13 December 2005

Ruckus riles racing ranks

Breedingracing.com has done a tidy job paraphrasing media coverage of unrest in NSW racing ranks:
"Provincial Showdown With Racing NSW
Under the attention-grabbing headline 'Clubs Vent Anger Before Showdown Over TAB Funding', The Sydney Morning Herald reports: 'Racing NSW's plan to control $140 million in TAB funding to race clubs is set for an early showdown, with the regulator's chairman Gary Pemberton & chief executive Peter V'Landys meeting representatives of the 5 provincial clubs next Tuesday.' The newspaper reveals: 'Two hours have been set aside for the meeting at Racing NSW's Mascot bunker, with several provincial members concerned the ruling body is about to tear apart the TAB's financial distribution agreement. The provincial clubs (Hawkesbury, Wyong, Gosford, Newcastle & Illawarra) were asked for & submitted an agenda for the meeting, but Racing NSW informed the group time could prevent their issues from being discussed. The clubs wanted an update on Racing NSW's development of the Horsley Park equestrian centre, which is a financial drain on the State Government, as a training & education facility. Other issues included a mass exodus of quality staff from Racing NSW (including the recent departure of respected chief handicapper Mark Webbey, who was escorted off the Mascot premises), centralised race programming & continued speculation that the governing body was set to spend upwards of $10 million on an inner-city office block.' One 'influential raceclub committeeman' told the newspaper: 'Obviously their agenda is not ours. I suppose you could say they've come down from the mountain to talk to us, but we've been told we'll get an hour & a half if we are lucky. Many of us are certain they want to bash us on the head over benchmarking; they are trying to get their filthy mits on the raceclubs' money. To think they want to do as they see fit with TAB income. They want to hand out the money to whoever they wish. If they like you this week, you might get a few bob; don't like you, they'll punish you.' Stay tuned! "

07 December 2005

Trust me. II.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, The Beeb reports that one-time rising star Robert Winston has returned to race riding after "a long spell out through injury and a battle against alcoholism".
Winston, one of six jockeys arrested and now on bail until early 2006, pending the outcome of an ongoing City of London police investigation into allegations of race-fixing, was frank in his comments:
"It is great to be back. I was drinking myself to death. I just couldn't control it."

Trust me. I.

Disgraced former star apprentice Craig Newitt is back on track and riding winners. However The Age's Stephen Howell writes:
"It is important to remember that Newitt was not convicted of any wrongdoing from the race that, eventually, sidelined him. Stewards found no case to answer when they investigated his losing ride on the heavily backed Leone Chiara at Sandown on November 15, 2003. What they discovered was that he lied, over and over again, about his relationship with a bookmaker, Anthony Cullen, who was to receive a three-year disqualification, double Newitt's sentence."
Howell quotes leading trainer Lee Freedman:
"I've got no doubt about Craig's ability and I've got no doubt of his intentions, but it will take more than a short period of time for me to welcome him back."

05 December 2005

Rougher than usual handling

The usually reliable Roy Masters plays with a loose end in his piece this week for the Herald's Business section on the racing broadcast rights dispute between major raceclubs and Tabcorp - loose in the sense that crucial claims are qualified by the disclaimer "possibly" and are neither sourced, nor confirmed or corroborated. There appears to be only one source for the article, a severely conflicted "boss" of the NSW Australian Hotels Association, John Thorpe. Says Masters: "Like many in organisations embroiled in the internecine struggle, Thorpe wears two hats. As NSW president of the AHA and owner of a Harbord hotel, Thorpe complains that pubs have to provide two screens for punters to gamble on races, yet he sits on the board of TVN, which owns the rights to Sydney and Victorian thoroughbred races."
In companion pieces Masters casts his net wider, handing column space to adman John Singleton who whinged that his $7m idea for "Sea Biscuit" type colour stories on TVN had met with a lukewarm response.
TVN, which is jointly owned by the Australian Jockey Club and Sydney Turf Club, the three Melbourne metropolitan race clubs and Country Racing Victoria, is currently sweating on an answer from Tabcorp to their latest proposal to end the standoff and deliver all racing back to one channel. Reports Masters:
TVN expected a response from Slatter midweek but none came. It would seem Tabcorp is taking a hard line, aware the racing industry is hemhorraging.
Art-loving TVN chairman Harold Mitchell remains defiant, pointing out that the dispute is a legacy of a fight 18 years ago between Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer for control of racing TV rights.
"At an earlier time the racing industry sold off their media rights for a song," Mitchell says.
"We are now in control of our destiny again."
Racing Victoria CEO Robert Nason was also unrepentant at his AGM on December 1:
"We want to get an adequate return for our racing product. As the product owner we have a right to do that despite what you might read in the media."
The point no one seems interested in anymore is that one channel is not enough to do justice to covering the major metropolitan race meeting, with major group one events being slotted into wall-to-wall coverage of provincial and country racing, trots and dogs. So 20th century.
We live in an age of digital delivery, when is the racing game going to deliver vision on-demand? Twelfth of never it seems.

Bleeding Tabcorp threatens to ditch wagering

CEO Matthew Slatter said at Tabcorp's AGM in Sydney this week he "would consider dumping licences, which accounted for more than 30 per cent of its annual revenue, if the government tried to force up the renewal price." ... Hurt by the loss of Sydney and Melbourne broadcast rights, "TabCorp shares fell 80 cents or almost 5 per cent following the AGM's disappointing forecast, wiping more than $400 million from the company's market worth."

Pocket money buys back Alkaased for Darley

"MEET the GBP10m super-stallion," reports The Yorkshire Post. Sold in 2003 by Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum for just GBP42,000, last week's Japan Cup winner Alkaseed was bought back by the Maktoum family's Darley Stud "for an undisclosed sum but one which could approach GBP10m." Taking such a bath represents small change for a crew that can, as the London Daily Telegraph reports, buy P&O: "A company backed by the horse-race loving Dubai royal family yesterday made the Gulf state's biggest acquisition so far with the £3.3billion takeover of P&O, one of the icons of corporate Britain. The agreed cash deal, pitched at 443p a share, will see DP World purchase P&O's 29 container port operations in 18 countries and take control of the group's cross-Channel ferry operations."