New Zealand Cup 2016 Club Study Tour

Tour Summary

The AVCHRC as part of it's ongoing investment in the people Of The Future in the Victorian harness racing industry Co-SponsorED a team of club administrators to visit New Zealand during their premier week of Harness Racing - NZ Cup week. The following review provides an insight into the observations and knowledge derived from the tour.

The aim of the AVCHRC 2016 New Zealand Cup study tour was to expose a cross section of Victorian Harness Racing club administrators to the New Zealand harness racing industry and included experiencing the premier day of trotting in the Southern Hemisphere the NZ'd Cup, establishment of contacts throughout the NZ'd industry and identification of initiatives transferable to the Victorian industry. Additionally the group would promote the Victorian industry in particular the current feature cup season, to do so stubbys holder promoting Cup and Summer Carnival dates was produced for distribution. The party included representatives from varying sized clubs and different areas of administration.

  • Attendees: Paul Rowse, Justin Lane, Brendan Baker, David Brick
  • Arrival - Monday 7 November
  • Departure - Friday 11 November
  • Itinerary overveiw
  1. Day 1 - New Zealand Breeders Awards Night and Cocktail Party
  2. Day 2 - New Zealand Cup
  3. Day 3 - All Stars Tour, Nevele R Stud Tour and Riccarton Races
  4. Day 4 - Ashburton Trots
  5. Day 5 - Show Day races @ Addington

Day 1 - Christchurch arrival/NZ Breeders Awards

The New Zealand Breeders Awards and cocktail party was conducted in a unique environment at Armstrong Prestige Vehicles, a sponsor of the NZ Breeders Association. On arrival we were greeted by their president John Mooney and HRNZ'd CEO Ed Rennell with whom we had previously established contact at the NSW Harness the Future conference. The warm and welcoming nature of the HRNZ'd industry would become a highlight of the trip and a clear indication of the NZ'd industries willingness to partner with their Australian counterparts. This was further emphasised when we were welcomed formally by John as part of his introduction to the evening along with a group of Victorian junior drivers who also attended the function including Denbeigh Wade, Ellen Tormey and Bec Bartley.

In addition to hosting the event at a unique location, it was conducted in a concise manner with the awards component lasting approximately an hour. Both the format and location of the event should be considerations for the Victorian harness industry (clubs and other industry groups) where awards nights are largely the same year in year out.

Hosting an awards night or similar at unique locations such as a sponsors place of business is worthy of consideration.

Day 2 - New Zealand Cup

New Zealand Cup day was unlike any harness/trotting event any of us had attended. The event attracted over 22,000 patrons, all of whom dressed to impress and was primarily made up of 18 - 55 year olds with an even spread of males and females.

Highlights from an event/operational perspective included;

  • Well dressed MC on the front gate welcoming patrons and providing information on access
  • Friendly helpful staff across the venue (this was a reurcurruing theme throughout the week)
  • Free bottled water to assist with RSA (only 4 people were ejected from the event with no arrests)
  • Access to wifi was a big plus (particularly for overseas guests!). In our case this resulted in numerous social media interactions in real time.
  • Race presentations kept to a minimum with only one major presentation for the Trotting Cup
  • The presentation area was used for the Fashion on the Fields judging, Painted Fashion Final, delivery of the Cup and singing of the national anthem by Stan Walker.
  • Dining packages were sold out with varying packages available, targeted at different demopgraphics e.g. lindauer lawn featured live music throughout the day for younger racegoers
  • Taxis rank at the end of the day was exclusive to the event Taxi partner/sponsor
  • Broadcast coverage by their racing network Trackside is on par with best practice world wide and given it covers the three codes enables all to take advantage of new initiatives/technology etc.
  • Dress to impress standards included participants and should be introduced in Victoria for our feature events

From a racing facilities perspective the stabling complex is impressive, not dissimilar to Menangle, with plenty of space, wide open breeze ways and access at the rear of each horse.

It was great to catch up with HRV trainee Michelle Phillips who is currently completing work at the All Stars Stable.

Interestingly there is no parade ring of note with horses accessing the track directly from the horse barn. This is interesting given the recent discussion surrounding the Melton Masterplan and consideration being given to moving the parade ring closer to the public/in front of grandstand. As seen in the images below the parade ring has been removed recently from Addington's front lawn freeing up space for public and private function access.

"The NZ Cup is A bucketlist event for any Horse racing enthusiast"

Again we were greeted by and made feel most welcome at the event by NZ'd officialdom, on this occasion Addington President Barry Dent. We meet Barry in Sydney during the World Trotting Conference in 2015 and again he made the effort to come and find us for a tour of the presentation area and race track which incidentally is 1200m topped with a mix of shell grit and granitic sand.

Barry Dent gives us his views on NZ Cup day.
Racetrack surface on Cup Day

From a wagering perspective this event records NZ's highest turnover of any race meeting. NZ TAB on-course turnover equaled $1.2 million while off-course wagering topped $6 million.

Finally we must make mention of the outstanding performance of Lazarus who we look forward to seeing over here during our Summer Carnival.

