In Part 1 of this two part story yesterday I looked at how TABs and racing administrators are pretty much useless at coming up with new and innovative racing products that will take the racing industry forward into the future and bring it continued growth in terms of TAB turnover, which is obviously the main vein leading to the heart of the racing industry. I also looked at how useless mainstream media are to the cause of doing their job, which should reasonably be expected to be both promoting and offering constructive criticism to the industry, whilst educating the public on important aspects of the racing industry, such as fixed odds betting and its associated positives and negatives to the industry.


Today I want to focus on a plethora of other problems that beset the racing industry going forward.


If TAB turnover is the “main vein leading to the heart of the racing industry,” then it’s surely a simple fact that the punter needs to be well-informed and nurtured, so that he or she keeps coming back, day in and day out, or Saturday after Saturday and is comfortable investing in the product across one or more of its three codes.


Yet as a person that watches Saturday metropolitan race videos as part of my core business, I note that the punter is misinformed on so many fronts that it’s not funny. It can be as simple as how far a horse is slow out of the barriers, to something like a race club issuing an incorrect time on a race, or to the punter just getting sick and tired of reading in stewards reports of numerous inquiry after inquiry over various performances, with no action being taken. I have long ago drawn the conclusion and written here that stewards are toothless tigers in the industry on race day – they only think they run the show. For instance once upon a time if I was a jockey and gave a thoroughbred an easy run, I could expect to get outed for a year or two if found guilty of not allowing the horse to run on its merits. But nowadays if I was a jockey and gave a horse a hand break ride, I could use an array of excuses as simple as “the horse’s action didn’t seem right” and that’s game set and match, from a stewards perspective nothing further can happen at that inquiry, as now it’s a potential “welfare issue” with the horse – and the public perception is that we must look after the horse.


And quite understandably as far as I’m concerned, punters aren’t keen to get involved in betting on a race where there are multiple stable runners, whether it be in thoroughbred racing or harness racing. For instance Sydney thoroughbred racing has long had limited appeal to many punters because premiership trainer Chris Waller regularly has multiple runners in a race and as soon as stewards inquire into a run, or a ride on one of those stablemates, one gets the distinct impression that there are a lot of punters sniggering at what they just saw. From his viewpoint, Waller is a victim of his own success and he or any trainer with multiple runners simply can’t win. Punters see red if say the 20/1 outsider of Waller’s five runners wins the race and punters may even snigger if the short priced stable runner wins, dependent on how the race was run. So it’s not ancient history, we only have to go back to last Saturday to find a controversial Saturday city race involving Waller runners when in Randwick Race 3 the Waller trained Beyond Thankful ran along up front in the race won by stablemate Libran. Stewards held an inquiry into “champion jockey” Hugh Bowman’s ride on Beyond Thankful and this is what their report stated in full: “Beyond Thankful – when questioned concerning the tactics adopted mid race on the gelding, H Bowman confirmed that his instructions were to be more positive today and that early he took up a favourable position outside the leader, (and another stablemate) Marenostro. He added that, whilst the pace was genuine, Beyond Thankful refused to come back underneath him and more so after its heels were clipped by Bohemian Lily at the 1300m. H Bowman further stated that, when Marenostro did not increase the tempo, he elected to go forward and cross that runner, anticipating that in the lead his mount may settle better. He added that Beyond Thankful however, continued to overrace and, as that gelding is somewhat one-paced, rather than fight it from the 1000m, he elected to make the race a true staying test. As a result of not settling, H Bowman stated that Beyond Thankful, under its big weight, tired quickly when challenged shortly after entering the straight. A post-race veterinary examination did not reveal any abnormalities. Trainer Mr C Waller stated that Beyond Thankful is a horse that is difficult to ride, as it is inclined to race keenly and last campaign had raced in a similar manner early in its preparation, before establishing form later on. Mr Waller added that he would now experiment with the gear on the gelding before its next race start and undertook to report back on its progress subsequent to the race”.


