THIS website continues to listen to what our readers have to say and has introduced a ‘Wednesday Whinge’ where you can express your feelings on racing industry issues of the past week. Try to keep them objective. Just e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

THE e-mail box this week was dominated by more criticism of controversial jockey Dan Nikolic and his brother John amid calls for this situation to be finalized by police and racing authorities. There were also many comments and concerns expressed about the declining state of the racing industry in Queensland where key identities are at logger-heads with Chairman Kevin Dixon, whose dislike for criticism or dissent has been well documented in a short time. Racing in Queensland is at the cross-roads, lacking the confidence of stake-holders and the punting public. The sooner the Government addresses the situation and gets a few experienced, non political and independent people with no agendas and free of conflicts of interest running the show, the sooner the turnaround will begin.

OUR NEW WEDNESDAY WHINGE FEATURE – THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY!

 

RACING QUEENSLAND’S NEW GOLDEN BOY HAD BETTER GET USED TO A GOOD ROAST

RACING Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon, whose dislike for adverse publicity is well documented, had better get used to it if the backlash that has started from some sections of the industry and racing media are any indication.

‘ALL BETS ARE OFF’ roared the front page headline in the Daily Mercury declaring ‘Tempers Flare and Whips Are Out over the fate of Mackay Racing.’

Deputy Editor MARK SLEEMAN, a respected journalist who loves his racing and has a share in the top youngster, Doubtfilly, didn’t mince words in a recent editorial after the Mackay Turf Club learnt that it would lose four TAB dates next season.

THE decision to strip race dates from Mackay Turf Club after about $7mn was spent on a racecourse redevelopment beggars belief.

Mackay is set to lose four Tuesday TAB meetings in 2013-14 under a draft calendar circulated by Racing Queensland Limited (RQL).

MAKE NO MISTAKE, THE DECISION IS POLITICAL.

Ooralea’s redevelopment was a project of the former Bob Bentley-led regime and Labor Government.

RQL’s new chairman Kevin Dixon has made no secret that he can’t see the rationale behind that expenditure.

But the worse was to come for the under siege RQ chairman when the Tattsbet CEO let loose in an unprecedented attack on the control body.

 

TATTSBET CEO BLASTS RQ OVER CHANGES THAT THREATEN FUTURE OF SUNSHINE COAST

SIMILAR despair has been felt on the SUNSHINE COAST where some key racing identities have circulated a letter condemning Kevin Dixon and his Board for threatening the future of Caloundra racing. They had strong support from Tattsbet CEO Barry Fletton who went on the attack against RQ.

Fletton told the SUNSHINE COAST DAILY that he believes proposed changes that have stripped the Sunshine Coast of its best race days and pushed prime TAB meetings on to bush tracks will lead to A BETTING DOWNTURN OF $20 MILLION, COST THE INDUSTRY $1 MILLION IN PRIZEMONEY AND REDUCE REVENUES TO THE STATE GOVERNMENT BY $500,000.

That’s an alarming statistic and especially interesting considering the biggest shareholder in Tattsbet is influential businessman and key harness racing identity Kevin Seymour along with former RQ Board chairman Bob Bentley.

Mr Fletton said the lack of certainty about track conditions, horse form and jockey quality risked punters deserting many Queensland race days in favor of NSW and Victorian venues.

The changes have hit Sunshine Coast Turf Club hard, costing it 34 of the 49 Sunday race meetings it conducted last year. Its lucrative Easter Sunday race meeting has been allocated to – you won’t believe this – Bowen in 2014, leaving Corbould Park with a twilight event on Easter Monday, the last day of the school holidays.

Racing Queensland's decision to run a TAB meeting at Innisfail on New Year's Day failed to excite the attention of punters – not to the surprise of many. The investment of $80,000 in prizemoney attracted only $140,002 in betting revenue compared with the Corbould Park meeting on January 6 that drew $678,396 in betting revenue from a prizemoney investment of $84,000 – which is well below what it should be.

Sunshine Coast Turf Club general manager Mick Sullivan – not known for speaking out against the authorities – said there had been NO CONSULTATION BY RACING QUEENSLAND with owners, trainers and jockeys and no discussion with the club.

