Drought and living on the land are a dreadful quinella – but more often than not they will be the winning combination. To that end, some images never leave kids brought up on the land, of which I am one. They are with you until the final act of nailing the lid down on the coffin. When you have been raised on the land as a child you certainly get to experience many facets of life that the city kids don’t get to see. In many ways the city kids don’t know how lucky they are to miss them.

My late father would never have a gun in the house. With hindsight that idea had pluses. There were no laws saying he couldn’t – it was a personal choice. But it meant when a cow went down in time of drought and couldn’t get up – and there are always plenty of droughts when you live on the land, as that simply goes with the territory – that you can’t shoot the cow, so what’s Plan B. The back of an axe head has the same end result, but trust me, it’s certainly not as humane if you miss with the first hit. I didn’t need to see that scenario unfold before my eyes as a kid. Walk away from the sadness of it all and let a tear roll down your face if you must, but don’t let anyone see that tear or you’ll forever be “a sook”. When the poor drought stricken cow can start to calve, but can’t quite come up with the necessary energy to finish the job, best tie the unborn calf’s legs onto a rope connected to the tractor and get the calf out. The mother was going to die anyway. Saving the new born calf offers some small ray of hope for the future.

Floods, fire, droughts – and their associated death and destruction – are all part of country living. Anyone who doesn’t understand that should go and live in the city, close to all mod cons. Put simply many people aren’t cut out for the bush. I’m glad my grandchildren aren’t part of the four people that had to bath in the same little bit of bath water each night that I had to. I reckon the fourth one was dirtier after the bath – than before it. Complain and you get a boot up the backside and/or a flogging with a leather strap. One learns not to argue too much when one grows up in the bush and one also learns that everything revolves solely around the weather. It will be responsible for providing the good times – and conversely missing it will bring the bad times and heartbreak.

So bush people in general get conditioned over a period of time to be pretty tough. Granted it all gets too much for some, but then again some people living in the cities can’t handle the stress of city living either – and choose to leave this life by their own hand.

There is no question that thoroughbred racing is an integral part of the social fabric of the bush. When the cattle are dying, when there’s not a blade of grass in sight and the hot sun is fast sapping up any available water, a day out at a bush race meeting can give a family a valuable outing to meet up and socialize with people in a similar predicament to themselves, to discuss the future and to see for themselves that there’s always someone worse off than them.

The country race club committees do a great job, unlike most of the metropolitan race club committees, some of which are filled with posers that are historically proven to be pretty much incapable of coming up with even one new constructive idea each calendar year.

Racing Queensland certainly has no easy job trying to oversee the functionality of the 100-odd thoroughbred race clubs spread throughout the length and breadth of Queensland. Geographically the race clubs in the State are rated as TAB race clubs plus nine individual Associations. That’s all pretty self explanatory. The TAB race clubs are those clubs that host regular TAB meetings throughout the State – and they stretch from Cairns in the north to the Gold Coast in the south and west to Toowoomba.

The other nine are, in no particular order, are the South East Country Racing Association, which encompasses 15 race clubs, the Eastern Downs Country Racing Association (20 race clubs), the Downs Country Racing Association (12), the Central West Country Racing Association (13), the Leichardt Country Racing Association (12), the North West Country Racing Association (13) and the Far North Country Racing Association (10).

Many race clubs in the aforesaid Associations only race once a year and they are in my opinion a total waste of space to the industry in general. From a geographical perspective, many race clubs that are near to each other could be merged, in an endeavour to share costs and to save the upkeep of what is nothing short of what I’d call “a ridiculous number of tracks”. From a business point of view, what happens in the thoroughbred racing industry in Queensland is best described as “sheer madness”. At some point, some governing body in this State has got to get some testicular development and rationalize the thoroughbred industry. It won’t be popular and politically no party ever wants to do it, but it’s simply a no-brainer, to an outsider looking in, that if it wasn’t the incestuous thoroughbred racing industry – and it was being run as purely a business, many thoroughbred race clubs in Queensland would – and should – close down forthwith. There is no educated savvy to suggest that just because such-and-such a race club has held its once a year meeting every year for the last 60 years that the rot should continue unabated. That statement obviously excludes Birdsville Race Club, as they have a once a year meeting that is nowadays a tourist attraction, so by its very existence, it has both a significant and positive spin off for the racing industry via the television 6pm news exposure and major newspaper coverage of the event – and so on.

It would seem to me, as an outsider looking in, that in the last two decades the governing body of the three codes of racing in Queensland under both Bob Bentley and now Kevin Dixon has had no problem whatsoever closing down harness club after harness club, or greyhound club after greyhound club to the point where the racetracks in those two codes are virtually all gone, yet in thoroughbred racing, the notion of closing down a race club and/or forcing two race clubs to amalgamate in the best interests of the code, doesn’t ever see the light of day.

And amalgamating a lot of these race clubs would be in the best interests of the industry-at-large. For instance we have the Roma Race Club and the Roma Picnic Race Club. Why? The same person is even secretary of both. Surely the two clubs can be one? We also have the Warwick Turf Club and the Warwick Picnic Race Club. What for? Why the hell would we need to have the Springsure Jockey Club and the Springsure St Patricks Day Race Club? Surely that’s overkill? A lot of this what I’d call “rot” probably goes back 50 or 75 years and could be streamlined? So instead of Racing Queensland hierarchy looking after what I’d call “their protected trainer and jockey koalas”, which certainly aren’t living up gum trees out Deagon way, why don’t they actually do something constructive and get mobile and rationalize the industry via amalgamating some of these race clubs?

