Talking points: Will race stakes rise more?
ONE: Thoroughbred stakes are on the rise but is there more to come?
New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) announced on Friday that more than $2 million will be pumped into race stakes. The increases are a much-needed boost but are they enough? The answer from most is that Friday’s increases are only going to help the industry tread water at best.
Costs are constantly rising and the affordability of well-bred horses is only going one way. Money does not grow on trees and there is no magic pot of gold but the racing board and NZTR need to find a way to make sure funding provisions are in place for further stakes increases across the board within the next two years.
There is already talk that the minimum stake, raised to $10,000 back in March, is too low. Friday’s announcement will thwart some of the discontent from trainers, owners and breeders but if they can not see a plan for further increases in the coming seasons, the current mood will just be a short calm before the storm.
TWO: Michelle Payne’s trailblazing ways continue
Only Michelle Payne could come out of last week’s appetite suppressant scandal with her darling of racing reputation firmly intact. The first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup (aboard Prince Of Penzance in 2015), was suspended for four weeks on Thursday after testing positive to the banned substance Phentermine - a substance that is used as an appetite suppressant. Many jockeys have and would have brushed the media and gone to ground but Payne took it all in her stride.
Front footing the issue and taking responsibility for her mistake was the best thing Payne could have done. It was a scandal that could have dragged on and seriously damaged her reputation but fronting up combined with her immense popularity means this scandal will be a distant memory by next week. Payne has owned her mistake and marched on like only she could. In an odd way, it seems the events of last week have actually grown her movie star status.
Saturday’s jumping races at Hastings had it all. Two healthy maiden hurdle fields, a close finish in the feature hurdle, strong numbers in the maiden steeplechase and the arrival of a star in the making in Just Ishi who was a dominant Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase winner. Just Ishi may have earned favouritism for the Wellington Steeplechase (July 15) in the process and Kipkeino was impressive in scoring his first feature win in the Hawke’s Bay Hurdle.
The two Prestige races at Trentham in two weeks time are shaping up to be the best they have been in years and the strong fields should continue at the Grand National carnival at Riccarton. Jumps racing receives more than its fair share of criticism but there is no denying it is going from strength to strength this winter.
Michelle Payne’s superstar status has grown from her appetite suppressant scandal.