CAN LOVE EVER KEEP NSW AND VICTORIA TOGETHER LIKE A CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE SONG?
If recent events are any indication, the answer to the most fundamental question affecting the future health of Australian racing is a resounding NO.
Despite the spin and rhetoric uttered by the hierarchies of both Racing NSW and Racing Victoria over the past year or more, the actions of administrators and their Boards have spoken with deafening loudness and clarity than the words emanating from their mealy mouths.
As the two premier racing states in Australia, NSW and Victoria have the ability, through their combined populations, percentages of wagering revenue, historic and present day racing landscape to force serious and dramatic change to Australian racing.
If joined together, by the very force of their financial power, they could control and deliver the types of financial benefits not just to themselves, but to every other racing State, which could come very close to securing the financial future of Australian racing, and importantly, each State’s representation of the benchmark “50,000” participants, which you know who keeps flagellating himself with at every opportunity.
The adoption of a bi-partisan model of governance and administration with the important ingredient of a spirit of bi-partisanship would be a leap of faith which might be a jump too far for the warring administrators in both States.
But, they just might not have any more options but to come to the table- dragging and screaming- and save their respective industries from literally going down the gurgler.
Both States have publicly documented the funding crises that they are facing – crises which have been of their own doing through a combination of incompetence, maladministration, financial waste, lack of accountability, self interest, costly wars of attrition to assert hegemony, an abysmal lack of planning and cooperation, massive deficiencies in strategic planning and a pathetic and lamentable absence of cooperation.
Collectively, these glaring deficiencies demonstrate an overwhelming failure to implement and operate under principles of good corporate governance.
Imagine a two- state model where resources are shared- resources such as financial, OH&S, human resources, programming, handicapping, prize money levels, marketing and communications, infrastructure management and spending, integrity management and regulations, equine welfare, veterinary services and protocols, technology, IP and media rights, to name the critical areas.
Get the picture? The benefits of a single entity – a la the AFL model- would be a complete “no-brainer”.
Apart from the massive financial benefits, it would also send a clear message to all and sundry within and outside racing of an industry capable of speaking and operating with ONE VOICE.
Communities and Governments, and the racing community have switched off racing for a multitude of reasons which have a common ancestry – every single one of them relate to division and dispute where petty differences have been allowed to fester and grow a life of their own and which have completely undermined confidence in Australian racing.
There is no greater turn-off than an industry divided- an industry in a crisis of its own doing, which sends clear messages that it is the antithesis of what racing has been, is and should be – a sport that is fun to be a part of, an entertainment alternative which demands participation and which people WANT to be a part of like, yes, Lord V’Lundies, you fun guy, you, the HKJC’s Happy Wednesday brand and activities.
To even get to first base- to address the crisis facing racing in NSW and Victoria- the scorched earth principle must be applied – and the only authority which can implement such a necessary revolutionary change, is government – the two State Governments of NSW and Victoria.
They- and they alone- have the necessary weapons of mass intervention to dissolve the Boards and install a genuinely independent Board or Governing entity which can start racing’s own Long March towards re-establishing its identity and relevance in what has become a very crowded market.
State Governments have demonstrated that they can- and will intervene- IF loud enough noises are made in public and behind closed doors as the ball is now firmly in the court of the many genuinely concerned stakeholders in both States.
Australian racing needs these men and women to demonstrate that they are as brave as some of their own racehorses and come out of the very comfortable closets from which they have been throwing the odd blunt missiles about the state of racing and its administrators, and demand the change that is so desperately needed for Australian racing to be viable and survive into the future.
THE BIG NAMES CONTINUE THEIR ASCOT DOMINATION
The first three days of the Royal Ascot have so far- again- demonstrated why it is why one of the world’s very best racing carnivals that has everything – pomp and pageantry, which still resonates so strongly in the UK, fashion and glamour, some of the world’s most famous racing names among owners, trainers and jockeys, hangers-on and the usual and self-promoting junketeers from down under looking completely like the tossers that they are in their toppers and tails.
These wankers aside- a pitiful lot- and far more importantly- are some of the world’s best racehorses.
Ascot is fun. Like the spring racing carnival in Melbourne and Hong Kong’s International carnival in December, you just cannot afford not to be there.
