EXCLUSIVE: WELFARE ISSUES WILL HAUNT THE RACING INDUSTRY DAILY UNLESS IT ACTS NOW…..Part 1

15/04/15

On face value, from a prizemoney perspective, it’s fair to say that the top echelon of Australian racing, across its three codes, paints a healthy impression of the industry.

Let me concentrate on thoroughbred racing and as an extrapolation of that previous statement, it would be fair to say that Australia can even compete favourably globally given a race like the Golden Slipper remains to this day as “the richest 2YO thoroughbred race in the world”.

The recently run 2015 Golden Slipper was worth $3.5 million in overall prizemoney. But its prizemoney pales into insignificance in comparison to the huge prizemoney that is available for Australia’s largest prizemoney handicap race – the Melbourne Cup. That race was worth $6 million in total prizemoney last year.

Australia also hosts what’s mooted as “the weight-for-age championship of the world” – the Cox Plate. Total prizemoney for the Cox Plate in 2014 was $3 million.

Last Saturday at Randwick in Sydney, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes was run and won. Overall prizemoney for that race was $4 million.

In Brisbane in less than two months time the 2015 Stradbroke will be run. The prizemoney for that race is $2 million.

So in just the aforementioned five races (Melbourne Cup, Golden Slipper, Cox Plate, Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Stradbroke) the total prizemoney is an incredible $18.5 million.

So in just five races above (Melbourne Cup, Golden Slipper, Cox Plate, Queen Elizabeth Stakes and Stradbroke) the total cumulative prizemoney is an incredible $18.5 million.

Whilst on the surface that wonderful prizemoney will look terrific to the vast majority of Australia and international racing administrators and participants, in reality it fails to paint an accurate picture of where the racing industry is at as far as I’m concerned. It’s fair to say that the five owners of the winner of each of those five Group 1 feature races enjoy a terrific financial windfall or maybe it’s fair comment to say that the 10 owners connected with the first two horses home in each of those five races cumulatively have a windfall as for instance even second prizemoney in last Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth Stakes was $750,000 – which would take you a long way in a bus. And obviously the trainer and jockey associated with the winner of those five races also each enjoy a huge pay day. But in our quest to big-note ourselves on the racing world stage, and keep up with the Joneses, by paying out prizemoney of those proportions, it’s my considered opinion that we are doing a gross injustice to 99.99% of the Australian racing industry.

We have failed to come to terms with the fact that simply because we pay out huge prizemoney for a handful of big races, in no way, shape, or form means that we have a healthy and robust industry. Put simply, in racing it seems everyone wants to keep everything positive at all costs. No negativity must be let creep into the equation. In recent times “they” put a positive spin on thoroughbred racing by saying the prices of yearlings has been up this year. “They” must think we are all stupid. Of course the yearling sale prices would be up. They’d need to significantly be up this year, as the continually falling Australian dollar is so low that it’s much cheaper in real dollar terms to buy our yearlings in say Easter of 2015 than it was in Easter of 2014. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story. I’ve seen the stories written where the sale averages have been up but I haven’t seen any balanced reporting in lining up the buying power of the Aussie dollar last year to where it is this year, which I would have thought is the only way to compare one year to the next. I’ll bet you my bottom dollar that’s the way the overseas buyers see it.

So whilst the positive spin in the ranks of the media and administrators remains a constant in Australian thoroughbred racing 24/7 it hides a dreadful secret. And the “dreadful secret” is that whilst some in society may not like the “wastage” factor getting written up in the media in respect of greyhound racing, the thoroughbred and harness industries both need to do far more, from a welfare perspective, to ensure that equine athletes that are born into those two codes have an opportunity to lead a full and hopefully meaningful life. At present neither industry really cares what “wastage” happens. The owner of the horse is free to sell it to a dogger buyer at the drop of a hat, so that the thoroughbred or standardbred that no one wants is converted to dog food.

It’s simply a fact of life that there are many slow thoroughbreds and standardbreds – just as there are many slow greyhounds. There is nothing illegal with the owner of those equine or canine athletes euthanizing their animal. The owner owns the athlete so legally he or she has the right to determine its fate, the same as he or she has to make other decisions such as what trainer the animals should go to in the first instance and so on and so forth.

But if anyone thinks that finding “55 carcases” of greyhounds outside Bundaberg is genuine front page material for a Statewide newspaper, I for one couldn’t call it “balanced reporting” unless we look at what “wastage” occurs in the other two codes. And as I advised last week, no one even knows whether the “55 carcases” in the greyhound industry were accumulated over one month or 10 years.

And I do have some qualification to speak on the subject as for about a decade, up until a couple of years ago, I was one of the largest couple of wholesalers of “horse oil” in Australia, supplying outlets as big as Garrards, which have a dozen or more outlets around Australia and New Zealand. In the end I had to ring the owner of Garrards, Chris Garrard, a few years ago and walk away from dealing in the product, as I was made aware that feral camels were being killed at the same abattoir I was buying my horse oil from – and given camels will eat virtually anything – I feared that contamination may lead to a positive swab in a thoroughbred or harness race. For those that don’t know, “horse oil” is the rendered down fat of a horse at an abattoir. It could come from a thoroughbred (racehorse, broodmare), standardbred (trotter, pacer, broodmare) or a pleasure horse, or any other type of horse. Its primary use is as a hoof oil. Because the product comes from the horse, it readily absorbs back into the horse.

I won’t put the “wastage” numbers that I’m aware of up here publicly at this point in time, because they would only be fodder for others to bandy around. Let me just say the numbers are “staggering”. That doesn’t mean for one moment that any owner is doing anything illegal, as like I said before there is nothing to stop the owner determining the fate of an animal they own, providing they are not cruel to that animal prior to, or during, its death.

So whether it likes to admit it or not, going forward from this day forth the racing industry, across its three codes, will come under increased scrutiny from welfare groups. Therefore it needs to take some very big steps right now to do something constructive for the industry into the future.

The Australian Racing Conference is on in Brisbane very soon and sadly I haven’t been invited to address the gathering. That’s a shame as I could have educated racing officialdom about welfare issues that will become a constant factor in their decision making, but I guess they wouldn’t like to get educated on such matters when “ignorance is bliss”. One would think that it would be totally amazing that I could pen a story on welfare issues from the racing industry on 5/2/15 and within a few weeks of that article being placed on public display here, the proverbial would hit the fan in the greyhound racing industry right along the eastern seaboard of Australia. That must be another story that I fluked putting up at the opportune time.

So via this story today and another story tomorrow I’ll put two stories up on welfare matters within racing and I can assure you that only a fool would ignore my warnings that into the future, animal welfare issues will be the biggest thorn in the side that this industry has faced in decades.

If you would like to read and/or re-visit the animal welfare story that I wrote back on 5/2/15 entitled “Exclusive: The Racing Industry across its three codes needs to talk to minority groups on animal welfare issues”, click on the thread below:

https://www.justracing.com.au/index.php?news_page=4&artid=4758&catid=52

Tomorrow on this website I’ll advise what I fervently believe needs to happen in the racing industry forthwith, so that the industry can be seen from a public perspective to be invoking specific strategies to do more for our unwanted equine and canine athletes.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the first of two montages of photos from Doomben last Saturday. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there’s a harness story, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.auVictorian racing is perused.

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