Harness racing industry hit by Covid-19 cost cutting

Many trainers and drivers will be hit hard by the recent 20% cut made by Harness Racing NSW.

Virus forces 20% reduction in operation costs

In response to the Covid-19 crisis, Harness Racing NSW has been forced to take the extreme measure of cutting operational costs by 20%, which includes the prizemoney on offer to participants.

According to HRNSW Chief Executive Officer John Dumesny, the decision was brought on by the profound impact on wagering revenue. 

“This was a difficult decision to make, however with the significant downturn in wagering revenue, what with the TAB retail outlets closed, as well as agencies in clubs and pubs, HRNSW had no other alternative but to reluctantly reduce prizemoney and cut other non essential costs,” Dumesny said.

Race meetings commencing on Monday, May 11 and onwards will see this impact, with category A meeting races carrying base prizemoney of $5,200 and category B meeting races offering $4,800, which represents a 20% reduction in base prizemoney.

“When wagering revenue has recovered at a sustainable level, base prizemoney will be restored.” Dumesny added.

Prizemoney isn’t the only area being impacted, with HRNSW administrative (staff) and operation costs reductions in place.

“Major infrastructure projects such as the Bathurst training centre development, Tamworth training centre refurbishment and Gold Crown Paceway property purchase will be put on hold,” Dumensy said.

Additionally, Industry drought assistance ceased on May 3 and discretionary funding arrangements with clubs will be addressed with those respective clubs, however these have either been reduced or withdrawn,” Dumesny said.

As far as major NSW races and breeding schemes are concerned, HRNSW will be withdrawing their financial support for the Miracle Mile and stated that future reductions could follow.

“With respect to major races such as the Miracle Mile, the $300,000 funding provided by HRNSW unfortunately has been withdrawn,” Dumesny said.

“The Board Members of HRNSW however elected not to reduce the administration funding and subsidies for clubs but a stakeholders’ review of the breeding schemes will be commenced in May.

“HRNSW will also call on club administrators and association leaders to consider and propose a plan with respect to an appropriate differences in the levels of the prizemoney categories.”

Temora Trotting Club President and trainer driver Matt New understood HRNSW were in a difficult position but was disappointed that country meetings were being impacted by the decision, while rich feature races had little to no impact in the scheme of prizemoney distribution.

“It’s not an easy position for Harness (Racing) NSW to be in but it just seems funny to me that clubs that had meetings cancelled, like West Wylong and Coolamon, originally had funding for those meetings and now that funding has been withdrawn,” New said.

“They are taking money of the bottom line but we are still going to have a $100,000 race this week , which is all well and good for the winner, but the day-to-day participant is the one missing out.”

Additionally, New was wondering why there was a cut in prizemoney, when broadcasters and betting agencies were asking for more meetings.

“We need to run these meetings for the TAB, they are screaming out for meetings, yet they think there is no prizemoney, how does that work?” New asked.

“It just doesn’t make sense if you think about it all.”

The Temora president also felt for Riverina trainers and drivers who weren’t living close to Wagga but were forced to travel there to race for less prizemoney.

“Us trainers in Temora, Wagga and close by are lucky but the ones who are travelling extra distance to race are going to be hit harder,” New said.

“All of this is going to be tough on a lot of those country participants.”