Then as an extension on Denis Schultz’s idea from yesterday’s story look at closing Dingo track and amalgamate it into Emerald – and call it the Emerald Dingo Race Club or whatever and Emerald in the future then stages the current once a year Dingo meeting at their track.

Dingo is merely picked out of the pile to point out an example, but a whole heap of other race clubs could be given the opportunity to amalgamate, as the current business model is simply “sheer stupidity” to anyone afforded a normal amount of grey matter at birth. It’s a no-brainer that once you have far fewer race clubs, you have far less tracks that have to be prepared for designated race meetings.

A lot of the western Queensland tracks are dirt and sand – so there’s no great drama there and no one is complaining to me that those tracks are having problems. There is no great need for western Queensland clubs to amalgamate as geographically they are all currently, in the main, a long way from each other anyway. It makes far more sense to amalgamate race clubs up the Queensland coast. Remember it’s only turf surfaces that have a problem due to severe drought conditions – and drought is an act of God – so as at today – it’s no one’s fault that some of these turf tracks that Denis Schultz spoke of are like concrete. Countless greyhound tracks around Australia in the last couple of decades have been converted to sand tracks as turf cannot withstand the wear and tear and drought factors, so the problem isn’t new.

Whilst we can’t change the past – we can change the future, so in my opinion, Racing Queensland could quickly invoke a simple strategy to rectify the current problems. They are obviously in total control of distributing a huge amount of industry money each financial year, so they could buy a few second hand water trucks (they don’t need to be new) and then strategically place them geographically around the State with an appointed “part-time contractor” (as distinct from employee so that no super was paid for on the contractors behalf, etcetera) who would work for them on an “as-and-when basis”, when race meetings where happening in his or her designated area. So there could be one water truck and part-time contractor who would look after the turf tracks at say Nanango, Gayndah, Mount Perry, Monto, Eidsvold, Calliope, Kumbia, Nanango and Burrandowan. When they are racing at Gayndah on the Saturday the appointed part-time contractor drives to Gayndah with the Racing Queensland water truck and meets the turf club Chairman and say two local based trainers (if there are two in the town) who know their track and the group meets there on Tuesday morning before a race meeting, when Weather Channel future forecasts are readily known, so the group get together and work out how much irrigation they will put on the track. Obviously after a few test runs, everyone will get to know individual tracks better, so this will all become second nature eventually. The person with the water truck repeats the exercise Thursday morning if needed (optional in winter). He gets paid an hourly rate and travelling time as part of his contract with Racing Queensland.

The same scenario could unfold way up north whereby one water truck contractor looks after multiple tracks like say Atherton, Mareeba, Mt Garnet, Chillago, Gordonvale and Almaden.

So with a little bit of thought and for a minimal cost, a few part-time contractors (they would also look after the truck at their place) strategically placed throughout the State could water any turf track that was racing between Brisbane and Cairns, four days (Tuesday) and two days (Thursday) out from a Saturday race meeting.

Additionally other persons (struggling farmers) could be contracted to invoke Denis Schultz’s idea to dig a track up (scarify) after a race meeting, to aerate the soil and make it softer for the next meeting. The farmer/s contracted to do the work could be paid by Racing Queensland and all those limited outgoings could be allocated as part of the country racing budget assigned by Racing Queensland.

If you think it through, it’s about as easy as falling off a slippery log, so there is no reason whatsoever why, in no time flat, Racing Queensland and the turf track country race meetings of this State can’t offer each group of the equine athletes, the trainers and the owners better than a “fast 1” track like Mount Perry went up early last Saturday morning. Naturally Justracing would be happy to pass on this proposal in more detail, albeit some highly paid employee of Racing Queensland should easily be able to understand what is proposed here in layman terms – and be able to pick up the ball and run with it from there. One doesn’t need a very high IQ to work their way through this one, so around some of the hierarchy of Racing Queensland that’s clearly a plus, as not many innovative ideas ever seem to stem from the place, even though what I’d call “ridiculously high salaries” are paid to so many.

Racing Queensland and the race club Chairman could also be responsible for liaising with the local councils where these turf tracks are situated – to get gifted water, or if that’s not possible Racing Queensland could pay the going rate so that the tracks could get watered and again that expense could form part of their overall package to country racing. To that end, Denis Schultz noted yesterday that the Gayndah track was very hard the last time they raced there. It shouldn’t be – given the Burnett River flows through the town. How can you have a river flow through the town but there’s no water to irrigate a racetrack? It can’t possibly take a Rhodes Scholar to rectify that problem. I estimate it would take me about five minutes to fix that one – and that’s if I was having an off day.

The position of all these thoroughbred race clubs around Queensland can be seen on this map:

Today on there’s the second montage of photos from the Gold Coast last Saturday, plus others of interest. On the breeding of last Saturday’s 2YO winner Paceman is researched, then on Matt Nicholls has put together a fascinating piece of Warragul harness track upgrade and looks back at a “no-race” feature race from 1987 when the field of trotters mistook the laps.

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