THE WAR IS OVER: NOW FOR THE REBUILD
Now that the war over vision rights, so bitterly fought out between Racing Victoria and the Tabcorp/Sky Channel duopoly is finally over, the Victorians have a unique opportunity to exploit their bold vision rights arrangements including the free to air initiative with Australia’s leading television network Seven, their digital arrangements with a raft of corporate bookmakers, the new deal with Tabcorp and Sky, and importantly, their in-house multi-media, currently seen as a one-man band platform racing.com whose drum is, apparently, banging visitors away.
The bitter feud between Racing Victoria and Tabcorp was fuelled by the “guerrilla war” waged for over two and a half long years which has left a legacy of mistrust, division and a near terminally fractured relationship between the two largest and most important racing States – NSW and Victoria, and which culminated in the demise of industry broadcaster TVN.
It was a war that Australian racing did not need to have, and if the relationship between the two States is not repaired, then Australian racing will continue to be fragmented and lose a truckload of opportunities to reinvent itself and pursue the attention and interest of a generation and demographic that it so desperately needs for its long term survival.
That said, the Victorians have positioned themselves to go it alone if necessary through its bold plan to prioritize free to air television and their digital and on-line offerings in pursuing markets that, unquestionably, are out there to be targeted.
It will be a crucial outcome for Racing Victoria, with the official roll out of the Seven Network and Racing Victoria’s dedicated racing channel – Channel 78- to recruit fresh talent onto the on-air presentation team. But can they and will they or go to the same tired old pool?
The tired old faces, who are no longer even adept at, or capable of, preaching to the converted, must be retired. Permanently. Let them retire to their roles of choice – cluttering up social media with their inane banter and commentary using their limited vocabulary and intellect.
The Seven Network has a successful track record of hiring articulate, knowledgeable presenters of both sexes for sporting commentary- but no experience when it comes to horse racing. Seven has also demonstrated it understands basic human instincts in searching for and recruiting talent that is also easy on the eye. Francesca Cumanis are very, very hard to find, but as the old truism goes, if you don’t look you won’t find, and if you don’t ask you won’t know. Yes?
With Racing Victoria’s stated key objective of broadening both its audience and demographic through the free to air deal, getting the right on-air talent and faces will be critical to the success or otherwise of this initiative. It has little option but to steer clear of the some of the over-exposed self styled multi-media personalities who are so in your face with website, radio and television roles, there is no escape from opinionated commentary which is a turn-off for the racing community. Just imagine how it would go down with non-racing people?
Equally challenging will be the necessity to bring NSW racing, dragging and screaming if necessary, into the “tent”. A free to air channel offering Victoria and NSW racing would turn the impossible into reality, and just could pave the way for, dare it be said, cooperation of a meaningful kind between the arch enemies.
Like the various free trade agreements between nations it would be a win, win for both States and for the Seven Network. For this to happen though, the uncomfortable reality is that the well known suspects in NSW who have a track record of road blocking any cooperation and unity and preferring war over peace in their destructive relationships with the Victorians must be parachuted out of their positions of power and influence in NSW racing.
Over to you Premier Mike Baird and Racing Minister Troy Grant. NSW racing cannot continue to be driven by self-interest.
COBALT CARNAGE CONTINUES
Just like the war in Iraq and the on-going despicable acts of savagery by ISIS, the carnage wreaked on racing by the cobalt positives and the entrapment of more prominent names in racing as each week passes continues, almost unabated.
Again this week it was NSW racing which copped it. Literally through every orifice.
While the “grotesque” and “vile” smear campaign – Fairfax media’s description not ours, about Racing NSW Chief Executive Peter V’Landys is whispering out of control in the NSW racing community, the cobalt saga continues to play out – in an out of control fashion, across the general community, like an Australian summer bushfire, threatening by the week to terminally trash racing.
