EXCLUSIVE: BRISBANE RACING CLUB “OFFICIAL” INFORMATION NOT ALWAYS ACCURATE – AND WHAT KEVIN DIXON, DARREN CONDON AND MICHAEL BYRNE HAD TO SAY IN MONDAY’S ADDRESS TO THE MEDIA

01/05/14

In what I habitually call “the incestuous world of thoroughbred racing”, almost anything is possible. As recently as the mid 1980’s, Eagle Farm racecourse played host to firstly the infamous Fine Cotton ring-in and secondly to a failed ring-in attempt in Brisbane that led to the brutal murder of Sydney horse trainer George Brown on his way back to Sydney. Whilst those two sordid events are forever etched in thoroughbred racing history, in reality both only directly involved a limited number of people.

In modern day thoroughbred racing, involving Eagle Farm and Doomben racetracks, I’ve been watching a terrible event unfold before my eyes for quite a time now – and was kind of hoping that it would resolve itself, so that I didn’t have to bring the matter to public account. I have raised “official overall race time and official race last 600-metre sectional time” issues, regarding official times that are issued by the Brisbane Racing Club, with former CEO Stephen Ferguson privately when he was in charge of everyday matters of the club and successfully had a resolution of sorts in those areas, but as he’s no longer at the club, that area is a constant concern going forward. On one occasion late last year, an “official” race last 600-metre sectional at Eagle Farm, which had been sent away from the track, was out by more than one full second, or six lengths, and remains officially incorrect to this day. Whilst I advised them of their error within a couple of days of the race, once these things go away incorrectly at a race club level they are nigh on impossible to correct. Again, the only people who got advised of the stuff-up were my clients.

The current disgrace that is taking place is that the official margins that are issued for beaten horses following Brisbane Racing Club meetings at Eagle Farm and Doomben have errors, as per the lead photo and the associated caption that accompanies this story. I have seen similar errors to the above from last Saturday, over many months, and have used that information for my own benefit – and that of my valued Brisbane Sectional Times clients – up until this point, but with the Brisbane Winter Carnival right on our doorstep, the decent thing to do is to bring the matter to public account here today.

It’s simply imperative that everybody in the thoroughbred industry from within the ranks of the punters, owners, trainers, jockeys and bookmakers can have 100% accurate beaten margins presented to them after a race day. What about the handicappers? Aren’t they entitled to know the exact margin a horse is beaten so that they can accurately assess that horse going forward? Ditto price assessors – shouldn’t they be able to peruse the form of a horse in an instant via having unquestioned and accurate information about exactly how far a horse is beaten in a race? If a trainer’s horse gets officially beaten “1.2” lengths like Bewhatyouwannabe above allegedly gets beaten, everyone is therefore entitled to think that the subject horse finished closer to the winner than it actually did, in future form analysis.

It’s simply not good enough and in fact it’s what I’d call “pathetic”, so I’ll leave the Brisbane Racing Club to forthwith or sooner take whatever urgent steps are necessary to ensure they fix the problem – starting from their next race meeting. “It’s been happening for quite some time and not all races are affected” – is all I’ll say. Proof of the official margins that were issued on Race 5 at Eagle Farm last Saturday are presented in photographic form on the Brisbaneracing website montage of photos today to further compliment this story.

For anyone who doesn’t think that beaten margins in thoroughbred racing are of vital significance, please consider the following, which occcurred just six days ago – and therefore is certainly not ancient history. As recently as the Flemington meeting on Anzac Day (last Friday) in Race 1, won by Hebrung, less than 1.75 lengths covered the first seven horses home, whilst in the second race at Flemington on the same day, less than 1.5 lengths covered the first eight home in the race won by Merion.

And of course the very thought of some beaten racehorses margins being sent away incorrectly from the Brisbane Racing Club, raises an integrity issue, namely is any person or persons being financially advantaged by the process – either currently or in the past?

On the subject of the Brisbane Racing Club, the look of that Eagle Farm track last Saturday was little short of what I’d call “a disgrace”. The course proper was obviously full of fill and horses were kicking up clods on an alleged “good 3” track. It is not a good look for racing on the eve of the 2014 Brisbane Winter Carnival. Can you imagine the abortion that we are going to be faced with if we get any rain leading into an Eagle Farm meeting – or worse still, if rain falls on a race day – during the Carnival? That track will obviously have no option but to fall apart at the seams, judging by last Saturday’s shocker. And the sad part is that as per my recent story and photos on the subject, Doomben is only a length behind Eagle Farm in terms of the “Bad Track Stakes”, as it also is a total disaster area waiting to happen – should rain fall before and/or during a meeting. In fact, in my opinion, things are so dire, in respect of the possibility of rain falling the night before and/or during a race meeting, that if I were in charge of Eagle Farm and Doomben, I’d have discussions with both Racing Queensland and the Sunshine Coast Turf Club – immediately or sooner – to have a contingency plan in place to quickly transfer an Eagle Farm or Doomben Group 1 meeting to another track, possibly Caloundra, should the need arise, so that all owners and trainers gets a fair and equal chance to win the big races, particularly on a huge signature day of Queensland racing annually – like Stradbroke Day.

