GOVERNMENT UNDER FIRE OVER BAIL-OUTS FOR QLD HARNESS RACING

CRITICS of harness racing – more so the share of TAB revenue it receives considering the turnover it generates – have been quick to react to an editorial piece by Racing Queensland CEO, Brendon Parnell, in the latest edition of ‘Pace’ magazine.

Emails received by letsgohorseracing have questioned whether harness fans of Parnell are ‘delusional’ in their assessment that ‘there is an air of optimism on the harness horizon in Queensland if the picture he paints is on the money’.

The Parnell piece headed: ‘Raft of Initiatives to Benefit Harness Racing’ goes on to list a number of cash injections, totalling $1 million directly as prize money and  incremental increases in drivers’ fees, gradually rising to reach $62 per drive in 2021.

‘As the average age of the top 10 drivers is 29, this is said to demonstrate the depth of opportunities within the code. “We want to ensure that these drivers and those that follow them, including the mini-trotting participants, can continue to forge a career in harness racing,” the RQ Mission Statement reads.

Harness critics highlight the fact that of the overall increase in annual wagering turnover on Queensland racing (which was 5.2 per cent in 2017-18) harness contributed 8.8 per cent compared to the greyhounds 17.1 per cent. They point out that a combination of factors boosted an improvement by harness racing particularly increasing the number of TAB races run annually by almost three per cent, which included converting two meetings hosted by Marburg Pacing Association, and an enhanced racing program.

Dennis Smith, in his popular ‘Trots Tactics’ column explains where the $1 million harness boost came from. He wrote: ‘In 2018 the Government weighed in with at least half of a $2 million increase in funding for the code with RQ as its partner.

‘We are told on a daily basis of the huge increases in harness turnover, and the greater goldmine said to exist in the new ‘panacea for all ills’, the National Ratings System of handicapping and programming. Strange that the extra cash should have been required when the picture is so rosy.

‘Mind you, even though the term ‘grass roots’ got yet another run, there was not one dollar for a budget exercise to re-ignite the sport at Townsville, a venue which had a TAB meeting every Saturday night, when this writer shifted to Queensland 40 years ago.

‘The world of harness is a funny place. Forty years ago the Sunshine State was a hobbyist trainer’s paradise, where nearly every horse could be placed in a race with a realistic chance of defraying costs. We have progressed to the stage now of a shrunken horse pool liberally salted with old, but still quite able horses, which are racing many grades below their real ability, on the misguided premise that somehow they are entitled to pension benefits.’

LGHR remembers the halcyon days of harness racing in Queensland as well with huge crowds, a massive ring of bookies and a Winter Carnival that captured the spotlight in Australasia when contested by household names in the sport.

Once the ‘speed pacing capital of Australia’ with a booked out Silks Restaurant in the Albion Park grandstand every Saturday night, the headquarters of harness racing in Queensland is now lucky to attract a few hundred fans and a cloud over ‘match fixing’ and other ills has seen rank and file punters walk away in droves.

To those who are critical of the share it receives from TAB turnover and the Government there is a message: Without this harness racing would struggle to exist in Queensland. God knows what will happen when harness King Kevin Seymour is no longer around to keep it afloat.’       

 

MARK AND BEN CURRIE FOREVER ‘MARKED MEN’ IN EYES OF STEWARDS & PUNTERS

AFTER what has happened just in the past 12 months the father-and-son trainers, Mark and Benjamin Currie, will forever be marked men in the eyes of not only the racing police but the punters.

Rightly or wrongly, that was why inexperienced apprentice Adin Thompson got caught in the crossfire when he slaughtered the Mark Currie-trained Danniwillbreezonby at Toowoomba on Saturday night.

Thompson, whose success on bush tracks doesn’t warrant the bagging he copped over one bad ride, was caught three deep on the speed in a small field. It wasn’t a good look but there is no way in the world there was anything untoward about his ride.

The extra effort told and the tank of Danniwillbreezonby was running on empty in the straight when he faded to finish less than four lengths from the winner Merge. Stewards questioned Thompson and Currie regarding tactics, with the apprentice explaining that Merge's jockey Josh Oliver kept him deep on the track.

The Stewards’ Report read in part: “Mr Currie advised that he had instructed Apprentice Thompson to ride the mare out of the barrier in an attempt to lead in the first 200m and, if unable to do so, to settle into a position.

“Apprentice Thompson confirmed the instructions and stated that each time he attempted to go forward Merge (J. Oliver) improved to his inside preventing him from crossing to the lead.

“Apprentice Thompson added that he had made an attempt to ease however Merge also eased keeping him in a three-wide position.”

