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Dr Susan has become that filly with the habit of being in the right place at the right time. Today that right place is NOT in New Zealand. The Cran Dalgety-Nathan Purdon trained filly is a red hot favourite to give Kiwi harness fans something to smile about in the A$100,000 Gold Bracelet Final at Bathurst tonight (9.50pm NZ time). Which is pretty much how 2020 has gone for her: right place, right time. She left New Zealand soon after her Sires’ Stakes third to Amazing Dream on December 31, an ambitious call considering she wasn’t one of the leading fillies in the country and an extended Australian campaign is anything but cheap. But it has proved to be a masterstroke by the Canterbury trainers as Dr Susan has kept improving and kept getting the right draws. After an easy win at Menangle to kick off her Australian campaign she followed a Victoria Oaks heat second with a win in the classic. That was largely due to drawing better than arch rival Stylish Memphis and leading throughout, although not without a score-up gallop that caused a false start. She then returned to Menangle to win her NSW Oaks heat before a brave but luckless run in the Final, won by Stylish Memphis. And while the latter headed home to New Zealand and ultimately the spelling paddock along with almost every other horse in this country Dr Susan stayed in Australia where harness racing continues for now. Just to continue her theme of being in the the right place at the right time, she has barrier one in her three-year-old fillies final tonight and driver Anthony is supremely confident of another major win. “She has been quite remarkable since she got here,” says Butt. “She has just got better and better and she hasn’t even looked like getting tired. She is loving it and to be honest she really should win again. “She has good gate speed and I think she will lead all the way.” While New Zealand harness racing fans don’t have a whole heap to get enthused about at home it is still gratifying to see our horses winning serious races in Australia, even if is does leave us more than a touch envious. And Butt could combine with another of those when Perfect Stride contests the A$100,000 Gold Chalice Final for three-year-old boys (10.53pm NZ time). He has been consistent in both the Vic and NSW Derby series over the last two months and also gets the ace draw tonight. “He has good gate speed so will go close to leading but there is a bit of speed outside him from Crunch Time so if he crossed up things might get a little more interesting. “But I still think he is the best horse here.” Butts realises how lucky Australian harness racing is to be continuing with all his friends back home sidelined and he says the protocol measures there are being strictly adhered to. “We realise we have a roll to play and I can see us breaking into regions and a place like Menangle will be ideal for one-track racing two or three times a week so we can keep racing going without the risks of travelling. “So we are hoping we can race on through.”   Michael Guerin

Some horse racing trainers are moving quickly to accommodate the horse welfare lifeline the industry has been granted. And that could have the bonus of having racing ready to resume in New Zealand not long after the country returns to Covid-19 alert level 3. Horse and dog racing has been stopped since Monday and can obviously not continue at Level 4 so like most other industries is in limbo. But the three race codes have worked with the Ministry of Primary Industries to ensure stables, farms and training tracks can stay working, with strict protocols, to ensure animal welfare. That will mean trainers and stud farms with more than five staff members or those that can not achieve social distancing need to register with the MPI so they can continue to work. They will able to do so under strict protocols, including no non-working visitors, but it will mean horses and dogs can be fed, exercised, undergo veterinary work and their stables and kennels kept clean. Some high-profile trainers have already decided they would rather shut their businesses down for a variety of reasons from health concerns, staffing levels, economics or their own personal opinions on how Covid-19 restrictions should be handled. They have sent horses on non-working holidays (known in racing as giving a horse a spell) and that has resulted in many of the farms where horses take these breaks being inundated. Other trainers have reduced staff numbers but will keep up to 20-25 horses in work so they can be looked after but also kept at least at a moderate level of fitness so when racing returns, which would likely be at Level 3, there are at least some horses to race. Obviously nobody can know when that will be and those horses in work are costing their owners money without the promise of any returns for weeks or even months. That is the risk some owners are willing to take, others are not. But while animal welfare is vitally important, the long-term economic life of racing is also. Racing industry bosses, with help from trainers who choose to be involved, must have horses in each region fit enough to race the day after the country returns to a Level 3 alert, if that is allowed by Government. Every day that racing is allowed to return but there is no racing in this country because that horse or dog supply chain has been cut will be a further economic body blow. That means readiness from code bosses, clubs and the TAB to ensure racing can start when restrictions are lifted. Starting a month or six weeks later after that would be disastrous. That could become even more important as because New Zealand looks to be ahead of the curve of many other countries in its response to Covid-19 and it is hoped, or should that be prayed for, we weather the horrors of the approaching storm more quickly. If that is the case and racing can return then it could be one of the first jurisdictions in the world with racing on and it could be beamed worldwide to bring in valuable income to an industry which, like so many others, faces being on its knees. Everybody has more important things to think about now and those in the racing industry know that.  But the industry not being prepared to start up again the very first day it is allowed to is wasting that potential opportunity. One facility which was closed on Tuesday was the Franklin Park training centre at Pukekohe, home to around 200 harness horses at its peak and it is hoped it may soon be open for training with strict protocols.   Michael Guerin

