The Sunday Mail is Queensland's statewide Sunday newspaper and in racing parlance it's a full brother to the Monday to Saturday inclusive statewide Queensland newspaper The Courier Mail. A few weeks ago the Editor of The Sunday Mail wrote this editorial calling for all Racing Queensland Boards to go. Unfortunately none of the Boards has subsequently complied with the request. I wonder are the delegates that are in Brisbane for the Australian Racing Conference, which starts in Brisbane today, aware of the recent newspaper calls?
For the couple of people who may be interested, the Australian Racing Conference is on in Brisbane over three consecutive days - today, tomorrow and Saturday.
And I for one can only imagine that attending the said conference would be a particularly warm and fuzzy experience with lots of back slapping going on. And what’s more, one of its obvious big attraction is that it’s tax deductable for most attendees I’d imagine. That means delegates to the Australian Racing Conference that are going to the Doomben races on Saturday will be able to listen to the audible squealing of multiple donkeys as they very slowly make their way up the hardly testing home straight in the Group 1 Doomben 10,000.
Undoubtedly Saturday at Doomben will be another riveting experience for delegates and will consist primarily of lots more back slapping and I reckon it’s an even money chance that the Brisbane Racing Club will say “the drinks are on us”, so that they can paint a positive picture to visitors to our city. I mean think that last statement through. If the Brisbane Racing Club has been lucky enough to talk the Queensland State government into funding $12million for a couple of tunnels across the road from Doomben at Eagle Farm, there should be a bit of fat on the meat to buy all the delegates to the Australian Racing Conference a free drink or six.
One thing is for sure. At least the delegates going to Doomben will help swell the crowd after the Brisbane Racing Club only got “6,300” to their multiple Group 1 day recently.
I must say I’m saddened though that I wasn’t consulted as to what topics I thought should have been addressed at the Australian Racing Conference. I reckon I could have put an end to the endless back slapping by raising some topics with the delegates that they would have been able to learn from relevant speakers on the topics. Come to think of it, it’s actually not too late for my input, seeing it only starts today. I was obviously so excited to think the Australian Racing Conference was on today – and the associated Hall of Fame rubbish tonight, where everyone except the strapper of the winner of the seventh race at Gatton today will get admitted to the Hall of Fame - that I dreamt about it only last night. So here’s how the dream went.
Racing Queensland who are naturally Australia’s leaders in all things racing – just ask them – had requested that Australia’s biggest racing website owner (numerically) – moi – open the Australian Racing Conference. I admit to being gobsmacked as I didn’t think they cared about me. I was both taken aback and deeply humbled. I was as nervous as a kitten when I took the dais wondering if there were any snipers in the building.
Here’s how my welcome speech went.
“Hello delegates. (Applause follows which doesn’t look like dying down anytime soon). Can we have a bit of shoosh please? (the applause now escalates to a full blown standing ovation from some delegates much to the dismay of some of the Racing Queensland attendees who stay seated and refuse to clap and instead nervously snack on water crackers and baby pickled onions (vegetable cruelty at its worst) during this period. Eventually, after what feels like an eternity, the standing ovation subsides). Firstly thanks for your attendance. If you keep your ears open and your mouth closed you should all walk away from this conference wiser for the experience. Do it the other way around (ears closed mouth open) and you’ll be doing what racing officials have habitually done throughout Australia over recent decades, which leads us to where we are today – half way between a rock and a hard place.
“Firstly let me say that as an outsider looking in that 2014 and 2015 have been absolute shockers for Racing Queensland. So what I want to do is try to get some key speakers up here on stage so that they can help educate you delegates on some of the shortcomings that can afflict the governing body of racing. Then hopefully you delegates will return to your role and know how you can do things differently. Sorry - I see a hand up, right up the back there. I’m not taking questions, so unless you want to go to the toilet, I suggest you put your hand down. And on the subject of toilet breaks be alert and not alarmed. You may find that you will be more ‘regular’ than normal over the next three days of this conference as you’ll find certain things hard to comprehend. For instance how dare the Editor of The Sunday Mail publicly call for Racing Queensland Boards to get the chop a couple of Sundays ago. Where do people get such notions from? Everyone in racing can bear witness to the great job they are doing. They are right on top of closing the gate on several issues now that the horse has well and truly bolted. How can The Sunday Mail Editor not see that?