"They're obviously talking to some clubs,'' Mr Sullivan said (which comes as no surprise to most who know those that he is referring to like Toowoomba). "It's ludicrous when you look at the facility that has been built here. Why won't they embrace what they have here, not destroy it?”

Meanwhile, the gallops fraternity in Ipswich is collectively holding their breath awaiting the fate that may befall the industry in that centre with some fearing that the greyhounds have a brighter future following the announcement of plans for TAB Saturday night meetings.

If they reckon the industry was divided when Bob Bentley was running show, the news from many key figures is: ‘Don’t believe all the propaganda you hear and read from the ‘yes men’ supporters of Kevin Dixon. This is becoming very political. Clubs are at each others’ necks.

“Most fear if Kevin Dixon becomes chairman of both Racing Queensland and the major control body (QACRIB) places like Mackay, Sunshine Coast, Ipswich and a few others may as well close up shop.”

 

NEED FOR INDEPENDENT CHAIRMAN OVERSHADOWS SURPRISE ABSENTEES FROM SHORT-LIST   

IN the light of the growing dissent within clubs throughout the state some interesting stories are emerging from the on-going selection process for the Boards to run the three codes of racing in Queensland under the LNP Government.

No sooner had rumors leaked that Kevin Seymour was interested in a Board spot on the All Codes Body when it was being suggested that some strong forces were working to ensure he didn’t make the cut.

Believe it or not, but speculation now doing the rounds and emanating from the ‘in’ sources, suggest that Mr Seymour will not make it – not because he doesn’t have the right credentials but because of the conflict of interest that would exist with his position as the largest shareholder of Tattsbet.

We are also hearing that lawyer and popular racing identity Bill Andrews didn’t make the cut either. Perhaps that is because he was a one-time member of the Bob Bentley Board, albeit he lost that seat in very controversial and unpopular circumstances. Or maybe they are saving him for the role of Racing Integrity Commissioner which would be a popular move.

Another who, not surprisingly, didn’t make the cut was the outspoken Darling Downs identity Peter Bredhauer but he had so many working against him that he wouldn’t have made a ‘short list of one’ for the board. The problem for Bredhauer is that he has been too keen to call a racing spade a spade.

The Board selection merry-go-round is doing nothing to reassure stake-holders that there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the industry in Queensland.

With the exception of Kevin Dixon and his close band of merry men, the overall industry would be far happier if the Chairman of the All Codes Racing Industry Board was independent of the Chairmen of either thoroughbreds, harness or greyhounds.

Put quite simply there are plenty who don’t want to see Kevin Dixon Chairman of both Racing Queensland and QACRB, believing it would only lead to even greater claims of conflict of interest and political favoritism than already exist with him only in an interim role.

It’s over to the gentlemen appointed to do the right thing by the selection process. This website has total confidence that they will but are not as convinced that their decision if it doesn’t suit the political powers that be won’t be overturned. If that happens, all hell will break loose in the industry.

  

COURT SEQUEL AFTER RACETRACK DAMAGED IN WAKE OF LOVE TRIANGLE

THIS is more than just a story doing the rounds in the industry in Queensland. It involves serious damage done to a racetrack when a worker poured kerosene over the track among other things.

The action is expected to have a sequel in court in the not too distant future.

Surprisingly, the allegation that police will make is that the track worker took the unusual course of action in spite at a local trainer who he reportedly discovered was bedding down his wife.

And here are the e-mail contributions we have elected to run with apologies to those who missed out this week:

 

IS THE NIKOLIC FAMILY TREATING THE RACING PUBLIC LIKE MUSHROOMS?

‘THE Nikolic family must think the racing public and punters of Australia are a bunch of mushrooms that need to be kept in the dark and fed bullshit.

John Nikolic – he’s the one that ran into more than his share of trouble in Queensland not that long ago – would have us believe that his brother Dan is a victim of the system in Victoria.

In an exclusive interview with the Melbourne Herald Sun – no surprises it wasn’t with The Age which keeps us best informed on the life and times of the Nikolics – John insists that he and others won $60,000 from the race at the centre of corruption claims.

John goes on to declare that his brother did not ask him to back the horse on his behalf and got nothing out of the sting. With all due respects to the honesty and integrity of the Nikolic family, even the most naïve racing person would find that a shade hard to accept.