Stewards told Thompson that he should have made a greater effort from the 900m to ease and take up a trailing position. However, they elected to take the matter no further other than to refer this ride to the Racing Queensland Apprentice Training Department for further review and tuition.

We don’t know if young Adin had a jockey’s advocate present when the hearing took place in Toowoomba but received this interesting email from GREG BLANCHARD of NUDGEE:

IT’S nearly a year to the day (21 July 2018) that Corey Bayliss was outed on his ride on Tumbler at Doomben.

There was a lot written and rightfully so as there were no advocates in attendance.

I have over the last few years been banging on about this but sadly nothing has improved.

Ben Saunders covers the Darling Downs which is great but there has been only two other meetings where another advocate went to this year throughout Queensland. That was Shane Scriven at Gatton on 8 January and National Apprentices’ Day at Doomben on March 20.

I believe they provide an important role for apprentices. Why don't we have them outside of the Darling Downs?’

Apart from those who backed Danniwillbreezonby the Inquiry concluded with the right outcome – stewards were entitled to query the ride and tactics then took the appropriate action. Don’t write young Aidn off for this one mistake – the kid has a stack of potential – and will no doubt learn from it.

SADLY THE CRITICISM OF BEN CURRIE HAS ‘ZERO’ CREDIBILITY IN EYES OF RACING WORLD 

PITY the same cannot be said for disqualified trainer Benjamin Currie who vented his disgust with the ride on one of his favourite forums – Twitter.

Sooner or later Ben will learn that those who once clamoured to read his inappropriate tweets no longer care. He should adopt the message for all things racing these days and learn ‘you say it better when you say nothing at all’.

After Danniwillbreezonby, Currie tweeted: “Think I just witnessed the worst ride I have seen in my entire life.’

“You must be living under a rock Ben. It’s Toowoomba not Flemington and we aren’t talking about an inexperienced apprentice not a champion jockey like Craig Williams who has his share of slaughter jobs out wide – one heavily backed favourite comes to mind from a couple of weeks ago.

An indication of how Mark and Ben Currie are forever ‘marked men’ can be gauged from some of the responses on websites like punters.com who are under fire for what some perceive as ‘glorifying’ a disqualified person.

It’s amazing what constitutes ‘defamation’ in the eyes of the law these days but one thing’s for sure
punters.com want to hope that the high priced lawyers for the Currie’s don’t view a couple of the contributions they ran which we wouldn’t dare to republish.

There were others like this:

‘I can’t believe (Mark Currie) is still allowed to have runners here (in Queensland) when he is banned in NSW and Vic. That is a joke.’

And this response: ‘Who cares? Te minute Racing Queensland mentions Toowoomba we all know it's a farce…. Seriously, does anyone bet there anymore?’

Others went on the attack against young Benjamin’s criticism of the Thompson ride with cracks like: ‘Certainly a case the pot calling the kettle black. Why does the opinion in racing matter anyway. He is irrelevant and deserves to be treated in such a manner.’

‘Funny that, Ben Currie never seemed to mind his horses traveling four, five or six wide when they amazingly won. Now he wants to can a ride the only travels three wide. Go figure!’

‘Why give that guy any airtime whatsoever? You would think he would just disappear in the disgrace he's covered himself in. He's comments have zero credibility and shouldn't be acknowledged.’

And finally: ‘Qld racing disgusts me.’

 

 

RECORD HONG KONG BETTING BUT MYSTERY END OF SEASON SLUMP

ONE would imagine that any racing jurisdiction in the world would be over the moon with a season attendance of 2.21 million punters and a record betting turnover of more than $A22 billion as the photograph by KENNETH CHAN, courtesy of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST shows.

BUT the Hong Kong Jockey Club isn’t and although a crowd of 51,000 turned out on Sunday for the final day of the current season – the best since 2012 – and officials are mystified why turnover on racing plunged an amazing $A11billion from the start of March until the end of June – virtually falling off a cliff after more than a decade of enormous growth.

Racing turnover more than doubled from 2005-06 ($A11billion) to 2017-18 ($A22.5billion), so the sudden dip has many espousing theories about what has gone wrong.

Turnover is the lifeblood of racing – it single-handedly supports the industry, enabling the Jockey Club to be the highest taxpayer in Hong Kong while also being a major charity donor. Without it, everyone suffers.

“It is probably a long story to explain what has happened,” HKJC chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges told the South China Morning Post. “It is complex – from competition, from product, from customer segments, the com­mingling, the illegal market – it has to be a holistic discussion.

