing venues in Canterbury for all of the three racing codes and makes recommendations regarding their future. It follows on from the 2020 review of the racing venues in Otago/Southland. The current report was received by the HRNZ Board just days before our meeting so was only tabled for noting and approval for distribution to the Canterbury clubs. Please note the Board has not yet had a discussion around the content and has made no consideration to the outcome of the report. It was decided to take time to understand it and it will be tabled for discussion at our 27 May Board meeting.

Regretfully our Auckland Trotting Club representative, Shaun Brooks, has given notice that due to a change in his work demands, he will be stepping down from the HRNZ Board effective 1 June. In the short time Shaun has been on the HRNZ board his contribution has been outstanding, particularly in the area of audit, risk and finance. ATC will be announcing a replacement appointee in due course.

The Board of Harness Racing New Zealand meets again on 27 May.

John Coulam


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