Once again we have a repeat of this suggestion that Chief Steward Terry Bailey has declared he would run Dan Nikolic out of racing – this time from his brother.

If these boys insist on making such serious allegations against an official of Bailey’s integrity and respect they should be required to provide proof or be hit by RVL with a ‘show cause’ why they shouldn’t be dealt with for bringing the industry into disrepute.

Racing not only in Victoria but throughout the country has had a gutful of the outrageous behavior of Dan Nikolic who has continually thumbed his nose at officialdom and the sooner he is sidelined permanently from riding the better.’ – Glen McDonald, Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It should be pointed out that the Smoking Aces inquiry was instigated out of a police investigation – not by the stewards – and this is on-going. Here is the exclusive interview with John Nikolic by MARK BUTLER in the MELBOURNE HERALD SUN:

CHAMPION jockey Danny Nikolic did not make a cent from a race he is accused of fixing, his brother says.

IN an EXCLUSIVE STORY by MARK BUTLER in the MELBOURNE HERALD SUN, John Nikolic said he and others won $60,000 from the race at the centre of the explosive corruption claims, but his brother got nothing.

The siblings have been under investigation over an allegedly fixed race at Cranbourne in which Danny Nikolic rode Smoking Aces to victory.

The horse beat $2.20 favourite Retaliate, whose rider, Mark Zahra, is also under scrutiny over the April 2011 sprint.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the allegations, John Nikolic said his brother had nothing to do with the Betfair account he used to back Smoking Aces.

Mr Nikolic said he had discussed the race with Danny beforehand but was not told to back it on his brother’s behalf.

He said the $60,000 won on his account was shared with connections of Smoking Aces.

“He (Danny) told me the horse had been working well, but at no stage did he ask me to back it,” Mr Nikolic said. “I do the form myself for a living. Most of my confidence was from my own opinion.

“I’ve got no problem with putting up my hand and saying I benefited. (But) even if there’s no charges, they’ve still destroyed his career. If there’s any proof, they should put up or shut up.”

Mr Nikolic said he was disgusted at he and his brother being banned from Crown casino last year.

“They’ve got us in the same category as Carl Williams and Tony Mokbel and no charges have been brought forward,” he said.

“We’re both the subject of character assassination.”

Mr Nikolic said no independent viewing of the race would indicate anything untoward and that the fixing investigation had begun as a result of misinterpreted phone conversations.

The Cranbourne inquiry was generated by homicide detectives probing the murder of racing identity Les Samba, father of Danny Nikolic’s ex-wife, Victoria.

John Nikolic was interviewed on the Gold Coast in the weeks after the killing and his home at Robina searched.

He said his family had no dispute with Mr Samba and he consented to be interviewed without a lawyer for six hours.

“It’s hardly the actions of a guilty man,” Nikolic said.

“I knew I had no knowledge of what happened to Les Samba.”

Mr Nikolic said his brother’s relationship with Chief Steward Terry Bailey was poisonous.

He claimed Bailey told Danny he would run him out of racing.

 

CONTINUED DELAYS IN MATTERS INVOLVING NIKOLIC ARE UNACCEPTABLE TO SOME

‘THESE continued delays in dealing with the matters involving Danny Nikolic are not only frustrating but unacceptable in the eyes of many racing followers.

 

Matters involving Nikolic – involving racing officialdom and the police – seem to have dragged on forever. At least he is no longer riding whilst procedural fairness makes a mockery of racing justice.

Nikolic has lost his appeal against a two-year disqualification imposed over his ‘threat’ to Chief Steward Terry Bailey and his family. RVL CEO Bernard Saundry was quoted as saying: “This decision vindicates the actions of the Racing Victoria stewards.”

It certainly does but the outstanding issue that has some followers of this embarrassing saga somewhat concerned is that the VCAT decision on penalty has not been finalized and was only listed for mention on January 22.

Instead of pussy-footing around with Nikolic – who still has outstanding matters involving alleged assaults and a reported verbal attack on another steward outside the VCAT hearing – they should double his sentence on the Bailey matter or punt him out of the industry completely.