“You need turnover for the long-term sustainability of the sport. We knew when we did our budget (for this season) that there would likely be a correction. (We were facing some) difficult challenges.”

Engelbrecht-Bresgessaid reduced betting byowners – one of the Jockey Club’s biggest spending groups – played a huge role.

“The owner segment is the most valuable and there was a weakness starting in April last year,” he said. “People who bet less than HK$10 million, we saw some growth. What really hit us is people who bet more than HK$10 million. They are really the key drivers of turnover. They are affected by a trade war, uncertain economic outlook.

“They don’t bet fewer transactions, it’s just the amount per transaction – 10, 15, 20 per cent. That is in the owners’ segment – it has led to negative growth.

“It’s the same in the members’ section. They are a small group, but key contributors to turnover. We have not seen a drop in the interest, how many times they come, how many times they bet, but the betting amount per transaction has been reduced.

“We see a similar trend with the public to the owners, but not as profound – they bet around 5 to 6per cent less.”

Because the population in Hong Kong is not growing, the Jockey Club has to look abroad, making commingling a key component of its strategy. Commingling – where international partners bet directly into the Jockey Club pools (thus giving everyone a cut of the action) – has grown enormously in the past three seasons.

Part of that is because of new regulations – for example, Australia and England made betting overseas illegal – which meant punters in those jurisdictions whose money was being counted as “Hong Kong” (betting through a HKJC account) have now switched to “commingling” (betting through a partner like Tabcorp or Betfred).

But there was also a growing awareness and promotion of Hong Kong racing internationally, with larger pools providing a better value proposition for punters looking for greater price surety. Commingling grew from HK$3.48 billion in 2015-16, to HK$6.5 billion in 2016-17 and jumped to HK$16.58 billion last season.

It all turned in mid-April. The year-on-year numbers, which had shown consistent growth up until that stage, suddenly dropped by anywhere between 10 and 36 per cent per meeting (from HK$18.27 million to HK$104.3 million).

The initial fluctuation was blamed on a computer glitch, but when it continued it was discovered the professional punters who were betting through the tote in England virtually stopped betting. Scuttlebutt suggests there was an issue with rebates.

“The owner of the tote, Betfred, probably pushed the business pretty hard [early] and they sold it to a new operator,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said. “There seems to be a change in customer relationships and that has definitely [affected us]. If you look at [Monday, July 1], we were HK$46 million less than last year. That practically explains the major impact.

“I think this will continue. It’s the new normal and we have to live with the reduced turnover from commingling. But if you look overall, we still think we will be about 7 to 8 per cent over last year.”

Despite the warning signs, the Jockey Club is not panicking and focused on addressing the issues at hand.

Race programming will be addressed, there will be an in-depth analysis of the betting products, and new technologies and protocols will be assessed.

“Worldwide we have too much product, only the best product – regarding quality of horses, quality of jockeys, quality of trainers, integrity, competitiveness of fields, value for customers – will be dominant,” Engelbrecht-Bresges said. “That’s why we have to keep our strategy focused. We have to drive to be more attractive.

“I think in a two- or three-year perspective I can see a lot of growth from these initiatives but the next year will probably be more challenging.

“But the base we have is pretty high, we can weather storms. We have a strong resilience but you cannot be complacent and we won’t be complacent.”

Champion-jockey-turned-trainer Douglas Whyte joins the ranks next season to make it 22 with boxes at Sha Tin, but it will drop away again with the impending retirement of John Moore, who is being forced out as he is turning 70.The Club is under fire over the departure of Moore who is keen on ending his training career in Australia. Does that leave the door open for Hong Kong to try and entice champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller to relocate?

Another problem has been the horse population – there are 1,276 horses on the books in Hong Kong – which hasn’t stood up across the 89-meeting (817-race) season.

The Jockey Club was surprised at how well the horses handled the extra load when the season expanded from 83 meetings to 88 in 2016-17, but now it is feeling the pinch. “This season we really felt the impact – especially in the beginning. We had smaller fields and it is still bugging us. The horse population has grown by approximately 100 horses but it takes time [about six months] before they are productive. We think next year we won’t have such an issue – but we have had a stretched horse population.”

There will be no increase in simulcasts for 2019-20 with Engelbrecht-Bresges reluctant to lobby the government for more fixtures in the current political climate.

The Jockey Club covered races from 25 meetings around the world this season – from Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, Dubai, France and the United Kingdom – and that number will remain in 2019-20.

Simulcast racing is one of the big growth areas when it comes to racing betting for the Jockey Club – particularly expanding in the summer months of the Hong Kong off-season – but it needs government approval to broadcast and bet on more meetings and the chief executive doesn’t think the time is right.