Racing industry participants should know tomorrow whether they can continue to care for their animals. Racing bosses are hopeful strict new protocols around the use of stables and training facilities could see them approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries and horses and dogs can be looked after at their usual high level by those who work inside the industry. Racing was halted around the country on Monday in preparation for the Level 4 alert that comes into effect at 11.59pm tonight, as which point racing can not take place. That means there will be no racing until the Level 4 alert is reduced to Level 3, a level at which horse and dog racing would seem to be allowed again but in front of no crowds and with restrictions including travel. While nobody knows when Level 3 will be reached again those inside the racing industry don't just face the enormous financial worries many New Zealanders do but the more pressing problem of keeping that horses and greyhounds safe and healthy. The animals need to be fed and exercised, their stables or quarters cleaned daily, all of which is crucially important for not only the horse's welfare but their viability as racing animals in the future. If they can not be trained and their owners decide to retire or give up on them some horses and dogs may find new homes but many will not, especially in the economic meltdown that looms in the months and years ahead. The two equine codes, New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing and Harness Racing New Zealand have agreed to adhere to the same strict protocols, which would ensure only essential working personnel were allowed at training tracks and that all safety measures implemented by the MIP would be followed. NZTR chief executive Bernard Saundry said the two codes applications, with the list of protocols they already have in place and new ones to be implemented, were lodged on Tuesday night at 5.55pm. "Both equine codes have had dialogue with the Ministry today and we are hopeful we will have a decision from them tomorrow (Wednesday)," said Saundry, who says his team has worked closely with HRNZ. "I have been in contact with HRNZ's chief executive Peter Jenson several times today and we both realise we have to work together and have the same measures in place." The codes are confident training tracks and stables can remain safe places of work under these protocols and that people in racing can look after their horses without in any way risking the further spread of Covid-19. "Sure there are economic issues around this further down the track and employment ones now but first and foremost this is about looking after the horses, keeping them healthy," says Saundry. "If we can't do this, it becomes a huge horse welfare issue." Already training tracks like the Franklin Park harness facility at Pukekohe have been closed but the Herald understands that will be a short-term measure and should the MPI rule positively on them being crucial to animal welfare, protocols will be put in place there that could see it open before by the weekend. News that the care and training of horses and dogs may be able to continue, albeit with restrictions, will not only ease the pressure on trainers struggling to find places to send horses who couldn't be worked, but also allow them to continue to employ staff. ************************************* At a time when so many things we take for granted are changing, sometimes by the hour, here are some Covid-19 related racing points you may have missed. ** The $1.275 million Harness Jewels meeting which was to have been held at Cambridge on May 30 has been cancelled. The meeting would have required substantial inter-island travel, which even if racing is back up and running by May, is unlikely to be possible. It will also enable industry participants who were aiming horses at the meeting to spell them now if that is deemed necessary. ** Trackside television will continue on air (Sky 62 and 63) for the time-being with its main focus being Australian racing. But there will be no domestic production from New Zealand with Trackside's Auckland headquarters shut down so racing coverage will be simulcast from overseas channels. ** Racing continues in Australia and there is still confidence in an ever-changing landscape that the major meeting at Rosehill will be held this Saturday and even possibly The Championships the following two Saturdays at Randwick. ** Harness racing in New South Wales was suspended as a precaution yesterday after one of their stewards was found to have been in contact with a person who has tested positive for Covid-19. That steward has been tested and if he returns a negative test to the virus HRNSW hopes to resume racing immediately, possibly by this weekend. ** The Dubai Cup, one of the world's richest race meetings, which was to have been staged without a crowd this Saturday has been called off.   Michael Guerin

Racing industry bosses are appealing to keep training tracks and stables open as a national horse welfare issue looms. Horse racing, like the rest of the country, is set to come to a crashing halt on Thursday when the Covid-19 alert level 4 comes into effect, although racing itself stopped yesterday, with no meetings of any of the three codes going ahead today or tomorrow. The TAB will continue to operate, offering betting on overseas sports events and, more importantly from a turnover point of view, Australian racing. That and Hong Kong racing will now be the focus for any Kiwis who enjoy their racing, as Australian racing has survived its Government's latest restrictions, with racing there to continue for now but with no crowds and no crossing of borders. The loss of horse and greyhound racing for at least a month will be felt hard by those inside the New Zealand industry, few of who have meaningful cash reserves and the shutdown raises an enormous array of future problems, many of them financial. But the most immediate issue racing bosses will seek clarity on today is the welfare of the horses and dogs. New Zealand has thousands of racehorses and horses in training to become racehorses and they need to be looked after daily. Unlike domestic pets, they can't come live in people's homes. They have strict diets, exercise regimes and need controlled and safe living environments. They also need their stables cleaned, medical needs seen to and even their shoes replaced, all of which are essential to preserve their health. If stable and farm workers can't go to work, the health and even lives of horses could be endangered. "That is the first and most important focus for us now," said New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry. "The horses have needs and we need skilled people to look after them. At that most basic level, they have to be fed and their stables cleaned, they are all health issues. "But so, too, is their exercise. It is potentially dangerous to have a fit and healthy horse, and then stop working it and leave it in a stable." So the three codes will appeal to the Ministry for Primary Industries today to declare training tracks, stables and farms used to train horses essential work places. That may confuse some non-racing people who will question why a racing stable should stay open on a basic level while their business has to close. The simplest explanation is this: would you tell the staff at Auckland Zoo they can't go to work and leave the animals to fend for themselves? Right. Then it's really pretty simple. Already there is the problem of the huge financial hardship the racing industry is going to be put under at all levels. The loss of TAB turnover will severely impact racing codes and clubs for years and that will quickly effect the stakes racing clubs can offer. Less stakes means less money to pay bills and plenty of the ordinary New Zealanders who own racehorses as a hobby or passion are also set to lose their jobs or undergo severe financial pressure. So some will struggle to pay their horse trainers, who in turn may struggle to pay staff, who are tax-paying members of the economy like most other people. So this isn't a racing problem, this is an economic problem, no different to the hospitality industry or any other in New Zealand. Racing bosses will try and advise industry participants as soon as possible on what measures the MPI deem appropriate for training tracks, stables and farms while they will also work with horse people and dog trainers on what assistance is available from the Government for their loss of earnings. But the problems are only beginning. What happens if 100, or 1000, horse and dog owners realise they can't afford to pay their horse bills next month? That raises the very painful question of what happens to those horses and dogs. Trainers do their best to re-home retired horses and dogs but there are only so many homes to be found. Unless racing can return soon, there are going to be horses and dogs who have nowhere to go. Racing bosses are confident the industry can return to racing with the very strict protocols which were already in place if and when the Covid-19 alert reverts to level 3. The goal now is for them to be ready to act on that as soon as it happens, whether next month of further away. Because thousands more New Zealanders will lose their job unless racing starts up again inside a few months. And to do that, the horses and dogs, the stars of the show, need to be fit, healthy and in training. If that isn't allowed to happen, they will ultimately be the first victims in racing's sad chapter in their national tragedy. RACING'S DARKEST DAY •  All New Zealand horse and dog racing finished for at least a month yesterday. •   Industry bosses are now fighting to keep training centres open for animals and staff. •   If that is not allowed it will create an enormous animal welfare issue. •   The economic impact on the racing industry will be brutal but could be lessened by horses and dogs staying in training to allow a quicker resumption when the Covid-19 alert level returns to 3.   by Michael Guerin

