Friday June 6, 2014
By Shelley Caldwell-Topp
Q) Tell us what a normal work day involves for you?
A) Unfortunately there is no such thing as a normal day, with always something new or different coming up. Key areas I am involved with are racing dates, industry funding, planning, rules, staff management, and liaison with other industry bodies and industry participants.
Q) What made you interested in the job you now have?
A) I have always had an interest in harness racing since I was a child and used to go to race meetings with my father who was a bloodstock agent at the time. This job was an opportunity to merge my career with a hobby I was interested in, which is a rare privilege.
Q) What part of your job do you enjoy most?
A) Very easy answer to this. Working with the staff at HRNZ. They are a fantastic team. All have an interest in racing and are great fun to work with.
Q) Have you had any other experience working in the Harness Racing Industry?
A) No, apart from filling in once or twice for my brother in the numbers room at Addington.
Q) What other jobs have you done before this one?
A) I had nine years at Audit New Zealand and just over two years at Selwyn District CounciI as Corporate Services Manager.
Q) Do you have an ownership in any race horses?
A) I haven’t on the grounds it avoids any potential conflict of interest. I do however support the industry through the tote, and have shouted my daughter a few shares in some syndicates to try and stimulate the girls’ interest in ownership.
Q) What do you like best about the harness racing industry?
A) The people _ 99% of the people I deal with are great and this makes you realise why you want to continually improve things for their benefit.
Q) What hobbies/interests do you have outside work?
A) My outside interests tend to all evolve around my family and then sport. I love watching most sports and I am involved with the swimming club where two of my daughters swim. I have also recently joined the local Rotary Club and I am enjoying actually contributing a small bit back to the community outside of my normal circles.
Q) Can you recommend a favourite place to eat in Christchurch or the wider Canterbury area?
A) Yummys _ nice Chinese, and they will even turn Trackside on if you ask.
Q) What is your favourite food?
A) French fries _ hence the waistline.
Q) Who does the cooking at your place?
A) Generally whoever is not doing the swimming transport. At weekends I tend to do most of it.
Q) What is your all-time favourite movie?
A) Die Hard
Q) What is your favourite book?
A) The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum.
Q) What is your favourite television programme?
A) House of Cards, or The Big Bang Theory.
Q) Who is your favourite singer/songwriter/artist/ actor or poet?
A) No-one really. Maybe Jimmy Barnes if I had to name one.
Q) How often do you go to the races?
A) On average twice a month.
Q) When was the last time you attended a race meeting?
A) Saturday at The Jewels.
Q) What is your favourite track?
A) Motukarara. You can’t beat a picnic race meeting by the car.
Q) Name the best harness horse you have seen race and why?
A) Lyell Creek. His toughness and will to win was beyond belief. Robalan was my favourite growing up.
Q) Have you travelled overseas? If so where, and did you see any harness racing during your travels?
A) Yes. North America, France, England and Australia. In terms of harness racing I have been lucky enough to go to a number of tracks in Australia, the Meadowlands, Woodbine, Yonkers, and Vincennes. One track overseas I haven’t been to yet that I would love to have a look at is Melton.
Q) What do you do to relax and unwind at the weekend?
A) Basically chill out, watch some sport, Trackside and spend some time with Janice and the girls.
Q) Are there any other members of your family involved in the harness racing industry?
A) Just my brother Gerard, who has done the numbers at Addington for years.
Q) What is your family situation? Do you have any children?
A) Married to Janice with three daughters _ Sinead (20), Caitlin (18) and Emily (16). I am incredibly lucky in regards to all four as they are all brilliant.
Q) Is harness racing an industry you would recommend working in? If so why? If not why?
A) Yes but I would qualify that by saying unless you have a passion for it you will not enjoy it to the maximum.
Q) What is your annual salary?
A) That’s a private issue between the board and myself.
Q) If there was one thing you could change in the harness racing industry what would it be?
A) More horses bred and having more owners wanting to race horses. The other area is the negativity of some people in the industry. I think everyone realises it is a very competitive and hard time for the industry. However, we are no different from a number of industries. Continually complaining how bad things are, without making constructive suggestions to improve things frustrates me. I know everyone here is working hard for the betterment of harness racing but sadly there are no easy, silver-bullet solutions.