ENGELBRECHT-BRESGES has told the MORNING POST that Hong Kong needs more trainers – and horses – to help turn around the decline in betting turnover.

The HKJC has been operating with 21 trainers for most of the season after the sudden departure of Michael Freedman in November and that has affected how horses are spread out over all the stables.

To get more competitive fields, there needs to be a balance across the board – but those trainers have to hold up their end of the bargain when it comes to results.“We can see the number of trainers has an impact,” he said. “We want to go back to 23, but we have to see how we do this. We can live with 22 but I think the optimal number is 23 or 24.”Illegal gambling markets remain one of the biggest challenges for the Jockey Club and while it will consider remodelling its pricing structure to help combat that, fixed-odds betting is not an option.

The Jockey Club returns 82.5 per cent of win, place, quinella, quinella place and double bets to punters (75 per cent for all other bet types), but it can’t match the returns the likes of Citibet can because of the mandated government contributions (75 per cent of the gross margin).

It means the illegals, who operate online with few overheads, have a commercial edge and more people are taking advantage, despite the risks.The Jockey Club estimates about 600,000 of its customers use an illegal market at some stage, while the Asian Racing Federation’s anti-illegal betting task force believes Citibet markets alone hold about 25 per cent of the legal turnover.

The season concluded on Sunday with John Size collecting his 11th champion trainer title (in a close finish with John Moore) and Zac Purton his third champion jockey trophy (falling just short of the record number of winners for a season set by Joe Moreira).

 

AUSTRALIANS OUT TO CREATE HISTORY ON WORLD STAGE IN HONKERS

IF you are proud of the top trainers and jockeys that Australian racing has produced then the final day (this Sunday) of the Hong Kong racing season is a must-watch for you.

Former Brisbane boy, John Size, goes into the final meeting with a two-win advantage over rival John Moore in what has developed into a thrilling battle for the trainers’ championship.

The 11-race card promises to be an epic decider with Size slated to saddle eight runners across five races and Moore targeting 11 of his horses at 10 of the afternoon’s contests.

Moore headed into Wednesday’s Happy Valley fixture oozing confidence, but ended the night worse off than when he went in. With the final showdown with Size remaining at Sha Tin on Sunday, his bright optimism remained.

If it comes down to a final race decider, Moore is perfectly at ease with the horse that will go to battle for him in the season-concluding Class 2 Hong Kong Racehorse Owners’ Association Trophy.

“If I did have a choice of the whole day, Thanks Forever is the horse I’d want going into battle for me in the last race,” Moore said. “I’ve got a lot of chances on Sunday. It was disappointing that we didn't get more than one winner on Wednesday night; I had hoped we’d be going into the last day all square but that wasn’t to be.

“Now I need history to repeat itself, back to when I trained four winners on the last day to beat Tony Cruz in the 2010-11 season. We really need to put on a good show on Sunday to down John.”

Meanwhile, expatriate Australian Zac Purton is playing down his chances of making history on Sunday when he will need to ride five winners to top Joao Moreira’s record of 170 wins in a Hong Kong season.

“Unless a miracle happens, it looks like it’s going to be too tough,” Purton said.

But if Moreira is the “Magic Man”, Purton has this season shown a knack for pulling off the miraculous, not least when producing a stunning six-timer at Sha Tin last weekend – his fourth six-win haul this term.

Whether or not he breaks the record, Purton has enjoyed a superb season. Aside from his 166 wins so far – an incredible tally for a rider who rarely rides below 120lb, he has partnered Hong Kong’s superstar Beauty Generation through an eight-win unbeaten sequence and struck up a top class partnership with leading stayer Exultant.

“It’s hard not to be happy with it,” he said. “It’s ended up being better than I thought it could ever be. I never thought I could get to the mark that I’m at so that’s an achievement in itself and one that I’m very proud of. All round I’ve had a good season. It’s going to be hard to replicate it but hopefully I can.”

Purton benefitted from the absence of fellow three-time champion Joao Moreira through the first three months of the season but he has also made the most of his opportunities - and he has ridden brilliantly.

“The expectation was there at the start of the season,” he said. “It always looked as though it was going to pan out the way that it has to a certain degree, so to get out there and get the job done is very satisfying. But, at the end of the day, it just comes down to the opportunities I get. It’s the same for any jockey. If you can’t get on the right horse you can't win races. I’ve had plenty of support this season, I’ve been able to capitalize on that and things have gone well.”