Ray Green is confident the next big thing of New Zealand pacing will be staying put here. But he wouldn’t mind sneaking Copy That across to Australia this winter to show the Aussie how good he is. The South Auckland pacer bounced back from his luckless defeat in the Northern Derby two weeks ago with a bullying win in the Flying Stakes at Addington on Friday night, refusing to be parked out by arch rival One Change at the bell and once he got to the lead he never looked like being beaten. He cruised the last 800m in 56.3 in the hands of new driver Blair Orange to beat One Change again, as he has every time they have met since Cup week, with early leader Minstrel a strong third and Heroes Square losing few fans in fourth. Bad To The Bone, who got pushed back in the inner, was an eyecatching fifth. The win saw Copy That promoted to $2.50 favouritism for the NZ Derby back at Addington in two weeks but Green is already thinking further ahead and further afield. “He was great tonight, he really is a very good horse with a big motor,” says the popular trainer. “I know he was beaten up north but I think he did a good job to run second after losing momentum.”Green says safely through the Derby, Green will return north for the Jewels at Cambridge on May 30, by which time everybody is hoping the world feels a little more normal. Then Green wants to take Copy That to Australia, travel restrictions allowing of course, for a two-race Queenland campaign that he hopes will include the new A$250,000 Rising Sun. The new three and four-year-old race will be held at Albion Park on July 18 with two three-year-olds to be invited and get preferential draws. Should one of them win they would get a $100,000 bonus and Green likes the sound of that. “So ideally that is what we would like to do providing these restrictions are eventually lifted.” Copy That is owned in Victoria by Merv and Meg Butterworth and while many of their horses eventually end up being trained there, Green hopes Copy That can stay here next season and beyond. “It think for good horses, horses as good as him, there is just as good a money here and they can head to Australia to race when needed. “Merv and Meg have been great and have never made any noise about him racing over there full time so I’d love to see him stay here.” While Copy That surprised nobody with his win Friday night’s two main trotting winners One Apollo (Four and Five-Year-Old Championship) and Vacation Hill (Trotting Oaks) did sting punters. One Apollo has always looked an open class horse but few would have seen him beating the Inter Dominion champion in Winterfell, especially coming from behind him to do it. Winterfell, who started off a 30m handicap, surged to the front down the back straight but wasn’t trotting perfectly squarely on the home bend and One Apollo wore him down the hands of Gerard O’Reilly. It was the seventh career win for the son of One Over Da Moon and his fourth this season for trainer Brent White, although not his richest as they won the Sales Series Trot at Addington during his two-year-old career. Vacation Hill gave driver Samantha Ottley her biggest trotting win in the Oaks as she came from behind hot favourite Tailored Elegance to beat her fair and square. “I don’t think I have won a lot of big trotting races before,” said Ottley. “So to even get a drive in any Oaks or Derby, for trotters of pacers, is a big deal. “Kevin (Townley, trainer) has always had really big opinion of her and she had just kept getting better and better.”The night’s other feature, the Superstars, was over the second hot favourite Another Masterpiece strode to the front at the bell as he held off the big late charge of Triple Eight.   Michael Guerin