“Let me also request that you please forgive me, but I’ve changed the scheduling of the conference speakers around at short notice to make sure you delegates that have travelled far and wide can learn and get to hear these wonderful speakers early while you have a clear mind. To that end, I’d like to introduce you to our first speaker (name withheld). Would you like to give it up for (name withheld). He’ll talk to us about the amazing and jaw-dropping job that Racing Queensland does in managing their thoroughbred tracks.
Speaker (after loud applause – but no standing ovation): “Thanks Phil for that warm introduction. Hello delicates, sorry I meant delegates. At Racing Queensland as you may or may not know, we have a hundred and something thoroughbred race clubs to oversee, so we have a plethora of tracks to look after. Just a few of the different types of tracks are turf, cushion, sand, dirt and Strathayr. So what I’ll do is just restrict what I’m telling you to only South-East Queensland thoroughbred tracks. Now it’s no secret that we are in more strife than Bill Clinton was that time in the Oval Office, with our tracks. You’ll see in front of you a notebook to make notes on, so that you can take the notebook home and learn from it. Sorry, but on this particular topic of racetrack course proper management, one notebook won’t be big enough. You’ll need at least two of them – and that’s only if you write small. The well-proportioned Ming (Ming bows to the speaker) will come around and give you each another book. I suggest you make extensive notes as we’ve had so many problems with tracks that we are nearly experts at getting it wrong. So there is no doubt that you’ll learn from those numerous mistakes”.
10 minutes later: “Okay can I have a bit of shoosh. Ming tells me all you delicates, sorry now I’m confused, I mean delegates, have a second notepad, so let’s go.
“Look rather than try to call a spade a shovel, what I’ll tell you are a few facts about our tracks. Re Eagle Farm you might have seen some exclusive photos up on Phil’s website last week. With the benefit of hindsight I think we (expletive) up. I think we should have got the money first before we closed the track down for a re-vamp. So write that one down. Dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s before you close a venue down. Oh and as per Phil’s photos also write down that grass doesn’t grow in winter. Here we are now trying to grow grass at Eagle Farm in winter. That’s like trying to make water run uphill. With the benefit of hindsight we should have tried growing the grass in spring and summer. I don’t know why no one thought of that. Geez good help is hard to find in racing.
“But don’t think Eagle Farm is our only problem. It’s just the latest one. We had major problems long before that. Like we spent a few hundred grand – but I guess you could say what’s a few hundred thousand bucks between friends – on the Ipswich Turf Club track and it’s still a worry. And that’s a year after we gave them the okay to go back to racing on it. They’ve lost six meetings in six weeks recently. That’s not easy to achieve. So if you want to beat Ipswich write down that you’d have to lose seven meetings in seven weeks, otherwise the record is theirs.
“Then there’s the Toowoomba Turf Club. We had to move meetings from them. We’ve moved that many meetings from Ipswich that now I’m confused where Toowoomba’s went. Maybe Warwick, Gatton and Dalby, but don’t quote me on that. So Toowoomba was grass from 1895, yes 1895 for just over 100 years, then it went to a cushion track. Then the natives up there got restless so we went Strathayr, but thank Christ when we went Strathayr we were smart enough to leave what they called ‘the inner track’. The inner track is sort of like a mini-me of Moonee Valley. But then there were problems with the Strathayr so we had to move meetings to their inner track. They can only run a few horses on the inner track. If all the horses hold their breath during the race we can start eight or 10 there I think as the maximum field size. So it’s about as useless as the proverbials on a bull, but it’s better than nothing. Then just yesterday, bugger me dead we have the embarrassment, yet again, of having to issue a Media Release to advise one and all that we’ve had to move two future Strathayr meetings, one to Gatton and the other to the inner track because when the jump-outs were run on Monday the Strathayr track resembled a beach as there was that much kick-back. You might have read and seen only a couple of weeks ago how most were all standing around backslapping each other at how amazing the Toowoomba Strathayr track was on Weetwood and Toowoomba Cup day? It was kind of weird on the day because they broke a track record on a heavy 8 in Race 1 that day. Now it’s got problems, so we are back to square one. Fair dinkum in this caper you are the statue one day and the bird the next.