Day 3 - All Stars Tour/Nevele R Stud Tour/Riccarton Races

Visiting the stables of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen the morning after they tasted success with Lazarus was a highlight of the trip. Their evident professionalism inclusive of staff, facilities and work practices clearly makes them elite in the training and racing of standardbreds. The training operation includes;

  • 3 professionally maintained training tracks including 1000 metre fast work track, 800 - 900 metre jog track and 1200 metre straight track
  • 14 staff
  • 3 large barns including a colt/stallion wing
  • Owners loft containing viewing balcony, bar and trophy display which should be considered when developing a training centre at Melton
  • 40 horses in work all whom are aggisted in paddocks throughout the day before being stabled over night

On our visit we were accompanied by the AVCHRC professional Development Award recipient Denbeigh Wade and her partner Michael Gadsden. On departing we presented the stable with stubby holders for all the staff. While Mark indicated a number of feature Victorian events were on the cards for his team, he was non-committal as to which horses would be targeted at which races.

With Nevele R Stud a short drive down the road from All Stars we took the opportunity to drop in for a tour of the Stud Farm with General Manager Ged Mooar. Ged outlined the farm serviced over 500 mares annually in addition to providing frozen semen to Australia for their on-site stallions Changeover, Live Or Die, The Gold Ace and A Rocknrolldance. Ged outlined their farm and industry faces similar challenges to the Australian breeding industry including the dominance of leading Sires such as Bettors Delight (standing at Woodlands) whose progeny won a high percentage of races over the carnival.

Following our morning tours we switched codes in the afternoon to attend the Riccarton Races, where we were guests of the Club organised by former HRV CEO Bernard Saundry. The event was the middle day of their Thoroughbred Carnival and attracted a crowd of 2500 - 3000.

While the day featured 12 gallops events, from our perspective the feature race of the day was the Kids Kartz race run on the course proper in between races as seen in the video below. There is no doubt the on-course crowd took an interest in the event and we believe this is an opportunity the Victorian Harness industry should further explore particularly at duel codes venues. Furthermore the promotion of the Kids Kartz (pony trots) by HRNZ is superior to our industry and well worth further research to assist with junior development in Victoria.

Today we trekked to Ashburton a little under 100kms from Christchurch, the home of the Harness Jewell's every second year (the Club shares this event with Cambridge). The Ashburton Trotting Club races 9 times a year at a dual code venue. In this regard the venue operates in a similar vein to Horsham where two separate committees/clubs share the one venue. While the facilities were certainly adequate they were not dissimilar to many of our venues with outdoor stables and grandstand/public facilities in need of a refresh.

Thanks to the generosity of the Club's Committee in particular committee men Geoff Gibbons and Francis Renner we were invited to their sponsors and dignitaries lunch for the afternoon. This enabled us to discuss the various opportunities and challenges faced by race clubs on both sides of the Tasman. Points of note from their operations/racemeeting;

  • $106,000 wagered on-course with a strong crowd in attendance
  • 15 TAB operators were in attendance with on-course operations reminiscent of our venues 10 - 15 years ago with no EBT's and few people wagering via hand held devices
  • Kids Kartz promotion continued with another heat of the Cup week series
  • Club is currently looking at joining with neighboring clubs to employ a full time professional manager to release the burdon on the clubs volunteers

Again we were glad to present the Club with a number of our branded stubby holders which were presented to trainers, drivers, owners and other guests throughout the day.

Day 5 - Show Day Trots at Addington

Our final day saw us return to Addington for their Show Day meeting, this time attending the Presidents Luncheon as guests of HRNZ'd organised by Ed Rennell and HRNZ'd Chairman Ken Spicer. Sitting with a number of the HRNZ'd Board members enabled us to get an insight into the structure of the NZ'd industry and the make up of the Board. Interestingly their Board appointment process differs significantly from ours where Board members are elected by the industry, not a ministerial appointment.

In conclusion we would like to thank the Executive of the AVCHRC for providing us the opportunity to attend the event and previous conferences, as there is no doubt the contacts derived from these previous events assisted us make the most of our time in NZ'd.

The following is a summary of key learnings that we believe should be further explored to benefit the Victorian Industry;

  • Clubs and industry group look to use unique locations and formats for events such as awards nights e.g. sponsors
  • Introduction of wifi at venues
  • Clubs to consider keeping race presentations to a minimum i.e. Cup race only
  • Clubs in conjunction with HRV to continue to work on pre-sale strategies including differentiating offerings to attract new target audience
  • A minimum standard of slacks and colored shirt be introduced for participants on feature race nights such as Hunter Cup and Breeders Crown
  • No need to move the Parade Ring at Melton, it certainly wasn't missed on NZ'd Cup day
  • An owners entertaining loft should be incorporated into any significant public Training venue to enable owners to watch track work and trainers to entertain clients
  • The need to continue to explore the Regional Development/Support program was endorced through HRNZ's/Club current regioalisation strategy
  • Pony Trots program to be reviewed with greater emphasis on the marketing, promotion and exposure to help promote our sport and drive junior participation
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David Brick

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