New Zealand racing’s television landscape has changed just as dramatically as the rest of the industry.  TAB bosses have made immediate changes to how racing will be covered with no presenters on track at any meetings in the weeks, and possibly, months ahead.  The move is for health reasons of the presenters, camera crew and the people they come in contact with and to reduce the chance of coronavirus spreading. TAB employees will still broadcast the racing action from the tracks using their usual OB vans but the comments and previews of the races will be done by presenters based in studios around the country.  The commentaries will still be live from the track.  That will mean no live pre or post-race interviews and reactions from the track will be possible until coronavirus protocols are changed.  The TAB has also cancelled with immediate effect its magazine, review and preview shows The First Call, Dogzone, The Box Seat and Weigh In to cut costs.  But the turnover-driving Punters Lounge will still screen on Saturday morning with shorter versions of that show possible on domestic race days to try and stimulate turnover.   By Michael Guerin

Champion horseman Mark Purdon and a host of other harness racing stars have been sidelined by Covid-19 protocols which will stop them from driving tonight. But none of them are suspected of having the coronavirus or even having been in contact with anybody who has, with Harness Racing New Zealand erring on the side of caution. Purdon, leading drivers John Dunn and Zac Butcher and several other big names in the harness racing industry only returned from Sydney between 10 and 12 days ago after they competed at the Miracle Mile meeting. The Government announced on Wednesday people who had returned from overseas in the last 14 days should self isolate for 14 days from when they returned and while that was not made a strict regulation, HRNZ said it would not put other industry participants are risk. So all harness racing participants, including trainers and even amateur drivers, have been banned from attending any race meetings until they have been back in the country for 14 days without any sign of coronavirus symptons. “I was a bit surprised but we have to do the right thing so I will be not going to the races and staying away from the stables until Monday,” says Purdon. “But I am lucky I have great staff and Natalie (partner) to take care of things.” Purdon rolls out some of the stable’s bigger guns for the Addington premier meeting which will be run in front of industry participants only tonight, with the same happening at Alexandra Park. While the world seems to be going crazy and we all have more important things to think about, racing is one of the few live sports still on and for punters who feel like a distraction the Purdon/Rasmussen team is the obvious one to follow tonight. But that does come with a couple of warnings. Rasmussen does the driving on both this season’s group one winners One Change (R7, No.1) and Winterfell (R4, No.12) and says they are the ones to beat in two of tonight’s best races. “I was thrilled with One Change in the Derby up north and that showed he can be driven tough so I think I have to use the draw tonight,” says Rasmussen. “While there is a bit of speed on the front line I think it is important to stay in front of Copy That so that is what I will be trying to do.” The pair look clearly our top two three-year-olds boys, having had the colours lowered in differing circumstances by filly Amazing Dream in the Derby two weeks ago. One Change was very tough that night and while Copy That got held up he didn’t flash to the line like the horse who has dominated the December three-year-old races. There is very little between the pair but with the ace draw One Change is the bet tonight, with the unbeaten Heroes Square adding a new factor to the field and Bad To The Bone looks a great place option as he could be following the favourite throughout. Winterfell’s opening $1.70 price in the four and five-year-old trot seems fair for an Inter Dominion champion who also beat Oscar Bonavena and co in the National Trot. He faces a 30m handicap but not a big field so the real question with him isn’t whether he should win but whether he will put in genuinely enough to win. Rasmussen thinks the answer is yes. “He has been good at the trials and quite safe, even though he ca be funny left-handed,” she offers. But the word of warning horses from Rasmussen are the stable’s two-year-olds and Another Masterpiece in the Superstars. “In the two-year-old race First Class can win but I don’t think he can lead and win because that would put Krug on his back and he would outsprint him. “But I will be going forward on Delightful Dude so our pair might even end up lead and trail. But Krug might just be a little too forward for ours anyway.” Another Masterpiece goes into the Superstars with recent wins at both Addington and Menangle but Rasmussen is worried by the draw and says she could be three wide for half the race. “He can win but it won’t be easy. I think Triple Eight is just as good a chance as him.”With the latter paying $5.50 on opening he looks one of the better each way bets of the night.   By Michael Guerin

New Zealand racing is set to continue behind closed doors but with the most extreme measures in its history to combat the spread of coronavirus. And that will include jockeys being forbidden to ride at meetings in the island they don’t live in but with an unheard of 2kgs raising of all weights in all thoroughbred races to enable them to be healthier and less at risk of illness. The heads of all three racing codes — thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds — are are hopeful the expected moves announced today will enable racing to continue so the industry can survive financially and not face stable or business closures which could force participants out of racing permanently. At this stage no race meetings have been cancelled because of coronavirus restrictions and none are planned unless there is an increase in the threat or change in Government regulations. But from Wednesday no members of the public will be allowed to attend race or trials meetings and there will even be severe restrictions on racing industry participants doing so, with only those working at that meeting allowed to attend. That will mean trainers, jockeys or drivers, handlers and stablehands who usually attend meetings will not be able to unless they have specific duties that raceday. That will definitely stay in place until April 13 and probably significantly longer. “We will require trainers to tell us who will be coming to the races with their horses and then nobody else will be allowed,” said Harness Racing New Zealand boss Peter Jensen. There will still be restricted numbers of raceday administration staff but increased security to ensure the new protocols are not breached. Some of the restrictions will be harder to implement at the harness racing code’s two major tracks, Addington in Christchurch and Alexandra Park in Auckland, as both have restaurants on their tracks which cater for non-racing crowds seven days a week. Alexandra Park bosses are still working through the specifics of how that will work with the Grand Park Restaurant, which is among the busiest restaurants in Auckland but could remain open as long as no racing industry participants were allowed in so it was treated as separate from the actual racetrack. Decisions on what measures are put in place for it and other eateries at racetracks around the country during race meetings are expected tomorrow. But the restaurants will be able to operate as normal, like any other eatery, outside when race meetings are being conducted at those tracks. For racing bosses the main focus though is on maintaining horse and dog racing in this country. With all racing in New Zealand telecast live on Trackside and able to be shown online at the TAB website, industry bosses will be hoping punters will still engage with it and bet. There is even potential for increased engagement as many other live sports are cancelled but even if that happens the overall impact on racing’s bottom line is going to be brutal. The three codes, who have at times been at odds in the last year over the industry’s direction and market share distribution, having shown commendable unity with how they have approached the coronavirus restrictions and protecting their participants and racegoers. Thoroughbred racing has implemented two new rules, both of which make sense, but one will be popular with jockeys and the other not so much. Some jockeys are peeved by a new regulation meaning jockeys can not move between the two main island: so only South Island-based jockeys can ride at meetings there and North Island jockey can ride at meetings north of Cook Strait. They can still travel between island for personal reasons but that can not accept rides at meetings held there. But a move to raise all weights in all races by 2kgs from Friday is been roundly applauded. Jockeys maintain their weights at often unhealthy levels so they can be available to ride as many horses as possible, some undergoing dramatic 1-2kgs weight loss in the day before a race meeting, called wasting. That can lead to extreme dehydration and the regular depletion is unhealthy, obviously making jockeys more vulnerable to illness and making any infections, viral or otherwise, more dangerous. So put simply, the raising of the weights scale by 2kgs for every horse in every race will allow jockeys to remain healthier.   Michael Guerin

