BETTING AGENCY CRASHES ROYAL PARTY IN SYDNEY WITH PRINCE HARRY LOOK-ALIKE
ONLINE bookmaker sportsbet.com.au today crashed the Royal party at the Opera House by reuniting Prince William with his playboy brother Prince Harry.
On board the A.Q.A 92ft super yacht was Prince Harry (impersonated by famous Harry look-alike Roddy Walker) surrounded by a bevy of 20 Sportsbet Beauties enjoying the attention of the adoring crowd.
As the crowd went wild over the Harry dead ringer ginger, Prince Will and Kate couldn’t help but be entertained as they watched on while both vessels crossed paths on their way to Admiralty House.
“It gives me great please to return to Australia once again, albeit in a less formal manner. The local ladies have been very welcoming and I hope Will & Kate enjoy their time here as much as I have today!,” said Harry look-alike Roddy Walker.
“Sportsbet never misses out on an opportunity to have a bit fun and we’re just delighted the Royals also had a good chuckle at our Harry and his female friends,’’ continued sportsbet.com.au’s Will Byrne.
TOOWOOMBA DESERVES A STAND-ALONE CARNIVAL SATURDAY FOR THE WEETWOOD
IT would be easy to sit back and write a column bagging the proposal for a stand-alone Saturday to showcase one of the longest standing and most popular races in Queensland – the Toowoomba Weetwood.
Instead I would like to endorse the idea. If Gold Coast, Ipswich and Sunshine Coast are entitled to their days in the sun each winter carnival then why shouldn’t Toowoomba have one as well?
I would, however, add the proviso that Racing Queensland meets the needs of punters who do not want to make the long trip up the Range by scheduling a secondary fixture in Brisbane on the same day, perhaps for midweek stakes.
The decision by the Toowoomba Turf Club to move away from the traditional Thursday afternoon fixture for the Weetwood meeting has provoked a mixed reception from those who believe the public prefer the Show Holiday rather than a Saturday twilight fixture. Over the years that approach has proved super successful.
But the Saturday twilight (moreso night) experiment – which officials report attracted a crowd of 5,000 last weekend – was certainly a winner with the stay-at-home punter. It enabled SKY Channel to provide mounting yard coverage (with little other opposition) and the job done by presenter Bernadette Cooper with interviews and commentary was an excellent watch.
With the addition of the Toowoomba Cup – and perhaps another feature race on the card and some added prizemoney – the Weetwood meeting is worthy of stand-alone Saturday status during the carnival.
It would be interesting to see however just where it would fit with a May timeslot seeming the logical option where the feature races could be programmed as lead-ups to major winter events.
The granting of stand-alone once-a-year carnival meetings to provide something different for punters and a reward for successful major provincial clubs is increasing interstate and proving extremely popular.
Queensland is no different where Ipswich Cup day has been a huge success story and annually attracts a crowd to rival Stradbroke Day at Eagle Farm (20,000-plus).
Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast might not boast similar crowd figures but are extremely popular stand-alone carnival meetings not to mention the Magic Millions in January.
The other option that might not be as popular with club officials but could be used as a stepping stone is a Sunday. Racing Queensland might look at this for the Weetwood and even races like the Townsville Cup.
The argument from the clubs will no doubt be that race-goers are reluctant to attend, especially those who want to party, because they have to go to work the next day.
That doesn’t appear to be a problem in Victoria where the majority of the country Cups are run on a Sunday and attract huge crowds. But if it is in Queensland perhaps they should try and find a Sunday where there is a Monday public holiday – not that many of those exist any longer.
There you go – a positive column – and not even one mention of the start that many believe Toowoomba will get with this proposal because the chairman of the club and his RQ counterpart get on so well.
EDITOR’S NOTE: ALAS not everyone agrees with what was written above and here’s one critical email we received concerning the Weetwood meeting and the SKY coverage from a loyal supporter of Toowoomba racing:
TOOWOOMBA KEPT CROWD AT A MINIMUM BY DESIGN – ‘WHO’S KIDDING WHO’?
‘I have been attending the Weetwood meeting for more years than I care to remember but didn’t this year in protest at the Saturday night programming.
Friends of mine who did attend claim officials must have counted arms and legs to get their official figure of 5,100.
That aside the comments by new TTC CEO Blair Odgers were a bit difficult to fathom. He said the crowd was down on previous years BUT THAT WAS BY DESIGN.
Have you ever heard of a club deliberately trying not to attract as many patrons as possible?