After reading all about the race in the stewards report whereby Bowman reported his “instructions were to be more positive this day” – even though there was no change of tactics to that effect in the stewards report – a Waller horse Marenostro led before its stablemate Beyond Thankful then decided to lead, even though Bowman noted the pace was “genuine”, when Marenostro “did not increase the pace” (what – was that horse supposed to “increase the pace” even though the race was already being run at a “genuine” tempo) Bowman let Beyond Thankful run. And this is where I have to admit that I’d never make a Chief Steward, as trainer Waller in his evidence stated “Beyond Thankful is a horse that is difficult to ride”. My thoughts are therefore why wasn’t Chairman of Stewards, Ray Murrihy’s next question, “Well why the hell did you put a three-kilo claiming apprentice, Andrew Adkins, on the horse two starts before this day if the horse is so ‘difficult to ride’ Mr Waller”?


So in the end punters simply give up and make up their own mind on what they see – and once the punter walks away from racing, he or she can find plenty of other ways to spend their gambling dollars and it needn’t involve racing. As the population of Australia grows, its common sense that TAB turnover on racing should also grow, but I don’t see that happening either now or into the future.


And why would turnover on racing increase in the long term, as young people simply aren’t interested in racing. As recently as last night, Channel 9’s A Current Affair had another damning story on racing, whereby young people were filmed going to the Gold Coast races to snort cocaine, take tablets to send the head into orbit, smoke marijuana and all sorts of allied crap. Gee that sounds like an exciting day out at the races – get high as a kite on whatever your poison is on a supposed day out at the races. Why would decent and respectable people bother going to a day at the races when others are wandering around pissed and spaced out on some crap that’s readily available in modern society? And in any event, why would anyone – young or old – go to the races on a non-Carnival day, pay $15 or $20 to go in the front gate to be pretty much bored shitless with long gaps between races, watching five or seven horse fields go for a gallop around a probably biased track and have basically nothing to do except pay $4 for a can of coke, $5 for a small cup of chips valuing a bag of spuds at about $200,000 or pay $6 for a stubbie, which values the carton of 24 at just $144. Young people would rather sit at home playing with their Ipad and ordering a pizza from Dominos and watch it being tracked to their home before their very eyes. It they want to have a bet, it will make more sense to them to place a bet on a football team which is in effect merely a two-horse race, rather than having a bet in a 16-horse field charging up the Flemington straight splitting into different divisions, on what probably is a totally biased track if it’s a Group 1 race. Old people even go insane at hearing information like watering tracks the night before and mowing the grass shorter five metres out from the inside rail, so as to try to create a level playing field and all this allied nonsense that the thoroughbred industry partake in. To be balanced, why would any young people want to get involved in trying to work all that rot out? Put simply, life wasn’t meant to be that difficult.


And on the subject of “young people” or “old people”, if you think it through, as a society in the modern era, for better or for worse, we do nothing to encourage young people to become interested in racing. There was a time when we went to school and school stopped at the appropriate time on the first Tuesday in November and the kids and the teachers all listened intently to the Melbourne Cup on a transistor radio, or they saw it on a television in front of them as both time and technology evolved. That gave children an introduction to racing as being exciting to watch and to listen to. But as happens all the time, a few per cent of do-gooders got involved and that idea got the flick in most schools, so young people don’t even get an introduction to racing like they once did at school. I stood at Brisbane’s Royal National Association Show in Brisbane a couple of years ago when harness racing came back to that annual event after a decade or more away due to alleged “insurance costs,” and watched school children in their hundreds not even lift their head from their I-pads and Smartphones as a harness field went flying past right in front of them. They just aren’t interested – which is a very gloomy look for the future.


I must say I find stewards decisions hard to fathom. So it’s not ancient history let me go back to just the last two Saturdays. Pick any metropolitan thoroughbred race meeting you like and I’ll find something to question of the stewards actions on the day. Last Saturday week at Doomben the stewards report stated that Adorabubble was 3 wide no cover the trip. That’s garbage, as per the photos on the www.brisbaneracing.com.au website today will attest. On the same day at Caulfield in Melbourne the stewards report states The United States missed the start by four lengths. Again the photographic evidence I have up today says that’s ridiculous, but it will be in every form guide next time The United States starts, that he missed the start by four lengths. Sydney stewards don’t bother advising in their report of any horse that travels wide with no cover in a race. Therefore it’s taken as read that “Sydney stewards aren’t concerned by horses travelling wide”, yet last Saturday week at the Randwick meeting they hauled jockey Blake Shinn in over sitting wide on Captured in Race 5. Why? I thought it didn’t matter and wasn’t worth reporting.