New Zealand racing bosses are bracing for huge losses even though no domestic race meetings have been cancelled yet because of coronavirus restrictions. And even if race meetings are able to go ahead with essential staff only, one of the greatest losses to the racing industry could be its share of TAB revenue from betting on sports, including the huge overseas sports betting market. Racing codes — thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds — are planning to continue with programmed race meetings but are aware the rules around restrictions can change almost hourly. But they are confident race meetings can be run without crowds, with the essential staff needed to run a normal race meeting probably below 200. There would still need to be trainers, handlers, jockeys or drivers, administration, safety personnel (starting gates, medical staff) as well as broadcast media and a small number of food and beverage staff to feed participants at race meetings. But while racing bosses were investigating plans to allow ticketed functions to continue on racetracks, because the patrons would be more traceable and could be cordoned off in one area, those hopes are quickly evaporating under the new restrictions on crowds over 500. Effectively racing could allow up to, say, 300 members of the public to attend and not exceed the 500-person threshold, but to what point? And of the non-essential people allowed in, it would make more sense that they were the owners of the horses rather than letting 300 people attend a function and yet exclude the people paying the bills. But by the far the most likely and safest course will be essential staff only — everyone else watching on television. The greyhound code will be the least affected of the three as they have less human interaction from participants, with no jockeys or drivers, and because crowds very rarely top 500. But thoroughbred and harness racing is likely to restrict attendance to essential staff only very shortly and their governing bodies are preparing for that. One of the reasons racing may be able to, and needs to, continue more than other sports is that its key revenue driver is not crowds or hospitality but betting turnover. Even a race meeting with no on-course patrons can drive millions of dollars in turnover which will keep the industry, which employs over 40,000 people, financially viable. But that could also change very rapidly if any racing industry participant who had been to meetings tested positive for the virus. "At the moment, we don't have plans to cancel any meetings but obviously things can change very quickly," said New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing boss Bernard Saundry. "But we are preparing for holding meetings with fewer than 500 people on track and we are confident we can do that. "We had protocols in place last weekend for some meetings and they will now be stricter obviously. "And we will be guided by what the Government decides and tells us to do." Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Peter Jensen is adopting the same attitude and says if crowds are banned then the health of participants comes first but safeguarding racing's income was important because so many people's livelihoods relied on it. Any long-term loss of racing meetings could be catastrophic as owners will not want horses in work and would either spell, try to sell or even retire them. And that means no income for trainers, many of who already struggle financially. It would also severely impact staff, vets, transport companies and feed merchants to mention just a few of the industries built around racing. But if race meetings can continue without crowds then there will still be stake money to be won, trainers, jockeys and drivers fees paid and the turnover generated by stay-at-home punters, many of who will be robbed of other live sports to watch, could help ease racing's impending disaster. But what will be totally out of the control of anybody in New Zealand racing or even in the country is the huge loss the TAB looks certain to suffer in lost sporting revenue. Sports like NBA basketball and English Premier League football attract a huge amount of betting inside New Zealand and some of that TAB profit is returned to sports but also to racing. The TAB has met with racing bosses and will do so again on Thursday to present to them date from financial models addressing what a range of cancellations, ranging from just sports to all racing closing down, would mean. "We obviously don't know what is going to happen in the days ahead or even the hours ahead," says TAB chief executive Dean McKenzie. "But we will present a variety of models to the heads of the codes on Thursday about what could happen to turnover and returns to the industry under various scenarios. "But because the world is changing so quickly at the moment we can't know what those actual numbers are going to be, we can only do out best to predict and prepare." The loss of betting income on overseas and domestic sports events will also impact many major New Zealand sports as they get payouts from the TAB based on turnover. McKenzie, who has experience as the chief executive of a racing club and a major sporting venue in Jade Stadium (Lancaster Park), says racing industry participants now have an obligation to the industry as well as society. "We need to make sure we abide by guidelines, maintain social distancing where possible and abide by all the Government protocols to stop the spread of the virus. "And the better the industry participants do that then potentially that increases the chances of the industry keeping racing. "A lot of responsibility in the meantime falls on those inside the industry because many of the other factors are ones we can't control."   Michael Guerin