Mr Odgers went on to tell the local media: “We were more focused on, rather than getting a manageable crowd and making sure it was a smoothly-run event.
“We really put a push on to avoid congestion at the gates (who’s he kidding?) which has worked really successfully and we had a steady and consistent flow for the first three or four hours of opening.
"There wasn't much more than a three or four minute wait for key services (food, drinks and facilities)."
The intentionally-targeted smaller crowd (can you imagine VRC officials restricting Melbourne Cup day to 40,000 fans?) allowed the club to iron out any issues and will next year look toward drawing back in the larger numbers.
“This was really about setting a solid platform for future successes," Mr Odgers said. “What systems and processes we had in place we can now step up and target the larger attendances (this is dreamland stuff).”
Have you ever heard a bigger load of garbage in your life? Does this bloke actually think they are going to have to put the ‘house full’ sign up in future? It comes as no surprise that he hails from Racing Queensland.
Back in the days when Neville Stewart ran the show they got twice as many as the crowd claimed here (more than 10,000 on a regular basis) and there were not problems controlling them at the gate or in the food and drink queues.
Now getting back to staying at home and watching the Weetwood card on Sky – that was a massive disappointment.
They should have called it ‘An evening with the Duff family hosted by Bernadette Cooper’. She had the old man, the son, the daughter-in-law and the grand-kids all making a contribution. And even the delightful Chairman of RQ got into the act tipping their horse and having his bit each-way as usual. It was finger down the throat stuff.
Isn’t this the same clan that was dyed in the wool Bentley Board fans when Dr Bob was there and Labor was in power?’
READ THE FULL WEDNESDAY WHINGE ON OUR 'WHAT'S NEW HERE' SECTION OF THE WEBSITE
ALAN ESKANDER PREDICTS GIANT OFF-SHORE BOOKMAKING AGENCIES WILL CONTROL OZ BETTING
THE owner of one of the last Australian-owned corporate bookmakers to be sold to a global giant predicts the local market will have at most only three or four big operators within five years.
JOHN STENSHOLDT reports in the AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW that Alan Eskander, chief executive of Eskander’s Betstar, says small-to-medium sized Australian online-only bookmakers are being overwhelmed by the large offshore operators that have broken into the Australian market in the past five years.
“It is extremely hard to compete with these big players,” Eskander says.
“It is very hard keeping up with the tens of millions they have for their marketing budgets and also the technology upgrades they are able to afford. So I predict in five years’ time there will be three or four major players in Australia at best.
That deal came after Ladbrokes entered Australia in September with the $22.5 million purchase of Brisbane-based Gaming Investments, which ran the Bookmaker.com.au website.
The online market is led by the ASX-listed Tabcorp, which owns the TAB and Luxbet brands.
In terms of overseas companies, Irish company Paddy Power now owns Sportsbet, while William Hill from Britain has bought the Sportingbet and Tom Waterhouse businesses during the past two years.
Another British operator, Bet365, has established an Australian business using its own brand.
Under the terms of his deal with Ladbrokes, Eskander will stay to help transition the Melbourne-based business to Ladbrokes ownership over the next 12 months, and the combined businesses of the old Gaming Investments and Betstar have annual wagering turnover of at least $700 million.
Eskander, who formed Betstar with his bookmaker father Michael in 2009, will also have a two-year non-compete restriction placed upon him and says he is unsure what he will do once that period ends in 2016.
“I’m passionate about the industry and really enjoyed running my own business, but I’m not sure what will come next”.
The latest financial results for Ladbrokes for 2013 revealed its Australian business had made revenue of £4 million ($7.1 million) and an operating loss of £2.9 million.
Eskander says the Betstar brand will remain intact for now and its customer base of about 100,000 people will be able to access the new Ladbrokes debit card, which allows punters to withdraw any winnings from cash machines immediately after a race or sporting fixture rather than wait for the money to be deposited in their betting account.
“The card is the most innovative thing I have seen in the Australian market for a long time,” Eskander says.
“It is part of what attracted me to Ladbrokes. They have a long track record and doing things like the card shows me they are serious about the Australian market. They are not just here to buy an existing company and then just sit there. They want to keep growing.”
However, the deal is a tougher one for Betstar staff in Melbourne, all of whom will be made redundant within six to eight weeks. Eskander says Ladbrokes may offer employment to some staff, although its Australian operations are run from Brisbane.