Racing has had more than enough of Danny Nikolic whose behavior was obviously tolerated by previous integrity bosses until Bailey came on the scene. It’s time to make an example of Dan the Man to show that this sort of behavior will never be tolerated again.’ – Max Johnson, Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A two-year disqualification hanging over his head is not the only problem confronting Danny Nikolic. He also will face a hearing in May alleging his assaulted another jockey, Mark Pegus, Pegus' girlfriend, Rikki-Lee Hull, and a police officer in three separate incidents last year. This case has been set down for a two-day committal hearing and was postponed recently because of witness availability. At the previous hearing, last April, Nikolic's defence lawyer, Sandy Robertson, said the jockey denied assaulting Pegus or Hull.

 

WHY TEST THE LIMITS WHEN BLACK CAVIAR HAS NOTHING TO PROVE?

‘FORGIVE me for being critical of a national racing icon but trainer Peter Moody seems hell-bent on testing the limits with champion mare Black Caviar.

Surely the warning signs were there when she staggered across the line at Royal Ascot last June – even the stable and connections conceded at the time that we may have seen the last of her on the racetrack.

Instead Moody seems determined to return her to the track and is now suggesting she may race for at least another year and could stretch her unbeaten run from 22 to 30.

The corporate bookies are prepared to bet against that and why shouldn’t they? Moody disagrees and says the six-year-old has only now reached full physical maturity.

He has also gone as far as suggesting that conceding five kilos to Pierro in the Newmarket would not concern him. Time will tell. But perhaps big Pete should listen to the thoughts of many in racing: She has nothing to prove.

My thoughts are those of many others who love racing and our top horses – she has nothing to prove.’ – Sam Lister, Sydney.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I would be the last to second guess Peter Moody. The welfare of Black Caviar is alwayst foremost in his mind and he would certainly be taking no risks with her. Here’s the story by MATT STEWART in the MELBOURNE HERALD SUN that may have prompted the above e-mail  

BLACK Caviar may race for at least another year, and trainer Peter Moody predicts the six-year-old's unbeaten string of wins could stretch to 30.

Moody said Black Caviar was in the best shape of her career and probably only now had reached full physical maturity.

"Why can't she push up to 26 or 27 wins if she's still got a smile on her face?" Moody said.

After her brave but narrow win in front of the Queen at Royal Ascot last June - her 22nd win in a row - Moody considered retirement.

A first-up comeback crack at next month's Black Caviar Lightning at Flemington was regarded as a cautious cameo, at best, but yesterday Moody released the shackles.

He said Black Caviar was "niggle" free for the first time in almost three years.

"The vet's happy, the chiropractor's happy, the jockey's happy, the trainer's happy," he said. "Hopefully this all leads to a lot more success."

 

THE WOEFUL RUN OF SHORT-PRICED FAVORITES CONTINUES IN SYDNEY

‘RARELY does a Saturday pass in Sydney racing when a short priced favorite not only gets beaten but runs near the tail of the field.

Not being a suspicious punter I have put it down to one of those things in racing but the consistency of this occurrence is making me question the coincidence theory.

At Warwick Farm last Saturday we had not one but two odds-on favorites beaten. They have thrown up plenty of excuses for the defeat of Knoydart, a $1.40 chance, but the performance of Havana Rey in finishing a tailed off last at $1.90 was woeful.

Once again stewards were conducting plenty of inquiries into beaten fancies and there was more than the occasional form reversal in Sydney. But once again the majority of punters were bewildered by the lack of action taken.

Ken Callander summed up the situation in his column in the Sydney Telegraph. At least he is not an apologist for the stewards, unlike his veteran compatriot Max Presnell from the Sydney Morning Herald and the majority of the racing media identities.

They keep pumping up how great Sydney racing is with its rising prizemoney and terrific integrity. Come on guys, stop playing games, the place is an absolute joke.’ – Clem Moran, Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sydney will soon be rivaling Brisbane for the number of beaten odds-on favorites. Here’s what KEN CALLANDER wrote in his SYDNEY TELEGRAPH column this week about the subject:            

HAVANA Rey, who was beaten 19 lengths at Warwick Farm on Saturday as an odds-on favourite, is a repeat offender, but it does not seem to be unduly worrying stewards.

When connections fronted the bench after Saturday's shocker, Havana Rey was given exactly the same penalty as he was six months ago, he has to barrier trial before he races again.

In the meantime punters can save up and get ready to do their money again when perhaps in another six months he gets beaten 25 lengths.

