HONEST APPRAISAL OF EAGLE FARM & RQ FROM A MAJOR STAKEHOLDER
THE weather gods have been kind to the Brisbane Racing Club in the lead-up to the controversial start to the carnival and one can only wonder what would have been the state of the Eagle Farm track had any significant rain fallen.
If the track survives today’s (Saturday’s) debacle, officials will no doubt declare it all systems go for the carnival – as will their mates in the mainstream racing media – but this will only be a band aid cure and Eagle Farm – as stakeholders have warned – is a disaster waiting to happen.
HERE are the views of yet another prominent owner-breeder who fears for the future of racing in Queensland:
‘AS a stakeholder in Thoroughbred racing in Australia, as an owner and breeder, I feel compelled to offer my grave concerns with the state of thoroughbred racing in Queensland and indeed the deplorable state of the racing surface at Eagle Farm. I would like to remain anonymous as I believe there are too many people with axes to grind for anyone who speaks the truth.
I have been fortunate to have bred horses that have complied some six Group One victories and numerous other black type races in Australia and overseas and have watched many thousands of horse races over many years as both a keen punter and racehorse enthusiast.
Never in my time have I witnessed a racetrack perform as badly as the “new” Eagle Farm surface. From all aspects of racing life, be that an owner, trainer, jockey or punter, the only word I can use in reference to the track and the administration of Racing Queensland is DISGRACEFUL.
Watching races at Eagle Farm is punishment in itself as some horses even on good and quick rated surfaces simply cannot pick their feet up and often many are beaten a long way from the post as they hit a wall as soon as they are let down and some even earlier.
I have just in recent weeks removed one of my better performed horses from a leading Queensland stable as there is simply no commercial value in continuing on in Queensland. Poor prize money and bad tracks and in the case of Eagle Farm (just awful). I still have other horses in Queensland but am very concerned that I will have to move them as well in order for them to have any chance of being successful.
I was one of the many who listened to all the so-called experts at Racing Queensland when they were proclaiming the new track would be the best in Australia (Wimpey and his mates are still having that dream). Well it is now regarded by most racing people that are possessed with good eyesight that it is the worst metropolitan track in Australia. It has cost owners a significant amount of money just to have a runner which is beaten before the gates open.
One only has to look at the new track that has been laid down at Newcastle in NSW to be given an example of how the Queensland process should have been undertaken. This track is a beauty and was completed in a shorter time than the Eagle Farm track. I understand that there were a lot of additional works carried out at Eagle Farm (tunnels etc) but the decision to seed the track rather than lay turf defies belief. I have been told that a cost saving was the motive for that decision – once again there are those describing this as ‘incompetence at its worst’.
In any business, one can only make bad decisions for so long before the bottom line is filled with red ink and that time is now for Racing Queensland. The perceived level of incompetence over many years both via Government Ministers who have no knowledge or interest in the racing industry and racing administrators who have only their own personal agendas in mind have left the racing Industry in Queensland get to its current state.
Like a lot of serious punters I will not bet at Eagle Farm as there are no form-lines that one can be reliant upon not to mention the constant innuendo of racing in Queensland being ‘hot’ particularly at one South East Queensland venue which for years has been linked with unusual results based upon betting activity.
Obviously I speak with many key stakeholders in the industry and the one constant is that none of this is a secret except to the people charged with the integrity of the sport and the administration of same.
Truly it is a sad state of affairs and one that could have been prevented. The RIP shingle has not been hung out yet for Queensland racing but unless there is positive action it is not far away. From what I have been told by senior people in the industry in Queensland there is little prospect of the Eagle Farm track being fixed in its current form and that it has to be torn up and a turf track relaid. I know this a costly exercise particularly after the vast sums that have been wasted already but without a viable mainstream track then racing in Queensland will be a bits and pieces industry for third rate horses. This will result in many local participants moving interstate which some are already doing , a breeding industry that makes no difference and punters that do not want to invest in the product on offer. There is no point putting the head in the sand and saying it will not happen as it is happening now.