Robert Dunn is starting to dare to dream.  He is not getting carried away just yet, having finished second in the national harness racing trainer’s premiership enough times to know how hard it is to win.  Especially when you are competing against the greatest stable Australasian harness racing has known and one of the best in the world.  But with a 10-win lead over the All Stars in the premiership and four-and-a-half months to go, Dunn’s dream of a first ever premiership win is coming more sharply into focus. Last weekend he trained 11 winners, propelling him to what could be a decisive break but he is still cautious.  “I have been in the position in the past when I thought I had a shot and the Mark and Natalie trained 10 winners in a week and that was that,” laughs Dunn.  “So I know how hard they are to beat. “But maybe the one thing in our favour is usually we have been chasing whereas now we have the lead. “And we have plenty of horses and quite a few that can race through the winter. So this might be our best chance.  “Johnny (son and trainer of their Canterbury stable) and I have spoken about it but not too much so far.” What will aid Team Dunn this season is the All Stars don’t have huge numbers racing in the grades and many of their better horses will be aimed at the same races. The regularly have three or four juveniles in the group ones at the end of a season but only one can win so their best age group pacers could spend plenty of time racing against each other. Whereas the Dunn have open class horses through to maidens who will race everywhere from Southland to Alexandra Park, that spread meaning they can more easily get out of each others away.  The TAB doesn’t open a market on the harness racing trainer’s premiership but if they did, all factors considered, Dunn should be a $1.05 chance to add the title to the milestone of 1500 domestic wins he achieved at Kaikoura earlier this season.  There won’t be any big numbers to be added at Alexandra Park tonight as the ATC host just five races, one of their smallest meetings ever although field struggles the week after major carnivals are not rare in either code.  Dunn has two trotters in the first race and says while Resonate is the stronger a front line draw over the mobile mile means You Really Got Me is at least as good a chance.  “He has been pretty good off the gate (mobile start) and that could prove decisive.”  The Ross Paynter-trained pair of Molly Bones and Anditover, who both look headed for better things, look the dangers.  Dunn has far greater numbers at Addington where unbeaten three-year-old Heroes Square is rated the stable’s best chance in a strong three-year-old field. “He is a good horse and very much a horse we are aiming at the Derby,” says Dunn. “The only reason it has taken him this long to get him racing is because of some issues but we would like to think he is up to the good three-year-olds.”   Michael Guerin

Ricky May is determined his career in the sulky is "not going to end like that". The "that" May doesn't want to be the final act of his storied harness racing driving career was almost also the final act of his life. Racing viewers Australasia-wide were stunned when May collapsed lifeless in the sulky when leading the Central Otago Cup driving A G's White Socks on January 2. When he fell to the track, the racing world held its breath.   May's heart stopped without warning, his official diagnosis later being hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. He lay motionless on the Omakau track, receiving CPR from junior driver Ellie Barron and was soon after treated by medics. But when the 61-year-old woke up in Dunedin Hospital two days later doctors told him he had probably been dead for 10 minutes that day. A few days later he had surgery to have a cardioverter defibrillator implanted, a device that delivers a shock through a wire which runs into a chamber of the heart and May will have it in his chest for the rest of his life in case his heart stops again. But two months on from that operation May hasn't needed the defibrillator yet and is hoping he never will. "The doctors told me if it was going to happen again it would most likely be in the first two months," May told the Herald. "So I am now going to get on with my life. "I feel good, almost back to normal. I have a few aches and pains from the fall and the operation but my energy levels are good." May is back working on his Methven farm but last week he started back at his other job. He jumped in the sulky and drove fast work. "It was good to do it again, but I was a little tentative just at the start," says the man who has won seven New Zealand Cups. "The doctors say I can go back to driving but they are a bit worried about the shaking and vibrations that can go through the body on a rougher surface. "So ideally they have said to start out slow and if possible maybe wait six months before I go back to race driving." So that is what May is planning to do. He admits he might be lured back earlier but at this stage he plans to be back driving in races next season, which starts August 1. "I want to be careful for a while and to be honest I wouldn't have too many good drives coming up in the next few months. "And I don't mind missing the winter racing," he laughs. But May will 100 per cent, as much as any of us can predict our futures, be back. "I have to go back to it because I can't let what happened be the way it ends. That wouldn't sit comfortably with me." The next great goal is obvious for a man who has driven 2949 winners in his domestic career. Joining Tony Herlihy and Maurice McKendry as the only 3000-win horsepeople (drivers or jockeys) in New Zealand is an honour May deserves. "I can go back to driving any time I want now, once I get a medical certificate which shouldn't be a problem. But I will wait and do it right. But I will be back. I am looking forward to getting back out there."   Michael Guerin

