THE WEDNESDAY WHINGE has a new look but won’t be dispensing with the theme and focus on the THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY side of what is happening in racing. The Whinge will continue to provide an opportunity for The Cynics to Have Their Say. Thanks again for your support for the most read column on this website and one of the most read on racing websites in the country. Our popularity continues to grow despite the bagging it cops from some high profile officials, especially in Queensland, who cannot cope with constructive criticism of any kind. We encourage supporters – and critics – to continue to contribute but plan to restrict the Whinge to less than 10 of the best items each week. Our message to those who continually bag us is simple: IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHAT YOU READ, THEN DON’T REVISIT THE WHINGE.

 

‘HARNESS RACING IN QLD LUCKY TO SURIVE WITHOUT KEVIN SEYMOUR’

ALBERT WILLIAMS, of REDCLIFFE, a regular contributor to the WHINGE, has his say on the harness development controversy engulfing KEVIN SEYMOUR:

‘NOT everyone is a fan of successful businessman, Kevin Seymour, but most would agree that without his support harness racing in Queensland would have struggled to survive.

The major shareholder in Tattersall’s or UBET, or whatever the TAB is called in the north these days, Seymour has arguably pumped millions into the code that has provided so much enjoyment and success for he and wife, Kay.

It therefore came as a surprise to many, even those in the gallops who frown upon the minor codes, to learn that Seymour had become embroiled in another controversy over the industry’s future as reported in The Sunday Mail last weekend.

This was different to the previous dust-up between Seymour and another former TAB Board member in Bob Bentley, who at the time as Chairman of Racing Queensland, had a rather divisive plan for the future of Albion Park and the Deagon training complex.

Bentley believed Albion Park should be closed down and sold paving the way for the development of a state-of-the-art harness and greyhound complex at Deagon which would have meant relocating the thoroughbred and apprentice jockey training centre there.

Those trainers with major real estate interests soon joined forces with the LNP and Seymour supporters, an election was looming and there was a change of Government resulting in the Bentley plan for the future ending up pie-in-the-sky.

Seymour, according to media reports, instigated court action against RQ and Bentley claiming the Board had reneged on a promise not to sell Albion Park. It all got a bit messy with counter claims that the old Creek was not worth the cost of redeveloping with insufficient patronage at the trots or dogs to justify a big grandstand-restaurant complex. There were also murmurs about developments plans for the area that may have involved Seymour or one of his companies.

But back to the latest debate and Gold Coast Harness Racing club president Barry Grimsey has accused Seymour of ‘trying to hijack the club by setting up a private club north of the region, in Alberton’.

Grimsey has called on Racing Minister Grace Grace and RQ CEO Eliot Forbes to intervene and scuttle the Seymour plans. Good luck to him there. Seymour has plenty of political influence on both sides of politics and is rumored to have recently had a fire-side chat with new RQ Chairman Steve Wilson providing advice on the path the industry should take.

Although broadcaster David Fowler is now chairman of the Albion Park Harness Racing Club, one suspects Seymour still calls the shots behind the scenes and I understand he returned to the committee this year as Treasurer.

Grimsey has claimed that the APHRC is seeking to establish at club at an Alberton venue between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. He has linked the proposed Yatala Harness Racing Club development to Seymour because it has the same registered address as the Seymour Group.

He has alleged that the Yatala Harness Racing Club is ‘falsely purporting to be the replacement for Gold Coast Harness Racing Club’s Parklands facility’ closed in 2013 in preparation for the Commonwealth Games.

The Labor and LNP Governments have procrastinated for far too long on a replacement for Parklands and what to do with Albion Park. If Seymour sees a future in Yatala, then why not resolve the issue once and for all.

Interestingly, the property tycoon and harness racing kingpin refused to comment on the latest controversy which is unlike him. Seymour normally does not back away from debate on contentious issues involving the sport.

I see where Dr Forbes has scheduled a meeting with the GCHRC within days to discuss the matter. Here’s hoping there is a suitable solution for all concerned.