Purton has 10 rides booked on Sunday, including four for John Moore, who is throwing all he has at overhauling John Size in the race to be champion trainer. Among that quartet, the Australian hoop will be aboard Good Standing (126lb) in the afternoon’s feature, the Class 1 Sha Tin Mile Trophy.

 

JOSH ADAMS APPOINTED SENIOR STEWARD FOR RQ IN ROCKHAMPTON

The role of QRIC Senior Stipendiary Steward at Rockhampton has been filled following the resignation of Neville Laskey a little over a month after his arrival from Singapore.

QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett has announced that Josh Adams has been appointed to the role and holds in excess of 10 years stewarding experience predominantly in Thoroughbred racing.

“Mr Adams, who has stewarding experience in New South Wales and South Australia is keen to take up the opportunity to work in Rockhampton and will commence work early next month,” Commissioner Barnett said.

Neville Laskey has accepted a stewarding appointment with racing in South Australia. 

 

RACING IN QLD ON COLLISION COURSE WITH ANOTHER CONTROVERSY

RACING in Queensland is on a collision course of cobalt-like proportions similar to the one that caused so much damage to the industry in Victoria.

The exact extent of the bombshell is only known to a special Operational Unit of the Racing Crime Squad who are said to be investigating connections between up to 30 trainers with an alleged distributor of illegal or performance-enhancing drugs.

It is unknown if there is any connections between two men (both harness identities) charged with fraud as part of the police investigation into alleged doping involving top gallops trainer Ben Currie.

Denis Gordon Holbeck and David John Litzow have been charged with fraud. They have been accused of enabling and facilitating the administration of the horse supplements, which resulted in dishonestly obtaining thoroughbred race winnings. They are due to appear in Brisbane and Gatton Magistrate’s Courts next week.

Meanwhile, the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission announced yesterday that stewards had agreed to adjourn the hearing into seven of the remaining 21 charges against top trainer Ben Currie until after criminal matters against him have been heard.

That means that if Currie elects to go to trial on his criminal charges his racing matters may not be finalised for more than a year.

Police charged Currie last month with alleged fraudulent behaviour over a period from November 2016 to March 2019 where he allegedly sourced and administered unregulated horse supplements designed to enhance race performance. He is due to appear in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court on Monday.

Currie is currently disqualified for seven years after he had six months reduced from his previous sentences following an Internal Review this week.

He was to face stewards on seven more charges on Thursday but his lawyers asked for the matter to be adjourned pending the resolution of the criminal charge. The legal argument was that Currie could be prejudiced in any criminal trial by questions asked at the stewards’ inquiry.

But back to where this story started and there is a list doing the rounds which is claimed to include the names of those who have either been ‘dobbed in’ by a person or persons in return for lesser penalties or have been discovered on text messages on his mobile phone that implicates them.

These matters take time to investigate properly but considering some of the trainers rumoured to be under the spotlight there is urgency for charges, which we are assured by those close to the action will be laid in some cases by the Crime Squad, before the reputations of some highly respected stakeholders are dragged any further through the mud.

If the list that letsgohorseracing has been reliably informed about is anywhere near correct racing in Queensland is on the precipice of another major controversy. Trainers from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast, Rockhampton and Townsville are included in the list.

In another bombshell the Crime Squad is said to be investigating a former high profile integrity identity and also a one-time administrator. This involves allegations that a steward caught a well-known trainer in Queensland tubing a horse but the matter was swept under the carpet. Information has allegedly been provided by another former administrator who says he counselled an official about spending too much time with the integrity person now under the microscope and how it was ‘not a good look’.

There are also reports that integrity inquiries could go back as far as another era when there was interference in the work that stewards were doing at a time when there was supposed to be a separation of powers between the administration and integrity arms of Racing Queensland.

These involve complaints of how respected stewards were allegedly instructed not to continue with inquiries and how an interstate steward with plenty of skeletons in his closet was close to being appointed to a high profile role despite warnings of his past record simply because he was connected with the right people who had political pull with those making decisions.

The dark clouds are hovering over racing in Queensland once again – and we’re told it isn’t restricted to the gallops with an investigation looming into complaints from members of one club surrounding certain sponsorships and the parties involved.

 

IT’S WAR – VICTORIA RETURNS FIRE WITH MASSIVE PRIZEMONEY BOOST

AS VICTORIA comes out swinging in the escalating turf war with NSW, injecting a whopping $18 million into its already bulging spring carnival prizemoney coffers, spare a thought for stakeholders in Queensland and South Australia.

It is no secret that lack of Government support for racing has seen the industry in SA heading downhill faster than an out of control roller-coaster with some high profile figures already jumping ship and moving interstate.

