Hi there,

Welcome to issue #29 of Insider Access.

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

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Rock N Roll Heaven & Majestic Son Updated

In Stallion Sphere's newest revision we once again have two outstanding updates to previously reviewed stallions.

The two stallions featured this week are Rock N Roll Heaven and Majestic Son.

We've also taken Stallion Sphere out of Facebook and onto a standalone site at www.stallionsphere.com, so readers without a Facebook account can read the reviews. As always though, you will still be able to access Stallion Sphere through the tab at the top of our Facebook Page.

Enjoy the updates.

Click here to view Stallion Sphere

CEO from Australia riles Harnesslink

One of the most disappointing things to have happened to Harnesslink since our establishment over 13 years ago was the vitriolic attack on this news company by the CEO of Harness Racing Australia, Andrew Kelly, at this year’s conference of New Zealand trotting clubs.

Recently we published an opinion piece regarding the extra fees imposed on horses from New Zealand when they entered Australia.

These fees were recently increased again, and since their introduction have led to a serious drop off in sales of horses at the lower end of the market.

As one of the biggest buyers in that market in New Zealand, we were only too aware of the views repeatedly expressed to us by clients, that the fees have had a serious detrimental effect on that segment of the market.

A horse that costs $10,000 to buy in New Zealand, is now likely to top $20,000 by the time it reaches its new owner in Australia.

The fact that the fees have badly hurt the bottom end market in New Zealand is clear for all to see.

While the conference was in progress, I received calls from attendees to tell me what Andrew Kelly had said.

I think what Andrew Kelly said is best summed up by this excerpt from the New Zealand Owners Association report on conference happenings.

"Andrew Kelly, from Harness Racing Australia, when commenting on the hefty import fee on NZ horses bound for Australia, said that the import fee has always been there." He said that they had increased it up in support of their breeding industry. He also made a comment that the NZ website Harnesslink was rubbish."

At best, Mr Kelly is being disingenuous. Yes, there have been always been fees to import horses into Australia.

As he admits himself, the fees were increased so that Harness Racing Australia could support their local breeding industry.

In our view that action is illegal as it is contrary to the Closer Economic Relations agreement we have with Australia and to that end we have written to the Australian Embassy in Wellington, asking them for an explanation.

We already have MPs waiting to raise the matter in Parliament once we have a reply from the Australian Government.

It is not what Mr Kelly said that riled Harnesslink, but the unprofessional manner in which it was delivered.

In the past, we have talked on the phone regularly, but in this instance he never picked up the phone but instead he decided to use a microphone at the conference.

Unprofessional and unwarranted best sums up this episode.


All racetracks should have Wiener Dog races

Yes, it reads like harness racing had gone to the dogs. And maybe all racetracks should go to the dogsā€¦. Wiener Dog Racing that is!

Over the past two weeks, two tracks from both sides of the boarder in North America, Batavia Downs in New York and Grand River Raceway in Ontario, must be commended for their Weiner Dog racing events.

Whenever you can turn your racetrack into an event site that will draw thousands of new fans to your establishment, you should jump on it.

When you have positive exposure, a fun atmosphere, silly laughing and then slip in some harness racing, you have hit a jackpot. People go home feeling good, had some fun, and will tell others what they did that weekend.

Gags and crazy promotions have been driving new faces to racetracks forever and a day. And tracks must continue the tradition as long as they can tie in harness racing to the special event. That is a must.

In this day and age of instant gratification, for new fans you only get one chance to show them a good time, By the thousands of people that came out to Batavia Downs and Grand River Raceway for Wiener Dog races, these were events that every other racetrack around the world should look into.

Yes, the Hambletonian, Inter-Dominion, Prix D’Amerique, Elitloppet and Little Brown Jug draw tens of thousands of people, but you can’t do events like that all the time due to the costs. You need to mix up the racing from time to time with something totally different.

Over the years harness racing has been able to achieve that with Elephant races, Ostrich races, even a guy from Australia who stood on the shafts of his race bike, put the lines in his teeth while his horse paced around a dark track, shooting off more than 2,000 fireworks from the back of his sulky. All these ideas work and tracks need to continue trying them out.

Wiener Dog races seem so simple to pull off. There must be a lot of people in the area of a track that own Wiener Dogs. It has even been suggested that a Cam-Am Series be set up between Batavia and Grand River Raceway. That’s the ticket!

Heck, even the Romans enticed people to come out to the Colosseum with a few gladiator fights to the death before the big chariot races took place.

Congratulations to Harness Racing New Zealand

I would have to admit, that when I first heard that Harness Racing New Zealand was proposing to have a major shakeup of the club structure, which they announced at this year’s conference, I was pleasantly surprised but also relieved in a way.

After penning several recent articles lamenting the state of the New Zealand harness racing industry, and the need for major change in the structure and governance of our industry, it was gratifying to see the authorities finally start to address some of the issues.

I was just in the process of setting up a steering committee to promote change at meetings nationwide, but we have put the venture on hold while we see what comes out of the Harness Racing New Zealand initiative.

We will keep a watching brief, especially when it comes to the governance structure review which is under way as well.

One thing I have found over the years travelling the harness racing world is once you open the door to changes in structure and operation, it is impossible to close it again.

So major change is coming and for promoting such wide ranging reviews, Harness Racing New Zealand and the board should be congratulated.

Another bug bear of Harnesslink recently has been the lack of recognition at the awards every year of our star four year old performers.

We thought it was a serious oversight and so we are thrilled to hear that Harness Racing New Zealand is planning to reintroduce the four year old award categories from next season.

Another big tick for the team on Lincoln Road.


Australian Breeders Crown gets it right

Having just spent the last few days in Melbourne to take in this years Australasian Breeders Crown, you have to congratulate Harness Racing Victoria for putting on such a great show.

The racing was of the highest class and a lot of future champions were “on the stage”.

Harness Racing Victoria managed to get a lot of the little things right throughout the day, which made the whole experience that much more enjoyable overall.

As a harness racing enthusiast, it was just great to be on track and made me keen to come back again next year.

As a Kiwi, from a media standpoint, it was a pleasure for a change to work on track during one of the big meetings.

Nothing was a problem for the locals and it was a refreshing change to work in a positive environment.

When the CEO, Shane Gloury, takes the time to show you around and make sure you have everything you need, you know your presence is appreciated, which is not always the case on those big days.

Everybody from Cody Winnell, to photographer Stuart McCormick, to the security guards on the stable entrance, everyone went out of their way to be helpful and made what can be a hectic and stressful day so much easier.

With mainstream media coverage of harness racing shrinking daily in both New Zealand and Australia, it is really encouraging that a industry heavyweight like Harness Racing Victoria are trying their best to look after the few remaining media people that cover this industry.

Handing out praise to bodies such as Harness Racing Victoria is not something that Harnesslink is renowned for, but in this instance it is fully deserved.

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