The filly who entered the elitist of harness racing’s clubs last night is going to be for sale. Because that is how Jean Feiss, the owner of last night’s stunning Woodlands Derby winner Amazing Dream, operates. Last week’s Oaks winner added the $200,000 Derby at Alexandra Park last night, cruising past the high profile boys in national record time after she sat off the searing early speed. While the tempo suited her she was still too strong up the straight to Copy That and a very brave One Change, who was forced to sit parked after being beaten for early speed. Amazing Dream is the first filly to win the Northern Derby since Ripper’s Delight in 1975 and very few ever achieve it in harness racing because, unlike in thoroughbred racing, the fillies race off level marks and with no advantage against the boys. The winner of 11 of her 18 career starts Amazing Dream has developed into a potential all-time great filly and still has the Nevele R Final, NZ Oaks and Jewels to go to put the exclamation mark on her three-year-old season. But while she may race on, she will eventually be sold as Victorian-based owner Feiss doesn’t breed from her horses, having already sold outstanding fillies like Spanish Armada and Elle Mac. She prefers to buy at the yearling sales, where she has an outstanding strike rate, and race but leaves the breeding to others so the phone is sure to run hot for the right to own a filly who has already won over $600,000. Amazing Dream was driven by co-trainer Mark Purdon and earlier in the night his son Nathan, who trains in partnership with Cran Dalgety, trained his first Group One winner in NZ when Krug bolted away with the $100,000 Breckon Farms Young Guns Final.   Michael Guerin

Driver David Butcher likes all the numbers about Copy That heading into tonight’s $200,000 Woodlands Northern Derby at Alexandra Park. Except the one next to his name in the race book. Butcher likes the fact Copy That has beaten his main rival One Change the last three times they have met. He loves that Copy That has twice paced a super fast 2:37.4 for 2200m in doing so, breaking 2:40 on the other occasion. And Butcher is really enjoying that with each win Copy That gets better. “The good horses do. When they win they get used to winning and they get more confident,” says Butcher. But what Butcher is not sure about, what makes one of the country’s most astute drivers describe tonight’s classic as “too hard to predict” is Copy That’s barrier draw of four, which is made a lot worse by One Change drawing one. The pair dominate the market, with no disrespect to last week’s Oaks winner Amazing Dream. She can pace similar times to the boys but from barrier seven being as good as them won’t be good enough. She will need to be better and there is no proof she is. Copy That and One Change have a funny rivalry. On paper Copy That beats him in the races that matter less but One Change has been all but unbeatable in everything else, winning two Sires’ Stakes, two Sales Series and the Jewels. Copy That wasn’t in most of those and when he did finish second to One Change in the Sires’ Stakes at Addington in November his was the better run. So while you may go broke betting against All Stars-trained runners, or even One Change for that matter, in Group One races, you can make a very good case Copy That is more talented. “I don’t think there is a lot in it and not many horses go 2:37 for 2200m like he does,” says Butcher of Copy That. “I know he can win but I am worried about One Change getting the better run. In Derbys, and at most premier meetings, you need to be on the markers because the horses are so good you can’t come wide. “So much is going to depend on the start. Who gets pressure, who doesn’t and where they all end up. “There probably isn’t a lot between 5 or 6 of them who can all pace 3:16 (for tonight’s 2700m) so the run will be crucial. “I know this horse can win but he can’t overcome a hard run and win.” It wouldn’t surprise to see punters gravitate toward One Change because of the Purdon-Rasmussen factor, they have seen him win so many times on the biggest stage and barrier one is a very powerful comfort blanket. Even when beaten by Copy That he has usually hit the line well and if he leads early and Natalie Rasmussen can control who she hands up to, or even stays in front, he becomes the horse to beat. In a tactical battle too close to call, the Derby could be won at the start. Butcher has more reason for confidence with Triple Eight in the $50,000 City Of Auckland F-F-A because he knows he doesn’t need luck to win. The Auckland Cup placegetter came from last last Friday to beat most of his rivals tonight and unless he has bad luck he looks one of the bets of the night.   by Michael Guerin

Mark Purdon may have lost before he has won heading into tomorrow night’s $200,000 Woodlands Derby at Alexandra Park. Purdon is back from Sydney for a few days, where he will return to partner Alta Orlando in the Miracle Mile on Saturday night, but heads to Alexandra Park tomorrow night. He and partner Natalie Rasmussen have four starters in the Derby but two at the head of the market, perennial Group One winner One Change and Oaks winner Amazing Dream. And the couple devised a unique way of deciding who would drive who: they drew names out of a pot in the tea room this week. The winner, at least according to the market, was Rasmussen who will partner One Change, leaving Purdon on the superstar filly. As much as the stable love Amazing Dream, after she drew barrier seven she is rated clearly their second best chance at around $6 with the TAB but likely to be longer on the tote. “The draws are a huge thing for him and not so much for her,” admits Purdon. “From barrier one Nat has options with One Change, whereas I will probably have to find some luck somewhere or at least be conservative early. “So he is the clear best chance for us, although as everybody knows Copy That will be hard to beat.” The stable find themselves in the unusual position of not having the favourite in the Breckon Farms Young Guns Final, with It’s All About Faith only second favourite to Krug, again because of barrier draws. “Krug is a really good young horse and from barrier three he is going to be hard to catch. “I am sure our big fella will have improved by his second last week but it is so hard to come wide and win juvenile races at this level.” Purdon was happy with both Oscar Bonavena and Winterfell after their trial at Ashburton on Tuesday and the pair will trial again before racing at Addington in two weeks. Looking to Menangle he is happy to be reunited with Alta Orlando this weekend and expects Our Princess Tiffany to be hard to beat in her mares race where once again she clashes with Belle Of Montana. But one horse who won’t be heading to Menangle is Smooth Deal, who was first emergency for the NSW Derby but is already back home in Canterbury. “We didn’t go well enough in his prelude last week so we have brought him home and he will race at Addington next week and be set for the Derby here at Addington.”   Michael Guerin