“So the moral out of that is if you lose a heap of meetings or have to switch venues and stuff it’s all good. Do what we do and you won’t find any trainers bagging us as we have specifically asked them not to comment publicly on the state of the tracks and naturally they all don’t as we run the joint.
Justracing resumes the microphone: “Thanks (name withheld). As you can see when it comes to tracks Racing Queensland is under heavy whip riding and is going up and down on the one spot. I wonder is that the only topic that they have a bit of a problem with. The next topic I have on the agenda is how Racing Queensland and Tattsbet jumped in the sack for a guaranteed 30-year fling during 2014. What was Racing Queensland thinking? Surely they realized that even with Botox the old sheila was going to age pretty disgracefully in 30 years and gravity can be savage. I question whether Racing Queensland will still love Tattsbet when she’s old, saggy, baggy and daggy? That’s the million-dollar question. Personally I predict the marriage is going to end in grief, because already we’ve seen Tattsbet just wake up one day recently and try to assume a new identity by suddenly changing her name to UBET. That’s crap – is she going to change her name every year for the next 30 years just so Racing Queensland can think it’s in the cot with a new sheila?” (I won’t put up here what the said keynote speaker from Racing Queensland had to say on that issue or you’d doze off)
Then the topic after that which was discussed was entitled: “Racing Queensland’s pre-Four Corners strategies that we had in place in respect of doing greyhound kennel inspections on licensed greyhound trainers and greyhound trial tracks”. Somewhat understandably this was only a very short presentation. A few um’s and ah’s and it was pretty much all over. The speaker on this one couldn’t confirm or deny if Racing Queensland have got a list of registered greyhound trial tracks up to date on their website or not. (Editor’s note: there’s no rush with it – after all the horse has well and truly bolted and is most likely out near the South Australian border by now, so there’s no sense closing the gate now).
The next topic for discussion was entitled, “The cobalt saga – how Racing Queensland simply decided to put that little problem on hold until it was ‘practical’ to have inquiries. Then when it was ‘practical’ for Racing Queensland everyone needed legal advice so everything got adjourned”. Given there’s more action at a mortuary than on the cobalt issue, this topic didn’t take long either.
The next topic on the agenda was entitled: “How Racing Queensland helped Magic Millions out with some moola but we aren’t telling anyone how much, so unless Gerry Harvey talks in his sleep no one should find out.” It should be noted that the key speaker here from Racing Queensland appeared distressed at the microphone to address the Australian Racing Conference delegates. Unfortunately he had masking tape over his mouth so could only gesture. To be fair he did try to speak, but you try talking through masking tape and see if you can. So again that topic only took up a few seconds. The moral there for delegates was to write down the advice we should have all learned from the late Jack Denham, namely “tell ‘em nothin’ - take em’ nowhere.”
The second last topic for the big day was entitled: “Ah, um, ah, building a bridge and accepting constructive criticism and negativity as being part of a racing administrators role in modern day society”. Unfortunately Racing Queensland couldn’t provide a speaker for this one, so it was ruled out as a late scratching.
The final topic for discussion on the day was entitled: “The Winter Carnival is over let the bloodletting begin.” This topic was introduced by that wonderful song that The Seekers made famous - “The Carnival Is Over”. You may remember a young sheila named Judith Durham belting out that song that made them famous - and a young bespectacled bloke, A for Athol Guy, wrestling some huge musical instrument as they sang their big hit. This topic revolved around exactly who was to get the flick from within the hierarchy of Racing Queensland when the current MacSporran Report got handed down. For the record about six weeks after the Brisbane Winter Carnival finished, two high senior officials were shown the door, whilst one other high ranking official resigned near the end of the current financial year, citing the time had come to retire. So best write that down in your notebooks you delegates.
Then I woke up in a cold sweat with a couple of Racing Queensland officials standing over me, each armed with a meat cleaver. All I can say is thank God they don’t have the Australian Racing Conference in Brisbane each year or I’d go potty.
Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s a harness story. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there’s the story about the budding legal eagle who is driving harness winners in between her studies, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Victorian racing is perused.