Serious Test To Format Change

    The Inter Dominion Series has long
been the pinnacle of harness racing throughout Australasia.
    The incredible history of the great
event is fascinating in its own right.
    And yet, the sparkle that has made
this unique battle so special has waned a
little in recent years.
     Why? Well, there are many suggested
reasons, some plausible and some
not so. But, what has happened to the
Inter Dominion over the past 10 months
could change it forever.
    Let me quickly explain how the Inter
Dominion works.
    It started in Perth in 1936 and was
designed to be a battle between the best
pacers from Australia and New Zealand.
    Every year the series has rotated
across Australian states and every four
years New Zealand plays host.
    Except for a couple of years, the series
has been conducted with three rounds
of heats in the first week, with a week’s
break until the Grand Final.
    The fortnight long series was unique
to anything else in the world, was obviously
brutally tough on horses and during its
great days, attracted huge interest from
the Australian and New Zealand sporting
publics.   
    It didn’t take long before the series
developed to include a similar section for
the best trotters and this has been the formula for many years.

    The reason why we are talking about
the Inter Dominion in this month’s column,
is because the ‘new-look’ Inter Dominion,
ID08, starts in Melbourne on February 16,
but we’ll get back to that soon.
   The problems started six or seven
years ago when some Australian states
were having trouble funding a full Inter
Dominion series.
    The totally unique system where
each rotating state has carte blanche to
run its own series was in fact killing the
whole thing.
    The obvious problem of stake money
levels being low was directly attributable
to the individual financial condition of
one state to the next.
    Thus we had the situation of purse levels
remaining stagnant, public interest waning
(a universal problem facing the racing industry) and sponsorship virtually drying up.
Following the last series staged by
both the Melbourne and Adelaide controlling bodies (because the Adelaide
body didn’t have the funds to stage the
whole series), there were cries demanding
change from many within the industry.    
    There was talk of the series never
again being run in New Zealand, as it was
unhappy with a host of issues.
    There were also discussions that up
to three normal host states would not
be able to stand the financial pressure of
conducting a series again, thus the whole
thing could fall down.

  
Neale Donnelley

    For about 15 years a funding system,
arranged by the Inter Dominion Harness
Racing Council, has been in place to assist the host state.
    Each state contributes, depending
on a rather complicated formula based
around the size of the state, the number
of races it conducts, turnover etc., resulting
in the host state receiving about
$220,000.
    Although some help, this was vastly
inadequate to conduct a series that should
require about $2 million. Something had
to be done.
    Enter Kevin Seymour, a mega-rich
Queenslander (property developer) with
a massive passion and knowledge for harness racing.

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