It can no longer be flippantly described as a “saga” . The temperature reached furnace levels this week with evidence given before the Racing NSW show cause hearings involving one of the ATC’s senior administrators, Matt Rudolph, the General Manager of Racing Operations.
As much as the evidence given was astonishing and sensational, it marked a clearly defined turning point – both in perception and reality for Australian racing. Racing had finally reached its own “no turning back” position.
Evidence, allegations and accusations of a Father allegedly colluding with a senior racing official to ambush his own son, of senior management seeking to deliberately interfere with witnesses and change evidence, aka witness tampering of the possible leaking of confidential integrity information by senior officials, of clandestine meetings between racing officials and trainers, of a tangled web of personal and family relationships incestuously playing out and possibly compromising the integrity of racing, of deliberate and calculated deception between trainers, racing officials and veterinarians, of behaviour which in civilian life would unquestionably lead to serious criminal charges being laid. Is that not enough to trigger political intervention?
And more than likely it will get worse with further evidence to be given next week.
Quite obviously the racing authorities will hand out penalties. They will range from the traditional wrist slapping fines, stand downs, suspensions, disqualifications, warning offs and the like. Some of the penalties will be career ending. They must be.
For too long racing has failed miserably to draw a line in the stand and define what it stands for. It has huffed and puffed and engaged in plenty of chest beating about its integrity being sacrosanct.
If the cobalt carnage is any indication, racing has been an abject failure in protecting its fundamental values, which are demanded by the community and all those engaged in what now is a hopelessly tarnished sport.
As necessary and as harsh punishment must be, the administration of racing at all levels must be rigorously and independently scrutinized. The simple question of “how did racing get to the state that it is in?” must be the subject of nothing short of a Riyal Commission or ICAC inquiry here in NSW.
Nothing less would suffice. Meaningless, motherhood statements and spin such as “ we will never take a backward step on integrity” and “we will ensure the integrity of racing no matter what” are just that. Cobalt carnage has rendered such statements outdated and nothing more than another pathetic attempt at a whitewash.
The Baird Government cannot spectate while NSW racing plunges to new lows of depravity. NSW racing must be cleansed, once and for all. The structure and model under which racing operates has been proven convincingly and conclusively to be incapable of maintaining and upholding the integrity of racing. Handing out penalties is not going to fix the problem in either the short or long term. It will merely delay, temporarily, the next instalment in the crisis which faces racing not just in NSW but Australia wide.
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS LADY GAI GAI?
Might be a financially sound idea for Australia’s first lady of racing Gai Waterhouse to consider buying her own private jet. She’s been racing everywhere woman in recent times with trips to the UK, the US, Europe, Hong Kong and Japan crammed in to her amazing frenetic schedule over the past two and a bit months. Gai’s energy knows no limits and with the spring carnival on her door step she will clock up plenty of mileage in the air commuting between Sydney and Melbourne. In the midst of it all, we understand that Lady GaiGai is forging ahead with plans for her own television series to be produced by- wait for it- former jockey Neil Paine. Let’s all scream together.
SERIAL TWEETER ALERT!
Melbourne racing circles are becoming increasingly intolerant of the serial tweeting about anything and everything by that city’s “multi media personality”, aka Mr Everywhere man. Increasingly aggressive and with more than just a touch of vindictiveness about his tweets and tactless commentary he is doing his “cause” serious damage. Remember what goes around comes around.
THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING
On a similar note and again from “bleak city” and following on from evidence given at the cobalt inquiries in both NSW and Victoria, expect to hear with greater frequency “what goes around comes around” in reference to some of the key players under investigation. Rightly arrogance and hubris are a sure fire way to win enemies and lose friends – a far cry from the backslapping and “slack” which was afforded some of these key players when they were once the “peoples champions”.
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Some racing wags in Sydney are framing a market on who will crack next in the cobalt inquiries in NSW and throw more of their mates and former mates under the proverbial bus. Expect the blowtorch to be applied to some members of the ATC Board and management and to certain members of Racing NSW management.
