behind the scenes



There was always a sense of inevitability about the outcome of the Mexican standoff between TVN and Sky Channel over the value of NSW and Victorian racing vision – a standoff which has become an all too defining feature of Australian racing.


When the wedding bells started ringing out of the hallowed residences of Racing NSW and Racing Victoria over two and half years ago proclaiming the newly discovered spirit of cooperation over TVN, a new Board and a solemn matrimonial vow to take each other for “better or for worse”, we weren’t fooled.

It was a marriage of inconvenience, with the third party – Sky Racing, the potential co-respondent- always a hard ball player, waiting in the wings and capable of making irreconcilable differences a reality to a marriage that was on the rocks before it even started.


It was a similar scenario with the composition of the TVN Board. Given the frosty relationship between Racing NSW and the ATC, between Racing NSW and Racing Victoria papered over only by spin, the animosity towards and mistrust of “you know who”, pictured below, by many of the Board members and their constituent Clubs, it was always going to need a “dealmaker” or statesman to broker a peace plan to make it work and prevent the dysfunctional farce which the Australian racing industry has been subjected to over the past two and a half years.


No, it’s not laughable that the stand-off over the value of the vision is still unresolved. It’s plain fucking tragic for Australian racing and for the many punters and participants who should be sharing in both the considerable financial benefits that would flow from both an aggregation of rights and, critically, from a proper and reasonable fee for those rights from vision and media rights providers.

If the deal and fees that Sky Racing is reportedly digging its heels over is accurate- and there has been no disputations as to its veracity- then, Sky appears to be holding a gun at the head of not just TVN, but also at the heads of the NSW and Victorian racing industries.


Interestingly and significantly, the commentary and language coming out of both State governing bodies – Racing NSW and Racing Victoria- relating to the dispute provides vital clues into the REAL reasons why the Race Clubs and, quite clearly,  the Victorians appear to have drawn a line in the sand with their unequivocal stand in throwing their considerable weight behind TVN.

In what can only be described as uncharacteristic, Druitt Street appears to have assumed the role of moderator, a role one does not usually associate with “you know who”, pictured below, reportedly working behind the scenes at seeking a resolution to the issue. Perhaps he is auditioning as successor to Ban Ki-moon’s role as Secretary General of the United Nations?


In stark contrast, a detailed and blunt statement on the Racing Victoria website, below, explicitly exposed the extent of the ambush that Sky Racing and its parent organization Tabcorp was attempting to inflict, not just on TVN, but specifically on Victorian racing, and, ultimately Australian racing.

A Vision For The Future – Racing Victoria


The protracted TVN/Sky dispute is not just about a haggle over the extra $10 million that TVN is seeking from Sky for the NSW and Victorian vision. It’s much more.

For Victoria, it’s about bundling digital rights, penalties for Victorian expansion of its free to air coverage over and above the existing 25 race meetings- penalties, again for Victoria if Sky no longer had exclusive international rights for their racing- and, wait for it, locking in penalties for any future increases in race fields product fees for Victorian racing.

While some of these demands are no doubt part of the negotiating and bargaining process, the bigger question from a NSW home state perspective is simple: Do these same demands apply to NSW and where does Racing NSW and the ATC stand on these fundamentally critical issues to the NSW racing industry?

Will Racing NSW and the ATC buckle to the demands of Sky and Tabcorp? Think we know the answer to that question, don’t we?

Whatever happens, sadly, the fat lady has well and truly sung for TVN.

If the ATC and Racing NSW pull out of TVN as we believe they might, then it is curtains for TVN.


It would be an extremely unlikely scenario for Racing Victoria to bankroll the operation of TVN on its own. But the bigger question for bleak city administrators is how they handle their broadcast rights- and with whom.

In light of their very pointed and provocative statement fingering Tabcorp, it leaves little to the imagination as to their next move.


Reading between the lines, it will take all of Ban Ki-moon, his predecessor Kofi Annan and any other world class mediator to broker a peace deal with Tabcorp.

Pity. It will be a proverbial dog’s breakfast with the prospect of two separate channels carrying separate vision for NSW and Victorian racing.


So much for the empty words of cooperation and unity between NSW and Victoria. But then again can mortal enemies ever co-exist?

Batman and The Joker

Is it any wonder why the reputation of Australian racing is on its arse among its own backyard constituency, let alone its global counterparts?





Not for one moment would we dispute Chris Waller’s explanation that the Lasix positive for which Junoob was disqualified for his Metropolitan win last October was the result of a mix-up by a stablehand, and was accidentally administered to Junoob and not the one for which it was intended. It’s not the first time a mistake has been made and it won’t be the last.