At Ascot this year, if you were to throw in such notable absentees as Designs On Rome, Able Friend from Hong Kong, Lankan Rupee, the prematurely retired It’s A Dundeel from Australia, Just A Way from Japan, the quality of horseflesh at Royal Ascot would have gone up another notch or three.
But Ascot’s Group races never fail to disappoint- the Kingman/Night Of Thunder clash, the clash between The Fugue and Treve, Toronados’ triumphant return from nearly a year’s sabbatical from racing.
There’s Estimate, the Queen’s horse, failing by a narrow margin to make it back to back Ascot Gold Cups, the amazing highs and lows of first season stallion Starspangledbanner, battling fertility issues- these have made this year’s carnival one for racing aficionados to salivate over.
Royal Ascot, however, being one of the most prestigious racing carnivals in the world, is coveted by the rich and famous among the elite owners in Europe and the Middle East. And that soooooo wannabe famous part-owner from Oz and his non- stop dribbling.
The open cheque books and unlimited rivers of cash from Europe’s multis and billionaires, supplemented by limitless spending by the rulers of the liquid gold region aka the Middle East and its Emirates, have made European racing carnivals and Royal Ascot almost unrecognizable these days.
Name any champion racehorse- or champ in waiting- and before you can say Black Caviar, they are snapped up by a Godolphin or a member of the Qatari Royal family, a Juddmonte or a Coolmore. Apologies to whoever we have left out.
In Europe, most certainly, history has repeated itself: The wheel has turned – almost by 360 degrees. Racing again is the Sport of Kings. And Sheiks.
POACHING TENSIONS SIMMER
It’s been going on forever in racing – trainers poaching owners and their racehorses from rival trainers.
The most recent instance in Oz involved a very smart Group winning three year old colt with a major international breeding syndicate prominent in the ownership.
It appears that one of the part-owners in question- a recently knighted gentleman- decided to divest all shares in racehorses trained by one of Sydney’s leading trainers.
The purchaser of this share in this particular racehorse, which cost the new shareholder a fair amount of moolah, made his purchase conditional on the horse moving stables to the arch rival of the original trainer. That’s when the fun and games began.
The original trainer, who recently lost a major client to the same arch rival, we’re told, called all other shareholders in the horse and gave them what was described as a “Group One Spray”.
One particular owner told us his ear was still buzzing several days later- while, yes, no, there’s no “bull” to this story.
PUNTING FROM THE INSIDE – NOTHING’S CHANGED FOR TONY MOKBEL
The News Limited story during the week that our old mate Tony Mokbel had been busted- INSIDE his jail precinct for betting- surprises no one. Does it?
There had been rumours that it had been business as usual inside jail for “Fat Tony” for a VERY long time and the outside forces involved.
Of course, it raises a raft of questions as to how “Fat Tony” was operating and placing bets while being incarcerated.
It’s long odds that he wasn’t betting “blind”- posing the equally serious question as to where and from whom he was getting his mail.
Australia’s most famous drug boss and leviathan punter is both very, very street smart, and extremely resilient- and, if he likes you, a knockabout bloke.
Many of his associates- some of whom have also served time for an assortment of serious crimes- have, in recent times, according to mail from bleak city, been spotted around betting shops and in the company of serious punters and gangland and feared bikie heavies.
We also read that Victorian racing’s Integrity Commissioner- the interestingly named Sal Perna, below, along with the head of Racing Victoria Integrity Operations Dale Brown- have called for immediate reports from prison authorities and the police.
Good luck to them, we say.
The racing police and the Integrity Commissioner don’t have much of a track record in nailing these types of serious integrity issues in racing.
While they seem to be adept at using testing technology to bust trainers of low intellect who breach the rules of racing by drugging horses, it’s a different ball game when it comes to forensic investigations.
Interestingly one of “Fat Tony’s” associates from his pre-jail days is spending big bucks these days buying up horses- and with a great degree of race track success- with one of his team winning a feature Group One at Victoria’s last spring carnival and its subsequent sale netting lucrative return on investment.
Wonder if he still visits his old mate these days and help keep his spirits up?