Message from HRNZ Chief Executive Gary Woodham - Handicapping Review

Harness Racing New Zealand has today confirmed that there won't be any changes to two of its biggest races this year.

"It's business as usual as far as we are concerned," says HRNZ Chief Executive Gary Woodham, "the New Zealand Cup and the Dominion Trot will take place at Addington during Cup week and they will be held under the same conditions as they have in recent years."

There's been a lot of discussion in recent days that some of New Zealand's premier staying races, including the New Zealand Cup, the Dominion, the Rowe Cup, and the Auckland Cup, would no longer be held under Free For All conditions, and become handicap races instead.

The TAB suspended its markets on both the New Zealand Cup and the Dominion as they waited for clarification from HRNZ as to whether the changes affected this year's events or not.

But Woodham is adamant that no such changes will happen.

"The Free For All conditions will remain in 2022 and then we will look into whether the changes are needed in 2023 and beyond" says Woodham.

An independent team of industry experts has been assessing the first six months of the new racing calendar and the handicapping issue is part of their review.

"One thing we need to know is what will be the horse population look like in the future," says Woodham, "do we have enough highly-rated horses to make our top races fair and competitive?"

"We have had handicap races in the past for the very same reasons we are looking at it now. If we have rating 75 to 120 horses in the same race we have to do something to make it a good contest. We are always looking at improving our wagering product."

The review is expected to be completed by October and any changes will have to be ratified by the HRNZ Board before they are implemented.

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