Return to Racing

Return to Racing

(15th April 2020)

Bruce Stewart

There’s been lots of zoom catch-ups over the past few weeks with plenty of talk about how harness racing returns once the Covid19 restrictions are downgraded.

Although HRNZ officials are talking about a return to racing at the end of May or early June much will still depend on what the virus does and whether certain regions can return to racing sooner than others.

Racing looks as though it’ll initially be restricted to a small number of race tracks throughout the country; Alexandra Park and Cambridge in the north and Addington and Ascot Park in the south.

There’s also been discussion around introducing dual code meetings to make up more complete race days and this would include harness and greyhound races but there’s still a lot of discussions to be held on this.

Southern Harness CEO Jason Broad says at the moment, because of travel restrictions, there are no greyhound meetings south of Christchurch but there may be enough dogs in the Southland and Otago region to tag on a small number of greyhound races to a harness meeting.

It’s also been suggested that from the resumption of harness racing until the end of September that trainers will only be able to nominate their horses on-line. Broad says most Southland based trainers are doing this now so it won’t be an issue.

He also says they’re also looking at having open nominations.

“You’ll nominate for a trot, maiden and rating mobile and we’ll make the best fields we can out of the nominations. We could end up with a fillies and mares race if there’s sufficient nominations,” he said.

Broad has surveyed the local harness trainers to assess how many horses are on their ‘active’ list and says there’s about 120 in this area which is encouraging.

He says there’s a number of horses that require a qualifying trial and some trainers have suggested that an official workout and trial meeting be held prior to the race meetings getting underway again in the south.

“I’d be keen to have a trial workout to give those horses a decent run and this will give the punter a bit more confidence on the horses preparation. This will have to be held at Ascot Park in the interim it seems.”

Broad also confirmed that the Southern Supremacy Stakes, Southland Oaks and Southern Belle Speed Series Final won’t be held this season or carried over into the new season.

There was some talk about holding these series finals but Broad says the funding for such races is no longer available.

A new calendar for the end of the season and initial part of the new season is still to be confirmed by RITA so there’s still a bit of work to do.