The show will go on.

There will be winners and losers at Cambridge tonight as harness racing returns to the track just a day after one of the worst scandals in New Zealand's racing history erupted.

Eight harness racing identities and two people linked to the racing industry have been charged with either connection to race fixing or drug supply, leaving many in racing shaken and stunned.

With some of harness racing's biggest and brightest names already charged and set to appear in court next Tuesday, the industry's reputation has taken a battering that could take years to mend.


Depending on the outcome of those court cases, harness racing may never be the same again.

But the business of racing continues, even at Addington tomorrow night where up to eight of those charged could have had horses racing but will now not be allowed to attend. "We have not given any consideration to stopping racing because of this. None," said Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Edward Rennell. "That would penalise good people who work hard and have horses that are being aimed at races this week and in the weeks coming up.

"It would penalise everybody in the industry and that isn't going to happen. We will keep racing and HRNZ will deal with these matters as they come to our attention and go through the courts."

Even one of harness racing's showcase events, the annual Horse of the Year awards, will still be held at Alexandra Park on September 29, even though some of those charged will be eligible for awards.

HRNZ has no real option, racing is first and foremost a business, one which thousands depend on to pay their bills. They can't halt that for what is, so far, eight people directly employed inside that machine.

At tonight's Cambridge meeting there will be plenty of horses but one giant elephant, one topic of discussion that dominates.

Tomorrow's Addington meeting could be more like a wake after the Operation Inca investigation.

The absence of huge stars will leave a hole impossible to ignore.


Harness racing has weathered scandals before, first the milkshaking epidemic of the early 1990s and then the Blue Magic scandal of 2005 that, in part, led to two people inside the industry taking their lives.

Harness racing survived, as have most codes of racing worldwide when betting scandals go public.

Over the last year the Victorian thoroughbred industry was rocked by a high-profile drug story involving one of its biggest racing operations.

Betting figures from the first group one of the season at Caulfield last Saturday suggest punters there had short memories and were quickly back in the swing.

Harness racing will survive this week and the months that lie ahead but the timing could not be worse.

The code is already set to have a reduced percentage of TAB turnover if recommendations of last week's Messara report are fully implemented to benefit the thoroughbred industry.

Harness racing is fighting hard to retain its market share and the fact such high profile industry participants are involved is a lot harder to overcome than a few small-time cowboys.

Owners who have invested heavily in some of the more successful stables could be left with a bad taste in their mouths and maybe even something worse. Doubt.

Doubt that their horses were always given the chances they should have been and those doubts will linger, rightly or wrongly, until many of the charges laid yesterday are fully exposed in the courts and the extent of any alleged offence is known.

What will be lost in the storm that harness racing now finds itself in the eye of is that most people and most horses are doing what they should be doing. Trying to win.

But even the most optimistic harness racing fans might doubt things will ever be the same again.

The game will go on. There might just be a few less players.