Then at the Gold Coast TAB thoroughbred meeting last Saturday we had a horse start in blinkers – Hollywood Barbie – that wasn’t supposed to even race in blinkers. There’s photographic evidence of that one up on the Brisbaneracing website today. I had already written a story about a similar incident at a Gold Coast thoroughbred meeting a few weeks ago.


And then to really make matters worse for the three codes of the racing industry, welfare issues will totally both dominate then slowly work to stagnate the entire industry in the next 10 or 20 years. Who would want to own any thoroughbred, standardbred or greyhound? Probably no one in time, as who is going to be responsible for the welfare of the animal after its racing career is over? Or maybe the equine or canine athlete is so slow that it will never have a “racing career” in the first place. So if any other person in society decides they don’t want their calf, they can send it to the meatworks a few days after it’s born and society looks the other way. Ditto chickens, goats, sheep, or a plethora of other “livestock”.  Once a hen has passed her use by date in terms of laying eggs, off they go by the semi-trailer load down the main highway. No one takes a second glance or considers which abbatoir they are going to, to be made into fertiliser. And a mining company and/or a developer can knock down vast acreages of gum trees thus sealing the fate of hundreds or even thousands of koalas and the response by stupid entities like governments is to build an escape path under a highway to allow the koalas that aren’t killed as they fall from the trees, or that don’t get ripped to pieces by some domestic dog when trying to escape. Not many individuals in society seem to care about that one, as it’s “all in the name of progress”. Or groups of young men can head west on weekends with their dogs and let them rip wild pigs and/or kangaroos to bits and it’s supposedly all just a bit of fun. But if a person in the racing industry makes a “commercial decision” to get rid of an equine or canine athlete that has no future, all hell breaks loose to the point where the racing hierarchy of the modern day are getting advice from all sorts of groups as to how to manage welfare issues. It’s just bizarre in my opinion as to where it will all finish in the next 10 or 20 years. The famous “they” will want every horse or dog tracked from birth to death.


Let’s look at how this welfare aspect may play out in the future. Take Palentino that won last Saturday’s Australian Guineas for instance. He has 66 part-owners I fancy I heard somewhere. Let me look at the scenario that instead of him being a Group 1 winning horse that he’s in fact as slow as a wet week in Tully and from an ability perspective he couldn’t run a place at Dingo in a four-horse field. Who of the 66 people that part-own him would be responsible for his welfare from the yearling sale to age 30, or however long he lives? Or are they all jointly responsible for the horse’s welfare? If the answer is that one part-owner, say a syndicate manager, Billy Bloggs, is the person that’s responsible for the horse’s welfare and Billy is 70YO when he assumes responsibility for the horse, what happens when Billy dies of a massive heart attack at age 77, just seven years in to his 30-year commitment to his slow horse? Does Billy have to have a succession plan in his will advising his wishes for his slow racehorse that has got possibly another 23 years to live?


You see you can’t have “them” tracking greyhounds from birth to death on the one hand, but turning a blind eye to the other two codes of thoroughbreds and standardbreds going to the knackery on the other. So it’s simply a no-brainer that the whole industry is just going to get so plagued with welfare issues in the upcoming 10 or 20 years that people will just walk away from it – probably in their droves I would suggest.


