Does one need to know about horse racing to run a racing club? This was a question posed to us by someone after a bad day at the track and one too many beers.
Sure, we replied, it helps. And, we added, it THEN helps if they surround themselves with key executives with BUSINESS acumen AND a knowledge of horse racing. After that, hold your horses.
Especially in today’s environment where things are moving at the speed of light, this next “tier”and the “tier” below this is extremely important.
If not, all those at the top tier will be looking at the Big Picture, but boffins will be drawing doodles on it and, wheeee!- everything falls down like Humpty Dumpty looking like a soggy omelet.
Again, racing clubs still have time to look at the demise of the music industry and learn from its gawdawful mistakes.
In the beginning, all was good and there were real music executives who knew a hit when they heard it and knew who to sign up.
These were people like Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert- interestingly, Jerry Moss ended up owning the brilliant Zenyatta- Berry Gordy Jr who gave the world “The Sound Of Young America”, Jac Holzman who siged the Doors and started Elektra Records and Chris Blackwell, the soft-spoken Englishman who signed up everyone from Cat Stevens to Bob Marley.
With a new company just started with Simon Fuller, Chris Blackwell remains as relevant as ever.
They surrounded themselves wth a SMALL team of creative music marketing people and the rest is musical history.
Where it went tits up were when lawyers and accountants started to head up music companies and, in order to become bigger and bolder- and fatuous- they hired the dreaded and, often, totally useless Human Resources person.
They had no idea who they were hiring and, suddenly, music companies were kitty-littered with armies of people doing the same job- and very badly- and totally fucking up the music side of the company and pissing off artists in the process.
The final nail in the coffin was hiring armies of “new media” and “digital” armies, giving them a free hand as that top tier were caught Napstering and without any idea of how the new generation of consumers “consumed” music.
The plan was to try and make up for lost time by giving two thumbs up to hiring every Tom, Dick and Mary who had ever designed or worked on a website and anyone who might not have chanted OM, but instead droned on about IT. And they bought into all that shIT.
Heads of racing clubs, Beware The Ides Of March and September, October, November etc. Yes, it’s tough to see and approve everything, but what does this tell you?
Somehow, somewhere, something and someone has fucked up and there are gremlins running around like headless chickens with nonsensical titles- nonsensical as they are not deserved- and others whose Used By Date was over ten years ago and yet they cling on and stop progress.
All they all do is flap around from meeting to meeting but incompetence cannot be hidden forever.
So, what one has is a very big mess of the Good, The Bad and the Fugly and the Ugly and with Ennio Morricone whistling in the dark.
Again, there’s a lesson to be learned from the music industry and how music companies blindly hired people- some extremely good people…and then had them sit around as they didn’t have a clue what to do with them.
They were either TOO good to fit in with the boffins, or were just not suited to working for a music company as they knew fuck-all about, well, music.
Meanwhile, The Big Cheeses who hired them were waiting for “The Digital Revolution”. But this had come and gone and had left them at the barriers.
So what did they do? They started laying off staff- some very good staff- and closing down offices in sheer PANIC and soon, they all looked like losers and the PERCEPTION of the music industry was one of a lost leader. Or simply, an industry just plain lost.
It became an also-ran and, suddenly, presenting that name card with EMI, or Warner or Universal Music on it was met with sad faces and a look that said, “Awww, do you still have a job, diddums?”
This is where the racing industry is also going wrong: Not thinking of how racing might still be perceived by the “outside world” and the hiring of way too many people with waaaaay too much time on their hands and who only know to nitpick.
Put a blank piece of paper in front of them and ask them for their thoughts and all you’ll get is a blank stare.
“Lean and mean” are words often used but seldom practiced. Useless people are hired, companies become unnecessarily fat and bloated, and these twats are given the power to hire more useless people until one is staring at a huge, heaving, human-made rubbish dump.
No one who is any good wishes to join as it does their reputation no good and so, incompetence attracts more incompetence and with small fries trying to prove just how big their dicks are.
Their dicks are small- but that’s neither here nor there. What matters is that also small are their mindsets as well as their contributions to those racing clubs that have hired them.
