Turn it up! Paying starters a positive

As you will all be well aware, this column is New Zealand's No1 place for racing's biggest issues to be debated, pondered and trawled through.

I try to celebrate the brilliant, the beautiful and the magical aspects of racing here as well, but that can often take a back seat to the pressing issues that can cast doom and gloom over the industry.

That scenario tends to happen across racing and is certainly not restricted to this column.

Some can even turn a positive into a negative.

Yep, they are out there.

There was an example of that on Tuesday after a story I wrote about paying starters in harness racing meetings gained some interesting feedback.

Somehow, the tinfoil hat-wearers managed to turn even this into a negative.

The paying of people to race their horses is negative? Give me a break.

Of course, there is an argument stake money should go to the top placings in any race.

That is a nice idea for some, but in the context of modern racing it is just not a reality.

The population of horses in work is declining and so are breeding numbers.

Paying starters helps to sustain the number of horses in work and the number of horses nominated to race - $160 is not a life-changing amount of money for any owner, but it certainly helps.

And it is certainly a massive positive for all harness racing owners.

Any thought of it being otherwise is nothing short of lunacy.

The only question remaining to be answered for me is when will the same system be replicated in the thoroughbred code?

One would imagine it is inevitable if breeding numbers and the horse population continue to decline.

A look at today's Wingatui fields suggests paying starters may be a move to be made now.

With just seven races able to be carded and the feature flat race able to attract just six runners the time might be now.

Part of the decline in the number of horses in work is obviously linked to the rising cost of training, breeding and owning horses.

That is the underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Racing can't make the price of oats, horse floats or vet fees cheaper.

But it can control some things.

Foal registration fees, acceptance fees and what industry officials are needed and what they get paid are among them

The cost of owning a horse is one of the top two issues facing racing, alongside the competition for the sport to stay relevant as a mainstream entertainment product.

It's time to start exploring how those costs can be brought down.

It would be a much better use of people's time than whinging about the codes giving away money to try to solve the problem.


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