A number of key thoroughbred industry participants have met to discuss the recent spate of race abandonments, and how the industry can work to better manage how these are dealt with, says New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) CEO Bernard Saundry.
The meeting, held yesterday, included representatives from NZTR, the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU), the NZ Trainers' Association, the NZ Jockeys' Association and a number of clubs. It was called after seven thoroughbred race meetings were either partly or fully abandoned since the New Year, the majority due to weather-related safety issues.
“We have experienced a disappointing start to the year, with a number of our highly popular summer meetings impacted, and only some of them able to be rescheduled,” says Mr Saundry.
“Not only is this disappointing for our racegoers who have missed out on a great day out, every lost meeting is a cost to our industry we simply can’t afford. This includes the loss of stakes to owners to the costs of transporting horses, and wages for staff for days with little or no racing.
"The abandonments can also affect other future races, as trainers plan where and when horses run carefully and use specific races as part of the preparations for later races. This can have serious flow-on effects on a horse’s eligibility for future races and accordingly may impact future field sizes.
“Yesterday’s meeting was productive, and it was heartening to see a high level of engagement from everyone as we worked together to discuss these issues,” says Mr Saundry.
“It is clear that while appropriate steps were being taken on the day to ensure the safety of our horses and jockeys, we agreed the following actions, which we aim to confirm in consultation with the wider group and to implement by March 2018:
· We will ensure there is further assessment of the 2018/19 dates calendar, which is currently out for industry consultation, with a focus on reducing the impact of events of this nature.
· Providing improved networks across the country to support clubs and raceday stewards in decision-making. These will include independent and professional advice from meteorology services to increase the opportunity to reschedule events ahead of the raceday, should the weather pattern place a high risk on the meeting continuing.
· Further coordination between the club, NZTR and the RIU to support improvements in the preparation of tracks that race infrequently or are otherwise vulnerable to adverse weather conditions to better manage their readiness for their big events.
· Improving the planning over the days and weeks leading up to the race meetings to ensure we are better prepared for events including adverse weather that we have experienced over the past two weeks.
· Improving the communication protocols between NZTR, Racing Integrity Unit and clubs and participants on track-related issues.
“Our objective will be to reduce the number of abandonments by 30 per cent in the next calendar year with the measures and actions outlined above.
“It is clear the industry is dealing with complex infrastructure issues, and while this meeting has focussed on more immediate actions we can take, NZTR is committed to working with thoroughbred clubs and stakeholder groups, the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB), the Harness and Greyhound racing codes, and the Government to develop a meaningful longer-term plan,” says Mr Saundry.