But, this is not the first time that Waller has had to front stewards over a positive.


Just last April resulting from a feed mix-up, Chris Waller found himself facing Ray Murrihy’s panel- and on both occasions found himself lighter in the wallet for a mix-up in administration- an accident or just plain negligence.

Call it what you like, but is it too much to expect better from Australia’s leading trainer?

C’mon Chris, you are bloody lucky to have escaped with a fine and not a suspension, particularly in NSW where Racing NSW and, for that matter, the Australian Racing Board, have forever bombarded all with endless, and often meaningless bollocks to keep racing drug free – a Group One oxymoron in itself.

Yes, constantly reminded is how racing in NSW is within a hair’s breath of being world’s best practice with their so-called tougher than tough drug rules- tough enough to send the heebie jeebies through any dodgy trainer, stablehand or any one contemplating giving a go-fast or go-slow to a racehorse.

And our dear, dear oh dear old mate Peter “toffee tongue” McGauran, Australian racing’s handsomely paid unofficial roving ambassador of Good Vibes, in his present incarnation as CEO of the Australian Racing Board, has reminded all, equally frequently, that Australian racing will do what it possibly can to rid itself of drug cheats and achieve a nirvana-like drug free racing jurisdiction.


No doubt this was the reasoning behind a series of far-reaching changes to the Rules of Racing in recent times, in particular, banning the use of any form of anabolic steroids either in or out of competition; extending the pre-race medication rule to midnight on the day before a horse was scheduled to race; the introduction of thresholds for the use of cobalt; tens of millions of dollars into research and detection of sinister substances, and introducing some very harsh penalties – suspensions and disqualifications for Trainers who break these rules.

At the time of their introduction, we recall Racing NSW and the Australian Racing Board stridently refusing to include an escape clause where cases such as the Junoob case would be treated differently- where incidences of accidental administration were involved, and excluding any form of deliberate intent.

The NSW Trainers Association, quite rightly, was one of these strident critics along with some of Sydney’s prominent trainers.

But the reality is that rules are rules and Chris Waller is one lucky trainer to have escaped with a $30,000 slap on the wrist- a fine which would not have even made a dent on his hard-earned prize money earnings and general income from racing.

Slap On The Wrist

If the mood among trainers at Randwick last weekend was any indication, the topic of Junoob and Chris Waller’s fine evoked a range of apoplectic responses.

The bottom line as always is perception, and in this instance, the perception is that the level playing field does not apply in Sydney, and particularly to penalties for breaking the rules of racing, notwithstanding the circumstances.


Imagine the feeling among these same Sydney trainers when they read Kenny Callander’s column last Monday, which opened with this extraordinary statement: “How lucky are we Chris Waller was fined and not suspended after his horse Junoob returned a positive in the Group One Metropolitan. If he had been outed we might have fields with two or three runners instead of five and six”.

Yes, you read it right. Dear old Kenny, for whom we do have the utmost respect, must have been having a serious senior moment.

senior moment

Surely Kenny, you can’t be serious??? Yes, we know you are on the Board of the Chris Waller fan club- and you are not alone. Chris is a fine trainer and his best is ahead of him.

But give us a break, Kenny. Field sizes have never- and should never- determine penalties for breaches of the rules of racing. You are drawing a very, very long bow, Kenny. And yes Kenny, you’re on the money here: Chris Waller has been propping up Sydney racing for too long. But that’s a separate issue.

Equally intriguing about this whole bizarre episode was the revelation by Fairfax racing writer Chris “the rooter” Roots of the “stable’s (Waller stable), use of the drug (Lasix) routinely used on horses before they work fast”.

According to his piece, the horses are treated at 3.30am to reduce their chance of bleeding and add to longevity.

Yes, it is no secret that Lasix is administered to racehorses to prevent bleeding- but apparently with greater frequency than many realize in all Australian states?

Australian racing frequently gets on its high horse, takes the moral ground and chide the American racing industry for its race day medication rules. Puhleeeze!


For Chris Waller, the lesson is as clear as crystal: He has no option but to personally change his operational practices at his stables.

The size of his stable is no excuse and Racing NSW should demand he do so. If he wants to get up close and personal with prospective owners and tell them how much he would like to train their horses and keep increasing the size of his stable that’s his prerogative.

But with it comes responsibility to ensure negligence and recurring mix-ups and accidents, call them what you like, are no longer pleas for mercy.

Many Sydney trainers have lost their clients to the irresistible lure of the continuing Waller success story. Their whingeing and whining is misplaced. Training winners is the only guarantee to retaining your client base. Nevertheless, they’re pissed off big time. And the $30k fine for Junoob doesn’t help.


