If the well-placed speculation is correct, the man being head-hunted to a key Harness Racing Victoria role will be a very familiar and well-qualified name to steer a troubled ship.
Bernard Saundry is one of Australasia’s most experienced and successful racing administrators and the rumors are strong he is being enticed to a senior role within the organisation.
Saundry has an impeccable pedigree that extends well beyond his eight-year tenure as the former CEO of Harness Racing Victoria during a strong period in the industry, from 1993 to 2001.
He also spent a year as CEO of the Western Bulldogs AFL Club (2001) and 14 years at Racing Victoria, including four years as CEO during which time he turned an organisation with debts of $38M, into a profitable business with a surplus of $75 million.
Saundry also spent five years as CEO and advisor to New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing Inc and is currently CEO at RSN Racing and Sport 927 and Chairman at AFL New Zealand.
Saundry is remembered at Harness Racing Victoria as an insightful, passionate and astute leader with a deep knowledge of racing and administration and who put industry viability as his central focus.
If confirmed, it’s perhaps it’s the first sign of the change at the organisation the grass roots industry is calling for.
Representative bodies have been demanding change since the revelation of the industry’s disastrous financial position and the announcement of stakes reductions and cost-cutting measures in August 2023.
Victorian harness racing representative bodies this week said the sector was in crisis and urged participants and stakeholders to throw their weight behind a petition calling for intervention from the Racing Minister Anthony Carbines.
The petition, headed “Harness Racing in Victoria is in crisis” was circulated by the Victorian Harness Racing Club (VHRC), and co-signed by the Trots Clubs Victoria (TCV), Victorian Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers Association (VHRTDA) and the Victorian Square Trotters Association.
The combined groups identified the industry’s key concerns:
- A record HRV loss of $6.7 million in 2023…after a loss of $4.1 million in 2022.
- HRV had 103 full time employees costing $15.7 million…compared to HRNSW with 50 staff costing $7.1 million.
- Stakemoney in Victoria was cut by $3.9 million effective October 1, 2023…at the same time, WA, Qld, SA and NZ have all announced increases.
- In 2022-23 the number of foals born in Victoria was down 13.3 percent on the previous year, and the number of mares served down 21.7 percent…in NSW foal numbers were up 1.2 percent and services up 1.3 percent.