IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS reports on worrying signs for the QTIS sale at Magic Millions on the Gold Coast this week.

Organized groups from the country are down in numbers blamed largely on the lack of confidence in the future of the racing industry in Queensland where prize-money remains at a stand-still and there are no signs that it will improve significantly.

Butts also reports on the growing rift between city and country trainers over Workcover; how a prominent Brisbane trainer reportedly described his country colleagues as a ‘bunch of grubs’ and why boom North Queensland apprentice Braydn Swaffer has decided to quit the city and return home.

Here is the Butts column:

LACK OF CONFIDENCE IN QUEENSLAND INDUSTRY A CONCERN FOR QTIS SALES

WHILST there was a welcome and appreciable increase in buyer activity during last week’s Inglis Premier Yearling Sale in Melbourne, which saw average prices jump by 8.5 per cent, Magic Millions can only hope the trend continues at this week’s QTIS sale on the Gold Coast.

This is the sale that usually attracts the country buyers from Queensland and for the past few years organized groups have travelled down with accommodation subsidies provided by Magic Millions.

But two things have happened this year. The numbers of buyers committed to the trip are down by half in Cairns, Mackay and Townsville while Rockhampton is also showing a distinct lack of interest.

And the MM subsidy is also down. This year only those who buy a horse will have their accommodation subsidized. And not all of last year’s buyers will have complimentary accommodation this year either.

The decision has upset one prominent northern buyer who missed has out on his bed and brekkie.

“I did buy one last year - but under the name of my trainer,” he snorted.

Too bad, too sad – and he won’t be among the buyers this year.

 

HARDLY ANYONE KNEW THE MAGIC MILLIONS DELEGATION WAS AT CLUDEN

LAST week a three-man delegation from Magic Millions was at the Cluden races, obviously to promote the sale.

But according to reports hardly anyone saw them or even knew they were on course.

A ‘dry bar’ had been booked for a little meet and greet of potential buyers after the last race but for some reason it didn’t eventuate. Not a single drop was poured.

So you get the impression that there is a distinct lack of interest in the 450 yearlings to go under the hammer on Sunday and Monday.

And that doesn’t look good for the future.

 

GOOD REASONS FOR LACK OF SALE INTEREST – QLD INDUSTRY GOING NOWHERE

THERE are good reasons for the lack of interest this year.

The Queensland racing industry as a whole is hardly going gang-busters.

There hasn’t been a significant prizemoney increase for some considerable time while all other expenses associated with keeping a horse have risen, some quite markedly.

There is no sign of Queensland attempting to keep pace with neighboring NSW which, particularly in the country areas and more importantly the Northern Rivers, is forging ahead in prize-money and field sizes.

The number of horses in work at the Gold Coast has dropped alarmingly from around 400 or 500 to 200 or 300, according to a Bundall-based trainer.

And there are no promises forthcoming.

 

PRIZEMONEY FOR COUNTRY CARNIVALS ONLY A CENTURY BEHIND THE TIMES

PRIZEMONEY for this year’s North Queensland winter carnival is no higher than in previous years and no doubt transport and accommodation costs will inhibit the usual flow of visitors and horses to the north.

It might be pointed out that in 1891 – yes that long ago – the prize-money on offer for the Rockhampton Cup carnival was 9000 pounds.

That equates, according to Google, to about $450,000.

Yes, how are we going now?

 

SOME IN THE COUNTRY AREN’T HAPPY WITH RQ AND QTA ‘IN BED’ OVER WORKCOVER

THE Queensland Trainers’ Association is still pushing hard for Racing Queensland to take over payment of their Workcover commitments.

The QTA advocates all trainers in the State should pay for Workcover by way of a $30 levy on every starter they saddle up, and wants RQ to handle it.

Of course the country trainers – more especially the owner/trainers – don’t want a bar of it.

And why should they?

At a meeting of the QTA last week (which was attended by RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon) the trainers argued that while some of the big guys are paying upwards of $50,000 a year, other trainers are paying much less, though it was claimed, some are saddling-up 150 odd starters a year.

Some trainers are being accused of rorting the system and not paying the rightful dues based on the wages paid by trainers.

 

WHAT AN INSULT FOR TOP CITY TRAINER TO SUGGEST HIS COUNTRY COLLEAGUES ARE ‘GRUBS’

WE have been told the QTA meeting got a bit heated.

There is even a report that North Queenslanders might have been referred to by one city trainer as ‘grubs.’

Surely that wouldn’t be right.

Talk about the kettle…...

Bottom line is the QTA (that’s the Brisbane trainers) want RQ to invoice ALL trainers state-wide $30 per runner, whether first prize happens to be $4000 or $400,000.

Plain simple common-sense and unprejudiced fairness would prohibit such a move so obviously designed to subsidize a few of the bigger trainers at the expense of their brothers in the bush.

 A far more equitable arrangement might be to have a different levy imposed for country, provincial and city runners.

That’s a proposal we understand that could be put to the powerful Rockhampton Trainers’ Association by the QTA at their upcoming meeting at Callaghan Park at the end of the month.

At present however, the Rocky trainers, the virtual mouthpiece for country trainers en-masse, are opposed to any levy based on starters.

In the end, just another problem for the new RQ board that is due to be announced (or ratified) on April 2.

So we believe.

 

STAR APPRENTICE QUITS CITY – PREFERS A HOME AMONG THE GUM TREES

NORTH Queensland’s top apprentice Braydn Swaffer is back from a short but successful sojourn south.

In his own words the Gordonvale teenager just couldn’t hack the pace of city life.

He is far happier among the gum trees of Gordonvale and after the Gold Coast was washed out on Saturday he headed home, ostensibly to celebrate his 18th birthday on Wednesday.

But it was back to work as well at Trevor Rowe’s Cannon Park stable where he learned to ride racehorses and from where he launched his riding career.

Young Braydn spent the final weeks of his Brisbane trek with Kelly Schweida who told him if he ever wanted to come back and try again the door was always open.

 

GIRLS DAY OUT AT THE TOWERS WITH JULIETTE AND EMMA DOMINATING

AND talking of apprentices, it was ladies’ day at Charters Towers on Saturday where the dynamic duo, Juliette Kuskopf and Emma LJung  rode four of the five winners.

Both girls have put together some impressive stats in their short careers and continue to improve.

For Emma it was a most pleasing and deserving result as she has been in the wars somewhat in recent weeks.

A heavy fall at track-work last week that resulted in a visit to hospital compounded a run of outs. But her fine winning double on Saturday no doubt eased any lingering pain.

As for Juliette, probably the youngest (and prettiest) mum in the saddle, well she just bears that beautiful big smile and collects the cash seemingly every race day.

Good on her!

 

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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