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FREE RACING, CAULFIELD STYLE
It was a bold and brave initiative by the Melbourne Racing Club – throwing the gates open on their first Group One race day – the first time that such a “freebie” had been offered as an inducement to promote racing and on-course attendances on a significant race day.
It worked, with a lot more faces in the public areas, which would otherwise have not been as populated on Underwood Stakes day.
We were there to soak up the action on what appealed as a program which had truckloads more depth than the George Main Stakes day program at Rosehill.
It certainly helped that Peter Moody and the connections of Australian Turf Idol – Black Caviar, generously arranged for the world champion mare to parade between race three and four.
The crowds lining up along the mounting yard to catch a glimpse of the champ said it all. They lapped it up and so did the great mare.
Race Clubs and Racing are in for a at least a hat-trick of very special moments when she struts her stuff in the Schillaci Stakes, the Moir Stakes and the Patinack Classic at Caulfield, Moonee Valley and Flemington over the next two months.
But back to the “free racing” concept – quite clearly the Melbourne Racing Club decision is a giant step in the right direction.
Clubs in Oz struggle to get the turnstiles clicking with every Saturday race meeting, with the exception of carnival meetings. Even feature race meetings and the carnival “teasers” fail to attract the attendances they deserve.
A day at the races can be an expensive exercise, particularly for the punter, who can stay at home and bet online or by phone or at nearest Tab or hotel pubtab.
He or she avoids the admission fee and the often exorbitant cost of food and drinks.
In Hong Kong, the HKJC’s new marketing team has managed to bridge this chasm between the old fart hardcore gamblers and the newbies who are quickly growing to understand horse racing in a NEW way with their incredibly successful Happy Wednesday events at Happy Valley.
For HK$10- around AUS$1.20, these new race-goers enter an entirely new world- and one which they have embraced.
If you don’t believe us, ask our old mate Neil “Knackers” Paine.
Meanwhile, back in Oz and elsewhere, stay at home punters are very well catered for with vision and audio of a vast selection of races which they can wager on, and in the comfort of their own home if they so choose.
Free racing may not be the panacea for the problems of attracting people to the races. The traditional punter does not need to go to the races, for all the reasons outlined.
It is the “fringe dweller” in the younger, affluent demographic, who flirt with racing during the spring carnivals and on themed race days, whom the Race Clubs and the racing industry needs to work overtime on, to get to the racecourse on days other than during the racing carnivals. And that will require more than free entry.
Understanding and recognizing what is needed to woo these “fringe dwellers” is the key to unlocking the door to Alladin’s cave.
Race Clubs and Industry bodies lack the expertise, and often the vision at the highest echelons of management to implement what is unquestionably an audacious strategy.
It will need time and lots of careful planning, but racing is running out of time. And soon, unless the HKJC, it will run out of money to implement such strategies.
With the proliferation and popularity of social media, racing cannot afford not to utilize these communications tools to its advantage.
At Caulfield last Saturday there did not seem to be too many “new” faces in the crowd, except for what friends pointed out, were the usual serial social climbers who inhabit the social pages of the print media and who had latched on to racing as “carnival ambassadors”.
But in no way should that be a negative. The Melbourne Racing Club has taken an important step into brand new marketing territory. Let’s hope the Club follows up with more initiatives that are aimed at changing the demographic that passes the racecourse turnstiles.
Racing desperately needs new initiatives and a new look in the stands and on the lawns.
Sorry, that should read a younger and more vibrant look.
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BLACK CAVIAR: AN AUSTRALIAN STORY
And while we are on the marketing theme, ABC television recently screened an episode of its highly popular half hour television documentary series “Australian Story” dedicated to Australia’s world champion racehorse Black Caviar.
It was the first time that this popular television show had dedicated an entire episode to a subject other than one dealing with a “real” life story.
The Black Caviar episode was well scripted and produced. While it had obvious interest and appeal to racing people, it was the non-racing people that the episode of this popular and interesting show that should have been extensively targeted.