Don’t be surprised if a very prominent Queensland trainer bites the bullet and makes a move south to Sydney. He is said to be completely disenchanted and fearful for the future of racing in the sunshine state and with some of the usual suspects in the Sydney training ranks making headway in their efforts to poach owners and horses.
TIME’S UP FOR BATMAN AND ROBIN?
We keep hearing that pressure is mounting on two prominent senior executives in NSW racing to retain their positions following what is developing as a crisis of confidence in racing in sin city. The word “untenable” is being bandied around, which does not bode well for their longevity in the positions they occupy. A well credentialed racing executive with an impressive CV both in and out of Australia is being talked about as a target for head hunters should one or both these positions become vacant.
ARE THE THREE AMIGOS FALLING APART?
Though there’s still no word on the new caller for the next racing season other than it won’t be an Aussie, strong mail from Melbourne says that Amigo Clint Hutchison will join former colleague JoJo McKinnon as part of Channel 7’s new onscreen hosts. Surprised? Thought not.
Rumours that the Three Amigos were not happy with with their gigs since when they first came together because of the HKJC’s head of broadcasting, certainly a polarising character for decades, who played her cards extremely well.
With her finally retiring next season, we’re predicting a brand new and powerful broom running rampant through the entire area of what’s now called “broadcasting” which just might surprise those who think the Club won’t take this change at the top to change front, back and centre and create and own new content for vastly different customer segments and made available through new delivery platforms such as influential and leading Hong Kong terrestrial television station HKTVB’s J2 channel.
One only hopes that the rampant emphasis on the Chinese side of things is more evenly spread. That much-touted global wagering product known as commingling or co-mingling needs to start from scratch with all sides returning to the egg and creating a far more edutaining rollout programme and not the vague, fragmented and confusing product that it should not be if it’s to ever realise its potential.
Right here and now, commingling co-comingling is looking as weather beaten as hurriedly hobbled together dog’s breakfast that is racing.com, and almost every other tired looking racing club website. Even captive audience can turn around and bite when feeling they’re being taken for granted.
SORRY, BUT WE DON’T BELIEVE IN ACACIA COURTNEY
We’re sure Acacia Courtney is a very nice person- the 2014 Miss Connecticut, and horse lover, who is now the face in a series of commercials for America’s Best Racing.
The latest of these is below where the young lady tells us what she does and doesn’t believe in- she doesn’t believe in “unconscious uncoupling”, which is Gwyneth Paltrow Goop muttered following her split from husband Chris Martin, and does believe in Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts (huh?), Taylor Swift, longshots and other weirdness before asking, “What do you believe in?”
Well, as Ms Courtney has tweeted that she didn’t write the script and it isn’t even her voice in these commercials, we really don’t know what to believe in other than wondering the point of producing this gibberish that fuses some random thoughts into one unholy bolt of confusion, mama. Watch- and keep a wheelie bin handy.
WHO’S GOING BONKERS DOWN UNDER?
We’re hearing very upsetting things about the behaviour these days of the Social Consciousness of Oz racing, and seriously precious serial twitterer. Fame- and misguided impressions of fame and one’s genius- can drive many bonkers. Just ask Vincent Van Gogh’s right ear.
Racked with various insecurities, suspicious and- yikes- paranoid- of anyone who doesn’t agree with his genius, and having hissy fits when challenged- also about his genius- The Kanye West and Liza Minnelli of Oz racing has, apparently, taken to blocking those on Twitter who (A) don’t agree with him (B) thinks he’s kinda creepy (C) follow us on the social media platform and (D) Don’t like Liza Minnelli’s version of “Single Ladies”- and then frantically deleting tweets where that “genius” might look a bit Dracula daft in the cold light of the day when the fangs have lost their original venom.
Coming apart at the seams? Losing the plot? Plotting the lost? Life is a Cabaret? Making V’Lundies’ tirades almost seem sane?