HAS THE PREMIER SUNK “THE CHAMPIONSHIPS”?
“BAIRD’S TURF WAR”, thundered the front page headline in Tuesday’s News Limited rag – the Daily Telegraph referring, of course, to a black week for NSW Racing with Premier Mike Baird refusing to commit to and guarantee $10million in funding to underwrite the 2015 Championships.
Doubling as Racing NSW’s equivalent of Pravda in the dark old days of the old Soviet Union, The Daily Telegraph took it on as its own “cause celebre”. Better look that one up, Christian Nikahippotamus, gossip reporter extraordinaire.
It says heaps about Uncle Rupert’s Sydney incarnation of News of the World that right in the middle of the unprecedented fallout from the most controversial, politically and financially Federal Budget in Australia’s recent history that Sydney’s highest circulating daily rag would use, not only it’s front page, but also its editorial- that’s right its fucking editorial- to carry the can for a predicament for NSW racing that is almost exclusively of its own making.
And coming through the flanks with his own inimitable spin and tired old clichés with his bass soto voice was Racing NSW’s own version of yesterday’s hero and bubblehead in Peter Vlundies, Da People’s Mon.
Altogether now; What a man, what a man, what a mighty good man…
It was a media blitz that the pollies and their political machines would have been proud of. But, as with most spin campaigns- and loud and incoherent and, largely, faux ramblings of outrage, disadvantage, and the usual heart tugging calls for a level playing field- it’s raised and left a trail of unanswered questions which strike at the very heart of the Championship model and its funding.
Did the Championships EVER have a properly constructed business case, and was it EVER presented to the now defunct O’Farrell Government?
Interestingly, “Pravda” chose to take the sledgehammer to Mike Baird for his Government ”refusing to stump up another $10 million grant” to make the Championships happen in 2015.
The “smelly’s” editor-at-large – whatever that means- John Lehmann- reported that “he (Baird) is refusing to continue the $10 million grant that underwrote this year’s The Championships, instead offering the funding as a loan” – which we learnt from Lehmann’s story was for four years and was “firmly rejected” by Racing NSW.
Bad strategy, large editor. You and your editor don’t seriously believe that Mike Baird is a politically naïve and politically illiterate fool, do you?
Not only has Baird had $80 billion – that’s right $80 billion- ripped from his State’s education and health funding from the Federal Budget’s sledgehammer to anything bar the air we breathe, but Baird, whose Government is barely a six weeks old, faces a State election early next year.
Just imagine the outcry if Baird was the stupid and dumb pollie that he has been clearly assumed to be by some in racing, and puts the fate of his Government, the well-being of the NSW economy, and the delivery of health, education and infrastructure services on the line to “stump up” NSW racing.
No, Baird has shown himself to be quite the opposite- a successful Treasurer who has managed to get the NSW state economy back on track by cleaning up the financial basket case that he inherited from his predecessors on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
Baird himself and his Government might just have seen through the confused strategy of the hapless section of the NSW racing industry and their media allies whose initial ranting and raving was about threats to funding for the Championships- and which- very quickly and subtly-shifted to the indignant thundering outrage about the un-level playing field stacked against the NSW racing industry by the NSW State Government take out of $3,22 for every $100 wagered on the NSW Tab compared with the $1.28 take out by the Victorian State Government from every $100 wagered on the Victorian Tab.
Vlundies was at his whingeing and whining best. It was vintage Vlundies.
All the usual clichés were dusted off the shelves of his executive suite in Druitt Street: “We just want an end to the Government taking an unfair share of revenue from racing”, the “Smellygraph” editorial quoted him as saying.
And then, “All we are asking for is a level playing field”, he pleaded in John Lehmann’s story on the same day.
Putting aside the one-sided cheer squad/type editorial, the “us against them” tactic- effectively used by Vlundies against the corporate bookies in the product fee dispute and on other occasions- has been given plenty of airings in the weaponry of war against enemy Baird and his State Government.
Even Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s name was invoked in Lehmann’s story: “Prime Minister Tony Abbott offered his support to the bold venture by making a rare trip to Randwick on Easter Saturday to watch the running of The Championships’ signature event- the Queen Elizabeth Stakes- the richest 2000m weight for age race in the world. The Queen also sent one of her best horses- Carlton House- which finished third”.
