The Wanganui and Rangitikei districts have a rich history in racing, producing many renowned horses and successful people involved in the industry, including breeders, trainers, owners and riders.
Last week's New Zealand Thoroughbred Horse of the Year Awards in Auckland were a testament to this — 25 awards were presented and our region was well represented.
Isaac Lupton was named jumps jockey of the year for the third time; trainer Raymond Connors' horse, Wise Men Say, won the jumper of the year title; Christopher Grace was nominated for breeder of the year, while Aroha Duncan and the late Jim Speedy's horse Upper Cut, trained by Mark Oulaghan, was nominated in the horse of the year category.
Last month, Hunterville trainer Ken Duncan's horse, Shamal, ridden by Buddy Lammas, took out the 144th running of the Racecourse Hotel & Motor Lodge Grand National steeplechase over 5600 metres at Riccarton.
Lammas also partnered Shamal to victory in the Manawatu steeplechase (4000m) at Trentham in July.
The O'Leary brothers, Dan, Humphrey, Michael and Shaun, and their wives have also enjoyed success in their racing enterprise, most recently with their horse, Who Shot Thebarman, which has lined up in the prestigious Melbourne Cup four times.
Only a couple of weeks ago the champion horse won the stayer of the year award at racing's Night of Champions in Sydney.
Kevin Myers continues to enjoy a long and successful career out of his Turakina training base and is one of New Zealand's most successful trainers with over 1150 wins. He is well regarded for his prowess in both jumps and flat racing.
I can claim a long-standing interest in the industry too, having previously served as president of the Rangitikei Racing Club, along with my grandfather and great grandfather before me. I am also National's spokesman for racing.
The announcement of $30 million of contingency funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, which has been earmarked for the racing industry to build up to three all-weather tracks, is being welcomed by many involved.
According to New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry, the industry lost nearly $3 million in the past year due to abandoned races. Synthetic tracks would go a long way to providing certainty for trainers, owners and jockeys.
Meanwhile, the whole governance structure of the racing industry is under review by Australian horse owner John Messara who has provided recommendations to the government on its future direction.
His report, released last Thursday, acknowledges the significant contribution of the industry to the New Zealand economy, while at the same time detailing comprehensive venue reports based on feedback from around the country.
The Racing Act Amendment Bill is back before Parliament, too. The legislation being addressed in the bill considers the issue of claiming lost tax — currently offshore gambling is not taxed in New Zealand. The racing industry employs more than 50,000 people, and has an economic impact exceeding $1.6 billion a year.
I am delighted to be in a role where I am able to take an active interest in the development of an industry that has promising future in the Whanganui and Rangitikei regions.
Ian McKelvie is the MP for Rangitikei