In his widely-read column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS reports that the racing industry in the north is none the wiser after a meet and greet with new Racing Minister Steve Dickson on Monday evening in Townsville.

Butts says Dickson did not have the answers that many were seeking and dodged many questions, playing the political game, which saw the disenchanted ones label him ‘Stevie Wonder’ after the meeting.

Butts also raises questions why the rest of the industry should have to suffer while a new grass track is installed from the Industry Infrastructure Fund at Toowoomba when members there voted for a costly conversion to cushion which has failed dismally to attract horses or punters.  

Here is the Butts column:

INDUSTRY NO WISER AFTER TOWNSVILLE VISIT BY NEW RACING MINISTER

THE RACING Minster breezed into Townsville on Monday to meet a large gathering of local and country folk to explain the new legislation and his views for the future. His visit failed to convince the local industry about the future.

The size of the congregation was evidence of the level of concern stakeholders in racing have for the future of their industry. And many left still wondering.

Minister Dickson listened to several questions but made no solid commitment to any of the many and various requests.

Of course he had a rub at the previous racing administrators under Labor with comments like ‘to be brutally honest I was glad to see the back of Ludwig and Bentley’ whom he blamed for many of the financial woes currently facing the industry.

He also told the gathering, that the chase continues in earnest for the money paid to the four former executives of Bentley’s Board who received that much publicized “golden handshake”.

“It’s in the hands of ASIC,” he said.

 

MINISTER BUCK-PASSES RACE DATES AND PRIZEMONEY ISSUE TO NEW BOARD

STEVE Dickson didn’t really tell the forum much they didn’t already know and refused to deal, make promises or even discuss the question of race dates and prize money claiming “it was all up to the new Board that you people appoint.”

He continually stressed it was essential that all clubs nominated their very best candidate to fill the two vacancies to complete the five member QACRIB.

“It is up to you to nominate your best,” he urged.

The audience showed concern that appointments to this Board were not area specific, and that it  was possible, if not likely, all members could be from the south-east corner, leaving the country without a voice.

The forum silently rejected Mr. Dickson’s contention that the Country Racing Committee might deal with the country problems but one audible whisper in the room clearly rated that committee a “toothless tiger.”

In an effort to allay fears that Townsville and the bush might be disadvantaged, Mr Dickson said he still had the power to sack the non-achievers.

“I have a handbrake that the previous Government did not have.

“If I feel a member on the Board is Brisbane-eccentric or not pulling his weight, he will be sacked.” said the former Innisfail gold miner, horse and buggy operator and caravan park proprietor who admits to no previous association with racing.

 

MINISTER HIGHLIGHTED BLIGHT OF JOCKEYS BUT FORGET ABOUT THE OWNERS

THE Racing Minister highlighted concerns about the plight of jockeys without whom, he said: “There wouldn’t be a race meeting.”

Yet he didn’t mention the owners without whom there wouldn’t be a need for jockeys.

To a question of providing lights for night racing in Townsville, the Racing Minister was not convinced.

“Corbould Park has the best racecourse lighting in Australia. It cost $50,000 every time they raced under them.

“That’s why you don’t see night racing on the Sunshine Coast today.” And we won’t see it in Townsville, during his reign at least.

 

JURY OUT ON WHETHER CAN DO’S CHOICE AS RACING MINISTER CAN DO THE JOB

IT has obviously been a steep learning curve for the man in the hot seat – the politician that Campbell Newman phoned one night just after the election and said: “I want you to be our Racing Minister.”

It is perhaps too early yet to call exactly whether Campbell actually got it right.

Steve and his team motor to Cairns today (Tuesday) for another meet and greet of the racing fraternity in the far north and surrounds.

You would have thought he would have stayed for the Cluden races, to witness another ‘terrible Tuesday’ meeting that crowds abandon every week.

He might have seen first-hand why the Townsville Turf Club is desperate for the more profitable Friday and even Sunday race dates.

But he and his crew had other priorities so headed north.

No doubt there they will confront the same questions - race dates, and prize money – and presumably the Minister will have the same answers.

“It’s up to you to vote for the man you want on the Board,” he will pontificate.

