Peters: 2008 Mercedes Thoroughbred Awards
Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister for Racing
Embargoed until delivery, 7.15pm 15 August 2008
Address to the 2008 Mercedes Thoroughbred Awards
Delivered at 7.15pm
Mystery Creek Convention Centre
Chairman Guy Sargent; New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing board members; my fellow Parliamentarians; ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for your invitation, and for your warm welcome.
It is important to begin tonight by acknowledging Roger Zagorski, the General Manager of Mercedes.
Mercedes has been a solid supporter of thoroughbred racing over the years, and that support has brought great benefits to both partners.
It is wonderful that we have tonight’s occasion to celebrate excellence in racing.
We should all strive for excellence, no matter what part we play in this illustrious industry, and that goal has certainly been the main focus of the changes that we have made in the past 30 months.
These changes have laid the foundation for a bright future, but there is still more to be done if New Zealand racing is to realise its full potential.
The initiative to reduce gaming duty has restored equity after years of grossly unfair treatment, and it has increased funding for thoroughbred racing.
As a result, stakes have increased from $39 million in 2006 to an expected $60 million this season – a 50 per cent increase over just three seasons.
Racehorse owners are the lifeblood of racing, and they should be suitably rewarded for the risk of ownership.
Therefore, Guy, it is very pleasing to see that Thoroughbred Racing has introduced a number of extra initiatives to reduce owners’ costs such as the free racing programme, travel subsidies and the payment of jockeys’ fees.
The second major initiative, reduced bloodstock write-downs, has also helped reduce the level of risk for owners and breeders.
In relation to risk, one big challenge for racing is providing a safe on-course environment for all participants.
For this reason, the annual $1 million Safety Fund, was established in 2007.
Last year approximately half the Fund was allocated to 16 thoroughbred venues, and enterprising clubs such as Waikato Racing Club and Whangarei Racing Club even made two successful applications.
Clubs must be proactive in addressing safety issues, and the Fund is there to help. The latest round has just opened, so make sure your applications are submitted before the deadline of 30 September.
This year's Budget contained a $9 million, three-year scheme that will significantly lift the prize money for key New Zealand races.
This initiative is designed to help our clubs compete with money on offer overseas. It should also encourage greater bloodstock investment and the retention of quality horses in New Zealand.
There will be massive stake increases for some of our top races.
In the 2005/06 season, the only seven-figure stakes race was the Kelt Capital Stakes. Last year it was joined by the Karaka Million.
This season there will be six races carrying stakes of $1 million or more.
Leading the way will be the $2.2 million New Zealand Derby, while the Auckland Cup, the Telegraph and the 2000 Guineas will all carry stakes of $1 million.
But this is just a starting point.
High stakes races will attract top contestants from Australia and further afield. That in turn will raise our international profile, and capture the New Zealand public’s imagination.
Big-money races are the bedrock around which highly successful carnivals can be built, bringing proven economic benefit not just to the racing industry, but to local communities across the country.
We must continue to encourage and cajole existing and potential sponsors to see this initiative for what it is: the chance to maximise their exposure by joining forces with a silent partner – the government -- who is putting up significant money but seeking no exposure and no naming rights in return.
That, surely, is worth sponsors digging just a little deeper in their own pockets to raise the stakes even higher.
If we can move forward in this spirit, there is no reason why more marquee races cannot break the $1 million barrier, and really set New Zealand’s racing scene alight.
Thank you and best wishes for the new season.