The change in date for the official birthday of harness horses in New Zealand has been hailed as “a defining moment and a catalyst for change”.
Traditionally, all racehorses in New Zealand have had their birthdays on August 1. From now on, all standardbreds will have their birthdays on January 1.
Under the new system, a horse born in January 2020 would become one on January 1, 2021, and a horse born in November 2020 would become one on January 1, 2022.
Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) Chief Executive Gary Woodham said there was unanimous approval for the idea, which was voted on at a Special General Meeting in Christchurch last week.
Representatives of more than 40 clubs attended the meeting at HRNZ’s headquarters, either in person or via video conferencing.
“There was unanimous approval for the idea right across the sport, we are thrilled all clubs have got behind this initiative,” Woodham said.
Harness Racing Australia made a similar move this year, and Woodham said the change in New Zealand would align age-group racing between the countries.
“We need to be in sync with Australia,” Woodham said.
Now that the change has been made, HRNZ will look at how it will impact the country’s racing programme.
“We need to take a very hard look at what’s working and what is not,” Woodham said.
“One immediate change could be that juvenile races are spread out over the year, rather than being condensed towards the end of the season as they are now.”
Last month HRNZ announced that horses born in the upcoming season would no longer be freeze branded, and would instead be microchipped.