All three codes of the industry have been impressed by the way the new RQ CEO has slotted into his role, which is regarded as a poison chalice. But he is batting on a very slippery wicket this time and needs to be well aware of the delicate political nature of the debate he is now involved in.’       

 

‘YOU WERE A FURLONG IN FRONT GRACE – NOW IT’S A PHOTO FINISH WITH STEVE’

BRAD WILLIAMSON of BRISBANE sends a message to Racing Minister Grace Grace:

‘RACING folk and followers of the sport are struggling to understand how Minister Grace Grace could have made such an enormous faux pas at last week’s launch of the Queensland Summer Carnival.

Surely she is not so naïve not to have heard how a former Racing Minister in Steve Dickson has struggled to live down his comment that Queensland would ‘finish a furlong in front’ of the big southern states.

Ms Grace, announcing a modest Summer Carnival prizemoney increase that pales into insignificance compared to the boosts being enjoyed by interstate stakeholders, declared Queensland would be ‘the envy of New South Wales and Victoria’.

She is now giving ‘furlong in front’ Steve a run for his money for what Nathan Exelby so excellently described in his column, The Verdict, in The Sunday Mail, as a ‘cringe-worthy moment’.

Minister, one can forgive you for not knowing the full facts considering the racing job is relatively new to you, but it's time to find a few new advisors or speech writers. They seem to know about as much about horse racing as rocket science.

Again,  to plagiarize the Exelby item, ‘it’s going to take a whle lot more than a $350,000 boost to the Summer Carnival to inspire renewed confidence in a politically battered, distrustful industry.’

 

NO SURPRISE THAT GENIAL GERRY IS EXCITED ABOUT SUMMER CARNIVAL

AND we received this one on the Summer Carnival prizemoney hike as well:

BILL RIORDON of the SUNSHINE COAST writes:

‘I read where Mr Magic Millions – Gerry Harvey – says he is excited to be part of Racing Queensland’s vision for the future of the Summer Carnival.

Why wouldn’t he be? They continue to promote his ‘richest race day in the country’ which leads to more interest in the MM Sales where the profits are ploughed into the pocket of Mr Harvey and the top yearlings sold all head interstate.

Once again RQ is putting the cart before the horse. On the eve of announcing a $20 million loss for the industry in the last financial year they announce a stakes boost for major races of the Summer Carnival at Doomben and Eagle Farm leading up to the Magic Millions.

What Queensland racing needs is an across-the-board prizemoney increase to at least keep pace with what is happening interstate, especially in NSW where country racing is blowing the north out of the water. Why would you race for peanuts in south-east Queensland when much more is on offer, with better incentives, just south of the NSW border.

When you consider that $13 million will be offered in stakes during the Summer Carnival and the increase is less than $400,000, one wonders how they can justify all this hullabaloo.

I am not bagging the new Board of Steve Wilson for taking the initiative – they have to start somewhere. But there is a need to get priorities right and bread and butter races need an immediate boost. For many stakeholders it’s struggle street throughout the state.

It could be argued that boosting the Bernborough Handicap to $250,000 – reportedly the richest Listed race in the country now – will not attract any higher quality field.

Magic Millions didn’t miss out – no Government or control body would want to disappoint genial Gerry – with the introduction of Country Cup qualifying races.

Just when you get the real quality racing in Australia out of the way during the Spring Carnival in Victoria it’s time for this finger-down-the-threat stuff on the Gold Coast during the annual Magic Millions wankathon.’

 

‘SEEMS LIKE THAT PREDICTED RQ LOSS WAS PRETTY CLOSE TO THE MARK’

AS a FORMER RACING OFFICIAL in QUEENSLAND I would prefer that you not divulge my identity as I still enjoy the occasional day at the races without playing politics but I do think a few points need to be made on this issue and there’s little hope of reading about it in the mainstream racing media:

‘FORGIVE me for being a bit confused but when the Board of ‘little King Kev’ Dixon was controversially sacked after Labor won a minority Government, there was a great debate over just how big a loss Racing Queensland was facing.

