Jenny - Clean

IT’S OFF TO THE RETIREMENT VILLAGE TO FIND BEST OZ PUNTERS

THE sad state of affairs facing the racing industry in Australia was exposed at a recent conference when it was revealed that the average age of punters has risen in the past decade from 50 to 63.

Max Presnell, in an interesting article for the Sydney Morning Herald, reported that the majority punters – the major contributors to the industry’s cash flow – were getting older rather than younger.

Even allowing for the lost generations of race-goers who no longer can be attracted to tracks around the country for the main meetings of the week every Saturday, there is still the opportunity for them to bet at the club, pub or even from the comfort of their homes.

For some reason the demographic from late teenagers to those in their forties aren’t interested in betting on the ponies. Perhaps they have been lured to sports betting where they can chose – head to head – between two teams.

Presnell was encouraged to write his article by another success of racing’s latest superstar, Winx, and here is what he had, in part, to report:

OLD-TIMERS, human and horse, and Winx, are the current biggest revenue-generators driving racing. The average age of punters – the major contributors to the industry’s cash flow – in 2010 was 50, but now is 63, according to a recent Gaming, Wagering and Racing conference.

Despite the once-in-a-lifetime experience Winx produced at Royal Randwick (on September 15), only 14,519 were present to savor her 27th consecutive win. So much for the younger generation, which was well catered for by the Australian Turf Club with high-volume disco music between the races – an affront to the ear of the over-70s in the wit’s row that views Randwick events from the third floor.

The even older demographic – average age pushing 80 – at the table of knowledge on ground level in the members’ stand near the betting ring had to turn their hearing aids down a few cogs.

Once, horses getting long in the tooth were viewed with scepticism: those older than six years were listed in the race book as ‘a’ for aged, a description of which to be wary.

Walking through the betting ring, a horse player the upside of 90 asked: “What are you going to write about Winx now?”

“I did but see her walking by but yet will love her till I die.”
Not Fenton, but Thomas Ford.

 

RACE CLUBS LOSING THE BATTLE FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT $

THE battle for the entertainment dollars is huge these days. How can race clubs compete?

Just compare the track and the licensed club. There are dress regulations at the track, you have to pay to go through the gate and the right to lose your money, if you want to have a drink then there is either the designated driver required or you have to pay taxi fares and wait on ranks filled with drunks after the last; then if you want to enjoy a beer and something to eat you are asked to pay ridiculous prices.

At your club there are no such dress regulations, a courtesy bus (on most occasions) is provided to and from your home, drink and food is discounted and you don’t pay to go through the door for the privilege of losing your money.

It’s a no-win situation for the race clubs who have to rely on big days to break even. And on some of those, which are devoted to the young members and trying to get the lost generations back to the track, the ‘oldies’ (for the want of a better word) on most occasions dodge the days like the plague.

Special days devoted to younger players are gold mines for the club’s food and beverage income but how much do they bet?

Friends recently attended a midweek city race meeting and told of paying a ridiculous amount to go through the gate and similarly atrocious prices for food and drink. To make matters worse they said you could have fired a canon through the public areas and the betting rings without risk of hitting anyone.

Tough times ahead for racing but dwindling racetrack attendances aside the situation where the average age of those who bet the most is getting older needs to be addressed before it is too late.

 

SPRING CARNIVAL ANNUAL SAVIOR FOR VICTORIAN RACING

FORTUNATELY, for racing in Victoria, the Spring Carnival is the savior.

The same cannot be said for Sydney where instead of worrying about betting their own house in order, officialdom seems hell-bent on trying to destroy the success story that Melbourne has.

Racing Victoria CEO, Giles Thompson, last week lashed out at his NSW counterpart, Peter V’landys, accusing him of threatening to move some of the Harbour City’s key races to November out of pure jealousy over the success of the spring carnival.

And full marks to Thompson for having the guts to speak out against the man who sees himself as the nation’s racing builder. V’landys has done plenty of good for racing in NSW but should stop sticking his nose in matters south of the border.

MICHAEL LYNCH reported in The Age that last week V’landys spoke with Victorian Racing Radio Station, RSN, floating the idea that NSW racing could perhaps get better traction and more bang for its buck if some of its major events took place in November when there is more clear air.

