THOROUGHBRED RACING UNDER THE WHIP AND GOING UP AND DOWN ON THE SPOT

22/06/15

The thoroughbred racing world woke up to the sad news last Saturday morning that one of the few champions that we will get to see in our lifetime, even if we get the biblical “three score years and ten” years – Takeover Target – had passed away. Then if it was possible, the day in thoroughbred racing got even worse from there.

Takeover Target retired having won 21 races from 41 starts and having the wonderful distinction of having scored at least one Group 1 race in each of Australia, Japan, Singapore and England.

A seven-length win in a Queanbeyan Maiden two days before Anzac Day 2004 was the pre-cursor to a wonderful career that would unfold. A couple of months after that humble Queanbeyan win for new trainer Joe Janiak, the Celtic Swing gelding did the impossible and won a Ramornie Handicap at Grafton from barrier 14 of 16. Just over two years later he travelled to Japan and beat 15 others at Group 1 level jumping from barrier 13 of 16, the point being he often had to overcome horror barrier draws to win his races.

Given that a horse like recently retired Queensland sprinter, Spirit of Boom, could win just nine races from 52 starts, including two Group 1’s, a William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley and a Doomben 10,000 – both by a narrow margin – then go on and serve 154 mares in his debut season at stud at an advertised service fee of $11,000 one can only imagine the support that a genuine world-class sprinter like Takeover Target would have got had he been an entire and stood in Australia and England.

But thoroughbred racing in Australia is really under the whip and going up and down in the one spot if last Saturday is anything to go by.

Down at the Gold Coast we had the usual scenario that unfolds on most big race days in that the fence was a “no-go zone” – and the longer the day wore on the worse it got. In the last race Into The Road can be seen in replay going through inside of horses on the home turn but he soon got buried in the quicksand. Not that I’m suggesting that he’s up to horses like Dothraki and Target In Sight, but he was gone soon after straightening and couldn’t pick his feet up. On the subject of Dothraki he’s the latest horse to improve markedly after being switched to Peter and Paul Snowden. That training partnership is certainly having a good time with new stable acquisitions. Dothraki never looked in danger of defeat. He’s always had plenty of ability, but having “plenty of ability” and getting the horse to produce it are often two different entities. Team Snowden will have some fun with him now, but whether he can handle the Melbourne way of going and become a Spring contender in that neck of the woods is the million-dollar question.

Come to think of it, unless “they” get their arse into gear and sort out all the problems with thoroughbred vision down in Victoria, it probably won’t matter if Dothraki goes there or not – as we won’t be able to see him race anyway.

Wasn’t that wonderful last Saturday when the racing industry was able to step back in time some decades to an era when racing vision wasn’t possible and one had to rely on a transistor radio shoved up to the ear to listen to the broadcast of a race. In Sydney Ken Howard could have them finishing “underneath the roses with a witherer” and then when you got Sunday’s paper the horse had got beaten four lengths. Please don’t take us back to those days of safari suits, fibre glass aerials on cars and to the time when The Beatles have just landed at Brisbane Airport. Truly you Victorian racing administrators, we are over all those sort of nightmare memories from the 60’s and 70’s and are trying ever so hard to move on with our life. Well most of us are. And with respect to one modern day racecaller, Gregory Miles, even he would admit that he can’t paint the picture like the late Bert Bryant could. Honestly the racecallers of today are so bland in their calls that they’ve cumulatively forgotten to think of anything humorous to say in a call. Pity cloning wasn’t around when Bert Bryant was about. That’s all I can say, but maybe if it was, those awful safari suits would make a comeback and that would be “jump off the Gateway” stuff.

God knows how long punters will have to endure no vision of Victorian races but it’s timely to remember that Equine Influenza in 2007 turned away a lot of punters – and they simply walked away and never returned, so take my free and constructive advice and “sort the vision crap out really quickly or you’ll lose a heap of punters”. And the only thing we can’t afford to lose is the lifeblood of the industry is – punters. We could sustain a downturn in terms of numbers of owners, trainers, horses or jockeys and still have a vibrant Saturday city racing industry, but if punters keep getting treated like mongrel dogs in the whole debate, be very careful that the angry dog doesn’t get up – bite you – then walk away, never to return.

Then down in Sydney the alleged track known as “Royal Randwick” maybe should be renamed something more appropriate like “Rice Paddy Randwick”. Will the tracks at that city ever dry out? For weeks now punters have had a gutful of wet tracks at that city, albeit the weather is uncontrollable.

So between track bias at the Gold Coast, a heavy 10 at Randwick – and no chance of vision of Victorian races interstate, or even replays of Victorian races to watch the next day, the thoroughbred racing industry along the entire eastern seaboard of Australia is hardly humming.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s a montage of photos of Takeover Target. On www.sydneyracing.com.au the full Appeal decision in the Harness Racing New South Wales case against licensee Kim Hillier has just been made public Friday evening and it makes for interesting reading, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au the life and times of Smokin’ Joey are researched.

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