A VERY UNSTRATEGIC RACING NSW STRATEGIC PLAN
The very latest incarnation of Racing NSW’s long list of Strategic Plans – the 2014 version released late last week by “you know who”, and given saturation print coverage including the obligatory editorial in last Friday’s edition by Druitt Street’s brother and sister in arms – Daddy Rupert’s Daily “Smellygraph”- has been clearly designed to hold a gun at the head of the NSW State Government.
The central message is unambiguous: Give us tax parity with Victoria and the other States in your take out tax regime, or NSW racing is FUCKED!
Tax Parity is, apparently, the panacea for everything that is wrong with NSW racing. It is the genie in the bottle – the one golden wish that, with the flick of the State Government’s magic wand held by Premier Baird and his Deputy and Racing Minister Troy Grant, can deliver what Racing NSW cheer leader and Racing Editor Ray Thomas has described as “a golden era” for NSW racing.
Dear Oh Dear, Raymond, if only it was as simple as that. But, then again, you are a bit of a simpleton, mate. But mate, though we won’t embarrass you and your D Grade Boy Blunder here, we’ll give you the benefit of doubt and put it down to being seduced by the compelling arguments coming out from your besties- Stan and Ollie- at Druitt Street.
Let’s look at one of the key problems on NSW racing: field sizes. According to Racing NSW’s power-drunk leader who sees himself as some Rocky Balboa-type man of the people, it’s all about the costs of racing to owners, where, with another flick of that magic wand, the rivers of gold, silver and platinum will flow out of the State Government tax parity treasury coffers, together with prize money increases, and Sydney metropolitan field sizes will be on par with those in the arch enemy state of Victoria.
The shame and embarrassment of field sizes of less than eight- and even six and five for Saturday Sydney programs- will be a thing of the past. If only it were that simple, Rocky, you brooding piece of chopped liver.
Strange that Sydney and Australia’s leading trainer Chris Waller has dared to disagree and expose the hollowness of that argument. Waller, below, sees it very differently.
“Sydney racing needs to return to the benchmark system if it is to overcome the blight of small field sizes, according to premier trainer Chris Waller”, reported website Racing and Sports. To plunge the dagger even deeper into the bollocks that has been bandied around by, especially, cocky Rocky, Waller’s critique is what a number of prominent and not so prominent Sydney trainers have been saying ad nauseum for several years. And yet the stubborn and partisan racing administrators that can make a change or changes have either turned their hearing aids off, or as is more likely, don’t have the balls to admit that their programming and handicapping system is fatally flawed.
There is little doubt that Sydney trainers have lost confidence, faith and respect in the ability of their governing body to fix up a mess that does not require the genius of an Albert Einstein. Or Inspector Clouseau. Or Kim Kardashian.
To lay the blame for small field sizes on the costs of racing, as the Racing NSW Strategic Plan has done, is an insult to the intelligence of the racing community. Returns to owners through prize money has never been higher in NSW, or for that matter Victoria, yet why is there such a glaring discrepancy in field sizes for metropolitan race meetings between the two States? Could it be that Chris Waller and the chorus of protesting Sydney trainers might just be right? Let’s face it, faced with a choice of the credibility of the explanations and blame offered by Chris Waller and Racing NSW, there’s no real choice, is there?
If raising prize money was part of the fix for small field sizes, then it has been a spectacular failure. Since prize money in Sydney went up to $80,000 for Saturday races, the decline in field sizes has accelerated. And to claim as Vlundies did last week on Shane Anderson’s Melbourne radio program that Melbourne field sizes recently had been boosted because of interstaters chasing carnival riches, is just plain unadulterated gibberish and terminal small dick syndrome.
Melbourne field sizes have put field sizes in Sydney to shame for many years now, and it has sweet fanny adams to do with prize money and costs of racing.
On the same radio program and in the same interview, Shane Anderson touched on a little known yet critical component of Racing NSW funding and revenue- a fact which is very conveniently hidden in the debate about tax parity and the so-called level playing field which Racing NSW claims it is unable to enjoy with other States as a result.
It’s called the Product Fee, which Racing NSW pays interstate Governing Bodies for access to race fields for wagering purposes. It is a fee which all other Governing Bodies in all Australian States pay except Racing NSW. And why? Because Racing NSW race field product fees are paid for by the NSW Tab. And that’s a $40-S50 million invoice, estimated conservatively, that Racing NSW does not have to pay to their interstate counterparts.
Hate to spoil the tax parity party, boys and girls, but we wonder whether Premier Baird and Racing Minister Troy Grant are aware of this massive free kick that Racing NSW enjoys. And good luck to them and a two-finger salute.
After all, a 90 year licence agreement with the NSW Tab does come with a price tag. And as the NSW Tab, and as we all know there’s no such thing as a free lunch, is there?
So when the weaponry is turned on the State Government by Dad’s Army and strong-arm them to dig deep into their revenue fatigued coffers and “bail” the NSW racing industry out of the strife which is largely of its own creation, let’s make sure that the duplicitous behaviour and arguments are exposed for what they are and always have been.
The Racing NSW Strategic Plan, as one prominent racing person described, is no different to its many predecessors gathering dust on the shelves in the bowels of Druitt Street. It’s utter corporate shuck and jive bullshit.
