Let me qualify my comments below by stating that I am a strong supporter of the Gosford Race Club and all things Central Coast, New South Wales. My family has made a significant investment on the Central Coast; we truly value the people and community of the Central Coast and greatly appreciate all the support we receive. I care about the coast and I care about thoroughbred racing in Australia. It’s what we do down under, all over the country. It’s part of our heritage and we love it.
A few weeks ago the board of the Gosford Race Club announced that they would cease training at Gosford effective 31 December 2016, the reason being that they could not afford to continue. The business case was clear; Gosford had to close its training because they were incurring unsustainable and unfunded losses. Further the board was having understandable difficulty in justifying the allocation of at least $3 million to upgrade the training and stabling facility. It is difficult to criticise the board on their decision however I wonder whether Gosford has a real future as a racetrack. I certainly hope so however it will take some clever management to ensure this happens. Gosford is not a Canterbury, a Moonee Valley or indeed a Happy Valley.
Let me move to the position of RNSW on this and other strategic planning matters regarding the rationalisation of training and racing facilities in New South Wales. This issue has been hovering for at least a decade causing significant unrest amongst the racing and general communities both in Sydney, provincial and country racing areas. In Sydney we still don’t know the real fate of Canterbury, who will ultimately make the decision and why. On the Central Coast much was made of the possibility of Gosford and Wyong merging but again that went into the too hard basket.
To the best of my knowledge no report has been prepared which details the quantitative and qualitative merits of closing a training or racing centre in New South Wales or in fact rebuilding it. Until all information is provided on an unbiased basis none of us will be able to make an informed opinion as to what should or should not happen. I ask the question why hasn’t RNSW done this exercise and if they have why hasn’t it been published. Surely this is a simple exercise, an exercise in leadership. Surely capable people like John Messara and Peter V’Landys could turn their minds to ensuring a report of this nature is prepared and tabled for public review and comment. Gentlemen, a captain’s knock is now urgently required. Racing in New South Wales needs direction and leadership.
Following along the same theme I note the comments of RNSW Country Chairman Bob Pavitt (an outstanding administrator) on the splitting up of country racing’s multimillion dollar bonanza resulting from the NSW government tax parity decision. Bob said “in our own strategic plan we’ve already put to RNSW some time ago that we think initially money should be concentrated on those clubs that generate the majority of starters. We have our own track maintenance scheme and we pay the clubs which generate 1000 starters/ year, more than others. We would see them as the priority”. Bob went on to say “RNSW will make the final call and that’s been our advice to them and it has been taken on board”. Well said Bob but I now ask of RNSW where is the certainty, where is the clarity, will the country clubs be holding their breath or begging for a handout. Answers are required from RNSW.
Before moving back to the situation at Gosford, I have long held the view that no race club in New South Wales should bear the cost of training or racing. In my opinion this is an industry cost which should be paid from funds collected from the TAB and under the race fields legislation. I know the ATC starts the year with a $5 million loss resulting from its commitment to training and racing facilities. Race clubs really have no choice but to charge trainers for stable rents and track fees which in turn is passed on to the bottom feeders , the silly old owner. If RNSW really wanted to show some initiative why wouldn’t they ensure that stable rents and track fees were free of charge? This would allow costs of racing horses to be significantly reduced. After all, one must not forget that without suitable field sizes, the betting pool reduce materially hence the return to the industry.
Let’s briefly move back to Gosford and ask a few simple questions of the board and management team as follows:
· if you continued with training and subsidising training along the current lines what would be the effect on your budget
· can you afford to sustain a loss from training as do most race clubs
· are you able to provide full details of the $3 million capital expenditure required to upgrade training and stabling facilities
· what do you see of the future of racing at Gosford once training discontinues
· do you feel Gosford is a viable racing centre and why
· do you feel the Gosford and Central Coast community want a racecourse located at Gosford
· what is your dream for the future of one of New South Wales most idyllic regions and what part should the Gosford Race Club play
· do you think your decision will contribute to the shrinkage of the thoroughbred and racing sector in New South Wales
· have you considered offering subsidised training facilities to major stables or major owners including international owners and if so how have you done it
· have you considered merging with another race club e.g. ATC
· have you considered merging with another local club i.e. a non-race club such as the very successful Gosford RSL
· have you considered approaching an international race club such as the Hong Kong Jockey Club to determine whether some form of joint venture could be established…. after all racing is a global sport!
· do you really feel that all the options have been fully considered
· have you consulted with the Gosford Council and business communities of the Central Coast prior to making your decision
· have you considered the massive waterfront development or redevelopment which is about to take place on your doorstep which I understand is to be funded by Asian money
· do you really think that the racing facility can be sustained by installing lights and making Gosford a night racing venue
· what is the financial viability of making Gosford a night racing venue and how do you know that RNSW will assign your club meetings. What guarantees do you have?
· is it too late for the club to reconsider its decision
Some of you know me, most of you don’t but I never give up and nor should the board of Gosford Race Club. Gentlemen you are a fine board, an honest, hard-working and deeply committed board. I would encourage you to pause and reflect on the above and lots more. Finally I repeat my comments above….. I am a strong supporter of the Gosford Race Club and I am committed to the Central Coast of New South Wales.
Merry Christmas to all and best wishes for the festive season.