The figure disputed as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘over the top’ by Dixon’s LNP ‘mates’ in Parliament was something of the order of $27 million. In fact some of the critics even had it in the single digits and we were assured that time would prove predictions way off the mark.

Well that time has arrived and the tip is that this week RQ will post a loss in the range of $20 million for 2015-16. Some might say that’s significantly less than the $27 million that had been predicted.

Correct, until you read how Racing Minister Grace Grace revealed to Parliament last week that total RQ income from Race Information Fees in 2015-16 was $59.2 million – an increase of more than $5 million on the previous year.

Sadly, Ms Grace refused a request from LNP Racing Spokesman, John Krause, to breakdown the RIF to show us how much TABs contribute and how much comes from corporate bookies. The old commercial in confidence rabbit in the hat was produced to halt disclosure. Why do Governments and racing bodies continue to protect these parasitic corporate bookies?

But back to the state of play at RQ and no doubt we will continue to be told that the financial future is bright and, of course, no questions will be asked or answered about that great TAB deal that the previous Dixon Board did in conjunction with the LNP Government of the day that saw two Board members resign in protest at lack of consultation amid claims that ‘a much better result could have been forthcoming’.

 

‘TIME FOR MUG PUNTERS TO CRACK OUT THE TISSUES FOR BATTLING DUO’

DANNY WHITE of MELBOURNE has his say on the O’Brien- Kavanagh appeal hearing:

‘IT was time for us mug punters to crack out the tissues – we can’t afford silk handkerchiefs in our coat pockets like Danny and Mark – when the VCAT cobalt appeal hearing moved into Day 17 this week.

How sad it was hearing how the finances of these champion trainers had been so terribly depleted having to fight to salvage their reputations and careers threatened by stewards simply doing their jobs.

We heard how Kavanagh’s team has been reduced from 120 to 25 horses and O’Brien has gone from training 180 horses pre-cobalt drams to 80 now.

More devastating was the evidence present to VCAT president Justice Greg Garde that O’Brien was losing annually $6 million in revenue based on the cost of $60,000 a year to have a horse trained by him.

That’s an awful lot of bickies to be declaring to the tax man every year not to mention earnings from percentages in winning stakes.

We heard about how costly this protracted legal battle had been – and how any lengthy witness questioning just added to that. One witness was said to have cost them $35,000 last week and they felt his testimony could have been done without. By gee these lawyers are well paid.

All I can say is these training dynamos should be thankful they earned enough during the good times to afford the costly ‘silks’ who are fighting what could even be a winning VCAT battle.

From a ‘mug’ punters’ perspective if O’Brien and Kavanagh have a ‘victory of sorts’ at this level I hope Racing Victoria uses ‘its bottomless pockets’ as they have been described to appeal the decision and that will give them yet another pain in their depleted wallets to whine about.’

 

‘WINX MIGHT BE A CHAMPION BUT $2 NO VALUE IN COX PLATE THIS EARLY’

ALBY ANDERSON of MELBOURNE writes:

‘WITHOUT questioning the ‘champion’ qualities of Winx, why would a punter want to take $2 her winning the Cox Plate when chances are they will get close to that on the day?

We know she is flying and that she handles Moonee Valley. What we don’t know is where she will draw and if the track will be rain affected on the day.

The forecast at this stage is for only a few showers during the week but rain on the day of the Cox Plate which is interesting, depending on when it falls and how much occurs.

Arguably the barrier draw is the most important factor. Were Winx to draw outside then is $2 value especially with the prospect of Hartnell and Black Heart Bart lining up as her main rivals, not to mention Lucia Valentina entering calculations sharply if it rains.

I am not bagging the chances of Winx going back-to-back in the Cox Plate simply suggesting that $2 all-in at this stage is no value.

And just for the record you might like to know that a fine, sunny day is predicted for the Cup. Here’s hoping the weather forecasters are better judges than some of the racing tipsters.’

 

THUMBS UP TO BUSY RACE-CALLERS WHO STILL MADE IT TO TOOWOOMBA

STU WILLS of the DARLING DOWNS sent this email:

‘I know you sometimes run a ‘thumbs up’ section in the Whinge these days and would like to commend two of my favorite race callers in Paul Dolan and Josh Fleming for taking the time to attend a special event in Toowoomba racing last Saturday evening.

