One of the most talked about and contentious issues among harness racing insiders is set to be a problem no more.
I understand the HRNZ board are to announce that discretion will be removed from the country’s ratings based handicapping system.
The decision will certainly make the conspiracy theorists and tinfoil hat wearers in the game happy.
They regularly take to online forums, social media and bend anyone’s ear to point out that some horses have been dropped two or three points when others have only dropped one.
I think it is fair to say there seemed to be cases where it was fair to ask why a horse was dropped more than one rating point.
From an overall perspective, there did not appear to be consistent use of discretion.
Obviously, is in the interests of fairness and transparency and that must be a good thing.
The most interesting point of this unconfirmed change is that the move aligns the New Zealand system with the new Australian ratings system.
The Aussies look like they are on to a winner with the system they have designed.
In my opinion, it is more streamlined and less complicated than the New Zealand one.
Though it is important to note that both have been designed to achieve the same thing – increase turnover through better use of the horse population.
The Australian system is set to be a success because of their larger horse population.
My prediction is that success will lead to more changes in New Zealand to align with Australia.
That will be welcome news to the chorus of trainers here that have massive issues with the way the current system is operating.
Ultimate machete or pocket knife?
Regular readers of this column will be well aware of my thoughts on colonial stallions.
There have been quite a few since Christian Cullen and Courage Under Fire both went to the breeding barn and I don’t think any of them could be deemed a commercial success.
Ultimate Machete will attempt to buck that trend when he stands under a two-stud deal in the spring.
I really hope he is a roaring success and bucks the trend of his Australasian bred counterparts.
The breeding industry can ill afford the utter wastage an under performing colonial sire produces through his noncompetitive stock.
One major plus Ultimate Machete has going for him is that he has been sensibly priced.
Breeders are desperate for a stallion to come along and successfully service the lower end of the stud market.
Ultimate Machete’s $3000 stud fee will be inviting for breed-to-race broodmare owners to have a punt.
There is another key aspect to that price is that it is likely to separate him from Lazarus.
As they are both sons of Bettor’s Delight, they will be competing for the same pool of mares.
Of course, that is if a stud deal can be confirmed for Lazarus.
It should be settled by the time some people have forgotten how good he was.
Shake my head
I read with disbelief that a driver was given just a four-day suspension for allowing his feet to contact the hocks of the horse he was driving, recently.
In an age where animal welfare is under such high scrutiny, it is hard to comprehend why that act would not attract a higher penalty.
I understand the starting point for an improper driving charge is an eight day suspension.
I think it is time that rule is changed and a much more severe penalty is established.
Harness racing can simply not have this kind of act beamed to TV sets across Australasia and computer monitors across the world.
Let’s be honest.
The New Zealand judicial system is soft.
And the industry has plenty of sympathisers.
This is the country where television hosts defend drivers who bet on a horse other than the one they are driving.
Give me a spell.
I would much rather spend my time advocating for the good of the sport.