THE CHAMPIONSHIPS TO BE BROUGHT FORWARD AND FORCE CHANGES TO OTHER CARNIVALS
THE first day of The Championships hit its targets but racing authorities are already making sure the only way is up with a plan to bring it forward a week from next year as part of a revamp of the Sydney Carnival.
CHRIS ROOTS reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that the brand of The Championships has been established in just four months but Fairfax Media has learned of discussions for it to be scheduled in the first two weeks of April in 2015 and beyond.
"We have been approached by Racing NSW to the move The Championships to the first two weeks of April and we have reserved from rights about it until we can make a full and frank review of the whole carnival," Australian Turf Club chief executive Darren Pearce said.
"It would have ramifications for the races earlier in the carnival clashing with Melbourne and the Dubai World Cup meeting would fall on the same day as the Golden Slipper - but we can see some advantages as well. Nothing has been decided yet."
The meeting at Randwick has given Sydney racing a focal point once again with 24,959 punters braving the wet weather on Saturday and a similar crowd expected next Saturday for $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
Should the entire Sydney Carnival move forward a week, it will allow The Championships meetings to bookend the Easter Sales at Newmarket and make a racing event the envy of the world.
It will also set-up of a series of Turf races in Australia and Asia that is hoped to be attractive to international stables, including group 1 racing in Sydney, Brisbane, Hong Kong and Singapore.
It would be the best program of turf races in the world for the biggest prizemoney during April and May and allow horses to return to Europe for its summer of racing.
Racing officials will discuss how to promote the racing festival throughout the region at next month’s Asian Racing Carnival in Hong Kong.
The first day of the Championships attracted a bigger crowd to Randwick on Saturday than Black Caviar's final appearance did a year earlier. The TAB turnover was up 13 percent and on-course bookmakers holds were almost doubled, which is even more impressive given the awful weather and the very heavy track. which usually deters many punters.
“The crowd and support of Sydney for the day has given us great confidence that we would have got near 35,000 in good weather,” Pearce said.
“There's been a great buzz among people through all the marquees and public areas and they have supported us in great numbers. We are hoping for a better day of weather next week for day two in what is certain to be another sensational day’s racing and socialising in the first steps to building this great event.”
Racing NSW officials acknowledged the haste with which The Championships had to be put together meant the ideal dates could be used this year. They believe the change of dates will only strengthen the event.
There will be a review of the entire Sydney Carnival in the next couple of months, which will centre on making a more effective program for the autumn and pathways-to-The Championships races.
The international nature of the breeding industry means the dates for the Easter Sale are locked in because the international buying bench has to be at Craven Breeze Up Sale in England this week. Moving The Championships was the only option to fall in line with the sales.
The opening day of The Championships would fall on Easter Saturday next year and it is hoped that quarantine protocols will make it easier for international horses to come to Sydney.
Next year’s Championships will include a Wednesday meeting at Randwick featuring at least one group 1, likely to be the Sires’ Produce Stakes, and possibly another Championship race. It will be followed by a night session of the Easter Sale.
The Championships move will make it easier for horses to travel on to Hong Kong for its Queen Elizabeth Cup on the final weekend of April and the Champions Mile on the first Sunday in May.
Irish raider Gordon Lord Byron took that opportunity this year and was able to get assistance from Racing NSW and Hong Kong Jockey Club, which secured his place in Sydney.
It is hoped that International horses which run during the Melbourne spring would find the offering lucrative enough to spend the summer in Australia before targeting races in the autumn.
The Brisbane winter carnival could also be adjusted to allow group 1 sprinters the option of running in the TJ Smith Stakes, won empathically on Saturday by Lankan Rupee, and the BTC Cup. It could be moved to fit in with an international program for Royal Ascot and the Krisflyer Sprint in Singapore at the end of May.
There is also consideration being given to having an Australian program of 2000m group 1 races, which would help the Singapore International Cup at the end of May.
ARMCHAIR PUNTER: BUFFERING SET TO PROVIDE BRISBANE CARNIVAL WITH ITS DRAWARD
BRISBANE carnival organizers must have breathed a big sigh of relief when they watched Buffering return to his best with a gallant effort behind Lankan Rupee in the T J Smith Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.
Trainer Robbie Heathcote was the first to concede that Lankan Rupee was now the best sprinter on the planet after Buffering did a terrific job to fight on strongly and share the minor placings with Regal Dane.
Lankan Rupee, which trainer Mick Price declared pre-race, ‘had no hope’, will now be spelled. Buffering and Regal Dane will go head to head for Brisbane carnival sprint riches.