At Canterbury on August 4, Havana Rey, following wins at his previous two runs, started heavily backed at $3.10 and was beaten a whopping 12 lengths after leading and falling in a hole (sound familiar?). The penalty, as stated, "barrier trial before you race again".

On Saturday his form again was consistent prior to the race, but he left that form at home and was a beaten horse at the 800m.

Doesn't anybody seem to worry about the punters? The fact he was beaten 19 lengths must surely be disturbing when so much money was bet on him.

ANOTHER odds-on favourite, Knoydart, was also beaten at Warwick Farm and at a much shorter price of $1.40.

He was only beaten just over a length and I think he had excuses which were compounded when the race turned into a walking affair when Glyn Schofield put the brakes on the expected leader That's A Good Idea.

At his previous start That's A Good Idea, over 1400m, shared the lead in a race with the first 800m being run in 45.70 seconds, which was much faster than Saturday's early speed of the first 700m in a 1300m race being run in 41.75 seconds.

Stewards, to their credit, quizzed Schofield about his changed tactics, but nothing much seemed to be achieved.

I cannot quite get my head around this whole change of tactics rule. Does anybody get suspended or penalised because of it, or is it just window dressing?

 

ANNOYED BY THE HUFFING AND PUFFING OF THE PAROCHIAL PYGMY ON SKY

‘MY mates and I decided we had to send an e-mail after watching the huffing and puffing of the parochial pygmy from Sydney – Ron Dufficy – on Racing Retro.

Dufficy took umbridge at Richard Freedman’s suggestion that the drug integrity unit in Melbourne was doing the best job in Australia and interpreted that as an attack on his beloved Sydney racing.

He huffed and puffed, went red in the face, jumped up and down in his seat and finally informed Freedman that perhaps the authorities in Sydney were doing their job ‘behind the scenes’ unlike in Melbourne.

Freedman wasn’t so sure that keeping things quiet was the right policy although he did admit the situation with trainer Danny O’Brien could have been handled differently.

Our question to the ‘pygmy’ is this: If Sydney racing is so squeaky clean why do we have so many short priced favorites getting beaten every Saturday and if the drug testing regime of his mate ‘Marshall’ Murrihy is so great then why aren’t see seeing some results?’ – Michael Cameron, Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I wouldn’t take the situation on Racing Retro between Ron Dufficy and Richard Freedman too seriously. Part of the show is the rivalry between the pair and it makes for good viewing on Sky each Sunday. Ronnie undoubtedly is an unashamed and passionate supporter of Sydney racing. Richard hails from Melbourne. So what do you expect? At the end of the day most believe that Victoria is leading the way in drug detection in racing in this country. If Sydney is making in-roads behind the scenes then perhaps Ray Murrihy should let the industry know. He has plenty of supporters in the Sydney racing media who would be only too keen to run what he has to say.   

 

REMEMBER THE TIME WHEN CALLS WENT OUT FOR A COMMISSION INTO INFLATED ODDS?

‘Let me state from the outset I am not an apologist for Brisbane bookmakers, but after reading the Peter Lawrence piece on your website re Brisbane fluctuations and the apparent lack of action by stewards to protect the punter, my mind took a walk down memory lane back to 2004 where MSM journalists led by Peter Cameron from the Sunday Mail were calling for a Royal Commission into those same bookmakers, now wait for it, for betting inflatedodds on certain horses.
 
I also recall where Michael Sullivan from Sportingbet in his submission to the Daubney Rafter Royal Commission alleged that three Brisbane bookmakers were "acting together to artificially inflate prices on runners and then, by themselves or through their associates, seeking to obtain a benefit by placing bets with Sportingbet."

The Royal Commission found no evidence of artificially inflated prices by the Brisbane bookmakers and were actually heartened by testimony from the highly respected Vince Aspinall that he had faith in the prices from the Brisbane ring.

Sour grapes from the corporates back then and they're still bitching today. Anecdotal evidence from the betting ring suggests that the corporates will close your account and will refuse your business if your success rate is above average.

The corporates still push the line - "THE REAL PRICE in the REAL MARKETPLACE". It's just so surreal.
 