Unfortunately there has been no change for so long now that apathy is an accepted way of life in Queensland racing.
I can remember when it was a wonderful day at the races in Queensland. Great to race horses, good to enjoy with friends and good to have a bet.
Sadly those days are gone and even more sad is that I doubt we will see them again
EDITOR’S NOTE: NO better assessment of the state of play in racing in Queensland and the Eagle Farm track has been penned. We endorse the sentiments expressed above and so do many others in the racing industry in this state and throughout the country – from industry stakeholders to rank and file punters and racing followers.
THE UNSINKABLE RQ TITANIC SAILS INTO THE EAGLE FARM ICEBERGS
BRISBANE Racing Club CEO and his Racing Queensland counterpart Eliot Forbes are so far out of touch with reality when it comes to the Eagle Farm track debacle that it is embarrassing.
The good ship RQ Titanic continues to sail into the Eagle Farm icebergs refusing to listen to warnings from top trainers and jockeys that the track should be closed down, repaired or ripped up rather than raced on during the carnival.
Forbes says RQ is constantly in touch and monitoring the Eagle Farm situation with the BRC. He insists the fallout from the latest trackwork disaster will not have a detrimental effect on horses coming from the carnival.
Perhaps he should talk to a key official of the BRC who hosted a visit from a leading Sydney trainer during the week. He took one look at the Eagle Farm track then contacted his stable to declare that their horses would be headed for Adelaide instead of Brisbane for the carnival.
Whether the Eagle Farm track survives Saturday’s meeting and shows some improvement on the state it was in for trackwork on Tuesday this is only a ‘band-aid’ cure. Too many shortcuts were taken in the development process. Behind the scenes the problems involving sub-contractors in an absolute financial disaster.
But RQ and the BRC plough ahead – ignoring industry concerns and refusing to show any respect for the hundreds of thousands of punters who want to bet on Brisbane racing but now are reluctant to do so because they don’t know how the track will play not to mention that it is impossible to do the form.
BRC chief executive Dave Whimpey is living in dreamland with his declaration that Eagle Farm in time will be a world-class surface. That will take a minor miracle unless they rip the joint up and start again like the costly exercise that occurred in Toowoomba.
An indication of how serious the situation has reached can be gauged by what is being written in the mainstream racing media as evidenced by the comments of The Courier-Mail Racing Editor Nathan Exelby when he wrote:
Whimpey’s willingness to be the public face of the Eagle Farm debacle has been admirable and his openness in declaring where mistakes have been made and how the club is trying to fix them is refreshing.
But to describe Gollan and Munce’s comments as “embarrassing” is to vastly underestimate the toll that the long-running Eagle Farm saga has taken on them and their colleagues. It’s a mistake to think Gollan, Munce and Kelso Wood’s comments are out of step with their fellow trainers. Likewise, most jockeys hold a similar view and are sceptical of whether the track will ever live up to expectations. Add punters to that list as well.
What Exelby is warning is what the majority of the industry and stakeholders – not only in Queensland but the rest of Australia are thinking – how many more clowns do you need to make a circus.
It’s time for the Government to step in and insist that something is done, rather than sidestep the problems in the hope the track will come good. But we are talking about one of the most useless Racing Ministers seen in Grace Grace – and like the BRC and RQ she is just another feature performer in the three-ring circus that is Racing in Queensland.
‘HOW DARE YOU FINE ME – I’M THE FIRST LADY OF AUSTRALIAN RACING’
“THAT’S a load of rubbish.”
This was the start of a 30-second tirade from Gai Waterhouse at Racing NSW headquarters on Thursday after stewards found her and co-trainer Adrian Bott guilty of “conduct prejudicial to the image and/or interests of racing” and fined them $5000.
BRAD DAVIDSON reports for the DAILY TELEGRAPH that it came as stewards established that three of the stable’s horses — English, Serena Bay and Debonairly — did not conduct trackwork on the Randwick course proper during the Breakfast With The Stars promotion on April 4.