At least in Queensland the Labor Government is trying to do something and has injected meaningful millions into the stakes pool but it’s still a far cry from the prediction of then LNP Racing Minister Steve Dickson that under his Government racing in the Sunshine State would wind up ‘a furlong in front of the big southern States’.

Perhaps a step toward boosting prizemoney for the Queensland thoroughbred industry – apart from forcing harness racing (especially Albion Park) to earn its absurd slice of the pool and stop maggoting on the back of the gallops – would be for coverage to move to Racing.com.

As the prizemoney war intensifies between the two big States and major races demand extra attention there is the very likelihood that SKY will continue its practice of showing even less Queensland racing that it currently does – so much for loyalty over the years!

Perhaps the lesson to be learnt for those who have been critical of the perceived obsession by Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys to throw tens millions at ‘novelty races’ – is that the big winner has been racing in Victoria where arguably the extra $100 million prizemoney boost to be announced this week might never have happened.

GLENN McFARLANE of the HERALD SUN broke the news today that Racing Victoria has upped the ante in the racing war with New South Wales, boosting the spring carnival prize money to an enormous $100 million.

The cash injection means the carnival’s treasure pot will be $18 million bigger than last year’s. And the prize pool now dwarfs the $45 million total on offer in Racing NSW’s revamped eight-week spring program.

Racing Victoria’s unprecedented move is designed to ensure the country’s best horses, jockeys and trainers compete in Melbourne. The boost includes an increase in Melbourne Cup prize money to $8 million.

There will also be an extra $2.3 million spread across the prestigious Victoria Derby Day at Flemington — taking the prize pot to $10.2 million — to combat NSW’s introduction of the $7.5 million Golden Eagle race on the same date.

Victorian Derby race winnings will remain at $2 million, but cash for other races across the day will increase.

Racing Victoria chief executive Giles Thompson said the investment would keep Melbourne at the forefront of global racing, with the Spring Carnival delivering a $760 million economic benefit to Victoria.

“We are committed to again showcasing the best horses, jockeys and trainers from Australia and abroad across the carnival’s most prestigious and coveted races,” Mr Thompson said.

Racing Victoria, the State Government and the Victoria Racing Club will formally announce the spending windfall on Thursday.

NSW racing officials have also switched the $14 million The Everest to clash with the $5 million Caulfield Cup race. The Caulfield Cup Day program will carry almost $7 million in prize money.

Other key elements of Racing Victoria’s big Spring spend, include:

NEW bonuses worth up to $4 million for horses that compete in and win multiple feature races;

INCREASING the purse for the Group 1 VRC Sprint Classic on the last day of Melbourne Cup week from $1 million to $2 million;

THE Ballarat Cup becoming Australia’s richest country cup, rising from $350,000 to $500,000, as well as increases for the Cranbourne, Geelong and Bendigo cups; and

A $400,000 “Star of the Saddle” prize pool to reward the leading jockey on each of the carnival’s five most important days.

“The Lexus Melbourne Cup, Stella Artois Caulfield Cup and Ladbrokes Cox Plate have shaped the history of Australian racing and will do so again this year, while the stallion-making Caulfield Guineas and Coolmore Stud Stakes will crown our next superstars,” Mr Thompson said.

Racing Minister Martin Pakula said this promised to be “the best Spring Racing Carnival yet”.

“Racing across the board will benefit — from Group 1s at Flemington, Caulfield and Moonee Valley to cup-day cards at Cranbourne and Bendigo — and that’s great news for carnival-goers and the many thousands of people who work in the industry,” Mr Pakula said.

Victoria Racing Club chair Amanda Elliott last month declared racing jurisdictions should be penalised for throwing money at “novelty races” to vie with major carnivals.

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys, the brains behind The Everest and The Golden Eagle races, said last month the Victoria’s racing industry should be glad Racing NSW was introducing more prize money.

“Without us all the millions of dollars in prize money increases in Victoria wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “The Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate hadn’t moved up in prizemoney for years and all of a sudden they’ve realised they’ve got to return money to their participants.”

Mrs Elliott said the increase for the Flemington Carnival wasn’t aimed at hitting back at Racing NSW, but was part of the club’s long-term plans.

 

QRIC CLEARS THE AIR ON THE SWIFT EXIT OF STEWARD NEVILLE LASKEY

THE Queensland Racing Integrity Commission announced in mid-May that after a lengthy and extensive search it had finally found the right man for the role of Chief Steward in the Central Queensland region to be based in Rockhampton.