In further disastrous news for the racing industry that most won’t know about, it’s also a fait accompli as far as I’m concerned that TAB turnover on the overall racing product simply has no option but to decline in the long term, as all these welfare related issues click in. For instance the number of TAB greyhound races that we currently run daily across Australia is to me “totally unsustainable in the long term”, as put simply the greyhound industry won’t be able to breed enough dogs to conduct the number of races that are run now, as with all the new rules and regulations that will come into force in the future about what bitches can be bred from – and so on and so forth – will just stagnate the entire industry. For instance a person wanting to breed a litter of pups with say an unraced litter sister to a champion greyhound is going to have to apply to and/or appear before a special board to plead their case and get their permission to breed the litter. So the owners rights are compromised and the owner doesn’t even necessarily have any rights any more. Have you ever heard anything so stupid in your life? I haven’t. And if a flying machine bitch breaks her leg at start number one and can’t race again, but she can be patched up and saved for breeding, she therefore hasn’t won a TAB race. Again the owners are going to have hells own job getting approval to breed with her, yet through the annals of time unraced and/or lightly raced canine and equine athletes historically produce the best progeny.


And people walking away from the industry due to all the rules and regulations are already having an effect on the greyhound industry. And if reduced numbers in races happen at an Ipswich TAB meeting, a Randwick 2YO race on a Saturday afternoon, or an Albion Park trot meeting on a Tuesday afternoon, the industry as a whole suffers, as small fields are an instant turn-off to punters with the end result being a decline in turnover. As recently as Tuesday of this week at the Ipswich TAB greyhound meeting, I noted seven of the 10 races, or 70% of all races, had no reserves. That just doesn’t happen at Ipswich – I’ve lived in the joint since the greyhound track opened a few decades ago. 48 hours ago at the Albion Park harness racing meeting, the first race, a 2YO event worth a healthy $7,000 in total prizemoney, attracted just five acceptors. Last Saturday at the Doomben thoroughbred meeting a field of just seven accepted for the 2YO race worth $65,000 in total prizemoney. Gosford had a three-horse 2YO TAB race last Saturday, whilst the two 2YO features each worth $300,000 in total prizemoney at Randwick last Saturday had just six and four starters respectively. And in my opinion it will only get worse given the passage of time, as the only light at the end of the racing industry tunnel is a freight train heading straight for it.


And don’t think the only problems that racing has are restricted to TAB race meetings, as I have it on good authority that country thoroughbred race clubs are really struggling to even get enough volunteers to conduct race meetings. Metropolitan race clubs obviously allow for wages to pay staff in their considerable budget, but country racing don’t have such high budgets and have always relied on a band of volunteers who will roll their sleeves up for the race club in a heartbeat. But as those same volunteers retire from their role due to ageing and/or ill health, it’s becoming increasingly hard to find replacements, as most young people simply aren’t interested in racing. The same is happening in bookmaking ranks. Where are all the young bookmakers coming through the ranks? Will anyone go to country race meetings when there are no bookmakers? And then we have the another farcical situation in the country whereby we don’t have enough jockeys to ride the horses. At the 13 February meeting at Gladstone, numbers of horses were late scratchings as there were no jockeys to ride them. Now if that’s not “rooted”- I don’t know what is. So why don’t racing administrators look at changing one non-TAB Saturday meeting at Gladstone to say a non-TAB Sunday meeting at Gladstone, so that every owners horse has a jockey that can ride it? If two meetings are run in close proximity to each other, it’s understandable that the result could be a shortage of jockeys at one. So administrators and race clubs need to be on the ball to quickly switch such meetings to a Sunday. I’m aware of one trainer who recently spent “Monday to Friday on the phone” trying to get a jockey to ride a couple of horses at a non-TAB country meeting with no success.


And industry players fighting between themselves, as testosterone levels skyrocket, leads to the recent embarrassment that happened in the thoroughbred industry between New South Wales and Victoria. If the industry can’t help itself, why the hell should anyone else waste their time with it? It’s probably a factual statement that “there’s more politics in racing than there is in Canberra”.


You’ll get the usual chorus of detractors who will mock what I’ve written here yesterday and today but they’d be the same uneducated group of dills that laughed when I wrote an “exclusive” story just over a year ago on animal welfare issues in the racing industry – just weeks before the lid was blown off the greyhound industry on national television.


Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s a big montage of photos that relate to providing photographic proof of what has been written here, so please take the time to peruse the photos and you may start to see the misinformation punters have to put up with.

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