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Wind of change can't come soon enough

5 min read
Allan Sharrock is all for change and it can’t come quickly enough for the New Plymouth-based horseman.

The Group 1-winning trainer said the New Zealand racing industry had suffered for far too long and should have been overhauled years ago.

“If we can double the stakes then we’re on target. It’s disgraceful how the fat cats have managed racing here. We’ve been sucked dry for a long, long time and without Winston Peters and John Messara we’re going nowhere.

“The owners and all the boys and girls at the coal face have been chewing paint off the walls. I feel sorry if some tracks have to go, but it’s no different to rugby clubs or country schools closing, that’s all part of going forward. Change makes people unhappy, but that’s life – get on with it.

“The owners and all the boys and girls at the coal face have been chewing paint off the walls.” – Allan Sharrock.

“The report was predictable and now it has to be implemented as quickly as possible. I don’t personally agree with synthetic tracks, but we lost 38 race meetings and they’ve got to get the revenue back somehow.”

New Plymouth based horseman, Allan Sharrock

Racing Minister Winston Peters’ unveiled the most crucial review ever undertaken of New Zealand’s thoroughbred industry to a large audience in Hamilton on Thursday evening. He commissioned Arrowfield Stud principal and highly-respected administrator John Messara to write the strategic report.

Key changes urged

Among the key recommendations made by Messara are the outsourcing of the TAB’s activities and changing the governance structure with the New Zealand Racing Board to become Wagering NZ, reducing the number of tracks from 48 to 28, all-weather tracks at Cambridge, Awapuni and Riccarton and a doubling of prize-money at all levels.

The Oaks Stud manager and New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Board member Rick Williams also said the review was both predictable and accurate. “It’s long overdue and I can’t wait to see it implemented. We all have to give the Minister our support in this and get it through. "

“It’s long overdue and I can’t wait to see it implemented. We all have to give the Minister our support in this and get it through.” – Rick Williams.

“There are flaws in the business model and it’s just not sustainable. New Zealand Racing Board costs are out of control and the biggest problem is that people won’t bet on our tracks. They are a shambles, particularly in winter.

The Oaks Stud manager and New Zealand Thoroughbred and Racing board member, Rick Williams.

“John Messara is independent and he’s got the track record. You can’t argue with it and it was a masterstroke calling him in, in my view. It’s a very well written report and not too complicated. It couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Overwhelming success

Cambridge Stud’s Brendan Lindsay said the unveiling of the Messara report was an overwhelming success. “It was just so positive and it’s a blueprint for the industry to go forward. For the first time we’ve got a Racing Minister that’s got the gumption to put a blueprint in front of Government.

“The industry is not going well and this is the way to fix it. This gives us a way to take it forward and that’s fantastic. Congratulations to Winston Peters and the Government for doing it.

“Some people aren’t going to be happy, but changes have to be done radically and quickly and the mandate is now there to do it. We’re lucky we’ve got a Racing Minister driving for change. I spoke to my staff about it and they’re all buzzing.”

“Some people aren’t going to be happy, but changes have to be done radically and quickly and the mandate is now there to do it.” – Brendan Lindsay.

Rich Hill Stud’s John Thompson said this was an opportunity that can’t be missed. “It makes you sick what’s been going on and changes need to be made, this is a unique chance to start again. Our product needs to be revitalised and closing some tracks, changing the Government structure and increasing stake money is the only way forward. "

Rich Hill Stud's John Thompson said this was an opportunity that can't be missed

“The whole process of outsourcing the TAB will result in job losses, but doubling the stake money will create jobs in the longer term. The Racing Board has squandered a lot of funds over the last decade or so.”

Desperate for change

Te Akau’s David Ellis, New Zealand’s biggest purchaser of yearlings, was another to welcome the Messara report. “It’s an industry in desperate need of change and in desperate need of Government support,” he said.

“In my opinion, over the last 10 years we’ve seen Governments give substantial amounts of money to the America’s Cup and the Rugby World Cup and the like and we’re desperate for a level playing field.

"It's an industry in desperate need of change and desperate need of support." - David Ellis

“If change doesn’t happen soon we’ll go from a second world country to a third world, but we can go to a first world country. Overall, it’s a very good report and without the industry supporting it the future is very, very bleak. "

“Over the last 20 years, Governments have taken from racing and haven’t put anything back.” – David Ellis.

“Over the last 20 years, Governments have taken from racing and haven’t put anything back. We can grow this industry substantially. With all-weather tracks we can go about centralisation quite quickly.”

Ellis also said an increase in stake money was paramount. “Over the last three years Te Akau have won $8.5 million in prize money in New Zealand and if you doubled that it’s an awful lot of money going back to owners to re-invest.”