Both had busy days calling at the Gold Coast and Eagle Farm respectively but still made an effort to drive up the Range for the meeting held at Clifford Park to honor the memory of another race-calling legend, the late Pat O’Shea.

‘Dogs’ and Josh, who is quickly becoming the best race-calling talent in the Sunshine State, each called a race on the Toowoomba card despite the fact both would have probably preferred to enjoy the social side of the occasion.

What a pity some of other big name callers didn’t find the time to follow the lead of Dolan and Fleming to participate in the inaugural O’Shea Tribute Night. Perhaps they prefer an annual knees-up in the far north of the state. Here's hoping they make it next time when the club might be able to turn it into a Race Caller’s Invitational Night.’

 

TOP RACE BROADCASTER UNDER FIRE OVER CRITICISM OF PUNTERS 

DAVID FOWLER, head broadcaster for RADIOTAB, has come under fire from a legion of punters over comments he made when hosting the PRESS ROOM on Monday.

What has apparently prompted some incredibly unwarranted personal attacks on Fowler on Twitter was his support for the theory that ‘punters are a noisy bunch who should know their place in the food chain’.

Fowler was quoted as suggesting: Gambling only exists in racing because there is product available. You don't own that product so you have no right to say how it is managed.’ 

We received numerous emails attacking Fowler but rather than run repetitive whinges it was decided to publish just the one and to reproduce (as requested by one of our regular contributors) a story written on another racing website.

 

‘DOESN’T FOWLER REALIZE WITHOUT PUNTERS HE WOULD BE OUT OF A JOB?’

FIRSTLY, here’s what STAN PALMER of GOLD COAST had to say on the DAVID FOWLER comments on RADIOTAB concerning punters:

RACING is an opinion-based industry and everyone – from the highest profile official to the mug punter is entitled to have his say as long as he doesn’t go overboard.

Unfortunately, my mates and I believe that is what has happened with David Fowler in his comments relating to punters and the role they play in racing.

Fowler’s suggestion that punters are a minority who should keep their opinions and complaints to themselves just goes to show how arrogant he has become. Doesn’t he realize that without punters listening to his calls he wouldn’t have a job?

Does he also not realize that the people who pay his sizeable wage each week (Tattsbet) rely on punters to make their profits and without that support Fowler would be out of a job?

One would hope that his bosses at UBET unseat Fowler from his high horse and give him a reality check to think before he puts his big fat foot down his big fat mouth when it comes to upsetting their client base – the punters – of which he is one – but not a very good one I am told.    

Since he started rubbing shoulders and licking the bootlaces of Kevin Seymour, who he took over as Albion Park Harness Racing Club chairman from, has Fowler forgotten his roots with the battlers in racing. His attitude to always support the big clubs and their officials certainly gives that impression which is sad (I use that awful track condition at the new Eagle Farm as an example).

Two things I want to say to you Mr Fowler. Firstly, racing is like a circus – you can have the best performers in the world but what’s the point if no-one pays to enter the big top to watch them. Secondly, on your way to the top you pass a lot of people – like battling punters – who supported you along the way. The trip to the bottom will be a much quicker one and unless you bite your lip and offer them an apology for the insults no-one will care less.'

 

POPULAR RACING WEBSITE PUNTERS.COM.AU RESPONDS TO FOWLER

WE were asked by one of our regular contributors to reproduce this item from another website which became embroiled in the verbal battle between David Fowler and some other critics of outspokenness by the punting fraternity.

Our advice is log on to www.punters.com.au if you enjoy a punt or a love for the horses. It’s a terrific read and certainly protects the interests of those, who we are letsgohorseracing believe, the three codes would not survive without. Unfortunately, while every other section of racing seems to be consulted and have representatives on bodies that make decisions, the punters are left without a voice and that needs to change. We would point out that having read the debate we do believe that Fowler was not general in his criticism of punters but more sectional.

