THE CORNER WITH GARRY CHITTICK
To the ten of you, my regular readers of my view of the racing world, I’ve got to confess it is difficult to maintain the relevance – the reason you would take your time to read the Corner.
This all started by default; a few years ago I was incensed by whatever incensed me then and I put my forefinger to use commentating on the issue of the time. It was never my intent to develop such a following. Ten genuine regular readers is a responsibility I have to respect. One has to be careful that the natural ingrained sense of humour coupled with cynicism which is in my view so closely aligned to humour does not in any way diminish the importance of our passion for our wonderful sport.
So here we are another week.
What a week, Singapore has decided to pull the plug. Their government has decided the land, in such a small island nation, can be put to better use than a racing track. Hard to argue against their need but that logic would see many further venues throughout the world vulnerable. Think of Randwick, Sha Tin, Ellerslie, Belmont, Flemington, and so many others. But, of course, far less than multiple golf courses throughout many metropolitan centres. My point? If every green venue was put under the scrutiny of those who can only see the commercial end value then we would have very bland metropolitan centres. So, Singapore you will not know what you have lost until you have lost it.
Victorian racing has had its way forward trimmed with the announcement of stakes reductions. Now, their stakes are still very acceptable but, in the competitive inter-state rivalry of Australia, this is a significant dent in their ego. How are they going to turn this around? I don’t know, but don’t be surprised if this is not the first decline. Let’s hope they don’t see a way out as selling one of the metropolitan jewels in the crown.
NSW, on the other hand, is able to increase stakes, purchase land and facilities to future proof racing. Interestingly, there is strong support for the lesser venues with their administrators taking the view that the providers of the product, that is racehorses, are still very much part of rural Australia.
Fortunately, Australian state governments recognise racing is not just a sport but a significant employer and contributor to the economy. Is the interstate competition good for the sport? Of course it is, it is only those coming second who don’t agree.
So, what about us? It is the intention of the government to geo block our wagering, so guess what? No competition there. Personally, I don’t support the intent. Those who turn over more than most mere mortals will find a way around these restrictive practices. But, if we are to be offering the best innovative wagering as a result of our marriage with Entain then they should have no problems in having competitors. To be quarantined does not encourage best end results for the punter.
Let’s sit back and reflect on our progress in the last decade. It won’t take long. Without Entain’s underwriting the next five years, we would have been like Singapore; selling prime assets to sustain a condensing industry. Of course they are not sustaining are they but there are lessons to be learned.
Naturally, I am hopeful this new relationship will ignite our sport. I am writing this prior to NZ Racing’s announcement, of which you will be aware before you receive this Corner. I have no doubt this will be positive, after all they are dispersing Entain’s underwritten amount. Now, this is where my cynicism overtakes the hallelujah acceptance of our now future. Everyone I have discussed our way forward with has unanimously said it must be better than we have. What an indictment of our previous administrators. Entain will run our wagering business better, ironically that’s what they have promised, nothing more.
As with all partnerships, we share the spoils. Had we have managed our dominant wagering business remotely better we would have had all the spoils. I have no doubt Entain will perform, they have the track record. Somewhere along the way a board and chief executive were required to be just that: Accountable, performance-related. It is actually not that difficult, a cash business with no opposition, that’s why Entain will succeed. I can’t understand why we couldn’t.
Let’s hope we have a year with track conditions somewhere near normal. Owners, trainers had every reason to be frustrated in the past year. We know at home how the weather affected our normal stud operations. We have had 1600mm of rain since January 1st, this is more than our annual rainfall. Being as I am a cynic, I don’t subscribe to the climate change doctrine. Mind you, a couple more seasons like this I might be persuaded.
Three months to August. Three months until the best of our horses will once again step out. Don’t you love it? That is unless you are an owner in Singapore.
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