And finally, the assertion by Peter Lawrence that the stewards’ brief is to protect the interests of punters. Well I've got some bad news for you Peter, the moment you pay your entrance fee at the track and buy a racebook, you're on your own. Do your best sport!’ -
Jim Bourne, Gold Coast.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Love your contribution Jim. It makes some good points and a lot of sense. By the way I am told that our old mate Peter ‘The Sting’ Cameron has retired. I can’t really imagine ‘Paceway Pete’ being put out to pasture but that was the word this week from his colleague, Mark ‘The Ear’ Oberhardt. As for the corporate bookmakers Jim, well they’re the greatest bunch of pretenders that God put breath into. Unfortunately many of the problems now confronting the industry in Australia can be blamed on the corporate agencies. It’s time they paid their way and Governments moved to stop the flow of racing money off-shore.
 

LETTER CIRCULATING SUGGESTS SUNSHINE COAST TURF CLUB IS BEING ‘PERSECUTED’       

 ‘I was wondering if your website had seen the letter doing the rounds from the Sunshine Coast Turf Club protesting the treatment they are receiving from the new powers that be at Racing Queensland.

It would make good reading, especially in these times when clubs are claiming that if they were perceived to be on side with the former Bob Bentley Board they will struggle to survive with Kevin Dixon at the helm.

Mackay is a good example of a club that believes the new RQ is playing politics in the distribution of TAB dates in the north where they have lost four and Dixon-friendly clubs have received more.

Sunshine Coast is really being kicked around – or so some of the officials of the club believe. Just take a look at the recent prizemoney increases announced – Gold Coast got 24 per cent and Sunshine Coast three.

The poison chalice of the Saturday twilights has now been handed to the Sunshine Coast while Toowoomba – one of Dixon’s favorites – gets looked after with a new track to replace the cushion which cost the taxpayers of Queensland many millions of dollars. There is talk of a petition to Government to halt this move especially with the expense now facing the state after the floods.

The letter doing the rounds does not miss the treatment that the Dixon Board is giving to Toowoomba where Chairman Bob Frappell is seen as one of his greatest supporters and puppets.

Sunshine Coast has already lost many of the Friday night meetings that they enjoyed last season. Now they are being moved to Saturday when the club pioneered Sunday racing and has turned it into a successful afternoon out for the family. While those same people still come on Saturday evening – not likely?

There is speculation that Sunshine Coast will not get to return to Sundays or definitely not the monopoly that the club currently enjoys and deserves after taking the gamble when other clubs were not prepared to do so.

As one Caloundra official told me at the weekend: “We are just being persecuted by this new Board and we don’t expect things to change. But we are not going to cop it lying down.” – As I am a Sunshine Coast based trainer I would ask that my identity be with-held.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I have heard of the letter being distributed throughout the industry from disgruntled identities on the Sunshine Coast. I sympathize with them because of the hard work that the club put into making a success of Sunday racing when no-one else wanted it. Perhaps the reason that the Gold Coast has received the lion’s share of the prizemoney increases recently announced is because that club has suffered the most from the horses travelling across the border chasing the higher prizemoney in northern NSW. As for the Toowoomba situation, something had to be done about the cushion track. During its replacement RQ needed to service the twilight venue on Saturday and Sunshine Coast with its great lighting was the obvious choice. At the end of the day Sunshine Coast deserves to return to Sunday racing but there is room for another TAB venue in the country on the day. If Toowoomba does not feel it can make a go of Saturday twilights then move that meeting to Friday night where it can coincide with night racing in Victoria. That’s about its only chance of survival in the eyes of many in the industry.

HERE is a story written by BRETT WORTMAN in the SUNSHINE COAST DAILY in which proposed changes at the Sunshine Coast have been blasted by Tattsbet CEO Barrie Fletton:  

PROPOSED changes to Queensland racing that have stripped the Sunshine Coast of its best race days and pushed prime TAB meetings on to bush tracks would lead to a betting downturn of $20 million, cost the industry $1 million in prize money and reduce revenues to the State Government by $500,000.

That is Tattsbet CEO Barrie Fletton's assessment of draft race dates changes for the 2013-14 financial year released last week by Racing Queensland.

Mr Fletton said the lack of certainty about track conditions, horse form and jockey quality risked punters deserting many Queensland race days in favour of NSW and Victorian venues.

