It’s the End Of The Season – But Not As We Know It.

It’s the End Of The Season – But Not As We Know It.

Bruce Stewart

Saturday 4th April 2020

HRNZ Chief Executive Peter Jensen is cautiously optimistic that harness racing could resume later this season, but he fully understands that the  Covid19 situation changes by the day.

“We’re looking at resuming racing at the end of May or the beginning of June but that’s very much subject to the alert level status. I’m very keen to give people some certainty but it’s very difficult to do in such a changing environment,” he said.

Under Covid19 restrictions Jensen says HRNZ has made the decision to limit racing when it resumes, on a regional basis. He says how that looks will be communicated over the next week.

“So there won’t be licensee movement between those regions. I read today that we may come out of Alert Level 4 on a regional basis so obviously we want to maximise the opportunity to race, but taking a regional approach.”

Jensen said the regional plan hasn’t been completely finalised yet.

“What I can tell you is that we’ll only be racing on one course in Southland. It’s not 100% confirmed but that’s likely to be Ascot Park.”

Jensen says that whilst it’s likely that horses will be able to move between regions to race, for example Southland horses could to travel to Canterbury, trainers and drivers would not.

He says HRNZ Handicapper Andrew Morris is currently working with the Regional Racing Managers to assess how many horses are still in racing stables and/or are on the active list.

“We’re just getting a sense of what decisions they’ve made about their teams. If we were for example to resume at the end of May, what sort of horse numbers will we have? This information will allow us to know what sort and how many races we can schedule to maximise the horses for wagering.”

Jensen says that when racing does return it will have to be done cost effectively.

“That decision will be made in conjunction with RITA but you’ve got to understand there are venue services costs and club costs that don’t vary much whether you run five or ten races. So the challenge for us is to make it cost effective.”

Jensen says from feedback he’s received from trainers, a reasonable number of horses remain in work.

“I saw a note today from a trainer saying he’d turned out his team that were ready to race for ten days but he was keeping the other horses ticking over. I think that’s the sort of approach we’ll see from a number of trainers. That’s why we’re saying we probably won’t be racing until the end of May because we know we just can’t turn the tap on.”

Jensen says that all the meetings scheduled for the rest of the season have been scrapped.

“We’ll rework the calendar from when racing resumes until probably the end of September. The focus will be on two things; maximising the opportunities for horses to race, and maximising the wagering opportunities.”

Jensen says its HRNZ intent to race the end of the season Sires Stakes races early in the new season, but this too is yet to be finalised.