IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS reveals how there is growing discontent among trainers on the Darling Downs over plans for a new Strathayr track that will only accommodate 12 runners from the 1200m starting point.

Butts also raises industry concerns about the interim Board making decisions such as spending millions on a new track for Toowoomba and a new grandstand complex for harness racing at Albion Park.

His column also confirms that star South Australian female apprentice Lauren Stojakovic has accepted an invitation to ride at the big Parry Nissan meeting at Cluden.

Here is the Butts column:

 

 GROWING DISCONTENT AMONG DOWNS TRAINERS ABOUT TRACK PLAN FOR TOOWOOMBA

THERE is growing discontent in the training ranks on the Darling Downs over the proposed new Strathayr track at Clifford Park to replace the much-despised cushion surface at a cost of millions of dollars to the racing industry in Queensland.

The Queensland branch of the Australian Trainers’ Association has been asked to investigate revelations that the new track will only be capable of accommodating a maximum of 12 runners from the 1200m mark (now the starting point for the time-honored Weetwood Handicap).

Some astute racing men on the Downs are questioning why $8 million (that reportedly the minimum cost) is being spent on a track that can at best serve only 12 runners from the most used start.

It has also been revealed that the real estate value of Clifford Park has blown out from $25 million to $40 million increasing calls for the land to be sold and a new futuristic track complex built.

There are reports that the Toowoomba Turf Club has point blank refused to consider an offer a large slice of Government-owned flat acreage, with plenty of water available, located just six kilometres outside of town. One committeeman has already resigned because he put forward a proposal for a new track that was rejected.

At least two Downs representatives at the QTA meeting last Thursday suggested that a feasibility study should be conducted on this alternative proposal before Racing Queensland spends anything from $8mn to $12mn on another track that really won’t serve the needs of the present or the future.

 

IT’S RED HOT ALRIGHT AND NOT JUST THE SECRECY SURROUND ALBION PARK

RACING Minister Steve (they call him Tim) Dickson continues to sprout there will be no Government influence on his racing portfolio.

Well old mate, maybe there should be to stop this gross waste of money on projects that many in the industry regard as totally inessential. Or at least until Queensland has the new, properly appointed  Boards in place that the new Government promised.

But if the mail is right,  there will be no changes of any consequence and therefore everything currently in place will roll-on including that grandiose new grandstand for the ‘red hots’ at Albion Park.

Still no clarification on the Albion Park situation from the ‘chamber of secrets’ at Racing Queensland where an interim Board seems to be making decisions that should have been postponed until the selection process for the new Boards has been completed.

At least that’s the general opinion in the gallops industry, which provides the turnover that harness racing piggy-backs its existence on – something that Steve (Tim) Dickson, the puppet and the puppeteer, should be aware of.

Its red hot alright!

 

OLD CHESTNUT OF WORKCOVER – THE BATTLERS TO SUBSIDIZE THE BIG BLOKES

THE old chestnut of Workcover also raised its head at that QTA meeting and it was again the same old story.

The big blokes want the battlers in the bush to subsidize their responsibilities.

One Gold Coast based trainer, complaining of his levy, was told by another trainer to add the cost into his training fees, as most other business-oriented trainers do.

But we all know how the QTA voted at a meeting in January, so expect some changes to the Workcover arrangement – by order of RQ – which will no doubt be to the advantage of the big players.

And sadly the consequences will see a few more trainers in the bush be forced to give the game away.

 

MEMO KING KEV: HERE’S HOW WELL THE QUEENSLAND BREEDING INDUSTRY IS TRAVELLING   

LITTLE wonder there is a distinct lack of interest in the upcoming QTIS sale at the Gold Coast.

Cairns tour organizer Rob Koch reports the lowest interest on record of potential buyers to attend the sale and it seems Rockhampton and Townsville buyers are also showing reluctance this year.