Unbeknown to racing officials and the public, the trio were replaced with Fabrizio, Sort After and Stampede.
The three carried the same colours and saddlecloths as their stablemates.
Waterhouse and Bott pleaded not guilty but Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel felt their “conduct (was) sufficient to (warrant) a finding of guilt”.
Waterhouse hardly said a word for most of the inquiry but fired up as soon as Van Gestel handed down the verdict.
“That’s a load of rubbish,” Waterhouse shouted in the inquiry. “We are talking about the lowest, lowest end. There was no crime committed, there was no intent for crime. We made a mistake. You are treating us like we are breaking some terrible rule. We have not broken the rules of racing.”
Waterhouse and Bott’s lawyer, Marcus Pesman, conceded the stable should have informed the Australian Turf Club or stewards that they had planned to replace the horses.
But unlike the three horses they replaced, Fabrizio, Sort After and Stampede were not nominated for Group races at Randwick that weekend and therefore would not have been allowed to gallop on the course proper as per the stipulations.
Stewards were concerned about the image the situation portrayed and felt it could have been misleading to punters who witnessed the gallops and wanted to back English, Serena Bay or Debonairly in the future.
“We accept the circumstances of the morning where (English, Serena Bay and Debonairly) were not suitable (for trackwork due to minor issues),” Van Gestel said.
“What the stewards don’t accept is the partnership was able to unilaterally make a decision to replace those horses without … checking with the club.”
It is unclear whether the trainers will appeal against the verdict.
THE UNTOLD STORY A WORSE CONTROVERSY THAN EAGLE FARM TRACK
IF you think the Eagle Farm track is set to ride shotgun with controversy during the upcoming Brisbane carnival, spare a thought for the story that isn’t being told behind the scenes.
This one involves the redevelopment, which you might remember saw two workmen tragically killed and claims by subcontractors that some are claiming demands a Commission of Inquiry.
For some reason those who have suffered most cannot get their side of the story told in the mainstream racing media and they claim that the Brisbane Racing Club and Racing Queensland refuse to recognise their plight.
For legal reasons we cannot publish the full details of what we have been asked to write but at the least the matter demands the attention of Racing Minister Grace Grace or her Department and most certainly an investigation by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission or even the Police.
Sadly those who have suffered most have all but given up on that – forced to reach out to sections of the media like letsgohorseracing because their calls for help to the major dailies seem to be falling on deaf ears.
There are plenty in the industry calling for something to be done behind the scenes but they too are afraid to air their views publicly. As one said: ‘What’s the point going to the politicians or the Integrity Commission? There are too many high profile toes to be stood on.
‘You only need to look at a situation which occurred recently when stewards raided a successful stable in south-east Queensland and discovered oxygen tanks and refrigerators full of blood used in the training preparation of horses. They reported it to the Integrity Commission and nothing was done. Some say this is because the stable in question has links to some heavy political people.’
LETSGOHORSERACING has been contacted by one of the highly experienced, respected and well known sub-contractors involved in the redevelopment of Eagle Farm. He has made some stunning allegations which need to be investigated.
The sub-contractor, who has been at the coalface, claims the BRC must shoulder the majority of the blame for the problems currently occurring.
He also makes serious allegations against a former NSW detective involved in the Woods Royal Commission in the 1990s who wound up in a new life in Queensland involved in the racing industry on several levels and also a former CEO for a regional council in the south-east corner who allegedly is involved with one of the major contractors in the Eagle Farm project.
Among the myriad of allegations is the suggestions that sub-contractors are owed millions of dollars for work carried out.
EDITOR’S NOTE: LGHR hopes that 4Corners or one of the major Current Affairs programs investigates these claims. That is the job that should really be done by our mainstream media in Brisbane, the Racing Minister or the Integrity Commission but it seems transparency sounds good in the eyes of all until an issue like this requires their attention.
ENJOY AN AFTERNOON ON THE PUNT BUT LET'S REMEMBER ANZAC DAY FOR ALL THE RIGHT REASONS