writing letter

Dear Racing Bitch

Just my thoughts on the ATC.

With the Championships done for another year let me firstly congratulate all those involved in putting this wonderful event together with particular mention to the equine athletes, the jockeys and trainers who displayed courage, professionalism and good grace to make it a huge success.

With that deserving congratulation out of the way now let me address the dead hand of the ATC Committee and officials who have ensured that racing is now a television only event as evidenced by the poor crowds attending such a great carnival. The racetracks under the ATC, and in particular Randwick, have lost all “atmosphere” and that feeling of crowd participation which has always been integral to a day at the races. Gone is the excitement of the crowd cheering the horses down the straight, the roar of the crowd as the favourite wins in a tight finish and even those scholarly opinions about a losing favourite’s rider. Gone also is the feeling of expectation as horses come into the parade ring and punters watch their trainers and jockeys consult on tactics, the enjoyment of mingling in the betting ring and the laissez faire attitude of the crowd who have learnt that racing is the great leveller, that all are equal on the track.

Before listing some of the more obvious problems my credentials for this critique are:

I have been an avid punter all my life, a part owner of numerous horses, an ATC foundation member and prior to that a long term AJC / STC member. Racing is my favourite hobby and going to the races used to be a regular event. I now go only when I have a horse running and generally find the day a pallid reflection of its former self – in short a major disappointment totally devoid of that magic ingredient “atmosphere” thanks to the ATC and its committee.

In my opinion the following are major reasons for lack of both personal and crowd attendance, particularly at Randwick.

· A new grand stand modelled on a leagues club, with patrons housed in a glass viewing area and about as far removed from the “feel’ of the day as possible. Not surprisingly there is little emotion shown by the crowd.

· The removal of the mounting yard, that all important display of the product and the epicentre of the glamour of racing, now relegated backstage and rebadged as “the theatre”

· The conditions of the actual racetrack whereby a track that was sand based could take a drenching and still hold up. Nowadays it is continually wet and biased, not surprising considering the sand has been replaced by soil and the track managers continually water it to keep it soft.

· For the remaining people who still smoke, being herded away from the main parts of the track into semi hidden enclaves to hide their shame. Surely in open areas adults can consume a legal product without harassment.

· The overly zealous and ridiculously numerous “security” staff who are deemed the gatekeepers of public behaviour, morals and attire but who are nowhere to be seem as the drunks push and shout their way out after the last.

· The betting ring now being housed inside the leagues club, devoid of any feel and looking more like a bingo parlour or amusement arcade.

· Sub-standard food at premium prices.

For these as well as numerous other “innovations” we have the ATC to thank. People have voted with their feet and parents are rarely seen taking their children to the track for a day out – the fans of the future. A day of excitement and enjoyment has been crushed by the surgical removal of atmosphere, the imposition and enforcement of petty rules and the relegation of the true stars of the show backstage as the ATC Committee bends over backwards to appeal to the Hooray Henry crowd of champagne guzzling “racing fans”.

Having gutted the “feel” of the once great Randwick venue it cannot come as a surprise that attendance has collapsed – I would love to hear the ATC’s explanation for that situation, even as they choose to pretend the problem does not exist.

Rob Rigg

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  1. Annette Oliver says:

    The formation of Racing NSW and the amalgamation of the former competitors the AJC and STC have both been complete disasters for thoroughbred racing in NSW. Once the clear national leader NSW racing is now so far behind Victoria that even with the best binoculars it’s administrators could not see where the frontrunner has gone. A governing body which so badly needs to silence any criticism that it buys it’s own propaganda and anyone within the industry that dares to make negative comment really needs an inquiry from the top down into it’s practices. With the voices of dissent silenced by legal threats or by giving them plum jobs within the boys club nothing is going to change. The benefit of the concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals needs examination to determine exactly what and how much the benefits are flowing to those few. The bullying tactics employed from the top down flow through to all levels of the industry adversely affecting participants and patrons, making a mockery of ‘integrity’ and leaving the sport ‘on the nose’ with the community in NSW who are, rightly, not interested in being involved – the complete opposite of Victoria.

  2. Raymond says:

    All true Mr Rigg, especially the sub standard food at premium prices. i also dislike the “theatre of the horse” parade ring out the back and I dislike the tables and picnic umbrellas scattered over the lawn in front of the stands. People just sit on those tables like its an afternoon picnic and those umbrellas can block your view. It prevents people from standing out on the grass, trying to watch a horse race and trying not block the picnickers view.

    They say a good horse draws people to the track. So how come in Week 1 of the Championships, they have picture perfect weather and Winx, yet we only get around 20,000. Yet in week 2, we have no champion running, and again great weather and we get a bigger crowd?

    I don’t really know what Melbourne does so differently to get massive crowds during cup week.

    As for The Championships, why doesn’t it go for 3 weeks to include the 2year old championship, the Golden Slipper at Rosehill? Why do they put on a half million dollar race for 2 year old fillies, 3 weeks after the Golden Slipper and call it the grand finals of racing? Especially when all of the top fillies have gone for a spell or are racing in the Sires/Champagne?

    And I have not even mentioned anything about the track that doesn’t drain properly and the inside lanes that jockeys avoid when the rail is in the true.
    I love racing and I love going to the races, but I think we can do much better.

