Racing: NZRB fiscal fillip timely shot in arm say HB protagonists

By Anendra Singh

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HB Racing general manager Andrew Castles (right) says the $6.5 million NZRB boost will keep industry players in the game. Photo / file
HB Racing general manager Andrew Castles (right) says the $6.5 million NZRB boost will keep industry players in the game. Photo / file

Some of the protagonists in Hawkes' Bay are giving a thumbs up to the fiscal fillip from their national governing body, the New Zealand Racing Board, this week.

The NZRB revealed it was returning $24 million to the three codes - thoroughbred, harness and greyhound - in the industry over the next two years as a sweetener to exclusively boost the stakes.

"That's a show of confidence to the industry so it's certainly a massive step in the right direction," said HB Racing general manager Andrew Castles.

That means from August 1, thoroughbred racing will receive $6.5m more annually than it did for this season, harness racing $3.55m and the greyhound industry an extra $1.95m to pay out.

The NZRB's return to the three codes is predicted to balloon from $136.2 million last year to $148.2 million this year, with CEO John Allen visualising a ceiling of up to $200m in the next three to five years.

Hastings trainer John Bary said it was very encouraging and a timely shot in the arm.

"It's just great to keep the owners in racing," said Bary. "It's long overdue and a step in the right direction."

Guy Lowry, who co-trains with Grant Cullen, was "absolutely stoked".

"It's more for the owners who'll be able to see their way out. It creates a lot more vibes and a bit more positive energy in and around the industry," said Lowry before boarding his flight to Adelaide to watch Waipukurau Cup winner Lamborghini and Hastings-trained Savvy Dreams compete in Adelaide tomorrow.

Castles said the New Zealand Throughbred Racing (NZTR) would need to decide how its allocation would be distributed through its policy.

"They had already made a decision in March to increase the minimum stakes from $7000 to $10,000," he said, suspecting that decision was made with a view to such an impending injection.

Because he didn't know the sums after the deductions he was unsure what the residual sum would be for "extra stakes money".

Again the onus is on NZTR to rule on where that residual sum would go - that is, on Saturday races, midweek ones or listed races, to name a few.

"I prefer to have a better understanding of how much is available and do some work on how best it might be distributed."

Castles said from a racing perspective "it's purely money in, money out".

"But for stakeholders - owners, trainers and jockeys - they will be competing for more money."

He said 10 per cent of that $6.5 million would go to trainers in the country, 5 per cent ($325,000) would be earmarked for jockeys' percentages and the balance would be set aside for owners.

"It'll be for keeping them in the game, helping them to reinvest and all of those things so it can only be a positive."

Instead of waiting for the three to five-year window, Castles said it had "forward paid" the extra surplus in the next two years.

"They are saying we firmly believe in our initiatives and we believe we're going to achieve our results but instead making everyone wait we're prepared to forward pay some of that now."

Bary said a lot of people earned an income in an industry which had a ranking of sixth in the country's GDP (gross domestic product).

When things become constricting people tend to look at greener pastures so some of them had shifted to Australia and done well while others hadn't.

"Some people will now think twice about it because it's a big upheaval on your life to shift, isn't it?"

Bary said whatever the NZRB did, it would never be enough to compete with the Australian dollar and population.

"Maybe some who have been thinking about it [emigrating] may stay here a little bit longer."

Bary suspected some of the money would boost maiden races. In ballpark sum, he said races were running about $20,000 on Saturdays so the top-up would perhaps boost it to the $30,000-$40,000 mark.

"If you want a good Saturday race it's going to put a lot more into owners' pockets and that's probably something we need," he said, adding wins would go a long way in helping owners pay their training fees.

"I don't know how they would dish it out but that would be my vote if we had a vote, so to speak."

He said the only way the quality of fields would improve is if the injection ensured better horses would remain here as opposed to selling them or shipping them across the ditch.

"It'll become more attractive for people to keep good horses and work longer so they can win some money and pay their way."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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