Michael Guerin: No trotters at Interdominions

There will be no more Lyell Creeks at the Interdominions. Photo / Paul Estcourt
There will be no more Lyell Creeks at the Interdominions. Photo / Paul Estcourt

The Interdominion Trotting Championships are as good as dead in a decision which has left New Zealand's leading trainers stunned.

That is the unbelievable consequence of a radical makeover of the Interdominions, which effectively abandons the trotting series from 2013.

A meeting of Harness Racing Australia on Monday voted to put the Interdominion series up for tender from 2013 when the current rotation among eight cities ends.

The new system will mean clubs or states can tender for the series, with whoever pitches the best package almost certain to get it.

The initial tender process will be for a three-year package between 2013-2015 and the hot favourites to win that will be New South Wales.

They will be flush with funds after selling Harold Park for what is expected to be more than A$120 million and motivation is high to bring the series to the redhot Menangle track.

With several Australian states not financial enough to hold the series any longer and the two New Zealand clubs greatly uninterested, the tender process is a good idea, meaning the series could find a permanent home.

That would have advantages in branding, marketing, consistency of product and overall professionalism, unlike now when some Interdom series are top class and others amateurish.

But Monday's meeting also voted that the tender process will only be to run the pacing series, with the trotting series ceasing to exist.

That was almost a unanimous vote, with the kicker that even if a club or state wanted to hold the trotters' series separately they can no longer use the Interdominion name because of brand confusion.

So effectively the Interdominion trotting series will disappear in two years if Monday's decision stands.

Champion trainer Tim Butt, who has won three trotting series and one pacing final, says the decision is a disgrace.

"This just shows the lack of forethought from racing administrators and I am sick of it," he said.

"Trotters are the way ahead for harness racing in this part of the world, because trotting is far bigger worldwide than pacing.

"We should be breeding and racing more trotters and supporting them more, because they provide export opportunities pacers don't.

"To lose the trotting series is just ridiculous. I can't believe anybody who knows anything about the industry would think this is a good idea."

Those comments were echoed by every leading trainer spoken to by the Herald yesterday, with most stunned the idea had even got to this stage.

The two series - pacers and trotters - were run in conjunction for decades until Australian states, where trotting is weak, dropped the trotting series.

It has since been picked up almost exclusively by Harness Racing Victoria, who are angry they will not be able to use the Interdominion brand should they choose to keep running the series.

And with no funding from other states, even if the Trotters Interdominion did survive, it would only replace the Australasian Trotting Champs because HRV could not afford to run both.

Either way, those who breed, buy, race and train trotters in Australasia lose a huge race. While harness racing bosses on both sides of the Tasman will argue the pacing series is the stronger brand and has to be protected, the truth of the matter is the Interdominions has become a far poorer product since the two series split.

States who want to tender for the pacing series from 2013 should be made to tender for both the pacing and trotting series, to be run in conjunction.

If that means the proposed final stake falls from A$1 million to A$750,000 or A$800,000 to accommodate a A$200,000 trotting final so be it.

At a time when racing administrators crave the chance to internationalise our racing product and televise it live into trotting strongholds in Europe, Scandinavia and North America, anything else is a decision of overwhelming stupidity.

And an insult to the memory of Scotch Notch, Pride Of Petite, Lyell Creek, Take A Moment and an army of champions whose legacy deserves better.


*The Interdominion Trotting series faces extinction.

* radical overhaul of the whole Interdominion concept will see states or clubs tender for the right to hold the series from 2013.

*But that will be for the pacing series only.

*Any trotting series will be banned from using the Interdominion name.

- NZ Herald

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