Support needed for claimers

Geoff Knight
Geoff Knight
Claiming races need better stake money and consistent programming to ensure their survival in the South, according to two of the grade's biggest supporters.

Oamaru trainer Eion Latimer and Roxburgh horseman Geoff Knight, who trains in partnership with wife Jude, believe claiming horses and their owners are big contributors to Otago and Southland harness racing and need to be treated better.

``If we need to utilise the horse population, which we do because it is not big, then we need these claiming races,'' Knight said.

The Southern Harness organisation, which administers all of Southland's harness racing clubs, has confirmed its member clubs will stake their claiming races at $6000 this season.

Knight labelled that stake level - $2000 below races in any other grades - as an insult to the claiming grade.

``Those horses should be racing for more, because they have earned it and they contribute a lot to the industry,'' he said.

Latimer also thinks the setting of claiming races at a significantly lower stake than other events is unfair.

``It costs just as much to train a claimer as it does to train any other horse,'' he said.

Both trainers conceded there is a pool of claiming horses who are not competitive in other grades, but without fair stakes, as well as consistent programming of claiming races, those horses risked being retired or taken out of training.

``Ninety-nine percent of them are claimers who are confined to the claimers' grade. There is only the odd one that is competitive in other races,'' Knight said.

Although few race programme details have been confirmed for Otago or Southland race meetings this season, both Southern Harness and the Forbury Park Trotting Club confirmed they plan to consistently run claiming events.

Southern Harness chairman Kevin McNaught said his organisation set claiming races stakes below the levels of other race category stakes as the races did not incur a penalty under the new harness racing handicapping system.

The template for setting stakes for the Southern Harness organisation came from its programming committee, he said.

Raising the stakes of claiming races would mean that races with ratings points would have to have their stakes dropped.

Rather than do that, Southern Harness would rather reward horses who have to incur rating points, McNaught said.

Claiming races in Southland and Otago are made up by a similar pool of horses with trainers from both sides of the border contributing to the other's claiming field. So, administrative decisions in each province will affect trainers and owners from the other.

Forbury Park is also an important part of that claiming scene, and the club is taking a different approach to claiming races to its southern counterparts.

The club intends to lift its claiming race stakes for this season, general manager Rodney Moore said.

Claiming race stakes would be discussed at the club's board meeting this week, so the final figure was yet to be confirmed, but the levels would definitely rise.

Most of Forbury Park's claiming races were staked at $6000 and could rise to $6500 or possibly even $7000, this season depending on the board meeting, Moore said.


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