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Harness Racing New Zealand has gone back on its decision to allow 5yr-olds into the Harness Jewels - but they have not left the connections of 5yr-olds empty-handed.
After last year's Jewels, the sport's governing body changed the 4yr-old category to include 5yr-olds as it looked to boost numbers in races such as the Taylor Mile and the Pelorus Classic throughout the season.
But in an about-face, HRNZ chairman Gary Allen announced yesterday the addition of three 5yr-old races - for pacing males, pacing females and trotters - for this year's Jewels.
The two pacing races will be worth $150,000 each, while the trotting race will be worth $100,000. All three races have been given listed status.
These races at Ashburton will be held on Sunday, June 2, the day after the main Harness Jewels meeting at the same course, and replace the consolation races which were to be held.
The announcement came hard on the back of another from HRNZ, which outlined the injection of $1.4 million into stakes for the coming year, due to increased profit projections by the New Zealand Racing Board.
''With the additional funding being made available by the NZRB in its revised profit projections, HRNZ is in a position now to fund these changes and respond positively to the industry,'' Allen said.
The changes are in place only for 2013.
''A full review will be conducted following the 2013 Harness Jewels with an aim to release the format for the 2014 series in August. While we may like to retain 12 races at that time, funding considerations will require careful attention.''