North America doesn't have a monopoly on big races this time of year. Monkey King is going for his third consecutive win in the $600,000 (NZ) New Zealand Cup at Addington Raceway on November 8. What is amazing it seems to us up here that Monkey King has been racing forever and for us it would be the case as the nine year old keeps on ticking. Granted, he is a gelding and he may not win every race, but Down Under, horses like him make the racing exciting, sort of like the Open Handicaps at Yonkers Raceway in the 1970's when those racing in the Old Hilltop's top class was a who's who of harness racing.
There is controversy in New Zealand regarding the use of standing starts versus mobile starts (starting gate). Some owners are claiming the use of standing starts is putting harness racing in the dark ages, while Harness Racing New Zealand feels it's up to the local tracks to decide one way or the other based on the availability of horses available. Yet some feel it is time to get rid of the standing starts; this following a prominent owner cancelling his sponsorship of future races and threatening to start racing in Australia if the standing start is not eliminated.
Of course, could the one owner who is threatening to pull his sponsorship and head over the the land of Oz really be ticked off that his horse who broke and caused interference in a recent race has now been banned from standing start events and thus the $600,000 New Zealand Cup; a standing start race? Mad that he is no longer eligible for the event and hates to see himself banned from racing in this lucrative event? Just wondering.
There are horses for courses and apparently there are horses for starts. Some excel at the standing start, some excel at the use of the mobile starting gate; if you are real fortunate you have a horse that can start both ways. Obviously, this is something for the Kiwis to work out, but a word of caution for those who cite the fact North America doesn't use standing starts and they also want to have their elimination winners choose their position on the gate in finals. Basically they want harness racing in New Zealand to look like North American racing. Have you seen how harness racing is prospering in North America? If not for slots, there may be two or three harness tracks in operation in a couple of years. Maybe if you want your racing to look like racing elsewhere, look at it somewhere else where it is successful, like France or Sweden. I suspect they would be better role models to aspire to.
Some in New Zealand are also complaining about the longer distance races, claiming with so much North American blood now in their breed, their horses can't race those distances anymore. First of all, who made the decision to allow North American blood into your own breed? Secondly, I suspect it is a case of self-fulfilled prophecy. They haven't gotten rid of all the Kiwi-blood in their breeding yet so even if they are importing North American stallions, I assume a lot of the broodmare stock is still Kiwi so some of the perceived problem may be mind over matter. If the trainers train them to go longer distances, I suspect some horses will go at the longer distances very well.
All I can say is don't lose your racing diversity; your distance races, your sprint races, your standing starts as well as mobile starts. Take it from me, after awhile, white bread gets kind of boring.