Should David wish to respond to the comments in the email that LGHR has run today then he knows the opportunity is available to him.

HERE is Monday’s story from punters.com.au, under the heading ‘David Fowler, not punters in need of a reality check’   

By Nick Hluchaniuk

LET me start by saying I enjoyed listening to David Fowler’s rant on RadioTab on Monday. I didn’t agree with a lot of what he had to say (I’ll get to that), but it’s good to have different opinions in racing and not be afraid to share them (I'll get to that point too).

We're also happy to dish out a whack and have no issue receiving one in return. 

However there are many points he made on his radio program Press Room that need to be addressed. 

Fowler took exception to an article written by Matt Welsh on our site which was in response to Andrew Eddy's article on Racing.com, who wrote 'Thankfully they [punters] have little or no say in the administration of the sport' and that 'punting happens because racing happen'.

He also took exception to the social media commentary surrounding the scratching/non-scratching of Under The Louvre. 

Fowler's prevailing sentiment was one of agreeance with Eddy's view that punters are a noisy bunch who should know their place in the food chain (we are similarly placed to that of krill), 

The type of thinking displayed by the likes of Fowler and owner Nick Williams last week, that punters are simply a pesky minority who should shut up and go bet elsewhere if we're not happy, is counterintuitive for the industry. 

After acknowledging that punters are important, Fowler had the following to say:

'This group and Punters.com.au should listen carefully here, need a reality check on a few matters. 

Gambling only exists in racing because there is product available. You don't own that product so you have no right to say how it is managed. 

This cabal of punters conveniently forget that they can jump off the merry-go-round when they want to. They’re not employed or paid to be a punter by the racing industry. It’s their choice.'  

We don't conveniently forget we can jump off. In fact it is the complete opposite and is the reason why we are vocal when we see issues within the industry. 

We are well aware we can jump off the merry-go-round. We are well aware that the next generation of punters may never get on the merry-go-round at all. 

We love horse racing and want it to prosper, but we live in a time where racing is no longer the sole domain of punters. For many next-generation punters, horse racing won’t be their first foray into betting with sports betting becoming more popular.

I'm genuinely bemused that the likes of Fowler don't realise this is a concern for the racing industry and perhaps he is the one in need of a reality check. 

Punters don't run racing and we don't argue that we should, but if there's a problem we are well within our rights to voice our opinions.

Why would any person who works in racing actively discourage people from betting on it? And why would they consider the demand for information (to bring Australian closer to the rightfully exalted Hong Kong model) such an apparently grievous offence?

But Fowler may have let slip his real grievance a touch later in the program. 

'You never see the punters acknowledge the owners. I'm only talking about a small percentage, but this group who believe they are almighty powerful and this organisation, punters.com.au, it tends to really follow this line that punters rule high on everything. 

I don't know their backgrounds, it seems a lot of young folk work there so not a lot of life experience. It's true, they'd be all less than 30, but they know everything.'

How dare these 'kids' have an opinion Fowler bemoaned. 


Fowler admitted he didn't know our background and he probably should have stopped there. Just for the record David, yes I guess you could describe us as 'young folk', but there a few of us are in our early thirties (unfortunately) and also a few in horse ownership. 

Getting back to the issue that started it all, Fowler was correct to state that Smerdon had every right to scratch or not scratch Under The Louvre in the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes and perhaps in isolation the reaction could be considered over the top.

But it was a point of contention and one that should be generating discussion. 

Which brings me to my final point. 

In The Daily Telegraph on Sunday it was reported that Richard Freedman was no longer part of Sky Channel's Racing Retro show, with talk that he was ousted from the program for being too outspoken in a media area heavily controlled by funding from within the industry.

If there is even a skerrick of truth behind the reasoning then it is utterly ludicrous and it is the type of thinking that will hold racing back. 

"What drives all the interest in league and AFL is the week-in, week-out controversy. Both codes thrive on it," Freedman said.

I couldn't have said it better myself Richard. And God help those industries where 'young folk' are welcome to have an opinion. 

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the above e-mails should not be interpreted as those of JOHN LINGARD, the owner-editor 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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