Champion racehorses like Black Caviar are almost generational. They don’t enter a racing stable or racetrack every day or week or month or year. Yet they are racing most powerful weapon when it comes to marketing and promoting racing.
The Black Caviar’s of this world are racing’s aphrodisiac. They are the hottest of the hot conversation topics. They are the most viewed stories on websites and they pack the crowds into racecourses.
It is also another example of yet another lost opportunity to promote the proverbial butt off racing. Not many, if any, non-racing people were aware of the program.
The racing industry, as is the norm, would have expected someone else (the ABC in this instance) to promote a show that did not cost racing a brass razoo.
Imagine the audience reach of a top rating free to air television show in a prime timeslot – Monday night 8-8.30pm featuring a world champion. And no one in the racing industry in any State had the “nous” to seize the opportunity and put some marketing dollars into milking this massive “free kick” for racing.
Embarrassing, but not surprising given the people that run racing.
AI COURT CASE: WHICH WAY WILL IT GO?
Racing needs another legal challenge like Julia Gillard needs another flotilla of boat people on Australia’s doorstep. And yet, the challenge to legalize the artificial insemination method of breeding thoroughbred racehorses brought on by ex-bookmaker and STC Chairman and thoroughbred breeder Bruce McHugh is sending shockwaves through the racing industry with the potential to deliver, among other things, another massive legal bill, which the racing industry cannot afford.
The debate based around artificial insemination is not new. The pros and cons of AI, as it is referred to, has been the subject of discussion, debate and research by the scientific and veterinary community for many decades. There has been an uneasy calm whenever AI has been the subject of discussion in the racing and breeding industry.
But all that has changed, thanks to Bruce McHugh’s legal challenge. To borrow from the title of an Elvis classic, the racing and breeding industry is “all shook up”, over AI.
The legal bill is one massive headache, but what about the ramifications for the Australian breeding industry?
Thoroughbreds conceived by AI are not accepted in the stud books in any international racing jurisdiction and are persona non grata in racing in all of these jurisdictions.
So, if McHugh’s challenge is successful, the Australian racing industry has some seriously impossible decisions to confront – in racing and in breeding.
It is quite feasible that AI conceived thoroughbreds could be barred from racing overseas or being bred from overseas.
It would have massive ramifications for breeders and potentially could significantly devalue Australian racing.
It would pose another impossible question for Australian racing administrators to answer: Would AI thoroughbreds be permitted to race alongside those that are naturally conceived? And then there is the issue of how such a system would be administered.
There is little doubt though, that if the AI challenge were successful, it would lead to a significant reduction in stallion fees. The financial windfall which has been enjoyed by many Australian stud masters, and particularly those in the Hunter Valley, with their obscenely exorbitant service fees, would be greatly eroded. Like all good things it would be expected to come to an end.
While AI would end the “monopoly of a few” breeders at the top end, we are unconvinced whether this argument in itself would justify such a radical and potentially dangerous and harmful change to thoroughbred racing and breeding. Self regulation of stallion fees by the Hunter Valley conglomerates is long overdue.
It is simply not good enough to leave stallion fees to be regulated by the so-called natural market forces. It doesn’t happen.
There is another twist to the AI debate: How certain can anyone be that it is not being practiced at then present time, anyway?
Racing’s rumour mill always goes into overdrive when major issues such as AI are in the spotlight.
Let’s face it, AI would not be difficult to practice – and there would not be any protocols or processes in place to prevent or detect the practice.
Where there are hundreds of millions of dollars involved, ethics and morality are often the victims.
The Australian racing industry faces challenges that make the conquest of Everest look anything but intimidating. It does not need yet another brain tumour or for that matter another massive legal bill.
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PETER MOODY RUMOURS QUASHED
Peter Moody and the Australian racing industry can breathe a collective sigh of relief following Racing Victoria Chief Steward Terry Bailey’s confirmation that the malicious rumours alleging multiple positives returned by Moody runners were totally incorrect and a complete fabrication.
Bailey confirmed what was already on the record: That only one horse trained by Moody – Lethal Arrow- had returned a positive to a substance called Oripavine, which likely entered the horse’s system through a batch of contaminated feed. Oripavine, is a narcotic analgesic which can act as a stimulant.