The changes have hit Sunshine Coast Turf Club hard, costing it 34 of the 49 Sunday race meetings it conducted last year.

Its lucrative Easter Sunday race meeting has been allocated to Bowen in 2014, leaving Corbould Park with a twilight event on Easter Monday, the last day of the school holidays.

Racing Queensland's decision to run a TAB meeting at Innisfail on New Year's Day failed to excite the attention of punters.

The investment of $80,000 in prize money attracted only $140,002 in betting revenue compared with the Corbould Park meeting on January 6 that drew $678,396 in betting revenue from a prize money investment of $84,000.

Mr Fletton said Tattsbet was in discussion with Racing Queensland around its product and program agreement and the obligations it contained.

"It's not to say there aren't some positives,'' he said.

"There may be good reasons for what Queensland Racing is doing, but it will certainly impact on returns to the State Government and the industry.

"There is also a risk of punters transferring their betting interstate.

"Punters like certainty, and tracks and form that are known quantities. The proposed dates will not be attractive to punters.''

Mr Fletton said dates had been allocated to tracks that had not been used for TAB meetings for a very long time.

He said it would take a considerable investment to bring marginal tracks up to scratch.

Sunshine Coast Turf Club general manager Mick Sullivan said there had been no consultation by Racing Queensland with owners, trainers and jockeys and no discussion with the club.

"They're obviously talking to some clubs,'' Mr Sullivan said.

"It's ludicrous when you look at the facility that has been built here.

"Why won't they embrace what they have here, not destroy it? Kilcoy has got to be in grave doubt for this weekend and Beaudesert has already been called off.

"These are tracks that don't need much rain before meetings have to be abandoned."

COAST RACING

  • 70 trainers, 150 employees.
  • 350 horses work on track every day.
  • 80-90 horses race each Sunday at an average 10 per race.
  • Stabling complex home to 224 horses.
  • Sunshine Coast Turf Club - employs 30 permanent staff; 100 each Sunday and 500 on feature days.
  • Corbould Park completed in 1985 for $12 million; $40 million upgrade over past four years.

 

MACKAY WILL LEARN IT IS A MISTAKE TO CRITICIZE THE RQ CHAIRMAN

‘ANY chance the Mackay Turf Club had of convincing the new Racing Queensland not to relieve them of four TAB dates next season went out the door when they were critical of the Kevin Dixon Board.

Everyone knows how testy Chairman Dixon gets to any form of media criticism and the Daily Mercury editorial declaring the decision ‘political’ would have got right up the little man’s nose.

We keep hearing how Dixon will become both chairman of Racing Queensland and Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board when they go through the motions of what many believe is farcical appointment process.

What a nice conflict of interest that will be if he is chairman of both. Surely the overall control body should be chaired by someone independent of the chairmen of the three codes. And to make matters more conflictive for Mr Dixon, he is the former chairman of the Brisbane Racing Club which many believe will have too much start.

He already has major sections of the industry off-side – the trainers in the country aren’t too impressed by his perceived favoritism of the Queensland Trainers’ Association which is basically representative of those in Brisbane.

Mackay, Sunshine Coast and Ipswich have reason to be concerned about their futures after bedding down with the Bentley Board in the past. But many other clubs, including those who support Dixon, are filthy on what they call favoritism being shown to some clubs, especially Toowoomba and are strong opposed to a new track being built there.

Many in the racing media, outside The Courier-Mail, are off-side with Dixon because they have dared to criticize. That is his Achilles heel and for the sake of the industry we hope that websites like yours and some of the newspapers – like the Daily Mercury in Mackay and the Sunshine Coast Daily – continue to be objective in their racing coverage.’ – As a trainer in Mackay it would not be wise of me in the current political climate in racing to divulge my identity publicly.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rather than offer my thoughts on the RQ Chairman’s attitude to criticism, here is the view expressed in a recent editorial by MARK SLEEMAN, Deputy Editor of the Daily Mercury in Mackay, a respected journalist who loves his racing and has a share in the top youngster, Doubtfilly:

THE decision to strip race dates from Mackay Turf Club after about $7m was spent on a racecourse redevelopment beggars belief.

Mackay is set to lose four Tuesday TAB meetings in 2013-14 under a draft calendar circulated by Racing Queensland Limited (RQL).