In conclusion, on the topic of the track condition of Eagle Farm and Doomben, I don’t apportion the current state of Eagle Farm and Doomben on anyone specifically, as they just need urgent work done on them as everyone knows.

On Monday of this week, the Queensland Racing Media Association had a meeting at 1pm in the Vice Regal Room at Eagle Farm racecourse and the meeting was addressed by Racing Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon, Racing Queensland CEO, Darren Condon, as well as Racing Queensland greyhound code boss – Michael Byrne.

Those present from the Queensland Racing Media Association were Nathan Exelby, Mark Oberhardt, Bernie Pramberg, Grant Peters, Alan Thomas, Bernadette Cooper, Tony Clements, Graham Potter, Mary Collier, Dan Costello and yours truly. An apology was put in for Wayne Wilson who unfortunately had to attend hospital on the day.

Personally I thought that the meeting last Monday was very fruitful and the speakers were all happy to answer questions on topics they’d covered in their address, then they were all happy to answer questions without notice, which was terrific. What was stated on the day by the various speakers regarding the thoroughbred code has obviously had good exposure elsewhere, so rather than everyone writing on the same topics, I’ll touch base on some of the pertinent points that were discussed, which related to the two lesser codes, to give people in those codes an update on what was said:

1-Greyhound boss Michael Byrne advised the meeting that, “I can say without fear of contradiction that the Cronulla Park track has been signed off and that racing at that new track will start July 2015”.

2-Kevin Dixon advised those present that “the biggest improvement by far” in betting turnover on Queensland racing across the three codes is from greyhound racing. He noted that there was “growth, on growth, on growth in the corporates on greyhound racing”.

3-Both Kevin Dixon and Darren Condon stated at different times during the meeting, that they felt Marburg had a viable future in the harness racing industry in Queensland and they further advised that they had recently attended a meeting with representatives of the Marburg Harness Racing Club and that they could see no reason why Marburg wouldn’t continue to race in the long term. Additionally, in response to a Justracing question without notice, neither Kevin Dixon nor Darren Condon ruled out the possibility that in the future Marburg may conduct some TAB race meetings.

4-Darren Condon told the gathering that “in the short term” the new harness track when it goes in at Alberton will be “a day track only” – that is, it will not have lighting initially to allow night racing.

5-Darren Condon further stated that the Board of Racing Queensland was happy to accept that there were small fields in some Albion Park harness racing events and whilst those small fields did nothing for TAB turnover, he did say that the small fields were allowed to race by Racing Queensland, in order to “keep faith with the participants”.

6-In respect of harness racing at this year’s Brisbane RNA Show, Darren Condon said that Racing Queensland has been approached to have trotting events conducted on nine of the 11 days of the Brisbane Exhibition and noted “the only problem we have is that we may not have enough horses to cater for the number of races they want to run”.

7-Michael Byrne stated that the “lack of an Albion Park grandstand was a disaster for greyhounds and harness as we don’t have a flagship (track) to take people to”. He further stated when discussing the topic that “work will start (on the new Albion Park grandstand) before the end of the year”.

8-Darren Condon advised that “a strategic plan involving the three codes was due out by 30 June” (2014) and that the first draft of that strategic plan was “circulating already”.

9-Michael Byrne stated there was “no short term plans to relocate the Ipswich Greyhound Racing Club away from the Ipswich Showgrounds” – and noted that when Cronulla Park at Logan was operational, South-East Queensland would have a good mix of one and two-turn tracks.

10-Michael Byrne advised that he and his fellow greyhound board members are looking hard at “welfare issues” in the greyhound industry, with particular emphasis being placed on ways of “strengthening the GAP program” (Greyhound Adoption Programme).

11-Michael Byrne advised that the “$40 appearance fee per greyhound” (paid to every runner State-wide), “up from $25, represented a $15 increase” and that initiative has been well received by the industry, adding, “it (the $40) was paid on course, in cash, to spend as seen fit, on a can of coke, a meal, etcetera”.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the second of two montages of photos from Eagle Farm last Saturday plus others of interest. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there’s the story on deceased stallion Beautiful Crown, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls looks at Warrnambool.

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