What Bailey failed to confirm is whether Moody would be hauled before Racing Victoria’s Disciplinary tribunal to answer any charges relating to the Lethal Arrow positive or for that matter when this would be.
“Don’t fucking rush me!”
The positive finding was reported by racing Victoria several months ago – so long it seems like an eternity, yet why has this matter dragged on for so long? It certainly is not fair to Peter Moody.
While it is conceded that Stewards are duty bound to test rigorously all of Moody’s horse feeds and supplements, surely even the most complex testing should not take this long, particularly when, these days, testing and results can be carried out and corroborated with the minimum of delay?
These delays can only contribute to energizing the rumour and innuendo, which in this instance have spread like a proverbial bushfire through Australian racing.
“Don’t fucking rush me!”
It is hardly fair to expect Peter Moody to tolerate the uncertainty associated with these delays and the continuing damage to his reputation, while Stewards ponder what path they choose to take.
The whole process leaves a lot to be desired and poses a raft of questions which Bailey and Racing Victoria need to answer with a degree of urgency that they have not shown in having this matter resolved at a critical time for racing – the eve of the spring racing carnivals when the eyes of the racing world will focus on Australian racing.
“Plenty of time, mate! Don’t fucking rush me!”
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LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS
We keep saying hearing it quite often: That horse racing is an old farts sport. Well, it’s certainly been operating in many places like an Old Boys Club, but those days are fast coming to an end.
What really ticks us off and gets our knickers in a twist is that it’s also very much a male chauvinist sport- and which, in many ways means that it is still an old fart’s sport.
Last week, we wrote about Laurie Wray and just what potential she has a jockey. We now hear that Lady Gai will be putting this talented girl on quite a few of her horses. Good on you, Lady Gai.
Every day, we see great rides by the likes of Lisa Cropp, Linda Meech, Kathelyn Mallyon- this girl is also VERY good- Michelle Payne, Sally Wynne, one of our favourites in WA’s Kyra Yuill etc- and they get scant coverage.
As Donna Summer sang for all hard-working female jockeys everywhere, they work hard for their money.
They are more than part of a Chantal Sutherland pinup calendar.
Before all these female jockeys, there was Brisbane’s Bernadette Cooper- a mighty fine jockey. Ahhhhh, Bernie, what the hell happened to you in Macau? Wait. We know, but great to see that you’re back on your feet and fighting for the rights of female jockeys.
So how does one rectify this piss poor way of saluting the work and winners of female jockeys?
Well, get some female race writers- and bloggers. Here, we would welcome them. Why are most of the heads of racing clubs male? For fuck’s sake, it’s 2011 and it still remains an old fuckwits club.
Oz only has Lady Gai flying that freak flag for womanhood and singing that gawdawful Helen Reddy song.
Where are the “new Gai Waterhouses?” Has no one turned the sprinklers on? How can new flowers grow when the land is arid and not fertile?
We speak to seasoned racing pundits and all they can say about any good female jockey is that she has “delicate hands.” We’d bitch-slap them for that.
They are still living- kinda- thinking that all jockeys must come from the Mick Dittman aka “The Enforcer” school of riding and bashing horses past the post.
The Enforcer and our old mate, Big Ern.
We see these “punishing rides” from many Aussie jockeys in Oz and some in places like Hong Kong and give thanks to the person upstairs for jockeys like Corey Brown, Michael Rodd, Steven Arnold, the Gnasher and a few others who are “kind” on their horses. It’s not all bash-bang-wallop and then petting the horse upon unsaddling.
If a horse, we’d kick them up their bums and have little time for those “horse lovers” who whinge how so-and-so should have “bashed the fucking thing home.” Hypocrisy is a pox on the world.
Look at the way Lisa Cropp rides a finish. Or Michelle Payne. Or, in the UK, Hayley Turner- sure, strength, but strength mixed with great hands and more about pushing their rides home instead of punishing them past the winning post.