Like many racing industry strategic plans in most States, it is not worth the paper it’s printed on. In its latest incarnation, this latest Plan is being used as a baseball bat to badger the State Government into submission- but with a very obvious bully boy tactic involved that’s a bluff. As with any fucking bully, call their bluff and the swagger drops off along with their balls. But who will do this?
Australia’s racing media are, largely, gutless, parochial and in the pockets of the puppet masters. With many being D-Graders playing in a very small sandbox oblivious to the world outside as the tall poppy syndrome is blocking their view, they’re being played on a dime to keep backing the wrong horses while lobbing soft cock questions the way of these bullies.
And you wonder why racing in Australia is screwed and increasingly irrelevant to the rest of the world?
WHAT’S GOING ON AT THE VRC?
When recently in Melbourne during Cup Week, the topic du jour, on and off the track, centred around some of the behind the scenes political games being played among the powers that be at the VRC.
It appears the prolonged vacant position of Chief Executive of the VRC and the sudden resignation of Committeeman Tim Poole, heir apparent to the Chairman, has caused angst within Committee ranks and has been the subject of fertile- fertile?- speculation among bleak city racing’s movers and shakers, who move and shake pretty slowly these days.
The decision by the VRC, and from what we are led to believe, in particular Chairman Michael Burn, to reactivate the search for a new Chief Executive has left many confused. It’s been close to nine months since the previous incumbent David Courtney was forced into “extended sick leave”- and eventual resignation- prompting the VRC to hire a head hunter to find his replacement.
Nine months later and despite the head hunting process being completed and decapitated, some prominent names on the short list including, we understand, highly regarded and successful expat Australian racing administrator and British Horse Racing Chief Executive Paul Bittar and Crown Casino Chief Executive Rowan Craigie and Acting VRC Chief Executive Julian Sullivan, below, the process has been stalled by Michael Burn and his Committee.
There have been a multitude of reasons speculated upon. Paul Bittar and Julian Sullivan, who would have been standout candidates for any position in Australian racing, apparently are regarded as not having the right “commercial” credentials.
True, the British Horse Racing Chief Executive and successful and experienced VRC Acting Chief Executive may not have the right “commercial” credentials to satisfy Chairman Burn’s personal requirements, but does anyone know what his understanding of “Commercial” is?
Incredulous as it may sound, Bittar, below, after all, has notched many successes and kicked a swag of“commercial” goals in British racing, while Sullivan, likewise, has a lot of success that he can point to, having not only presided over a highly successful expansion of membership (over 30,000 members), and successfully “commercialized” numerous opportunities and overseen a highly successful 2014 Spring racing carnival during his period in the hot seat.
Perhaps Burn and his Committee supporters are looking for a Stormin’ Norman “commercial” type (remember him?) of Chief Executive, who was a controversial appointment to head the old AJC and had a short and unspectacular tenure at their Randwick headquarters?
The bleak city mail during the carnival suggests that Chairman Burn’s strong preference is to appoint someone from the “commercial” world, which is his very own comfort zone being on the Executive team at one of Australia’s better known merchant banking and financial institutions- Macquarie Bank-and mixing in those swanky, wanky banking circles.
We are also led to believe that Rowan Craigie was his preferred choice, but the Committee baulked at the seven figure price tag that they would have to sign off on putting some of them at odds with their Chairman.
Quite rightly the Committee and the VRC and Chairman Burn would have faced a PR disaster if they were to appoint a million dollar plus man or woman as the Chief Executive.
And yes, appointing a person with a glittering commercial CV might deliver bragging rights to Chairman Burn, his Committee and the VRC in “commercial” circles, but a deficiency in racing industry knowledge at an operational, political and strategic sense has had disastrous consequences- and has brought down many with better CV’s than even the casino man. Over to you, Chairman Burn. Just don’t take the VRC down with you, mate.
BEGG’S EXIT MIRRORS THE STATE OF NSW RACING
It was no shock to hear Graham Begg announce that he was throwing in the towel on his training career at Randwick. Begg’s stable numbers have been on a steady decline over the past several years and the winners had slowed to a trickle. And the ATC had introduced annual performance criteria to their precious “royal” Randwick – criteria that had seen many trainers who had been based at Randwick for their entire careers give the game away.
Begg is not the only trainer to have found the going tough in NSW in recent times. As we have been saying for some time, NSW and particularly Sydney racing has become distinctly elitist. It is racing’s own version of the survival of the fittest, and more and more the biggest and strongest.
The squeeze on Trainers with small and medium-sized stable numbers in Sydney has become an almost deliberate attempt at culling mass numbers of trainers out of the NSW training ranks by the administrators.
As one trainer observed, the big are being encouraged to get bigger, and if you don’t have the owners with the firepower to keep topping your stable each year, you’re wasting your time renewing your license.
He’s partially right. The bottom line is very simple: Training winners- and consistently- is the only guarantee of staying in the game.
It should serve as a warning to one particular Randwick trainer who is known for his regular long lunches, which sometimes turn into dinners. He’s had a spectacularly long and bad run of outs lately and lost some seriously well heeled stable clients. He is also not averse to blaming his more diligent rival trainers for “pinching my horses”. Blame yourself and your lifestyle and keep your eye on the ball, mate, or you’ll lose many more of your horses and clients. Bet on it.