Harness New Zealand Acting Chief Executive Phil Holden is confident he can still have a good working relationship with Forbury Park, despite a very public difference of opinion.
HRNZ submitted to the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA) that Forbury Park have no dates for the 2020-21 season. It based its argument on Otago’s small horse population, betting turnovers and a desire to reduce costs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But RITA disagreed, giving the club 10 meetings, nine at Forbury and one at Wingatui.
Initially Manawatu was also omitted from the draft dates calendar, only for HRNZ to change its mind in its final submission to RITA. RITA then agreed that Manawatu should have ten dates, including four dual code meetings with the greyhounds.
Over the last few weeks we have been asked a number of questions about the industry and what the future will be like? Today Interim Chief Executive Phil Holden answers some of your questions – and if you have any queries let us know.
Code funding of $139.6 million has been confirmed for next season , it’s the same level as budgeted for the 2019/20 season – so why the need for cost cutting and culling tracks etc?
It’s not just a simple case of the same code funding resulting in the status quo being maintained. We are being asked to do a lot more with the money we have as RITA have cut costs out of their business that means the codes have to pick some of those functions up and there have to be some efficiencies. Everyone knows there are too many tracks for a country of this size – the question is , which ones go? No club is going to voluntarily decide to close down, so that leaves HRNZ in the position of having to make tough and in some cases unpopular decisions, HRNZ has to take the wider industry approach into its considerations to ensure the short medium and long term viability of the industry.
What is HRNZ’s view on a club running a 4-horse race with $12,000 of funding from RITA’s post-Covid special funding package? (This happened early on after the lockdown finished) What was the turnover on this race and the return on investment from the industry’s money? In the view of the CEO and HRNZ, was this acceptable? What steps will be taken to avoid this in the immediate future? The race that you talk about was a long time ago, just after racing resumed. It is not what we want, not what the club wants as well but there were some circumstances out of the control of everyone that resulted in this happening. Interestingly this race did deliver a good turnover performance that was in line with other races that night, but I think the experience we have seen since then is that it was an aberration. Fields have generally been good throughout the country though Auckland is taking slightly longer to get back up to speed compared to other parts of the country but it is definitely improving.That race was actually profitable in terms of turnover, but one race doesn’t make or break a meeting – so we have to take a wider look at it. We need to increase field sizes which enhances wagering and by and large that is the trend we have seen in the last few weeks.
What impact has the return of gallops had on harness racing? Turnovers for us have remained steady and solid, so one that front we are pleased, so despite their return we are managing to hold our own. We do continue to have challenges on Trackside but we will continue to advocate for changes in this for the code.
How confident are you in the future of harness racing? Very. I think we do have a lot to look forward to, but we will need to work more collaboratively than we have in the past. The industry supports thousands of jobs and is part of what we are as Kiwis. We are working hard post-Covid to ensure our long term future. There will be some pain along the way but ultimately, with us being fiscally responsible, I have to believe we will end up in a sustainable and better place.