Two of harness racing’s greatest rivals will join forces for the first time to try and win Saturday’s $1million Miracle Mile.  In a surprise move that turns back the clock Kiwi driver Mark Purdon will drive Alta Orlando in the great race at Menangle, even though he is trained by one of his fiercest rivals in Cross.  Cross and quasi training partner Luke McCarthy are riding the crest of a wave, having won the Hunter Cup last month and both Miracle Mile preludes last Saturday.  They are undoubtedly the strongest open class stable in Australia whereas Purdon and training partner Natalie Rasmussen have the strongest stable in Australasia, filled with open class stars.  But after a horror run with injuries, including having two Miracle Mile contenders ruled out of the carnival last Thursday, Purdon who won the race last year driving Spankem thought he would be watching it from the stables this season.  Until he got the call up to drive the heavily-backed Alta Orlando through an unusual set of circumstances.  Todd McCarthy drove Alta Orlando to beat My Field Marshal in their $100,000 Prelude last Saturday but is committed to Newcastle Mile winner Majordan, trained by Kevin Pizzuto who he does so much driving for.  Luke McCarthy chose to drive Alta Orlando’s stablemate King Of Swing because he has the better draw and John Dunn, who used to drive Alta Orlando in NZ, was offered the drive.  But he has opted to stick with Bettor’s Heart, trained by his uncle Peter Bagrie so the Alta Orlando drive was up for grabs again.  Remarkably Purdon was the first trainer of Alta Orlando and as a three-year-old he finished third in the prestigious NZ Sires Stakes Final to stablemate Have Faith In Me way back in 2014, who went on to win a Miracle Mile.  Alta Orlando broke down soon after and it was thought he was finished as a racing proposition until he resumed his career two years later trained by Dunn’s father Robert.  He then ended up with Cross and has risen to new heights at Menangle where the relentless racing style suits him. Ironically the last time Purdon drove Alta Orlando was nearly six years ago when he finished last in a minor race, won by a horse driven by John Dunn. “We are thrilled to have Mark on, everybody knows what a good driver he is,” said McCarthy.  “He has driven the winner of every big race you can think of and while I think King Of Swing is Craig’s best chance of winning on Saturday night if Alta Orlando is sitting in the one-one or handy he can beat us.” Michael Guerin

New Zealand’s most powerful harness stable looks set for near certain compensation at Alexandra Park tonight for a horror start to racing’s giant weekend. The Mark Purdon-Natalie Rasmussen stable have red hot favourite Amazing Dream in tonight’s $125,000 Pascoes The Jewellers Oaks, the first group one of Auckland racing’s massive week.  The superstar filly would have been favourite for tonight’s 2700m mobile from any barrier draw but from gate three she is $1.12 to win and probably lead for most of the trip in doing so.  That win would put a smile back on her trainer’s faces after a huge double blow yesterday when they lost two major Miracle Mile contenders from that Sydney carnival in the space of an hour.  Self Assured was ruled out of next week’s A$1 million sprint after developing a hoof abscess but at least they are still hopeful of getting him to Alexandra Park for the Taylor Mile and Messenger in late April.  But the news for Chase Auckland is almost certainly worse after he pulled up abruptly in track work at Menangle yesterday and is suspected of having a pelvis injury which could rule him out for the rest of the season and maybe longer. “It has been a shocking morning,” admitted Purdon.  They still have horses like Stylish Memphis (NSW Oaks) and Our Princess Tiffany (Ladyship Mile) in A$200,000 group ones tomorrow night but their open class blows continued a horror season for their elite pacers like Ultimate Sniper, Spankem, Turn It Up and Thefixer.  Tonight though Amazing Dream looks one of several odds-on chances punters can build a multi bet around, with both Passion And Power (R8, No.2) and It’s All About Faith (Race 10, No.5) likely to win their juvenile events while Dina Bolt (R9, No.4) should win his lead-up to next week’s Northern Derby.  But two of the other major races tonight have a potential match-race feel to them with the clashes of Copy That and One Change in the Derby prelude the most intriguing.  One Change has a champion’s record in the best races, having won the Sires’  Stakes and the Sales Series twice as well as the Jewels which would make any punter wonder how he is $2.70 compared with $1.70 for Copy That tonight.  But Copy That has beaten him fair and square the last two times they have met, both times by getting in front of him.  He is drawn to do that again tonight but both favourites have stable mates in the race who would probably prefer to hand up one of their own it could become a real game of cat and mouse. The Founders Cup sees a resurgent Star Galleria against Triple Eight over 2200m with the latter again having the draw edge but Star Galleria the better gate speed.  If Star Galleria could cross to the lead he would be the clear top pick but with On The Cards, who was quick enough to cross to the front in the Inter Dominion Final in December, drawn inside him it may not be a case of the favourite simply getting his own way. Any early pressure would appear to aid Triple Eight, who is back from a luckless Hunter Cup campaign in Melbourne but before that finished third in the Auckland Cup.   Michael Guerin

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