Post-race, after Lankan Rupee had been heavily backed and bolted in, Price described the Oakleigh Plate-Newmarket Handicap-T J Smith winner as the best horse he has trained.
“He was sensational. I don’t think I’ve ever had a world-class rated horse and he’s the best I’ve trained,’’ Price said.
The amazing training performance of Price with Lankan Rupee was somewhat oveshasdowed when Chris Waller prepared the First Four in the Doncaster Mile.
There were plenty of outstanding performances on the first day of The Championships but nothing to rival this one.
Zac Purton flew in from Hong Kong to partner Sacred Falls to his second successive win in the big race beating stablemates Royal Descent, Weary and Hawkspur.
All bar Weary will provide Waller with a major assault on the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes next Saturday. If Hawkspur ventures on to Brisbane he looks a great Doomben Cup candidate.
Waller, who has now won four of the last six Doncasters, stole The Championships spotlight on Day One from the T J Smith performance of Lankan Rupee to the outstanding ride of Hugh Bowman to win the Derby on Criterion; the emotional win by Tommy Berry on The Offer; the 1000th win of Blake Shinn when he scored on Arabian Gold and the win by Gerald Ryan and Nash Rawiller with Peggy Jean in the Sires.
Tommy Berry declared his win on The Offer in the Chairman’s Handicap to his late brother, Nathan, with the promising stayer now favorite for next Saturday’s Sydney Cup with trainer Gai Waterhouse declaring he will ‘bolt in’.
From a punters’ perspective there were highs and lows on Day One of The Championships which was destined to provide a minefield in the bog conditions.
The Offer, Peggy Jean, Criterion and Lankan Rupee were all solidly backed winners. There wasn’t really a result on the day that could be described as an absolute boilover.
Punters dipped in for their biggest win of the day at Caulfield when Bring Something landed a plunge in the Galilee Series Final.
HORSES TO FOLLOW:
SYDNEY: WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, HAWKSPUR, REBEL DANE.
MELBOURNE: RUGGED CROSS, I AM TITANIUM, KNEELING.
BRISBANE: POSTE RESTANTE, SHIRAZ ATTACK, NOISY OCEAN.
ONLY SOCIAL EVENT OF THE BRISBANE CARNIVAL YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS
QUEENSLAND thoroughbred racing fans will finally get the opportunity to mix and mingle with the 'who's who' of race trainers on Friday May 9 when one of Melbourne's iconic racing events comes to town.
The inaugural 2014 Late Mail Luncheon® has invited an incredible line-up of thoroughbred trainers, celebrities and guests for a 4-hour lunch in the Ballroom of Sofitel Brisbane Central to celebrate this years' racing carnival in Queensland.
A maximum of just 400 guests will get up close and personal with champion Group 1 trainers like Rob Heathcote, Tony Gollan or any one of a growing list of trainers joining what is shaping up as the party of the year.
A handful of racing's most popular former winners will also be joining in the celebrations including the legendary Joe Janiak (master trainer of international sprint legend Takeover Target) and Con Karakatsanis (trainer of dual Stradbroke winner Black Piranha).
Greg Eurell (trainer of the baldy faced cult hero and carnival champion Apache Cat) originally planned to attend but with live chances in Adelaide at the same time, is a last minute withdrawal. His seat has already been taken by Sydney's Gerald Ryan who is looking to bring Group 1 winning mare Snitzerland to Brisbane for the 2014 BTC Cup.
Entertainment on the day doesn't get much better than a live performance from Aussie rock star Shannon Noll performing a number of his hits live plus one of Australia's funniest men in stand up comedy Paul Martell.
The Host of the Trainers Panel will be announced shortly but is likely to be one of Brisbane's highest profile racing experts.
For the first time in a decade, Event Director Mark Scaife (not the V8 supercar driver but wishes he was) will take on MC duties and be joined on stage by Co-Host Prue Eales, part-owner of 2009 Melbourne Cup winner 'Shocking.'
Event Director and marketing man Mark Scaife will again play host to around 400 special guests at the 5-star Sofitel Brisbane Central the day before the 2014 BTC Cup. This will be the 10th year Scaife has hosted the event somewhere in Australia and he's keen as mustard to bring the show to Brisbane.
Scaife, who survived a heart attack 3 years ago at age 43 and is more motivated than ever to promote trainers and help attract new participants to thoroughbred racing through his luncheon events, believes racing must promote itself through an entertainment-based marketing strategy.
"The Late Mail Luncheon® and many other events like ours have become successful on the fringe of the industry because we promote thoroughbred racing through entertainment, not just wagering."