But a little over a month later Neville Laskey, who brought to the job almost three decades of experience in Singapore and Victoria, lodged his shock resignation to take up a position in South Australia.

Why the sudden change of heart. Why would anyone, including race-caller 'Feathers' Fowler want to relocate to the land of the losers in racing, South Australia. Rockhampton is a pretty boring place, but is it that bad? As far as provincial racing centres go in Queensland it is certainly strong and going places.

It was all a bit of a mystery and led to some mischief-making around the traps.

At the time of Laskey's appointment, QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett said: “We are very fortunate to have secured a steward with such a range of experience for the Rockhampton area.”

While based in Singapore, Laskey worked as a senior steward on the panel headed by Peter Chadwick who last year was appointed QRIC's Chairman of Stewards in Queensland.

Laskey filled the void created last August when Rockhampton's former chief steward Luke Collins resigned his post to pursue a career in law.

During the long period while the search continued for a replacement for Collins and there was no permanently based steward in Central Queensland, stipes flew in from Brisbane to chair the Rockhampton Jockey Club's TAB race meetings at Callaghan Park.

LETSGOHORSERACING decided that rather than fuel the speculation over why Neville Laskey decided to make such a sudden exit and to answer some other questions about the cost of his relocation from Singapore to Brisbane, we would ask QRIC for some answers.

Commissioner Barnett was happy to oblige and here’s what he had to say:

“Neville Laskey has accepted a Senior Stewarding position in South Australia and while we are sad to see him go, we certainly wish him all the best in his new position.

No relocation expenses were paid by QRIC to cover Mr Laskey’s move from Singapore to Australia.

Details about Mr Laskey’s replacement will be shared as soon as they are finalized.”

LGHR understands that an Australian-based steward has accepted the job and will take up his appointment shortly.  

 

WAGS & WHINGERS HAVE THEIR SAY ON ALL THINGS RACING

IT’S not WHINGE DAY but the WAGS of the WEEK have been given the chance to have their say at LETSGOHORSERACING where, unlike the racing section of the local rag, we provide fresh news and gossip every day and you don’t have to subscribe to the fish & chips wrapper to get a second rate service.

It’s a mixed bag this week:

‘LIST OF TRAINERS’ DOING THE ROUNDS BIGGEST TALKING POINT IN QLD

BARRY JENKINS wants some questions answered about ‘a list of trainers’ that is doing the rounds in Queensland:

‘THERE is a list of trainers doing the rounds – some of them quite well known – who are said to be under investigation as part of this Police Crime Squad drug operation.

If the names are close to correct racing in Queensland is heading for another major embarrassment.

Story goes a provider of illegal drugs has either rolled over to police in return for a reduced sentence or text messages and contacts from his mobile phone have implicated up to 30 trainers.

Perhaps it’s time for the integrity team to reveal what is going on before the reputations of some very good people are dragged through the mud any further.’

   

SURELY ‘FEATHERS’ COULDN’T BE DESPERATE ENOUGH TO MOVE TO SA

NORMAN LOCKWOOD has weighed into the debate on the future of DAVID FOWLER, who wears many hats including race-caller, multi-media personality and harness club chairman:

‘Surely the story doing the rounds about Brisbane race-caller David Fowler moving to Adelaide to fill the shoes of retiring Terry McAuliff cannot be true.

South Australian racing is for losers these days and he would be swimming against the stream (like the former Singapore steward Neville Laskey who is moving there after a short stint with QRIC). One would hope that David does know that the majority of the ‘winners’ in SA are about to or have already relocated interstate.

It doesn’t seem to matter how quickly you rise to the top in racing in Queensland the ride to the bottom is a much quicker one. Fowler is no longer regarded the No 1 caller in the State, his job as chairman of the Albion Park Harness Club is under fire and his media commentary on radio and print is seen by many as being a major conflict of interest.’

 

BOOFHEADS IN LABOR GOVT NEED TO REMOVE ROSE COLOURED GLASSES

GLEN STEVENS suggests that the appointment of former Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk did not sit comfortably with some high-flyers in the Labor Party:

‘I have read with interest as you have waffled on about how great the appointment of Graham Quirk will be to the Racing Queensland Board.

The point you made is that for the first time it crosses political borders and you have tried to sell us on the belief that Quirk can put politics aside in the decision-making process for racing.

Let’s see what happens when someone like harness king Kevin Seymour tugs his coat or the Labor Government makes a decision involving racing that doesn’t sit well with the LNP Opposition.

