New Zealand’s Racing Calendar Will Undergo Changes, RITA’s up for the Task

The racing calendar in New Zealand will need to go through changes due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country. RITA and the industry debate over the changes for the new season.

New Zealand’s Racing Calendar Impacted by Coronavirus

RITA, which is New Zealand’s Racing Industry Transition Agency, has announced the start of a debate around the updated version of the racing calendar for the upcoming 2020-2021 season. A revised version of the calendar was needed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the country.

The current draft of the racing calendar is already distributed to New Zealand’s racing clubs and the debate will continue until June 15. Final version of the calendar is expected by July 3, says Rita. The revision of the calendar includes the beginning of the racing season in August and it also looks into the end of the season in July, 2021. Some 42 races were excluded from the calendar as well as 14 venues which will not hold races this season. Furthermore, RITA has offered meetings to be conducted near greyhound and horse training locations, thus reducing long distance travelling.

RITA Executive Chair Comments on The Calendar Revision

RITA’s Executive Chair, Dean McKenzie commented by saying that the: “pandemic has had a devastating impact on racing, and accelerated the need for significant change across all levels of the industry.”  

He continued by stressing out that the strengthening venues and need for changes has been a long discussed topic and under the current circumstances surrounding the pandemic a decision needs to be made. McKenzie did not miss to say that there are many racing venues in New Zealand which is resulting in a “commercial drain on limited industry resources.” RITA’s executive further noted that it is imperative that meetings are closer to the locations of horse and dog populations which will result in better net profits. McKenzie continued by saying: “Maximising the total returns to all of racing is the goal of the racing calendar and with revenue likely to be further challenged next year we have to cut costs and deliver the most efficient programme of racing possible.

Here Is What the Industry Had to Say

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing CEO Bernard Saundry commented that each thoroughbred club in the country has its own history and also stressed out that the NZTR has been working hard in the last 18 months aiming at “future proof the racing industry.” Saundry also had to say:

We recognise that the calendar for 2020-21 looks very different to previous seasons with fewer meetings at fewer venues. The industry cannot survive, let alone move ahead, if we try to fit 2020s racing into a mould which was created last century.

Harness Racing New Zealand CEO Peter Jensen also joined the discussion by stressing out that “meaningful change” is needed. Jensen continued by saying that the industry as well as HRNZ will need to reposition which will ultimately result in reaching larger audience. Jensen also had to say:

The Covid-19 pandemic has been the catalyst to accelerate the pace of change, however the reality is that proposed changes to our venue footprint are required to help harness racing become more sustainable, through increasing turnover, improving club’s stakes to funding ratio, and decreasing costs to RITA, clubs, licensees and owners.

Greyhound Racing New Zealand Racing Operations and Welfare Manager, Michael Dore said that their meeting schedule before the lockdown followed an identical weekly pattern. This however was changed with the outbreak and travelling restrictions which were put in place.

Effectively this changed the Mondays and Tuesdays meetings. Dore further noted that the present situation is giving them the chance to have a closer look at their product upon entering the new season.

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