Waikato Stud principal backs John Messara's New Zealand industry review
The Arrowfield Stud chairman was appointed by racing minister Winston Peters
Waikato Stud principal Mark Chittick believes Australian racing and breeding industry supremo John Messara is the right man to lead the change required to reinvigorate the New Zealand thoroughbred industry.
Messara, whose Arrowfield Stud dominated the recent Inglis Australian Easter Yearling Sale, was on Thursday appointed by New Zealand Racing Minister Winston Peters to review governance structures and provide recommendations on future directions for the industry.
The New Zealand thoroughbred industry, which is renowned for breeding champions such as Sunline and breed-shaping stallions Sir Tristram and his son Zabeel, has been flatlining in recent years due to stagnating prize-money and spiraling administrative costs.
Chittick, whose stud stands champion sire Savabeel, told ANZ Bloodstock News that Messara’s appointment had given the industry hope of regaining its stature and long-term viability.
“It's absolutely fantastic news because something has to be done and obviously John is a man you could say sits independently away from our industry here,” he said.
“It's probably something that he doesn’t have to do, so I thank him immensely for becoming involved because I think it will be extremely worthwhile considering the experience he has in racing administration.
“I believe it won’t be a hard job to fix it and improve it and he's the right man to roll his sleeves up and get stuck into it.”
Chittick said New Zealand racing had a long and proud history but that it had been burdened by excessive administration costs which had prevented adequate returns being made by all participants.
“There is no doubt we have been a great racing nation and we are a great breeding nation, but we need the local racing to be reinvigorated,” he said.
“I just think the cost of running our industry has got right out of control, while being run by people who I would say are not passionate about racing.”
As one of New Zealand’s biggest owners, Chittick added that unless change was made it would become unsustainable to continue racing horses in his home country.
Well-known New Zealand bloodstock agent Paul Moroney, whose brother Mike trains from stables at Matamata, Flemington and Randwick in Australia, echoed Chittick’s comments about streamlining the industry.
“The main problem with New Zealand racing is that the people who are investing in the product, owning the product and training and riding the product are struggling and it has seen the virtual demise of our breeding industry,” Moroney told ANZ Bloodstock News.
“I remember when I was a teenager we had 7,500 broodmares and now we are breeding from 3,000 or slightly less and 1,800 of those per year are going out of the country.
“We're trying to survive with a horse population of 1,200 new horses coming onto the racing scene every year and many of those are not our better-bred ones.
“It has been a situation that has been in freefall for a long time and it basically has to stop. I just hope John’s appointment isn't too late.”
Moroney hoped Messara would recommend rationalisation of the industry, which led to the closure of some racecourses to help reduce costs in maintaining infrastructure.
“There just seems to be a lot of poor management of the Racing Board and we have had a succession of governments who haven’t backed it. Somehow they have to increase the pot,” he said.
“One way would be streamline the wagering, no doubt, and more to the point streamlining the overheads that just seem to be out of control.
“I also think the infrastructure of New Zealand racing has to centralise, where we have an all-weather track at certain times of the year and to centralise racing to where the racing population is, keeping in mind that it's a rural-based industry.”
Moroney called for tough decisions to be taken once Messara’s report was handed down.
“There is parochialism in New Zealand racing and, granted some of it is for the right reasons, but it has got the stage now where somebody has to come in and make the hard decisions that nobody internally seems to be able to make,” he said.
Minister Peters said Messara’s industry experience and proven record made him the right candidate to undertake the review on behalf of the New Zealand government.
“Mr Messara is considered one of Australia’s most successful racing administrators. As Chair of both Racing New South Wales and Racing Australia, he led reforms to increase and secure long-term revenue,” Peters said when announcing Messara’s appointment.
“His review will also assist the government in determining if the current Racing Act 2003 and the proposed Racing Amendment Bill are fit for purpose.”
Messara declined to comment on his appointment and what recommendations he may make in his report when contacted by ANZ Bloodstock News.
He will start working on the report this month and is due to submit his findings to the New Zealand Racing Minister mid-year.
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