Invoking Tony Abbott’s name in support of The Championships is just a very B-a-a-ad tactic.
Abbott is on the nose in just about every poll and would give the community even more potent reasons to oppose any change to the funding arrangements for racing.
Besides, since when has attending a feature race meeting demonstrated support for “such a bold venture” or for racing itself?
If we recall rightly, Abbott attended the meeting with his elderly father, who, like many of us, like a punt on the nags. And as for the Queen sending Carlton House out for the Championships, Carlton House was sent to Gai Waterhouse after he competed at the Hong Kong International races in December 2012- and long before the QE stakes became the centrepiece of the Championships, which, at that point in time, was a thought bubble basing itself around Chairman Messiah’s version of an Australian “Breeders. Quite a very, very long bow to draw and suggest “the Queen sent out one of her best horses” to run in the race. Puhleeeeeeeze.
But it did not end there. Our mate Christian Nickawhatever, the Jimmy Olsen of the racing media-and Lehmann- kept up the pressure the next day.
By this time, the story had slid way down the order of unimportance to Page 15, where readers were greeted by a “Running second to Melbourne painful” headline which started out, “Sydney’s biggest racing stars are devastated that NSW Premier Mike Baird is thwarting efforts to build a world class carnival to rival the Melbourne Cup”.
In the words of Oz racing’s Jimmy Olsen, well, boo hoo.
These biggest “racing stars” numbered jockeys Tommy Berry and Jimmy Cassidy, owner Nick Moraitis and Australian Chief Henry Plumptre.
The responses were a mix of the predictable and an observation that “Gee, we didn’t know some of these guys were so thoughtful, lucid and literate”.
Nicka whatever did add a much needed balance to the commentary quoting Gai Waterhouse and Mick Price in a separate piece titled, “Autumn of discontent”: “However, leading trainers Gai Waterhouse and Mick Price, who won three majors between them during the two Saturdays of The Championships, said while it would be a huge blow if the big stakes weren’t up for grabs again, the government had an obligation to the taxpayer, not the punter”. And then quoting Waterhouse, who as always, put things very firmly in perspective: “Of course it’s a great shame if the money isn’t going to be there, but the government has to make it so the taxpayers don’t pay more taxes”.
Could anyone have put it any better or any clearer?
Apparently one other did: Enter the NSW State Treasurer Andrew Constance, who on Friday, was quoted by the “Smelly’s” State Political Reporter Andrew Clennell as having ruled out concessions to the racing industry saying the State did not have $85 million lying around “to lower the tax taken from punters in NSW”.
Constance went further according to Clennell stating that any change required a national approach because NSW would need to get the money from elsewhere, and the issue of wagering tax should be on the federal agenda.
Invoking the mercy rule, the State Treasurer had delivered the knockout punch to Vlundies and his “smellygraph” mates.
What should set the alarms bells ringing loud and clear to Racing NSW- and the NSW racing industry- is the fatally flawed strategy and complete futility in picking a public brawl with an elected Government – a brawl, which, over history, has demonstrated that City Hall always is the victor – the last man standing.
Making political enemies of State Governments, Premiers and their close and influential allies is akin to committing hari kari.
And those who naively believe that- if and when the crunch comes and Rupert and his News Limited boardroom support the agendas of Racing NSW over their favoured political shade of conservative blue- then they are delusional, if not mentally impaired.
THE SAD LOSS OF GUY WALTER
They say bad luck comes in threes – and so we have it in racing over the past two months or so having lost three of racing’s very finest- Nathan Berry, Bob Hoysted, and now, Guy Walter is no longer with us.
Nathan, Bob and Guy shared a common character trait and attribute: They were three very decent and honourable human beings who enjoyed and were passionate about their professions, and were rewarded with the success they so richly deserved.
The news of Guy Walter’s sudden and devastating fatal heart attack cut very deep on Thursday morning.
Just last Saturday, Guy had added the 36th Group One win to his training CV with his wonderful mare Streama- ridden by stable jockey Blake Shinn- taking out the Doomben Cup.
The racing world- almost to a man and woman- remember Guy as a thorough gentleman and a “horseman’s horseman”.
Guy was a “young” 59 years old and had a stack of Group Ones ahead of him.
Racing has been robbed of another of its good guys.
Sadly for racing and for the world that number is dwindling rapidly.
Rest In Peace, Guy.