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A funding dispute between the Brisbane Racing Club and the Sandgate and District Chamber of Commerce has condemned the popular Deagon Picnic Race Day this September to the scrap heap.

Racing was reintroduced at Deagon three years ago for the first time in more than six decades and proved extremely popular with thousands attending the three meetings held at the historic track since.

In a shock announcement the SDCOC today announced that they would not be in a position to host the race day this year and laid the blame squarely at the feet of the BRC.

Chamber President, Bill Gollan said: “It is with a heavy heart and great disappointment we have come to this decision. We have tried to negotiate a reasonable deal with Brisbane Racing Club to run this year`s races. Their substantial fee increase in 2016 exposes the Chamber to too much financial risk. In light of the falling crowds and financial loss from last year`s races the Chamber came to the sad but responsible decision.”

The SDCOC explained in a Media Release on its Facebook Page that:

“Brisbane Racing Club has exclusive rights to the track under its lease with Racing Queensland. This made it impossible to seek another Racing Club at a reduced fee to run the infrastructure for the day.

The SDCOC had planned a major revamp for the day which would have the races being brought back to a country picnic race day.

“We would have had an old fashioned party of this area’s lifestyle with a celebration of our proud local racing industry.” Racing Queensland fully supported our concept. Unfortunately BRC would not budge on their fee.

The Chamber is also in dispute with Brisbane Racing Club from monies owed to the Chamber of Commerce from last year`s Race Day which needs to be resolved before entering into any further agreements with BRC.

The Chamber insists that it has not given up on reviving the day for next year. It hopes the various issues can be resolved by then to give us clear air to plan for 2017.

We have lost one of our marquee events this year. However, the Chamber is committed to planning another event in place of this. Watch this space!”

Letsgohorseracing understands that the Deagon picnic meeting was not viable for the BRC as the Chamber of Commerce received the gate takings (but would not pay a fee the club has required), the bar proceeds went to the Bracken Ridge Tavern and the TAB and betting turnover returns were the province of Racing Queensland and the Government.



AS the industry continues to await the appointment of a new CEO and Board member, it seems someone running the show feels it is more important to name an Ambassador for Queensland thoroughbred racing.

HERE is a MEDIA RELEASE from RACING MINISTER GRACE GRACE on the appointment of league legend BILLY SLATER as RQ RACING AMBASSADOR which doesn't explain whether he is doing the job in an honorary capacity or being paid and, if so, how much:

RACING Minister Grace Grace has welcomed the appointment of Queensland rugby league legend Billy Slater as an official ambassador for all racing codes in Queensland.

Ms Grace said a new partnership with Racing Queensland would put Slater at the forefront of a statewide campaign to increase awareness of the racing industry and appeal to a wider audience of fans. 

“Billy Slater is more than just a league legend, he’s a great Queenslander who connects with sports fans throughout the State,” she said. 

“He has strong links to the racing industry and spent a period as a trackwork jockey with Gai Waterhouse in Sydney before embarking upon a highly successful rugby league career. 

“Given his high profile, industry knowledge and affinity with sports fans, he’s the perfect person to promote racing in Queensland.” 

Kicking off in July, ‘Billy Slater’s Racing Road Trip’ will see him visit several Country and Provincial Races across the State, providing opportunities for race-goers to meet with the State of Origin star via exclusive competitions and club events. 

As part of his role as ambassador, Slater will also attend Greyhound and Harness race meetings across the state. 

“I loved attending the races as a kid and being able to share the experience with my family is a real thrill,” said Slater. 

“There are some fantastic and iconic race meetings across Queensland that I’ve always wanted to attend and through this partnership with Racing Queensland I will be able to not only attend but share my experiences with others. 

“It’s an exciting partnership and I’m looking forward to giving back to the racing industry.” 

Racing Queensland Acting Chief Executive Officer Sam Adams said Slater’s involvement was a coup for the racing industry, in particular the country and provincial clubs that will benefit from his attendance at key racing events. 

“Billy is an exceptional athlete and a fantastic ambassador for Queensland,” said Adams. 

“He has grown up around horses and understands how racing is such an important way of life for so many people. Being able to partner with Billy allows Racing Queensland to appeal to a wider audience and gain new fans across all codes.” 

Slater’s first appearance as Official Racing Queensland Ambassador will be at this Saturday’s Tattersall’s Club Tiara Race Day at Eagle Farm. Accompanied by his family, Slater will be involved in a variety of activities including the overall prize presentation of the UBET Super Six Trainers Challenge. 

In addition to attending race meetings, the partnership will leverage upon Slater’s trackwork experience to promote Racing Queensland’s education and training programs. Slater will also be on hand to provide valuable insights into life as professional athlete.



RATHER than run ‘Whinges’ that we received concerning UBET closing down Fixed Odds betting at a couple of major provincial venues in Queensland, we decided to investigate the matter further and here is what we discovered.

ONE of the first jobs confronting the new Queensland Racing Integrity Unit will be an investigation into ‘stings’ allegedly instigated by commission agents at major provincial venues on behalf of one of Australia’s leading punters.

UBET unearthed the well planned operation where a half dozen punters, led by a woman thought to be from Rockhampton, would simultaneously attempt to place sizeable Fixed Odds bets on the same runner.

