TURNING THE BLOW TORCH ON SYDNEY RACING
Respected Sydney racing journalist Ken Callander, below turned the blow torch on Sydney racing in his Monday weekly column in the Telegraph with a piece titled “Racing for a solution in Sydney”. The subs at the News Desk were being kind with that heading. Very kind.
Like many, Callander has had enough. Enough of the spin and chest banging bravado that everyone in the NSW racing industry has been subjected to over many years and which has masked the many problems that keep multiplying like a bad dose of the crabs in Sydney and across NSW.
“The Championships at Randwick were great, but we are kidding ourselves if we think racing is going great in Sydney”, couldn’t have summed it up better, Kenny.
Let’s just hope that Premier Mike Baird and Racing Minister Troy Grant read your column.
In his column, Kenny identifies six pressing problems or issues which need addressing in Sydney racing. We agree- with one rider: They need to be fixed. Yesterday. That is how urgently solutions are needed. Here are three that fit into that category…
First: Attendances or Crowd Figures. “Saturday attendances of fewer than 5000 are not acceptable in 2015. Fifteen Thousand should be the minimum. Trying to count the crowd at Thursday’s postponed meeting at Canterbury, I could not get to 100”.
We’ll say it again like that repetitive drone of know-it-all and dreadful bore David Raphael: Neither Racing NSW or the ATC have any clue about marketing. Nor do they understand the simple reality that racing keeps losing each generation coming through.
The woeful Autumn carnival attendances and at the Championships demonstrate the irrelevance of racing in its present incarnation.
In NSW, racing just isn’t sexy anymore. Was it ever? Really? And the “d” grade marketing and advertising campaigns reinforce this.
Marketing without a strong creative director to actually create a product TO market results in irrelevance concocted by gremlins play acting at that often over-used term called “marketing.”
Racing has only got to take a close look at how cricket has re-invented itself and become popular again by marketing a strong creative product. Take a look at the NRL, AFL and the surging popularity of the Soccer franchises, and how these sports are promoted with bulging memberships- in some cases, turning their fortunes around from “near death” experiences and extinction.
Second: Field Sizes. Do we really need to say anymore? Finding implausible and downright misleading excuses such as a “decline in the foal crop”, and then prize money, to attract more owners just does not stack up.
As we have pointed out- and Ken reiterates, “Don’t listen to the bunkum about a small foal crop as it has not affected field sizes in Melbourne or Brisbane”. A convenient porky pie, maybe? And what about one of the enduring reasons for the poor field sizes? It’s called programming and it has been a problem for so many years. And despite the outcry of numerous prominent trainers, it remains unsolved. In the too hard basket, maybe?
Third: Poor metropolitan tracks. Yes Ken, Randwick, Warwick Farm are in dire need of being fixed. The less said about the failure of the numerous patchwork solutions to fix up the embarrassment that is the Kensington inner track at Randwick the better.
As one racegoer observed during the Championships, they spent hundreds of millions on a rebuild of the stands at Randwick and a pittance on fixing up the track.
Worse still, there’s the Randwick grandstand- and navigating through this edifice is a nightmare. And as Ken so aptly put it, the public is denied access to 80 per cent of the grandstand. More evidence of the shamaterism and elitist mentality that pervades Sydney racing.
But there is a more valid and glaring reason why Sydney racing in in the state that it is in. It’s called leadership. And it is leadership that puts the best interests of the whole industry ahead of partisan self-serving agendas.
Leadership which listens and actually represents and acts for the betterment of ALL “50,000” participants and not a powerful elitist minority. Leadership which works cooperatively with all sections of the industry to grow the revenue base and get people through the turnstiles.
For NSW racing to turn itself around, it MUST change its leadership. It has become part of the problem, not part of the solution.
THE INSUFFERABLE SKY COVERAGE AND SHANE O, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL OF OZ RACING.
For how much longer is the Australian racing industry and punters going to tolerate the coverage provided under the carefully named Sky Thoroughbred Central?
Both Sky’s coverage of NSW racing and its Victorian feeds through Racing Live are further evidence of the inability of the Australian racing industry to provide a coverage of its sport to a standard of quality which other sports provide.
And yet we hear the endless and nauseating waffle by administrators and media commentators tripping over each other to be seen as “visionaries” about how important it is to change the way racing presents itself and markets itself to broaden its interest base and attract “newbies”.