It’s why we are huge fans of South African jockeys: They use their great upper body strength to get their horses home and only resort to the ship to remind them to keep their minds on them.
Watch any ride from Whyte and there will be a maximum of 4-5 cracks with the whip. If that. Coetzee rarely goes for the whip. He coaxes the best outta his rides.
So do many of the French greats with the now-retired and sadly, his own worst enemy, Eric Saint Martin, being truly poetry in motion.
What a great jockey- and so wonderful to watch- when in the mood and not throwing his toys outta his pram and getting angry with the world for not adoring him and, more to the point, angry at himself for not being as famous as the great Yves Saint Martin.
As for all the very good female jockeys riding, especially in Oz, they need to be more than some novelty act and being reduced to a co-starring role. They cannot be the Rodney Dangerfield of horse racing and not get the respect they deserve.
If anything, they need to be treated with the same respect Hayley Turner receives in the UK- by her fellow jockeys, trainers, owners- and key- the racing media.
Horse racing is changing at every tick of the clock, more and more new race-goers are female and they would like nothing better than to sing-a-long to gawdawful Helen Reddy about how they are “woman and hear me roar.”
And when we see the likes of Lisa Cropp, Linda Meech, Kyra Yuill, Michelle Payne etc produce first class rides and one of Lady Gai’s horses get up, WE roar.
Put away the beer and tough footy talk for a while and get in touch with your feminine side. There is nothing wrong with doing this. It might even make a real man outta you.
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THE LEUNG AND WINDING ROAD
When everyone and their dog were calling apprentice Matthew Chadwick the best thing since dim sum, Dougie Whyte who knows a thing or two about jockeys was telling us how good Derek KC Leung was and how, to him, he would be the pick of the crop when it came to that batch of apprentices.
We have never forgotten those words and at Shatin on Sunday, Leung, now a senior jockey (and getting taller by the day), booted home a well-priced treble.
All his winners came from some very good rides- patient rides, tactical rides and rides brimming with confidence.
At a time when Matthew Chadwick is only allowed to be as good a the horses Tony Cruz has got ready and while the jury is still out on the mightily hyped ten-pound claimer Alvin Ng, Leung, once more known for suspensions and dropping his whip, is now mixing it with the best riding in Hong Kong.
And what’s key- no one has anything but good things to say to say about the kid. No bagging allowed and this kid could turn out to be a terrific ambassador for Hong Kong racing.
Frankly, though senior jockey Howard Cheng might need the two pound allowance local senior riders are given- and “foreign” jockeys bleating on about this being “unfair” should keep it to themselves for the time being- we firmly believe that Derek Leung, pictured far left, can do just fine without this two-pound claim.
His winning ride on Pizzazz for the his old master Paul O’Sullivan was the ride of a jockey who knew the horse very well- and how it always performs best fresh.
What we are noticing this season and which was coming through at the end of last season when he out-rode his claim is that Derek Leung has made a concerted effort to keep improving every race day.
He rides like a jockey inspired and who enjoys what he’s doing. He is in demand from nearly all stables and maybe- just maybe- all those suspensions have made him the very good jockey he is fast becoming.
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WHAAAH? WE CANNOT F***ING HEAR OURSELVES!
We are huge fans of the HKJC and their initiative to bring music to their weekly Happy Wednesday events. In fact, it’s bringing in an entire nw generation of racegoer to the races and who are starting to quickly understand how to have a flutter on the horses.
But, here is our one BIG complaint: THE SOUND. It is fucking AWFUL and has, no doubt, been scratched together by someone who does not have the experience to understand how a PA system or soundboard works when it comes to music.
Forget the stage which looks like it was designed for the seven dwarfs. When musicians performing on this stage for Smurfs cannot hear themselves, they are lagging behind the beat- and which means that to an audience, they sound like musical cretins.
This is not fair on them, this is not fair on the audience and this is not fair on those who work so damn hard to make these events a success.
We are also betting that no one has the balls to tell “E.B” that someone, somewhere is tone deaf in this sound department and which means that once again, incompetence and nincompoops have been rewarded and a mighty big problem has been quickly swept under the carpet.
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