Scaife says "We identified last year that the projected flow-on benefits from 'The Championships' in Sydney during the autumn would make this the right time to invest in Queensland and launch our independent racing lunch. It's a small thing but a positive sign that interstate businesses like us are now considering putting their own money into Queensland going forward."
"We should state for the record that our luncheon events celebrate racing carnivals around Australia but we are not an official event or endorsed by anyone other than our sponsor partners and friends" said Scaife.
And it's hard to argue his strategy when you consider the impressive line up already assembled for the event.
Dan Bougoure, Bryan Guy, Matthew Dunn, Liam Birchley, John Thompson, Daniel Meagher, Barry Baldwin, Kelso Wood and Chris Anderson will be amongst the guests on the day.
This extraordinary gathering of trainers will provide guests with analysis, insight and some hot tips for the major races of the carnival which makes this luncheon a must-attend for anyone thinking of having a punt.
But these trainers dubbed the 'rock stars of racing' won't steal the show this year.
Aussie rock heart throb Shannon Noll who has stamped himself as one of Australia's real vocal talents in a career that has already amassed an impressive number of albums and awards, will rock the Ballroom with a live performance of his biggest hits.
Recently moving across to good friend Guy Sebastian's management 6 Degrees, Noll has relocated back to Sydney to concentrate on his new album and fulfilling an ever growing number of live performances across the country.
By sheer popular demand, the event has also secured the side-splitting wit of stand-up comedian Paul Martell. Now a Late Mail Luncheon® regular, Martell has carved out one of the most successful stand up careers in Australia and is rarely out of work.
"But there is a serious side to the business of racing industry luncheon events" says Scaife.
"The real rock stars of the racing industry are the trainers who get up at 3am every day, go to sleep at 8pm every night, work seven days a week and take all the business risks to try and earn a living. We try and provide an event that attracts successful individuals who enjoy good food, good wine and great company which by default ends up helping trainers attract new owners" said Scaife.
"There have been a number of high profile trainers recently who have spoken out about the pressure associated with being a trainer and serious problems like as depression and alcohol abuse. There is no doubt the problem is getting worse. We've known this for a decade. That's why we call our trainers the 'rock stars of racing' and deliver a VIP event we think they deserve. And if nothing else, it gives trainers a chance to invite their beautiful long-suffering wives and partners to a nice lunch" said Scaife.
The lunch is upstaged by its own now infamous Official After Party which will be held in the Cuvee Lounge downstairs at Sofitel Brisbane Central from 3.30pm onwards. Brown-Forman are providing their lead cocktail barman Grant Shearon to mix up some serious cocktails for guests who are invited for the wind-down.
Further announcements of some very special guests attending will be made in the coming days.
For more information, contact Mark Scaife on 0409 473 541
THE aim of LETSGOHORSERACING when first established was a non-profit website designed to be different to the hundreds of other racing websites operating throughout the world. Nothing has changed on that front except that our emphasis has been on feedback. We listened to what you wanted and learned that racing stakeholders, punters and followers were keen to HAVE THEIR SAY. This was reflected in the response to the WEDNESDAY WHINGE which has seen the popularity of this web site (through hits) soar to incredible heights. It has also drawn detractors from within the industry - especially in Queensland - from officials who aren't used to having the job they do put under the microscope which has rarely happened for many years in the mainstream racing media. Websites like ours and justracing have got up the nose of officials at RQ and will continue to do so. Despite legal intimidation which we are told is aimed at closing us down or intimidating us into refusing to follow up controversial issues letsgohorseracing and the Wednesday Whinge are here to stay. But that means increasing costs to fight these legal threats, improve the quality of our website and to overcome that we are now accepting advertising and have decided to pursue a LETSHORSEHORSERACING LATE MAIL SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE. It's unique, it's different, it's affordable. YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE NOW.
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'SILKS AND SADDLES' with TERRY BUTTS
SILKS & SADDLES is a popular weekly column written by respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS that we run courtesy of one of Australia’s leading rural newspapers, the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER. Butts is an old-style racing journalist who shoots from the hip and takes no prisoners. He resents the 'suck-up and survive' mentality of some of the new breed of racing journalists in the print and broadcast media.
GO RACING in AUSTRALIA or OVERSEAS
WE will provide on a regular basis an upgraded list of the centres and holidays we believe are the best for racing folk to holiday whether they are just down the road, interstate or overseas. At times we will also provide some good racing holiday packages and tips.