It’s the sort of motherhood statements that racing in Oz, and promises that racing in Oz has been making for the past several decades- and done absolutely sweet fanny adams about it because, well, they have no idea where to start.
Perhaps commentators like Shane O on his increasingly boring RSN radio show- the radio station that’s home for funeral homes- should ask his Melbourne racing administrator guests- gawd, they’re boring- some tough questions- questions like what have they been doing during their long and wasteful tenures to address such problems?
But, oh no, you’ve got to be careful not to go there, Shane O, and we understand that it would be career hari kari to put the blowtorch on your employers to explain away their decades long siestas at great expense to the racing industry to navel gaze, which seems to be a necessary pre-requisite of employment in the industry.
The Sky team of presenters, and so called “personalities” are hardly going to turn “newbies” into even once a year racegoers. They represent, speak and present like the generation that they are- way past their use by date.
At least Francesca Cumani and our mate JoJo McKinnon, especially after her tour of duty in Hong Kong, can relate to the demographic that racing in Oz so desperately needs to come through the turnstiles.
Feedback from a wide cross section of the “50,000” participants and punters on the post-TVN coverage is damning. If Sky was serious about providing a professional premium coverage, they should convert one of their three channels exclusively into a NSW -Victoria only channel with carnivals from the other States at carnival times.
The bottom line is that these two States, and the interstate carnivals represent the prime sources of wagering revenue and, for that matter, public interest in racing.
So why not provide professional coverage with some new faces who would be able to relate to the new generation of punters and the ”newbies” that racing needs to win over?
Cut out the tired old cliché driven presenters who have been around for a century or more and fail to realize that, no, you can’t start all over again.
Racing has a wasteful habit of choosing to look inwardly at itself. Even when it does conduct reviews, it’s often done from within, or through the eyes of recently retired administrators who, often, have been the culprits of many of the problems which racing faces today.
It’s the same with Sky and the reason why Sky Thoroughbred Central is the polar opposite of how racing needs to present itself.
It’s the same with Racing Victoria’s costly and hugely disappointing attempt to drag itself into the modern digital age through its racing.com website.
Again, it smacks of a hastily cobbled up knee jerk response to promote the misleading perception that racing is on the same wavelength as the generation that it just does not understand and is unlikely to ever understand.
Why? Too many try-hards and desperate wannabes absolutely clueless about bona fide marketing and zero experience in other industries that are constantly trying to understand and communicate with this questioning, cynical DIY generation with a buffet of choices when it comes to leisure activities.
This includes other sports with mega stars that are brands, and supported by sponsors with huge data bases and their own forward thinking creative and marketing teams. Can racing Just Do It? Overnight?
Who in heaven’s name would understand or give a toss about the so-called problems with sand-based tracks? Or for that matter, what racing would be like “if we could start all over”, the title of an editorial piece on the racing.com website by none other than Oz racing’s very own wunderkind- Shane O. Please, Shane O. Please. Rein it in along with those giggly mentions of Sontag. Again, Shane O, please. No. Stop. It.
Yet these are the topics du jour which this so-called new website of tomorrow offers those who dare to trawl through it.
“If racing began tomorrow what would it look like? It is a question that I often think about and wonder if anyone in the game does as well. The one clear answer would be that it would be far different than what it would be now”. Huh? Whaaaaaat???
Shane O, put down the Kool-Aid, stop writing, and get out a bit more. Take in a Happy Wednesday night at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong. And inhale.
FERMEZ LE BOUCHE, MONSIEUR KAV? MERCI.
Whilst it is understandable to appreciate the frustration being felt by Melbourne Cup winning trainer Mark Kavanagh over the cobalt positives, and, particularly, his own horse Magicool during last year’s spring racing carnival in Melbourne, Kav is doing himself and his fellow trainers who are under the gun absolutely no favours by his belligerent public comments and rants and finger pointing at the governing body.
Kav would be far better off keeping his defence tactics to his legal team and not giving the Victorian racing police a free kick.
Together with his other two Amigos in Peter Moody and the suddenly very quiet Danny O’Brien, the court of public opinion and his own fellow trainers are not exactly on their side.
A bit of advice to Kav: