Racing: Harness bosses not put off by Oz scratchings

By Michael Guerin

Photo / iStock
Photo / iStock

Harness racing bosses say the decimation of the Australian assault on next week's Harness Jewels hasn't dampened their enthusiasm to chase transtasman talent.

After five Australian-trained horses officially accepted invitations to the June 4 meeting at Cambridge, only My Kiwi Mate will actually start, and he was already in New Zealand after racing at Alexandra Park last month.

Two of the Australian pacers, Heza Bromac and Arms Of An Angel, pulled out after suffering from a virus while trotters Reina Danzante and Illawong Byron's manners were not good enough in recent starts to risk coming to Cambridge.

But Harness Racing New Zealand handicapper Darrin Williams says they still want to turn the Jewels into a truly Australasian event.

"It is hard to believe the bad luck we have had with the horses who had said yes to coming this season," says Williams.

"But that is racing, those things are out of our control.

"But we have made a lot of contacts and the whole Jewels Day is very much on the radar of a lot of the major owners and trainers in Australia.

"We had a great response last season and we will keep going because the exposure in Australia helps grow the day."

That is best illustrated by Australia's main racing broadcaster, Sky Racing, agreeing to screen the first seven races on Jewels day on their main channel, Sky1.

That will provide a major boost to Australian turnover on the Jewels as Sky1 has by far the bigger viewing audience on a Saturday, especially with the Jewels playing in between the metropolitan gallops meetings, including Queensland Oaks day from Eagle Farm.

"Any time we can get our harness racing on Sky1 that is a huge result, so we are thrilled about that," said Williams.

"We will work on the Aussies again next year and, to be honest, by asking for expressions of interest from connections over there it doesn't cost the industry here any money."

HRNZ will have their usual post-Jewels debrief where everything from the timing of the day to the two venues which take turns hosting the day will be discussed.

"We are looking at a couple of races this year with maybe less than capacity fields but that happens on other race days too," said Williams.

"It is obviously more of a problem at Cambridge because so much of the horse population in based in the South Island.

"But we have also had horses get sick, injured and a variety of other issues.

"It still shapes as a great day but we will digest it all afterwards," said Williams.

The draws for the Jewels are made early tomorrow afternoon, with the TAB final field markets expected no later than 4pm.

- NZ Herald

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