I can assure you that the appointment of Quirk was far from unanimous when Cabinet discussed it. There were those in the camp of former Racing Minister Grace Grace who apparently felt Mark Sowerby should have been replaced by a Labor appointee.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: FOR starters there’s no point Kevin Seymour attempting to influence the thinking of Graham Quirk on harness matters as he is the gallops representative on the Board and harness have their own. Secondly, the former Lord Mayor has shown in the past that he can be apolitical on all issues not only racing. And finally, when there is a change of Government next year, we at LGHR are convinced that Quirk will make one of the finest and fairest chairmen of the RQ Board that racing has seen.

 

ECCENTRIC FACE OF RACING MEDIA IN UK WAS ‘ONE OF A KIND’

LOVE him or hate him, John McCririck, who died of lung cancer at the age of 79, made a career as the loud, garish and eccentric face of Britain’s racing coverage. His ashes will this week be scattered at the former Alexandra Park racecourse in London.

McCririck was one of the pioneers of an abrasive, in-your-face, style of television broadcasting which was provocative, challenging and entertaining to many. His loud, misogynist manner offended some viewers, but enabled him to become the best-known and most discussed individual in horse racing in Britain.

Once described by a TV critic as having ‘all the charm of an armpit’, he was a waiter, a bookmaker and a British Press Award-winning journalist before becoming a racing pundit for ITV.

In 1984 Channel 4 took over TV racing coverage in Britain and McCririck went on to become their colourful figurehead for almost three decades. Known for his energetic dispatches from the racecourse, clad in tweed and gold jewellery and clutching giant Havana cigars, ‘Big Mac’ was the punter's friend.

Yet as McCririck once told The Guardian he was only on television because he had ‘failed at everything else’.

He had been sacked by the Dorchester Hotel for spilling soup over a customer and was dismissed by Sporting Life in 1984.

He was, he declared, ‘a failed punter, a failed bookmaker and a failed journalist’. But he insisted that his on-screen character was ‘the real me’.

Yet he also admitted playing a ‘pantomime villain’ on such reality TV programs as Celebrity Big Brother and Celebrity Wife Swap which revealed his recumbent lifestyle at home in London with his wife Jenny - referred to by McCririck as ‘the booby’ – his reference to a South American bird that is ‘stupid and pathetically easy to catch and squawks a lot’.

He was replaced in October 2012 on Channel 4 by a new presenting team, headed by Clare Balding. The following year he took legal action against Channel 4 and TV production company IMG Media Limited, claiming he was dropped because of his age. An employment tribunal subsequently ruled he lost his job because his persona was ‘unpalatable’ to a wide audience.

McCririck had few close friends, but there were many who held him in deep affection. Beneath all his petulant bluff and bluster, he remained an essentially kind person and a generous host.

HIS death caused one wag – who asked not to be named – to try and find some comparisons in the racing media Down Under.

‘IT’S probably fair to say that John McCririck was one of a kind.

‘I can’t think of one racing TV identity that would come within a bull’s roar of his eccentricity on our coverage. Perhaps down the track we might have a cross between an ageing big Richie Callander and pin-ball Jason Richardson.

‘For entertainment value comparisons might be drawn with Peter Moody and John Singleton. And for longevity the most likely – with apologies – are Max Presnell and Gary Harley (who certainly wouldn’t have survived the compulsory retirement clause that claimed McCririck in Britain.’

 

‘ARCHIE’ RUFFLES A FEW FEATHERS ON HARNESS RACING FUNDING

AND in conclusion this week we can’t help but pinch a couple of lines from our old mate ARCHIE BUTTERFLY who has his own battle to contend with in the courts this week:

Like most serious racing followers – outside the inner-sanctum at Albion Park – we agree with Archie on the subject of harness racing and would also like some answers to the questions he posed today:

HOW can Racing Queensland keep increasing funding to Queensland harness racing when TAB turnover on the trots keeps declining?

WILL the Albion Park Harness Racing Club lay bare the details of who did and who didn’t pay to enjoy the sumptuous seafood banquet in the Silks Marquet at the track last Saturday night?

The BUTTERFLY took umbrage at a comment by David Fowler on his Press Room show on Radio TAB this week when he commented:

PERCEPTION is everything, and many believe that the harness and greyhound industries are treated like second class citizens or the poor cousins in this Tri-Code model.   

To which ARCHIE replied: It was a funny claim to make given that harness racing wagering revenue is falling through the floor, that the trot industry is losing about $5 million a year end on end, and that the APHRC that the ‘Bantam’ chairs hasn’t made a profit in about half a decade, yet continues to attract ridiculously unsustainable increases in prizemoney and breeder bonuses.

TOUCHEZ!!!

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