This is not a good sign, particularly after a lack-lustre Brisbane Bloodstock sale – at which the Gainsborough Lodge draft that was advertised as unreserved, saw many sold for less than their sire’s service fee.

 

GOOD NEWS STORY OF THE WEEK – LAUREN STOJAKOVIC HEADING TO TOWNSVILLE

AND now for the good news story of the week especially if you are a follower of racing in the north.

Jockey of the moment Lauren Stojakovik has accepted the Townsville Turf Club’s invitation to ride at the Parry Nissan meeting on June 1.

It is a real coup for Nissan Day as she is definitely flavor of the month all over and six days after the Nissan she will come out of her apprenticeship.

Apparently she is thrilled with the invite, can’t wait to see Magnetic Island (and Cluden of course), and all she needs now is a good ride in the two year old classic. Here’s hoping.

 

NEW MACKAY STRATHAYR TRACK RATED ONE OF THE BEST IN THE COUNTRY

NOT that there was a need for further proof, but Mackay’s new Strathayr track passed the ultimate test last weekend.

Ooralea must surely be the envy of other clubs, big and small, and especially those forced to abandon meetings because of the recent treacherous weather.

Without doubt Mackay has a track without equal in the State – if not the country.

Ordinarily, Mackay would have called the meeting off on Thursday because of the rain that had already fallen and the threat of more. But incredibly the planned big Ladies’ Day fixture went ahead and the biggest winner, on a bleak day, was the track.

It offered no bias winners that came from everywhere and the going was the same for the last race as it was for the first.

Long-time racing men and jockeys who rode it described the track as ‘simply amazing’.

The rain actually stayed away for the races but so did the ladies as the crowd was not significantly any larger than normal. 

But then again, while the actual racetrack is superb, the upgrade of public facilities is still yet to happen.

Rainy days are hardly conducive to dressing up for a fashion stakes and a roofless grandstand has little appeal for neither the ladies nor the rank and file.

 

BEHIND THE SCENES TENSION BETWEEN MACKAY TURF CLUB AND LICENSEES

AND behind the scenes there is still an undercurrent of tension between the club and its licensees, with a rumor the current MTC committee might face a vote of no-confidence at its annual general meeting next week.

In a rare press interview, Chairman Ian Joblin, obviously aware of the threat, said: “Members elect their committee and subsequently a Chairman.”

He said it was the committees’ right to remove the Chairman at any stage, add ‘I have no indication that is the case’.

Joblin has been Chairman since 2004, and it is no secret that in that period the club’s financial position has changed remarkably. So has the committee.

In what some see as a distinct break in attitude towards the opinions of stakeholders in the area, newly appointed CEO Michael Jackson said: “The committee and staff of MTC share the stakeholders’ passion for racing in Mackay.

“We must communicate effectively and work together.”

Well, at least the disharmony has at last been recognized.

 But is it too late?

 

FORMER NQ TRAINER MAKING A COMEBACK IN MACKAY WHILE OTHERS LEAVE

WHILE trainers pack up and desert the once popular racing centre because of an alleged ‘inept’ and ‘non-productive committee’, former Home Hill trainer of renown, John Zielke, is planning a comeback – almost a homecoming.

John, who hasn’t trained for many years (but has retained his license), says he will take up residence in the sugar city by the end of the month.

“I have been looking for the right place to make a fresh start and decided Mackay is the spot,” Zielke said from Brisbane.

And he is not fazed that a few trainers have left because of issues with the committee.

“I have been in racing a long time and someone will come along and clear out the committee and rebuild.

“I want to take advantage of that rebuilding process,” said the man who left his humble beginnings in Home Hill 15years ago with a horse named Our Civic Hope for fame and fortune in the big smoke.

He had quite a remarkable impact – both on and off the track – and his training highlight was winning the Barbie Anniversary Stakes at Flemington on Oaks Day with the aptly named Kengrande.

No doubt he will be a welcome addition to the Ooralea training ranks.

 

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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