THE Rockhampton-based Queensland Trainers’ Association has unleashed a volley of criticism at Racing Queensland over what it described ‘inequitable sharing’ of the recently-announced prize money increases that totally snubbed country race clubs.

In a strongly worded letter to CEO Eliot Forbes, the QTA chairman Ross Shannon expressed ‘extreme disappointment’ and accused RQ of displaying a ‘perceived bias’ against the country clubs and stakeholders.

“It is encouraging to hear that improved wagering turnover and changes to Race Information Fee framework has delivered enhanced revenue bolstering the RQ’s 2016/2017 financial result.

“The fact that this has allowed the Board to approve a $3.2 million increase to prize money across all codes is also very encouraging.

“However, the QTA wishes to express extreme disappointment regarding the inequitable sharing of the announced prize money increases.

“Racing Queensland’s total failure to share any upside with regional provincial clubs, such as Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns, smacks of perceived bias”.

Shannon said the announcement of a fiscal train wreck for Racing Queensland in the 2014/2015 financial year resulted in all thoroughbred metropolitan and provincial clubs sharing the pain of slashed prize money returns to industry stakeholders.

“Queensland country race clubs did not lose any prize money as the Queensland Government stepped in with a funding guarantee, which you are well aware of.

“Now we have a situation where northern clubs, owners and trainers who shared the pain and have continued to support Racing Queensland by supplying product on the often unpalatable Tuesday and Thursday TAB timeslots have been just ignored.

“What is particularly galling is the wording of the RQ press release under the Thoroughbred section which states, “The current program of country race meetings and prize money levels will be maintained for country and regional racing.

He said the QTA was somewhat bemused by the lack of any reference to TAB provincial race clubs outside of the south-east corner.

“It is clearly our understanding that Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns run provincial TAB race meetings but appear to have just vanished off the face of the earth in regard to RQ future plans’’.

Mr Shannon said the QTA is aware of enormous lobbying by south-east Queensland trainers and owners urging RQ to compete with NSW prize money to help stem the flow of horses and trainers across the border.

“We have sympathy for this situation but also believe that by neglecting key northern clubs Racing Queensland is also orchestrating a self-fulfilling prophesy of future failure”. 

It will be interesting to see how Racing Queensland responds – if at all – given its record of ignoring criticism. But this time we wait with added eagerness.

Forbes is on annual leave and his job is in the hands of general manager Simon Stout.

This is the first time the QTA has formally attacked the reigning body since the breakaway from the Australian Trainers’ Association (Brisbane branch) two years ago.

The QTA broadside didn’t end there either.

“There is an age old argument that the best trainers and best horses are in the south-east Queensland corner unless, of course, you want to bring Sydney or Melbourne participants into the discussion.

“Success in racing is often all about prize money, opportunity and location. It revolves around numbers in training for most trainers.”

He said if the current RQ Board and executive team were to delve back into history when racing wasn’t so stacked in favour of the south-east corner, they might be surprised to find that many of Queensland’s best horses were either bred or raced in regional areas. Luminaries such as Talbot Heatley in North Queensland consistently raced horses in the north and then sent them to Brisbane or Sydney with huge success. 

“As prize money dwindles in regional areas in comparison to the south-east corner stakeholders no longer see the return of investment required to encourage them to invest in better quality stock to race locally, even to target the sprint/Cups type races. The numbers just don’t stack up.

“These owners don’t have the luxury of sending their horses over the border to race in NSW as they can only afford to purchase NSW and Victorian rejects anyway.

“They just stop racing horses locally.

“However, this type of owner is delivering windfalls for many key NSW and Victorian trainers and the racing industry in those States as they invest heavily in syndicates purchasing young stock or even overseas horses with a view to chasing lucrative prize money on offer in those States.

“They would like to race locally but have been kicked in the guts too hard and too often by Racing Queensland over a lengthy period.

“Recent prize money increases for select south-east Queensland clubs and the perceived lack of interest north of the ‘Brisbane line’ only reinforces their resolve to give racing in Queensland a big ‘swerve’.

“The QTA would urgently like to hear just where current provincial clubs other than south-east Queensland fit into the future plans of Racing Queensland,” Shannon wrote.

It was a valid  letter that demands a response.


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