She is a young Information Technology (IT) whizz, known as Geek Girl. She loves harness horses and harness racing, particularly the “social side” and believes more young people could be attracted to harness racing by changing the image. “I think a lot of people associate Harness Racing with New Zealand Cup day – therefore they see it as all about drinking and gambling when it’s not really either of those things. I remember the Christchurch Casino did a big marketing campaign a few years ago that really emphasised the fun, and the non-gambling offerings at the casino. I think Harness Racing could do something similar.”
1) You recently redesigned the Harness Racing Owners’ website?
Yes. The website had become a bit dated and wasn’t very mobile friendly so I gave it a bit of a makeover to pretty it up, make it mobile friendly and integrate it a bit more with the Facebook group.
2) How did you become involved with the Owners’ website?
I’m a member of Neil Bennett’s syndicates and offered to help him out one night when he was complaining about the website (we all know how unusual it is for Neil to complain about anything 😉 )
3) You are known as Geek Girl. How did you acquire that nickname?
Neil picked it because of another blog that I have. I put Geek Girl in the name of my blog because I’m a bit of a geek – I work in IT, I like sci-fi, I wear glasses!
4) Do you have any other involvement in harness racing?
Only through the syndicates that my husband and I are members of.
5) What made you interested in harness racing?
My husband had joined a couple of Neil’s syndicates and become a member at Addington. I didn’t really get involved for the first year or so, but then I got injured and couldn’t run so had a lot more time on my hands and started going to meetings at Addington. I liked the people, the fun and of course patting the horses and over the past year my addiction has grown! I think my husband wishes he hadn’t gotten me involved now!
6) What other interests do you have?
As I said, up until a year ago I was a runner and am hoping to be able to start running again soon. I’ve also started getting back into photography and love taking photos of the horses and races – you can usually find me wandering around the lawn and stables with a camera around my neck at Addington on any given race night – even if we don’t have any horses racing (which is unusual).
7) What do you do for a living?
I’m an IT project manager/business analyst.
8) Have you ever worked with standardbred horses?
9) Are any of your friends or family members interested in harness racing?
Not now. My husband’s family used to have horses years ago. When I was a kid my pop owned, bred and trained thoroughbreds and a local harness trainer used to use his farm and track for training.
10) What do you like most about harness racing?
For me it’s the social side. I like the people – fellow syndicate members, trainers, drivers. I’ve met lots of really nice people through harness racing and it’s a fun night out (or day).
11) Is there anything you would like to see changed. If so how?
I don’t really feel qualified to comment on this. I’ve only really been involved for a year so there’s not much I could constructively add to the discussions I see going on.
12) As a young person have you any ideas about what the harness racing industry can do to attract more young people to the races?
I think we need to change the image of harness racing. I think a lot of people associate Harness Racing with cup day – therefore they see it as all about drinking and gambling when it’s not really either of those things. I remember the Christchurch Casino did a big marketing campaign a few years ago that really emphasised the fun, and the non-gambling offerings at the casino. I think Harness Racing could do something similar. I also think there needs to be more information out there about how to get involved, what it costs (roughly/on average) the different options for ownership etc. Christmas at the Races seems to attract a lot of non-racing people so maybe more things like that. Addington is perfect – a few marquees and some heaters on one of the lawns on more race nights to make it a bit more fun and sociable.
13) Do you have an all-time favourite pacer? If so who and why?
I was always one of those people who picked a horse based on its name (and still do most of the time!). We don’t have any pacers but I always used to have a soft spot for Monkey King and Bailey’s Dream – mostly because I liked their names.
14) Do you have an all-time favourite trotter? If so who and why?
Monty Python. I love all of our horses, but Monty was the first time I was on course for a win and I’ve always had a soft spot for him. Although with Father Christmas making the Jewels it could be a tie for my favourite these days J
15) Favourite driver? If so who and why?
I can only speak for the drivers of our horses because they’re the only ones I’ve really had anything to do with. And just like the horses I love all of them – Peter Davis, Matty and Brad Williamson. They’re all just really nice guys who always have time to talk to you.
16) Favourite trainer? If so who and why?
Again I can only speak for the trainers of our horses and in this case it would have to be Phil Williamson. I think he’d have to be one of the nicest guys in harness racing. I spend quite a bit of time in the stables talking to – I mean patting! – the horses and our syndicates usually have quite a few members on course and I swear I’ve heard Phil have the exact same conversation with 4 different people, but you’d never know it from listening. He always has time for all of the owners. Plus he lets me get my horse fix and pat his horses on the rare occasion we don’t have any of our racing!
17) Do you prefer grass-track racing or all-weather track racing?
Whichever one our horses are racing on! I’m not fond of the all-weather tracks at Rangiora and Oamaru because the distance and the rails get in the way of my photos!
18) What is the name of the syndicate you belong to and what horse/horses do you own?
My husband and I are part of 3 syndicates all up – Griffins, Seafield and Griffins 2 (original name I know!). We counted last week and we have 16 horses + 2 unborn foals. There’s a few weanlings and 2 years old in there so not all of them have raced yet. The ones that people might know would be Sol Invictus, Sarah Palin, Monty Python, Father Christmas, Cuddly Jess. A couple of 2 year olds hopefully qualifying soon are Dark Horse and Peter Castleton.
19) Can you outline the benefits of belonging to a syndicate?
It can be quite social and you get to have more horses. I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there like me who could probably get together with a few mates and buy a horse together, but the monthly costs involved mean most people could only really afford 1 horse. Being part of a syndicate means you get to have a part of more horses, which usually means having horses racing all year. It’s reasonably rare for us to not have a horse racing in any given weekend, and sometimes we have 3 or 4 at the same meeting – once we had 3 in the same race! Also, if you are part of a syndicate like Griffins it can be quite sociable. I’ve got to know quite a few new people over the past year and there’s a group of us who usually have dinner together every week at Addington – even on the odd occasion we don’t have any horses racing that night.
20) Is a race meeting somewhere you and your friends would automatically think to go to as a place to go to relax and have fun? If yes, explain what track is your favourite for doing that and why. If no, explain what could be done to change that.
I wouldn’t say so, no. I think it goes back to my earlier point about needing to promote racing as a fun and social activity. Have a few more events throughout the year where there are marquees on the lawn with some food and drinks and a couple of tables. A few years ago I went to a ladies night in the lead up to cup week where there were TAB staff available to teach you how to bet, what the different options were etc. That one was good, because even though there was a fashion show on, it was still about the racing as well. I see people come along to work dinners or whatever at Addington and hardly any of them watch a race – or they watch one or 2 and then go back to talking and socialising amongst themselves. So while I say emphasise the fun and social aspects – it still needs to be about the racing. Aside from cup week and Christmas at the races you never see race meetings advertised in the media – maybe some money could go towards promoting the sport in the mainstream media.