This was thwarted at a recent Mackay race meeting when Fixed Odds betting was temporarily closed. When the punters involved relocated to the nearby TAB at the Boomerang Hotel UBET was forced to close Fixed Odds betting at that venue as well.

Our investigation has revealed that the woman who leads the group of well informed punters, who have been successfully plundering UBET with Fixed Odds bet, was asked to leave the Ooralea track when Mackay Turf Club officials were contacted by the Chief Operating Officer of UBET.

When the woman punter thumbed her nose at the direction (in fact we understand she gave the CEO of the MTC a pleasant ‘get stuffed’), UBET then closed Fixed Odds betting at the track. The woman and her associates then moved to the Boomerang Hotel where management was told of the operation before UBET closed Fixed Odds betting at that venue.

A UBET spokesman told letsgohorseracing: “We are happy to accommodate punters wanting to have a bet but when a concerted effort is made by a group to back the same horse at the same time our Fixed Odds margins are placed under extreme pressure.”

Steps have subsequently been taken to ensure the problem cannot be repeated. “We have made changes to our automated software. They can still bet but now we can risk manage the situation,” the spokesman said.

It is our understanding that this problem (reported at one time occurring at the Albion Park dogs) soon graduated to a new group of gallops punters and occurred at Ipswich, Rockhampton and twice at Mackay requiring Fixed Odds betting to be temporarily closed.

The UBET spokesman said: “These people are extremely successful in their betting activities. We just couldn’t afford to have a situation where they were all trying to get on at the same time.”

There are reliable reports that the group work as commission agents for one of Australia’s leading punters based in Sydney. The identity was linked some time ago to an alleged ‘sting’ at races in south-east Queensland where messages were supposedly being relayed to jockeys as they rode along the fence in front of the grandstand on their way to the start of races.

There is no suggestion that this alleged practice has anything to do with the latest betting operation which has involved horses at venues in various states, the majority of which are successful.

The new Queensland Racing Integrity Unit, which comes into operation at the beginning of July, will almost certainly be asked – in conjunction with stewards – too examine the background to the situation and links of the people involved.



THE main bar of the Royal Oak is usually empty on a Sunday but a sombre procession filled it up yesterday.

MATT STEWART reports for the HERALD SUN that they came to raise their glasses to John “Skraps” Sparks, who had been at the Mentone institution the day before celebrating his 70th birthday.

He’d sat on his usual stool and carefully worked his meagre pension to a small — but typical — punting profit.

Skraps never ate but on his birthday he sat down to a roast and a cupcake.

He left around 9pm, hopped in his old silver car and wrapped it around a pole about a furlong down the Nepean Hwy.

I drove past an hour or so later, saw a half dozen cop cars with flashing lights and a mangled wreck.

Skraps had lived in an old brick veneer on Chute St, Mordialloc and had lived there forever.

He was once surrounded by similar houses with lean-on stables out back, when the housing estate around him used to be the Epsom racetrack, then the Epsom training centre, which closed in the late 1990s.

“Skraps’’ himself was an institution, a racing identity without ever having trained or ridden.

He took running doubles because they matched his economy of scale. “Why do you blokes take quaddies? Why try get four winners instead of two? What’s wrong with you blokes?’’

Us younger blokes used to revel in his gruffness, bask in his longevity.

My kids adored him, asked questions about him. They thought he was 100-years-old because he had a century-old face.

Skraps was probably an alcoholic and his body was paying the price. His prostate was shot, probably out in sympathy with his liver.

He joked about the intrusiveness of his latest prostate examination, which was to have been the beginning of months of radiation therapy.

“You’d reckon he’d (the doctor) would at least have taken me out to dinner first,’’ he chuckled on Friday night as we stood smoking out the front.

I always thought they called him Skraps (Sparks backwards) because he’d enjoyed getting into scraps, which he did.

His favourite story involved a famous footy commentator who he’d gone to school with and whose first job was as a local copper.

Skraps and his mates were drinking longnecks at the Mordy jetty carpark. It was the early 1970s.

The copper, who’d been a bully at school, meekly tried to confiscate their booze.

Not long after he was corralled at the end of the jetty and accepted the first of two ultimatums, and swam back to shore.

Skraps spent his entire working life as a council garbo. In the era where racehorses were still swum down near the jetty, Skraps would remove the rubbish from the beach.

He loved the Darwin Cup, where he’d stay two hours from the track in the middle of nowhere, and loved the picnic races.

Earlier this year a group of us — adults, kids — hired a mini bus for a day at the Balnarring races.

Skraps rarely went a day without a beer but he took one for the team and drove the bus that day.

He’d almost made it to the Oak, where a path had been cleared from the door to the bar.

He got as far as Chute St, yanked the BBQ off the front seat, dashed inside and cracked his first for the day.

One of the last things he said to me was that he’d like to drive through the streets of what used to be the Epsom racetrack. They had names like Manikato Ave and Arwon St.

The only thing that remains of the old racetrack is the brick tote house.

It was like Skraps knew the end was coming, that he wanted to rekindle something lost.

Like Epsom, Skraps is now gone.

But the gruff master of the running double will never be forgotten.



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