This entry was posted in Australian horse racing industry, CHRIS WALLER, Racing NSW, The horse racing industry, Victorian Racing Club and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ATC own 50% of TVN. Surely they have 50% of the control. Surely they will stand by TVN as it is their second most valuable asset.
    Why do you think RNSW have any control?
    Is there something we need to know about the ATC ‘s arrangement with RNSW. Has the ATC given up ultimate control of TVN an incredibly valuable asset?

    James Mathers

  2. Doctor Ziggy says:

    Quite a long interview on Melbourne radio yesterday with Bruce (last name not caught), connected with TVN. He was very critical of the way Sky covered racing, urging that it needed to change to attract a younger generation to racing, and suggesting that it used a model that went back to the 60s and would never change unless forced to. He criticized the thinking at Sky as ‘week to week’ and wanted a racing coverage that was different. He said the present impasse had been coming for a long time and TVN were in for the fight. Sky are under the impression TVN would have to surrender fairly soon, but he said they’ve got the wrong idea and once they get it through their thick scones that there must be some big changes then they will be the ones who come to the party.

    • Jack says:

      While not wanting to be too critical I can only say that TVN has a long way to go if its usual offerings are any indication. Generally juvenile efforts from a lo t of talking heads with minimal experience. Race coverage includes more than NSW and Victoria. The lack of Australia wide coverage is a real problem for TVN especially in this day and age when travelling horses is so easy. I believe they shot themselves in the foot when they removed Caroline Searcy. She gave TVN some substance and class.
      Unfortunately this desire to attract the younger audience often sees the established audience left out. Look at the mess they created in the UK when they went down the same track.

  3. James Mathers says:

    Surely it’s time for the racing industry throughout Australia to pause and reflect on where it has come from and where it is going. In my opinion we need to closely examine areas of media and wagering and at the same time look at the food chain and examine industry money flows….. who is paying for what and who is paying more than it should.

    The recent issue concerning media rights between Sky and TVN is a very good example of the confusion and mayhem that has been created within the industry in Australia over several decades. I’m not certain who created the mayhem however it seems to me that all the racing bodies and the government need to jointly and urgently review and chart the future with a view to ensuring the returns to the industry stakeholders ( punters, racehorse owners, trainers, staff and industry workers, government and race clubs) are maximised. The industry needs to ensure that it continues to be sustainable to all stakeholders

    I’m not a Tabcorp knocker however my complaint with the current model is that significant monies resulting from the industry flow to non industry members such as shareholders of Tabcorp by way of dividend. Tabcorp’s income comes from punters….. industry punters and stakeholders. Further are unnecessary costs being incurred because Tabcorp is a listed public company ….. significant costs of compliance , significant executive and support staff wages and possibly the payment of income tax ? This model is flawed and results in the industry returns not be maximised. Having made that statement it needs to be acknowledged that Tabcorp have been a fabulous supporter of racing in Australia and one wonders where the industry would have been had they not developed driven a successful business.

    I am very supportive of industry owned and controlled media and totaliser. It is for this reason that I’m very supportive of TVN, TVN is a valuable industry owned asset….. definitely the second most valuable asset of the industry, running second to the license to race. It is for this reason alone that I do not support Sky in this recent dispute.

    Further to the above I hope that the decision-makers are carefully considering the offer from Seven Network, not simply on face value but rather on how their racing product will drive and grow wagering and ultimate returns to stakeholders. For example do we know how much Seven Network will be charging pubs and clubs to televise racing within their premises. The current charges from Sky are in my opinion very excessive resulting in significant shrinkage of coverage in both pubs and clubs throughout Australia. Let’s hope we don’t see Seven Network making things worse!

    In my opinion it was very unfortunate that the NSW government extended the exclusivity period on its New South Wales retail wagering license to Tabcorp last year for further 20 years. This decision has prevented the industry in New South Wales from doing anything about the short and medium term future of the wagering business in New South Wales. I was hoping the NSW government would grant Tabcorp a free three-year extension during which time the industry could determine whether or not it wished to get back into the totaliser business.

    Mistakes have been made and I expect will continue to be made however let’s hope the cost to the industry of these mistakes is minimised.

    Issues of totaliser and media ownership and control are critical big picture issues. They can’t be properly analysed and determined without industry unity. Unity requires leadership. Do we have any clever leaders out there who we can trust and leaders who will be unwavering in their pursuit of the best model !.

    James Mathers

    James Mathers & Co
    Chartered Accountants
    Office: +61 (2) 9953 0744
    Fax: +61 (2) 9953 1390



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