  3. Norm Snowden says:

    Well, the telcos succeeded where the ATC and one particular staff member failed, to shut me down. Due to a house move, I have been without a landline and internet connection since the 13th of January 2016. I haven’t read this site since then and this is the first story I read after getting back the internet.
    Did I go to the Slipper ? Nope ! Did I go to the Championships ? Nope ! Did I miss any of it ? Nope !
    Didn’t miss any of it knowing what I would have to put up with. But the ATC care factor about me or anyone else avoiding the recent ATC races is – zero, duck egg, nought.
    Oh, of course we hear the obligatory lip service that they want crowds back at the races, but that is only so they can get their hands into our pockets, with overpriced internal venues, etc. I often wonder, how many of those “ punters “ actually pay to go into those areas ? Do the Burgess Boys really pay for those tickets, let alone all the other “ celebs “ ?
    The ATC have already got all they wanted from me – my yearly Membership fee. Let’s face it. These days, what is the physical difference between the Members area and the public area ? All inside is air conditioned, tables and chairs, betting facilities, food and beverage outlets, so why would you pay a fee ? Pay that fee and then be expected to pay again to sit somewhere. But see, the Committee and staff like the CEO and Management don’t have to do any of that, so why would they be worried or care about it ? That said, I firmly believe that the Committee should have their own Committee Room, just don’t screw me for wanting a bit of comfort.
    The last ATC race meeting I attended was the day they opened Rosehill after the refurbishment. My next meeting will again be Rosehill before ANZAC Day because a couple of members of my family want to go to the races and want some comfort, so they are prepared to pay for the TJ Bar – I am not, so if they want me to sit with them, then they have to pay for me. I will be interested to see if monitors have been installed for the window tables or other monitors moved so patrons can actually see their money go round.
    You know, it’s all in the PR, sycophant bullshit that is put out and seemingly accepted these days, where crowd numbers these days become acceptable. Crowds of 25,000 and a Doncaster field of 15 are now extolled as acceptable or brushed over. Would the joints be able to cater for larger crowds ? Would the Theatre of the Horse be able to cater for a field of 24, let alone room for connections and hangers on ?
    With the Slipper and Championships over ( and I long ago suggested that the Slipper should be part of the Championships ), Sydney racing, AKA, the ATC goes into hibernation. There will be a couple of little band aid enticements to get you to the track, but on a cold, wet, windy winters day, hospitality will still be expensive and areas closed off because of either no bookings or attendance. Again ATC care factor ? Zip, zilch, flat line. I often wonder, do staff like the CEO or Management attend the mid weeks or even wintery Saturdays ? mmm . . . begs the question. But they want us to . . .
    And then we have the ATC AGM where there will be no disclosures, except those THEY want to tell us, questions will be limited to 1 per Member, if at all and the sign to bring on the food and drinks to distract the kiddies, um, sorry, Members if anyone does want to ask or discuss something. Oh, and let’s not forget the information sessions, yup heaps of time there to get a word in.
    Let’s make no mistake. The ATC want, need to contain Member dissatisfaction by limiting their voice to just single complaints to a staff member – whether it will be dealt with or deemed worthy of action, is another matter.
    Rob, it gives me no pleasure to say this, but, pay your Membership fee, continue to pay over the odds for hospitality ( food, beverage and somewhere to sit ), continue to race horses and thus pay for the entertainment, do as your told and be grateful – and do it all for 52 weeks of the year. BUT, and this is the most important thing, shut up because the ATC Committee and staff don’t want to know about and especially aren’t interested in, hearing any of it.
    Norm Snowden

  4. Rob,

    Thanks for your well articulated letter.

    I think it needs to be fairly stated that many of the problems associated with “a day at the races” in Sydney don’t result from the decisions or policies of the current ATC board or management or even Racing New South Wales.

    I believe there are fundamental flow design faults at Royal Randwick relating to the new stand and the location of the mounting enclosure however it needs to be noted that only Michael Crismale and Laurie Macri were on the board at the time decisions on these matters were made and to be fair I don’t think these two gentlemen should be blamed for the problems. I don’t really feel sufficient thought was given to the effect of those decisions on a “day at the races”. Notwithstanding this comment it is fair to say that “a day at the races” was adversely affected the minute the day stalls were moved from their old location to their current location and the mounting enclosure moved from the front to the back of the stand!

    I also feel a glaring problem at Royal Randwick is the fact that there are so many compartments for the racegoer….. compartments on different levels which have little connection. We have The Stables, we have corporate boxes, we have corporate dining, we have exclusive members dining, we have VIP dining, we have a Chairman’s Club, a directors room, various bars on different levels et cetera, we have a dislocated betting ring,we have a fabulous old Officials Stand, a Doncaster Room upstairs and a magnificent Champagne Bar.and that’s before I start on the public areas and of course the “Theatre of the Horse”. In the old days there were fewer compartments at Royal Randwick and the course was more inclusive.Today the average racegoer at Royal Randwick gets lost and meanders about the track .Further they have becoming increasingly irritated with the problems in getting from one part of the course to the next.

    I also feel the current focus on exclusive and expensive fine dining has had its day. It was novel a few years ago because we didn’t really have it, however I’m not sure that it is the way most race goers wants to enjoy “a day at the races”. Being riveted for five-six hours to a seat at a table, eating and drinking is not a day at the races. Most of us no longer enjoy that experience and furthermore it is often boring!.

    These are some of the reasons “a day at the races” has lost its atmosphere.

    The bones of racing in Sydney are still very strong. I believe racing in Sydney can become a lot stronger and be supported by a greater cross-section of people.If the ATC can tweak some of the flow design problems at Royal Randwick it will create a better “day at the races”. Other than Sky Racing and some of their downmarket presentations almost everything else in racing is great!

    Stay with it and Go Australia!!

    James Mathers

  5. ray perkins says:

    totally agree the ATC has lost plot

  6. Robert Killalea says:

    Dear Rob. Your letter was smack-on. I would like to do my own open letter to the ATC [it still doesn’t sound right]. How did you get yours on the internet?

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