QUEENSLAND FLOODS PUT THE RACING INDUSTRY HERE BACK FIVE TO TEN YEARS

31/01/13

Long before the killer flood waters have receded, I can respectively suggest that the racing industry in Queensland has been set back another five or ten years due to the catastrophic events that have unfolded before our eyes in the last week all over the State due either directly to, or the aftermath from, cyclone Oswald.

From the far north of Queensland right through to the south-east corner and inland to areas like the South Burnett, the current floods have left a dreadful path of destruction, the likes of which we all hoped we wouldn’t see for another decade or more following the widespread devastation and loss of life caused by a similar event in December 2010 and January 2011.

It’s a well documented fact that the Queensland racing industry, across its three codes, has been having a monumental struggle in recent years to even remotely compete with prizemoney levels and on-course amenities of southern counterparts in New South Wales and Victoria and the hundreds of millions of dollars of currently damaged infrastructure across all aspects of our society, including roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, etcetera, will mean that there is no way known to man that the State government will have any spare funding that can be put into assisting the racing industry in either the short or the long term, as quite frankly 90% of the general public in the State of Queensland don’t expect the State government to put money into racing’s woes, when infrastructure like bridges, roads, damaged hospitals and schools are in need of urgent funding to merely get back to the level that they were at prior to this latest disaster. In fact racing will be blessed if it gets a government handout to help with simply getting racetracks back to the condition they were in before the floods hit, let alone having any money left over to get such pie in the sky luxuries as starter subsidies paid to owners, to compete with what is currently happening now with New South Wales tracks.

Racetracks like the sand thoroughbred track at Bundaberg and the greyhound track in the same city are sadly probably somewhere out near New Caledonia right now and the full extent of the damage to many South Burnett tracks is anybody’s guess and won’t be able to be fully evaluated until the flood waters have receded, but it wouldn’t be rocket science to work out that these smaller non-TAB clubs will require urgent Racing Queensland funding if they are ever to get back to an operational stage – and it’s common knowledge that Racing Queensland would need a major injection of State government funds to assist them to pay for repair works at numerous racetracks throughout the State. In fact the flood coverage in general by mainstream media of the South Burnett area flooding has been deplorable, so it’s hard to get a grasp on the full gravity of the inland flooding. Stories like one family having their entire herd of 400 milking cows all taken by floodwaters didn’t even make the news. One family lost over 2,100 (in words that’s two thousand one hundred) pigs. Most would be unaware of that one. I would have been too, but I actually heard it on ABC radio when we had a transistor radio, as we had no power Monday. It seemed mainstream media would rather have a “rolling coverage” advising how the Brisbane River wasn’t going to reach anywhere near its 2011 peak. The shattered country people of Queensland in that Gayndah, Munduberra, South Burnett area got forgotten again – as often happens. Near a property my two brothers have in that area, a chap a few kilometres up the road from them lost “100 head of bullocks all worth over $1,000 each”. Another fellow up near Biggenden, which is between Maryborough and Gayndah, lost 150 milkers. The loss of livestock has been so great that it’s been unbelievable – yet amazingly it got almost no coverage.

A healthy and vibrant country racing industry is obviously essential in any State – and country owners and trainers, in good numbers, habitually support the annual Magic Millions QTIS sale at the Gold Coast. To that end, this year’s catalogue only came out this week and it comprises some 450-lots being sold across two days, namely 17 and 18 March. But you can bet that this year’s sale vendors will no doubt now be on tenterhooks, as it is highly questionable, even this far out from the sale, whether country owners and trainers will support the sale due to having an enormous amount of uncertainty as to when racetracks in their area will be back to operational, following monumental damage received to racetracks in their respective areas. In that regard, one positive – if such an entity exists in the current melee – is that Local Government Association of Queensland executive director Greg Hallam has only yesterday been appointed by Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to a “flood appeal committee to oversee the distribution of disaster relief funds” – and as Greg Hallam is currently also on the board of Racing Queensland, he will get an immediate insight and first-hand look at damage that has occurred in lots of cities and towns that have racetracks in them around the State.

It’s common knowledge that the racing industry in Australia is heavily reliant on TAB turnover to survive and Queensland is no different, via its “home TAB”, Tattsbet, but that entity has sure copped a hammering in recent days via a major loss of TAB turnover this week due to postponed and abandoned meetings all over the place – and put simply, whilst that’s no one’s fault, it is a loss of turnover that the industry can ill-afford.

Albion Park in Brisbane has again come under the spotlight this week with having to have a harness meeting transferred to Parklands on the Gold Coast and so on – and then the Ipswich Greyhound Club has lost multiple meetings this week (Tuesday twilight and Wednesday night) simply through the Ipswich Showgrounds where their track is located having to be used as an evacuation centre for flood victims of the city, so quite clearly the two lesser codes of racing in this State each desperately need a standalone facility of their own, in a flood free area, as this ridiculous nonsense of losing meetings is just beyond a joke. I can remember Albion Park losing meetings with king tides 40 years ago, so why are we still racing there?

Conclusive proof that Queensland was already under the whip and a dead horse was being flogged to death was the fact that we raced at Caloundra last Saturday for $45,000 overall prizemoney in four of the eight scheduled races, whilst in Sydney they raced for $85,000 per race in all non-feature events and Melbourne they raced for $80,000 in prizemoney for all non-feature events. Surely thoroughbred racing in Queensland can only head in one direction – and that’s further backwards – following these latest devastating floods. In a week or two when the full costs of the damage created by these latest floods is revealed, I’m sure the figures will be almost beyond comprehension.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the second of two montages of photos, on www.sydneyracing.com.au we catch up with Luke McCarthy and Gavin Fitzpatrick who are both heading to Tabcorp Park Melton on Saturday night for feature races, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls looks at tomorrow night’s Moonee Valley card.

 

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