Bernard's Blog - 6 September

Bernard Saundry
6 September 2019
The early part of the past week was taken up with business around the Asian Pattern Committee (APC), which met in Japan.
The good news to come out of this was the fact that the Wellington Racing Club’s flagship sprint event, the Telegraph Handicap, retained its Group One status.  This was largely down to the fact the race consistently attracting strong fields, with the four highest rated starters last season ranking above the Gr1 benchmark.
Where the race has suffered in recent years, is through the fact that the first four place getters have frequently been lower rated horses.  Subsequently the race will change to weight-for-age conditions from the 2019-20 season onwards.
An area of concern, both in New Zealand and Australia, is around staying races and maintaining the Group status of some of our traditional Cup races.  There is some work to be done here and we will be cooperating with Australia to look for a sustainable model. 
We recognise the importance of staying races in our racing calendar and the long and illustrious history attached to many of these events.  It is therefore a priority for us to ensure there is a workable programme of staying events to support these events and see them an on-going part of our racing landscape.
The Chairman and I were able to be in Christchurch on Thursday to join the local racing community in fare welling New Zealand’s oldest trainer, Barbara Blackie QSM, who was laid to rest after succumbing to cancer in her 101st year.
It was a fitting memorial, with some lovely moments shared by the family who all stressed the importance of horses and, in her latter years, racing to Barbara.  Former NZTR Board member Brian Kinley spoke at the funeral service, recalling some of the highlights of Barbara’s involvement with horses.  However, one comment which demonstrated the lengthy life Barbara had enjoyed was the fact that she had “gone from a horse drawn plough to having a Facebook page” – that is quite some lifespan.
While last weekend we saw the first of our Group One races of the new season and a wonderful performance from Melody Belle to take her Group One tally to seven, this weekend we will witness the excitement of jumps racing. 
The Great Northern meeting at Ellerslie on Saturday will see Samantha Logan’s Lacustre attempt to secure the Pakuranga Hunt Cup/Great Northern Steeplechase double, which would be a wonderful achievement for this talented young horsewoman.
The weekend wraps up with the celebration of the stars of last season as NZTR hosts the 2019 Horse of the Year Awards at Ellerslie.  Congratulations to all the finalists and I hope you, and all attendees enjoy the evening.

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