From the Chair

We were indeed fortunate to get the majority of our December and January racing through before the attendance restrictions hit.

At the time of writing this report the country continues to cope with Covid-19 and as an industry we are looking forward to the day when we can move from the red traffic light to the orange light. I acknowledge how difficult it has been for clubs to enforce the entry restrictions, for some this has meant extra costs, for others it’s meant shutting everyone other than licence holders out. What is important is that you stay connected with each other, i.e. clubs with members and sponsors and in particular the trainer with the owner. It’s a sad day if the only communication the owner gets is the monthly account.

It was a privilege to attend the 2020/2021 Harness Racing Awards earlier this month where I presented three of the awards. While I congratulate all the winners, I did particularly enjoy seeing the Horse of the Year go to the champion trotter, Sundee’s Son, who has since become a millionaire and is the first horse to earn that money solely in New Zealand.

The award for Outstanding Contribution to Harness Racing went to well-known Canterbury participant, Tony Abell. For over 40 years Tony has given freely as an administrator, club volunteer, committee man, breeder, trainer and owner. Tony is currently a valued member of the ‘architect’ team that worked on the new racing programme of events.

Last week the Harness Racing NZ Board met for two days in Christchurch, the first of the two days focused on our strategic plan and direction of the sport we love. The information gained at our Industry day in late 2020 and our current business plan were the foundation for this work. Once the draft of the strategic plan, showing the vision, pillars and values has been presented back to the Board for sign off it will be available to the industry as our guiding document.

Now into the first three months of the new calendar of racing events, it is pleasing to note how successful the Country Cups series has been. The heats have been competitive with places in the $100,000 April final being well sought after and the turnovers on these races have been promising.

The Northern Autumn festival kicks off with the $900,000 RACE at Cambridge on 14 April, the field is shaping up to be one of quality and has certainly generated good interest on both sides of the Tasman. I acknowledge the commitment of the Cambridge CEO, David Branch, who accepted the challenge with both hands, albeit no money, and went with it. David and his team, with limited lead up time, have worked hard to bring this race to a reality having secured the required funding. It would be nice for all involved if the country has moved out of the red traffic light setting by then.

I’m also pleased to tell you that for the first time in many years our breeding numbers have not declined. There was a slight increase in numbers of horses bred by 1.6% from the previous season and hopefully this is a base our industry can build on.

A timely reminder that if you are unwell or you or a member of your household has tested positive to COVID you must not attend races, trials or workouts until your isolation period is complete. Please follow the government guidelines and help keep our participants safe.

The Board of Harness Racing New Zealand meet again on 21 April.

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