IN his widely-read column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS questions what has actually occurred to improve the lot of racing in Queensland since a new Minister and new Board was appointed six months ago.

Butts highlights industry disharmony that the new RQ hierarchy has missed a golden opportunity to win confidence by overhauling the Integrity Department. He also calls for the position of RQ CEO to be advertised nationally to get the best possible candidates.

Here is the Butts column:

 

SIX MONTHS DOWN THE TRACK AND RACING IN QUEENSLAND STILL WAITS FOR ACTION AT THE STATION

BELIEVE it or not it has been six months since the so-called Bentley reign over racing in Queensland disintegrated at the ballot box. We have had, for six months a new Chairman of the Board and a new Racing Minister.

You might agree that the current Minister has had as much impact on racing as the string of racing ministers that preceded him under the Labor Government.

His name (in case you have forgotten) is Stephen Dickson – no relation to his name-sake Kevin Dixon, who is the Chairman of RQL – and whose performance, in some quarters, has also been questioned.

The entire industry is awaiting some important decisions. And the Dixon Board can no longer hide behind the ‘we need a change of legislation’ protection to the curly questions.

The $13million that the Bob Bentley Board says was inherited by the Dixon crew when they took over needs to be explained without threat of legal action.

It (the money) is either there in RQL coffers or it isn’t.  It’s as simple as that.

And, interestingly since Bentley made the declaration there have been no denials.

There are other issues that have the industry on edge, such as the widespread (and popular) belief that Toowoomba is to get a new turf track.

According to one member who attended the AGM of the club, the issue is on the backburner until January when we might then hear something official.

But if it is on the agenda and should be promptly confirmed or denied.  Again it is that simple.

 

WHAT HAS REALLY CHANGED SINCE THE DIXON BOARD TOOK CONTROL OF RACING QUEENSLAND?

SO what really has changed in six months and what has the new RQ Board of Kevin Dixon actually done?

Prize-money went up marginally in the south east corner, e.g. the Country Racing Series (a re-hash of sorts of the old Friday circuit) was introduced, a couple of major clubs in the south east got a financial boost from RQ (the BRC being the first) and on-course bookmakers received considerable financial relief. All good!

But again we ask where is the much-needed country racing representative that was to be appointed to the Board months ago. And where are the other Board members?

Last time we checked there was a Board of four.

What happened to, or where is the Integrity Department of RQL?

These are just a few questions begging answers.

The appointment of Alan Reardon, at great expense, to a seemingly back-seat role in judiciary has drawn a lot of controversy.

Why wasn’t a man of his reputation and experience appointed Chief Steward, many ask?

 

MANY BELIEVE RQ HAS DROPPED THE BALL IN NEED TO ADDRESS TARNISHED INTEGRITY REPUTATION

THE new RQL had a golden opportunity to completely overhaul the somewhat tarnished reputation of the Integrity Department when it took over – but it seems to have simply dropped the ball.

No doubt the image of racing all over nation is suffering, in fact bleeding.

In Melbourne, there is a headline almost daily that does little to promote the image of the racing industry.

And in Sydney, according to the wags, stewards seem more interested in hounding apprentice Daniel Ganderton for his exploits off the track than the performances of heavily backed horses (many for leading stables) on the track.

Some punters reckon the quicker stablemates in Sydney are bracketed on the tote the better. And maybe it’s worth some thought.

But back home and the appointment of a competent CEO for Racing Queensland looms as a matter of extreme urgency.

Chief Financial Officer Adam Carter, a legacy of the Bentley days, has been acting CEO and if the rumor mill is right he doesn’t want the job.

This is a very important position, particularly in this day and age. There are some highly credentialed figures from interstate that were interested.

But they are starting to question whether it is in the best interests of their career to move to Queensland. That, of course, begs the question of whether the role will be advertised, which it has to be.

The band-aid therapy at RQL is not working.

And it’s time for a national or international call up for the very best racing CEO available.

 

BOYS FROM THE BUSH ENJOYED A BIG WEEKEND OF SUCCESS IN BRISBANE RACING

THE BOYS from the bush went back to town last weekend and made their presence felt in a big way.

Gary (Call me Jack) Duncan got the cash with Sea Marvista which has certainly been knocking on the door and the Wehlow camp landed a plonk with Vantabulous in the second last.

The fact that Vantabulous, which was transferred from father (Greg) to son (Jared) after failing at Mareeba and Cluden at two previous starts did not deter at least one stable supporter.

They say there was no cash left in the can at one northern TAB after Vantabulous won and then there was a treble (15 times) to settle at the same TAB.

The only reason the Quadrella paid $16,000 (on UNiTAB) was because the punter was chopped out at the window!

And of course the last leg of the treble was won by another former Tablelander, Nathan Schofield, who is now nestled at Deagon. But he was, for a time based at Tolga, like Duncan, who has relocated to the Sunshine Coast.

Old man Wehlow (he’ll love that) is spreading a few of his horses around as he prepares for a trip to Melbourne with his last start winner Go Forest Go.

Greg intends to float the horse south after Innisfail on Saturday and run him in the All Greys’, a feature on Oaks Day – a race that the horse won three years ago.

He (the trainer) reckons its time he had a freshen-up and Melbourne during Spring Carnival beckons. We can’t wait to see him on the big TV coverage. That will be him – all decked out in suit and tie chasing the females around and testing his luck on and off the track on Ladies’ Day.

 

DOES THE VISIT OF RQ HEAVY SUGGEST OVERDUE IMPROVEMENTS AT CLUDEN?

THERE was an interesting visitor to Cluden last week but there seems to be some secrecy surrounding what he was there for.

Racing Queensland’s general manager of operations, Warren Williams, was spotted walking around the track and later inspecting on-course facilities.

There has been no word from the Townsville Turf Club about the visit other than to confirm: “Well, yes Warren was here for a bit of a look around.”

No answers were forthcoming as to why he turned up and whether he came to assess what is needed.

Everyone knows the TTC is anxiously awaiting approval for the much needed upgrade or reconstruction of the track.

Grandstands are also in urgent need of maintenance and the swabbing stalls are not satisfactory.

Then there is the matter of on course stabling and the sale of that valuable slice of real estate that fronts the highway opposite the shopping centre. It’s odds on this will all happen – the question is: When?

After the carnival next year is my tip.

 

COLUMN COURTESY OF TERRY BUTTS AND THE NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, one of Australia's leading rural newspapers.

TERRY BUTTS can be contacted by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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