Outgoing SSBA Chair, Mark O’Connor who is relocating to Canterbury

 We congratulate Mark for his leadership of the Southern Standardbred Breeders Association and all he has contributed to the Southern Racing Scene. NZSBA wish Pauline and him well in their new venture in Canterbury. 





The 2023 financial year (01 April 2022 to 31 March 2023) reverted to a more normal post-covid environment for the harness racing and breeding sector. A notable change was operating under the first full racing season during which a new calendar year programme applied. As a consequence of this change, the Southland Harness Racing Awards were held in late January 2023.  

Activities of the Southern Standardbred Breeders (SSB) over the past financial year have included the following: 

  1. Introducing a new breeders recognition scheme called the Southern Breeders Bonus providing a $300 cash payment for the breeders of race winners in the Southern region  
  1. Consistent sponsorship of the Southern Belle Series ($2,300) plus support for a Fillies & Mares Autumn Race Series ($5,000) and recognising the fastest filly or mare in the past season ($1,000) 
  1. Undertaking another well patronised Breeding Season Launch / Stallion Promotion Event in early August 
  1. Evaluating the nominations for the Southland Broodmare of the Year and determining that the successful recipient would be Democrat Party – congratulations to John and Katrina Price of Price Bloodstock   
  1. Fundraising via the well worked cattle-rearing scheme – a special thanks to Dave Kennedy and Steve Baucke for co-ordinating the logistics of this important fundraising vehicle and to the many individuals who kindly rear the cattle 
  1. Recognising the contribution that Dave Kennedy has delivered to SSB and the harness sector over several decades by making him a life member of the organisation  

A largely successful yearling sales occurred in February 2023 and SBSR was again well represented amongst the top lots sold at the Christchurch sale.  It was pleasing to see Australian buyers back and active at the sales although this was largely restricted to West Australian purchasers.  Thanks go out to the SBSR committee for their ongoing promotion of the quality harness product originating from Southern NZ.  

Trainers and owners are adapting to changes to the racing calendar and the scheduling of feature races is still bedding down but initial feedback is mostly positive.   

The shift to a calendar year race pattern was a significant change away from the traditional August to July racing year and now creates a bit of a lull in the winter months followed by a significant ramp up in the last quarter of the year. An inaugural Harness Grand Prix day held at Addington on Sunday 4 December 2022 was a feature of the racing season and will continue to build in stature.  

During the past season the total number of mares bred in NZ fell below 2,000 for the first time (2023 = 1,947 vs 2022 = 2,037). With the escalating value of land and agistment charges it is becoming increasingly difficult for smaller breeders to remain viable when undertaking their breeding activity.  

The Autumn 2023 edition of “Breeding Matters” again provides some valuable data and suggestions on enhancing harness racing. If you have not digested this information then I encourage you to do so.   

Thanks should be expressed to John Mooney for doing an outstanding job as the ongoing NZSBA Executive Management resource. John recently penned a thoughtful letter to HRNZ offering constructive input on the future structure of that organisation’s Governance.  SSB supports the suggestions offered in that correspondence and encourages HRNZ to carefully assess the options put forward.     

In terms of local operations, I would like to thank the committee for their contribution to regional breeding events. In particular I wish to single out Gail Paisley for her quality service dealing with the various requirements of SSB.  It is appropriate to also thank Cleland Murdoch and Katrina Price for being prepared to commit time and effort to represent SSB on the NZSBA Executive. 

Finally, I wish Southern breeders all the best for the coming season as we look forward to producing more potential future champion standardbreds.  

Pauline and I have recently relocated to Canterbury for family reasons and as a result I will be stepping down as President effective from the 2023 AGM date.  I wish to record my appreciation for the comradery and support provided by SSB, SBSR and the NZSBA network over many seasons.  

Mark O’Connor 

17 May 2023