“Your future lies with the man you choose...

It’s not just passing the buck – it’s plain, pure poli-speak.

And, in that department, he has learned it well.

But for racing under STEVE – well the industry will have to just wait and WONDER.

 

NEW LEGISLATION HAS THROWN UP MORE QUESTIONS FOR RACING THAN ANSWERS

AT long last the long awaited changes to the racing legislation bill went through the Queensland Parliament last week. 

We will soon have three code specific boards to run and guide the destiny of racing, greyhounds and harness racing.

Each board will have three members, the chairmen of which will be automatically take a seat the new five member Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board (QACRIB) that will replace the current RQL.

The new Board will be complemented by two “suitably qualified persons” yet to be appointed. 

It is assumed current RQL chairman Kevin Dixon will retain his place at the top of the table but then again, like everyone else, it is a position for which he must apply.

All up there will be 11 appointments, to the somewhat awkwardly named Board (QACRIB), which is already calling out for a name change.

The applicants will apply for positions on the respective boards and they will be assessed by a ‘reputable’ recruitment agency. They will then be interviewed by a Government nominated selection committee made up of people with knowledge of racing but who were not candidates for the advertised positions. This committee will make final recommendations to the Minister.

The new QACRIB, according to Minister Steve Dickson, will function as the overall control of the three codes.

It is hoped the new Board will be in place by March next year.

 

MIXED RECEPTION TO NEWS THAT COUNTRY WILL HAVE FEWER RACE DATES

THE WORD is out.

Racing Minister Steve Dickson recently confirmed to the Rockhampton media that there would be fewer northern TAB dates, but he is not saying how many.

The news has been a bit of a shock to Rockhampton and Mackay, while   it seems the Townsville club is not so concerned

“We don’t believe there will be any prize money reduction. There might be more races added to a program to counter act the fewer race dates,” said a TTC spokesman.

Chairman Kevin Dixon yesterday confirmed this, stating that all up Townsville might only lose one race day.

But he insisted “there will be no reduction in prize money.”

“It is sometimes better to have seven race days with eight races than eight race days with seven races,” Dickson said.

But Mackay and Rockhampton clubs and stakeholders are a little more stressed.

Mackay particularly has been a disaster since the opening of its new $7million track earlier this year. The club has been unable to attract trainer support and most fields over the past nine months have been, in a word - poor.

The club is now claiming it requires on-course stabling to attract more trainers to the city, but the chances of that happening, or being financed with Government money, is also in a word - poor!

However plans are said to be before the local council and there is also talk of the stable project could be financed privately.

 

GOVT FUNDING FOR A NEW GRASS TRACK IN TOOWOOMBA – THEY HAVE TO BE KIDDING!

AND while there is talk of race date reductions in the north, and betting (and crowd) decline, it has been confirmed that a new grass track could be funded by the Government in Toowoomba with the Racing Minister confirming it will be up to a vote of the members.

Surely the Infrastructure Fund cannot afford such a massive outlay considering the number of projects that need urgent funding throughout the state and considering the massive amount that was spent to move to a cushion track.

Toowoomba members had their special meeting and elected to install a very expensive all weather surface. It hasn’t been a success with confirmation that fields and turnover are declining badly.

Most trainers don’t want it (and didn’t in the first place) and punters treat Clifford Park like the plague.

But members got what they voted for.

And now the club and a few of its remaining supporters want a new grass track.

Are they serious?

 

NO GRASS AT PENTLAND BUT THE CUP WAS STILL A HUGE SUCCESS

THERE was no grass track at Pentland last Saturday for the annual Cup.

The head honchos from Guildford Coal, which will soon swallow up the Pentland region for a massive mining development, turned up in force to witness the much travelled Cairns galloper Hittopotamus win the Cup.

Ridden by Mackay’s David Simmonds, not long back from his honeymoon, the oddly named steed outstayed his rivals and landed some decent bets for the George Doolan stable.

It is a long, dusty haul in the heat from Cairns to Pentland but it was well worth it, according to the wily old trainer. 

It was also some compensation for the loss of his good galloper Green Lantern which last week fell victim to colic while spelling on the Tablelands and had to be put down.

 

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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