Make no mistake, the decision is political.

Ooralea’s redevelopment was a project of the former Bob Bentley-led regime and labor Government.

RQL’s new chairman Kevin Dixon has made no secret that he can’t see the rationale behind that expenditure.

Some will argue the Mackay club is also to blame by dragging the chain on on course stabling and other facilities that would have attracted more trainers and owners in recent years.

But with a state-of-the-art track and that amount of taxpayers’ money invested, RLQL needs to give the club every chance to prosper.

Mackay needs more race meetings, not less.

 

LACK OF COMMUNICATION IS BECOMING A MAJOR PROBLEM FOR RQ

‘IT came as no surprise to read that the trainers from the country are having trouble communicating with Racing Queensland.

One wonders if the trainers from Brisbane are having the same trouble after they jumped ship from Bob Bentley to Kevin Dixon. One wouldn’t imagine so.

I see where the Central Queensland Trainers’ Association tried to ascertain how many TAB dates Rockhampton will lose in the new season.

Apparently their highly respected representative has struggled to get something official from the Rockhampton Jockey Club – one wonders why – and the active CEO of Racing Queensland, Adam Carter, has been of little help either.

Carter reportedly told Jim Rundle he could only answer ‘any written questions’ on the subject which as Terry Butts commented in his Silks & Saddles column is hardly the way to forge a close and fruitful alliance.

It comes as no surprise the way things are being run by the new Kevin Dixon controlled racing authority in this state.  

As for Carter, in the eyes of many in the industry he is about as highly regarded as his predecessor Malcolm Tuttle.

When will RQ rightly have a highly qualified and experienced CEO that is needed if we are ever to get out of this giant hole that the industry is now in?’ – As I am a trainer in Rockhampton I would ask that my identity not be revealed.

EDITOR’S NOTE: What a terrible state racing has reached in Queensland when industry identities fear repercussions if they put their names to any criticism of the powers that be. Having been among the victims of speaking out against the new hierarchy we understand how they feel and will continue to get their messages across – anonymously – regardless of the criticism that this might attract. Perhaps Mr Dixon is waiting until his new Boards are in place before appointing a full-time CEO. The word is that Adam Carter doesn’t want the job. The best possible applicant should be found but the way the appointment process works for racing in Queensland, don’t hold your breath for the right person to get it.

 

IMPORTANCE OF THE PUNTER IS TOO OFTEN OVERLOOKED IN TODAY’S RACING

IF you watch and listen very carefully to all the publicity from various sources promoting the gallops, there is very little, if any, emphasis placed on the importance of the punter in the overall scheme of things.

Of course, there is little glamour in a punter at his or her local TAB placing a bet or down at the race track.

However, where would the racing industry be without the regular punter who, week after week pours hard earned dollars into the industry knowing full well that the returns on the investments are in serious decline.

Industry heads need to look at the number of TAB meeting each day and how this affects the size of the pools.

Over the last couple of years the major impact has been on exotic betting and the percentage returns but now the decline is creeping into each way betting where you can often see, in a field of 10 horses, five to six can be all  around the $4 to $6 dollar mark. 

Who sets these markets?

On another issue, still with the punter in mind, how often do we hear the race-caller say after the race has started “this well backed commodity is in a handy position?

Often this “well backed commodity” has been backed in the ring but the punter at his local TAB never gets to hear about it until the race has started. 

Obviously this is not the fault of the race-caller but with wall to wall racing there is no opportunity to inform the punter so that he or she has time to weigh up the information.

Decline can often take time but the rumblings are there for all to hear!’- Richard Dee, E-M-U Publishing Australia.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments Richard. The poor old punter is taken for granted far too much. Without him or her there would be no racing. It’s a pity some of these Board’s that have stake-holder representatives didn’t find room for a ‘punting voice.’ It might see some more down to earth, grass roots decision-making instead of the political crap and favoritism that dominates the process in some states that shall remain nameless.     

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the above e-mails should not be interpreted as those of JOHN LINGARD, the owner of the letsgohorseracing web-site. That is why he has added an ‘EDITOR’S NOTE’. Every endeavor is made to verify the authenticity of contributors. We welcome any reasonable and constructive responses from parties or individuals.

 

 

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