HRNZ Liaison - "it's about upping communication to everyone"
In what is a first, Harness Racing New Zealand has created a position of HRNZ Liaison, with former registration and racing assistant Cameron Kirkwood to take up the role immediately.
"Liaison is not a fancy job description but it is exactly what it says," says Kirkwood, "it's all about upping the communication to everyone - licence holders, clubs, owners, punters, everyone involved in the sport."
The liaison job aims to :
- Help HRNZ communicate better with its owners, breeders, licence holders
- Update licence-holders on what and where their horses are able to race with the goal of maximising racing opportunities
- Recognise the success of breeders, owners etc
- Help owners, breeders, and licence holders have a stronger voice in HRNZ to ensure their point of view is considered
"It's a fresh approach," says HRNZ's General Manager - Racing, Catherine McDonald, "things are always changing and especially with the registrations side of the business ultimately going on-line we thought it was a good opportunity to utilise Cameron in other areas."
The 25-year-old has worked at HRNZ since he left school. He also went through the cadet programme, winning the Canterbury cadet of the year title in 2019.
Racing's been part of Kirkwood's life right from the start, with his father Wayne a keen breeder and owner.
"I'm in a photo when I was five or six months old, where I was in the winner's circle with Mum and Dad."
In his teenage years he had stints at various stables, including Kevin Fairbairn's and with Michelle Wallis and Bernie Hackett, and for the last seven years has helped out Regan Todd, mainly driving fast work at the weekends.
The association with the Wallis-Hackett came about because of Paris Metro, who Kirkwood's father Wayne co-raced. She was sent north from Canterbury to get some beach training. She ended up winning eight races and in her third start for them she won the Group 1 National Trot , beating established stars Allegro Agitato and Lyell Creek. That was in 2004 with Paris Metro paying $35. Young Cameron was seven at the time.
"We provided them and they provided us with a first Group 1 winner, it went both ways."
"The first time Mum and Dad met them was after that win and from there we have always been great mates."
Their establishment at Waiuku in South Auckland was a regular hangout for Kirkwood during his teenage years.
Kirkwood has also bred or co-bred four foals out of the Paris Metro line.
Of them Mufasa Metro has been the most successful so far. Now with John Justice in Victoria, he has won won 11 from 38. He was also second in the Group 1 Great Southern Star this year and fourth at last year's Inter Dominion final. Both races were won by trotting sensation Just Believe.
Such was Kirkwood's affection for Paris Metro that he got a special tattoo just days after she died in September 2019.
"She wore a mushroom shoe so I got one on my arm."
His first "dabble" in ownership came in 2019 and what an introduction it was.
"I had shares in two horses that were with Arna Donnelly and they ran third and fifth in the Jewels."
The horses in question were In The Shadows and Baquero in the 4YO Diamond at Addington.
"Both of them won four races!"
"In all I've had winners in all three codes and I've had 30 wins from about 7 or 8 individual winners."
He rates Thefixer as the best horse he's driven in work.
"A million dollars and the New Zealand Cup - hard to go past a horse like that."
"It was like going from a 1980 Honda Civic to a 2023 Ferrari - where you can feel every gear - it was like "wow"!
"If you could get non racing people to feel that you would sell the sport."
And there's the challenge - attracting new people and at the same time catering to the many thousands involved right now.
"I do plan to get out and about. I'm often at feature meetings around the country and at races closer to home and I'll be going to stables and trials," says Kirkwood, "I'm keen to get stuck in".