Hi there,

Welcome to issue #27 of Insider Access.

Released every 2 weeks, Insider Access showcases insider rumors and commentary in the worldwide harness racing industry.

Each issue includes an in-depth Stallion review not available anywhere else - this week we review Artiscape. Previous reviews can now be viewed at www.stallionsphere.com

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Insider Access is Back

For the past few months Insider Access has been on a break. We've had a bunch of technical difficulties sourcing the statistics we need to produce the Stallion reviews. We're happy to report that these have now been resolved and we're returning to regular service.

The Australiasian Stud season is starting up, and so we are working hard to update our repository of Stallion reviews with the latest facts and figures. This week we've made updates to two massive Stallions, Somebeachsomewhere and Mach Three. You can read the updates over at http://stallionsphere.com

The Stallion Sphere has proved massively successful in bringing all the siring information to one central point and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive but just recently we have become aware of one flaw and that is how quickly the statistics on the sphere can become outdated.

Therefore we have decided to update all the stallions on a much more regular basis and the first two we have completed the updates on are Mach Three and his champion son Somebeachsomewhere.

Anyone looking at the stallion sphere will be amazed how rapidly the statistics for these two stallions have changed in the last twelve months with both stallions making huge strides with their numbers and percentages.

We hope to have all the reviews done by Christmas with a view to updating the statistics more regularly in 2016.

Click here to view Stallion Sphere

Will Jeff Gural get his Casino at The Meadowlands?

Not if these guys get their way!

The future of harness racing in New Jersey is tied to The Meadowlands establishing a "racino" there and the chances of that happening just got a bit gloomier with the release of donations to Governor Chris Christie's campaign to become the Republican nominee for the Presidency.

Jeff Gural (left) and Chris Christie (right)

Several very wealthy donors made significant donations to his campaign and without exception they have very different ideas to the location of new casino.

Winecup Gamble Inc headed by Paul Fireman donated $1,000,000 to Christie's campaign.

Fireman plans a massive $4,600,000,000 casino complex in South Jersey if voters in New Jersey support a constitutional amendment to allow gambling outside of Atlantic City.

Read the full article here

Short Sighted Decisions Killing Australian Market

Some Australian administrators would have to qualify for the most short sighted people on the planet.

With the reductions in breeding numbers on both sides of the Tasman, each countries remaining participants rely on the common market between the two countries to try to survive in the hostile environment which harness racing has become in Australasia.

So in a short sighted move to try to supposedly help their own breeding industry, the Australian authorities imposed levy on all imported horses from New Zealand. The aim was to encourage Australian breeders to breed and support the local product.

The reality was it didn't do anything for the Australian breeder with no great increase in breeding numbers and it has devastated the market for low priced horses being imported into Australia from New Zealand.

How Australia thinks it is going to continue to run the same number of meetings with basically just Australian breds is beyond me and the day of reckoning for this bizarre policy is not to far off.

Now just to confirm how out of touch they are, the powers that be have increased the fees yet again.

Australia thinks it holds the upper hand here but it won't be long until some of their meetings struggle to fill their fields.

Then self interest will kick in and it will be very interesting to sit and watch the bloodbath that will surely happen in Australia over these excessive fees. Below is the press release regarding the increase in fees.

At a recent meeting of the Harness Racing Australia Executive the following fee increases for the 2015 / 16 financial year were approved. Whilst being mindful of monetary pressures the industry can face from time to time it was decided to keep the level of increase at 2% which is under the rate of inflation for the current year.

With regard to the import fee for horses imported into Australia this is the first increase since the fee commenced in April 2013.

The Invisible Board of Seat Warmers

Firstly I would like to thank the hundreds of harness racing people from throughout New Zealand who emailed or rang me in the last couple of months after I published the article focusing on the fragile state of the industry in New Zealand "Slow death by a thousand cuts"

Your support was much appreciated and it is reassuring to know that so many other industry participants in New Zealand can see what is happening and know that we have to act.

One of the major issues as I see it is our governance model and how inappropriate and inefficient the present system is in 2015.

So I thought it timely to have a look at the present board of Harness Racing New Zealand and how it is performing in its role.

As a comparison I only have to look across the Tasman to New South Wales where they have a proactive and supportive board.

Recently I was involved in moving Fly Like An Eagle from New Zealand to stand at Rod Woodhouse's Yirribee Stud in New South Wales.

The whole board of Harness Racing New South Wales went out to Yerribee Stud in Wagga Wagga (about 4 hours from the Harness Racing Board) to see Fly Like An Eagle in a show of support for the local breeding industry. In an effort to promote the local breed, Harness Racing New South Wales have set up the Colonial Bred Stallion scheme.

