The ‘Trotting Gait’ in NZ Harness Racing ?

Still the poor relation? One man’s thoughts….

How does the ‘lover’ of the straight out trotter view the current status of the trotter within modern day harness racing in NZ?

Historically, trotting bred foals represent (roughly) 30% of the total foal crop for any particular season.

Interestingly, in recent times, the number of trotting stallion available to NZ breeders is very close, numerically, to matching those of their pacing counterparts but alas they are nowhere near patronised as much.

Commercial breeders might offer the odd one from their draft at specific yearling sales but with the outstanding exception(s), returns are not as great as for the well bred pacing stock.

This ‘limited return’ on trotting bred stock has been clearly demonstrated at recent yearling sales especially in Christchurch.

As racehorses in NZ, they don’t have the same racing opportunities as their pacing ‘buddies’ (3 trot races per 10 race programmes the norm) and therefore the potential returns are considerably less, not surprisingly.

Less Group and listed opportunities, especially for the trotting fillies (50% of the trotting bred crop) has been a sad reflection on the trotting gait for some time but hopefully there is some much deserved light appearing within this ‘tunnel’.

For there is no doubt, the quality and quantity of our young trotters (2 & 3yos) gracing our harness tracks has improved markedly in recent seasons.

It wasn’t so long ago that 2yo trots were run mostly as non tote’s with the majority of the small fields making mistakes due to their lack of experience.

Last season’s 2yo crop, now three, is one of the strongest on record, and has produced some first class racing to boot.

Needless to say, the availability of world class bloodlines has helped this rise in the trotting performance.

Previously Game Pride, Tuft, Gee Whiz and the mighty Sundon dominated the trotting siring ranks with the likes of Monarchy and Armbro Invasion having their turn in the limelight at some stages.

As is the case with the pacers, NZ breeders have generally been more supportive of the ‘imported stallions’ with the ‘underrated’ Majestic Son leading the way in recent seasons but being challenged by the frozen European influences; none more so than the highly credentialed Love

You and the best of the sons of Muscle Yankee, notably Muscle Hill and now his sons in What The Hill and Tactical Landing as examples.

Throw in well performed sorts such as Bold Eagle and Propulsion, sons of Cantab Hall in Father Patrick and Creatine and the trotting breeder has a smorgasbord of stallion choices at their disposal.

The Chapter Seven/Walner invasion of the American Siring Trot tables has seen the Australasian arrival of King Of The North who secured 25% of the NZ trotting mares in the breeding season just passed.

That % is likely to be challenged next season with the reintroduction of Volstead into the selection arena especially in Australia where his young stock are currently dominating.

Lets not forget the often forgotten colonial choices…..Royal Aspirations had a stellar season of services in 22/23 with 100+ matings and they will certainly make waves in the next few seasons to come.

One Over Da Moon and Waterloo Sunset hardly get supported by breeders based on numbers but have shown an ability to leave a very good horse right up there with their ‘imported’ rivals and Habibi Inta did attract moderate support (31 mares) as a local freshly chilled son of Love You in the season just completed.

With a new racing calendar just introduced for public scrutiny and talk of further innovation and change mentioned in the same sentence, maybe its time for the ‘kingmakers’ to consider increasing the opportunity for our trotting stock and its rapidly developing pedigrees.

Just one thought might be to have an ‘all trot ‘ race programme similar to what Australia has already done successfully at Maryborough.

To have change, we must be prepared to take a risk… risk, no change !