1 September 2020

Ironically, on the day Australian Standardbreds would ordinarily be turning a year older, Harness Racing Australia (HRA) today advise that the Racing Year (season), will be permanently changed to a calendar year from 1 January 2021.

Following consultation subsequent to HRA’s decision to extend the current season to 31 December 2020 due to COVID-19, today’s announcement was a recommendation emanating from the HRA Executive meeting of 28 August 2020 and subsequently approved by a two-thirds majority of HRA Members.

Changing the season permanently to a calendar year is intended to bring about a number of important commercial, marketing and welfare benefits across the industry.

Most noticeably from the outset will be some major changes to the Feature Race Calendar, with the traditionally condensed season-end juvenile features able to be staggered throughout the year, with the space for States and Clubs to build momentum for promotion, wagering, visiting horses and interest in the sport.

As all horses will now turn a year older on 1 January each year, the additional 4-months provided for due to the racing year change can also benefit the education, training and confidence of young horses preparing for their racing careers.

With the current two-year old January to August racing season being extended under the changes, pressure on young horses to maintain performance for end of season features can be alleviated.  Programs can now provide feature races throughout the year and more developed two-year old’s in feature racing.

While this provides more opportunities for more horses to compete in feature juvenile races, this can also establish an important foundation for a stronger racing base to sustain a program of racing more often and for longer for the future.

From a commercial perspective, moving the traditional end of season juvenile features to spring and summer provides harness racing a great opportunity to showcase itself in the warmer weather, where it is expected that an increase in promotion and marketability will result in larger crowds and ultimately larger turnover nationally on harness racing.

HRA, along with the State Controlling Bodies will continue to collaborate on the calendar and feature races, updating the Feature Race Calendar on the harness.org.au website regularly.

Importantly, this change only affects the racing year – as the breeding season will remain as it is, starting on 1 September each year.  As that is today, all at HRA extend their best wishes to all breeders, studs, veterinarians and AI technicians for a successful breeding season ahead.

For further information, please contact Andrew Kelly, Chief Executive, on +61 3 9227 3000.