Under this scheme, any mare that produces a live foal to a colonial stallion is eligible for a $500 payment from Harness Racing New South Wales.

Can you ever imagine anything like that happening here.

Recently appointed Harness Racing New South Wales CEO John Dumesny released a strategic plan for the next three years for New South Wales which you can read here (Strategic Plan PDF).

Now that is not unusual as most boards have one but what is significantly different is the whole board from John Dumesny down is now travelling around race meetings and stud farms throughout New South Wales seeking feedback on the document from the grass roots participants in the industry.

They want their input, they want to know what they think before they make far reaching decisions. They want everybody on the same page and involved.

Compare that to New Zealand situation and you realize very quickly how badly served we are by the current structure and by the people who currently sit on the board.

So what are the board of Harness Racing New Zealand doing to try to turn the industry around.

I went to the HRNZ site to view the updates on what the board is proposing but unbelievably the last report on board deliberations was dated 17th June 2014.

Dads Army: Edward Rennell, CEO of Harness Racing New Zealand (back row far left) with members of the 2013/14 Harness Racing New Zealand Board. Back row: left to right: Ailsa Smaill, Brian Wastney, Kerry Hoggard, Steve Phillips, Ken Spicer. Front row: (left to right) John Lischner, the late Ray O'Connor - replaced by Alan Brown, Gary Allen, Colin Hair, Barry Dent.

The HRNZ board may be up to all kinds of wonderful initiatives but you would never know because they don't tell us.

It is more akin to the GSCB than a democratically elected board and only adds to a widely held perception in the New Zealand harness racing industry that they are out of touch seat warmers.

Now I know a couple of the people on the current board and they are not seat warmers and they would like nothing more than to change a lot of the ways we do things in harness racing in New Zealand.

However the governance structure prevents those changes being made and most quickly realize that they are banging their heads against a brick wall.

Talking to these individuals, they feel that a small inner clique is running the show in line with their own agenda.

The one interesting aspect from the report of 17th June 2014 from the board meeting was the following note:

2. Review Of HRNZ Governance Structure.

Through its strategic planning process, the Board agreed that it would review, in consultation with the industry, the appropriateness of HRNZ’s governance structure.

As the first part of this review, the Board reviewed previous papers when this was last considered back in 2011, including the presentation made at that time to the Annual Conference.

A number of options were considered on the appropriate structure of the Board going forward.

It was agreed that an options paper would be prepared for the Board’s next meeting on 4 July outlining potential ways this could be structured.

It is also intended that the thoughts of clubs and kindred bodies on this will be sought at the Annual Conference.

Initial thoughts are that if the Board is to pursue change in this area, this will be addressed later in the 2014 calendar year.

So HRNZ has looked at this issue as far back as 2011 and here we are four years later and what has changed?

Another issue that really characterizes how poorly our board has performed in recent years is who controls our television broadcasts rights. Sky Australia does.

The New Zealand Racing Board with the agreement of the three boards of the three codes in New Zealand sold our rights years ago to Sky Australia.

I know this because Sky Australia has explained in great detail to me how the system works and how they have complete control.

We operate our race coverage in New Zealand completely at the whim of an Australian company.

The are numerous disadvantages in the deal for the New Zealand bodies but I will just highlight a couple to show you how it works.

The Auckland Trotting Club wants to live stream their races but they have to have a 10 minute delay in showcasing Alexandra Park because it is in the contract that Sky Australia has with the New Zealand Racing Board.

A few weeks ago live harness racing from The Meadowlands, Hoosier Park and Yonkers was shown live into Australia but not here because Sky Australia said no to New Zealand having the feed.

Now the thing with the broadcasting rights and the Harness Racing Board is you can never find any board member past or present who admits to being a part of the decision making process.

I even went through the official information act but was stymied at every turn. The most frequently used excuse being " commercial confidentiality".

Where is the accountability?

Nothing has changed and nothing will change under the present governance structure apart from a bit of tinkering around the edges.

The only way that meaningful chance will happen in this industry is if the grass roots demands it.

I have spoken at length to the racing ministers of the time over the last ten years and without exception they have all told me the same thing.

The only way that we will get meaningful change in this industry is if the people involved in it demand it.

The Government is only too happy to facilitate change if the industry participants are on board.

To that end I am more than happy to facilitate the establishment of a New Zealand wide industry group to come up with new governance structures that are more in tune with 2015 than 1915.

I would really welcome your feedback on this issue.

Together I am sure we can come up with viable alternatives to the archaic governance structure we presently operate under which is slowly but surely killing the industry we all love.

John Curtin

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