In the autumn, when Sydney’s big racing showpiece The Championships are staged, racing has to fight for space against the NRL, the AFL and the impending A-League finals. November is when the Melbourne Cup is run in Victoria and the last two weeks of the hugely successful Victorian spring carnival is staged. The sporting air is generally clearer at that point with the AFL and NRL seasons having finished and Test cricket yet to get underway: racing has the chance to own the sports media cycle.

That is something Victorian racing, with its Cup carnival, has done for decades and Thompson and his organisation are not about to sit back and allow V’landys and his crew to crash their party.

NSW had been down on its knees a decade ago and was a genuine sleeping giant, Thompson said, giving credit to V’landys and his team for reviving the sport through initiatives such as The Everest, the $13 million invitation-only sprint race, which has generated year-round hype.

‘‘No doubt the management and board have done a great job in bringing them back to where they should be, but that doesn’t mean [in comparison] that Victoria is doing a bad job,’’ Thompson told a media lunch in Melbourne on Thursday.

‘‘Peter and I have very different styles. He [through his threats of a fixture rejig] is trying to get outcomes out of his government in NSW to boost NSW racing.

‘‘There’s a certain amount of envy that comes from looking at the Victorian spring racing. We have one of the great carnivals around the world ... and that is going to create envy.’’ Thompson said, with some irony, that if the NSW initiatives had not worked in the autumn then it was perhaps understandable that they might want to try the spring.

Thompson was also the target this week of criticism from leading owner Nick Williams.

Williams told Racing.com that the controlling body should restrict itself to programming and integrity and let Melbourne’s three metropolitan race clubs get on with spending the funds that come into the sport through RV.

“I would almost be calling for a dismantling of RV except for doing programming and integrity and the like – they should be passing the money through to the clubs; I think the clubs do a better job,” Williams said. “We have got an absolute lack of leadership in the governing body in this state.’’

Thompson was sanguine about the Williams spray, suggesting he agreed that the state was lucky to have three strong clubs to put on racing in Melbourne.

But, he said, ‘‘I don’t agree with his assessment of RV’s role. I think his view is that RV does nothing more than get in the way, but what we do is provide the glue that brings together the whole industry.’’

V’LANDYS and WILLIAMS can pontificate politically all they like about the rights and wrongs of racing in Sydney and Melbourne. But at the end of the day when tens of millions of dollars are wasted on The Everest and other ‘gimmick’ events in NSW, the crowds will still pale into insignificance compared to those attracted – on an annual basis – for the big week of racing at Flemington during the Melbourne Cup carnival.

 

THE UNFORTUNATE SIDE-EFFECT OF SUCCESS FOR BIG STABLES

SUCCESS attracts an unwanted side-effect for the big stables in this country and it doesn’t matter if these are based in the big smoke or the bush.

The victims include Darren Weir in Melbourne, Chris Waller in Sydney and even Ben Currie in Toowoomba and John Manzelmann in Mackay.

Some might say Peter Moody was the first victim who quit his super successful training career in the wake of the damage done to him by the cobalt saga. In his new life, in other fields of racing, Moody has proved an overnight success. A trainer from Victoria who accompanied him to the recent Birdsville Cup meeting quipped: "It's like being with Mick Jagger. Everyone wants a selfie or an autograph. The bloke's a superstar.'

Regardless of the number of horses a trainer has in work, when he or she enjoys a successful run the rumor mill goes into overdrive that they are ‘using something special’.

Adding insult to injury it is inevitable and an occupational hazard (given the huge number they have in work) for the major stables to encounter a problem or two with swabbing irregularities which then sees gossip move into overdrive.

Such is the healthy state of racing in Victoria that the industry could survive without Darren Weir (not that it would want to). But one wonders if that would be the case for Sydney where without the numbers that his stable provides every Saturday some races would have to be scrapped (especially the staying events, eg last weekend when he had nine acceptors in one race). Part of the blame for the situation there rests at the feet of officialdom who forced the smaller stables out of Sydney. They once made up the numbers.

Ben Currie is hardly a blimp on the Brisbane racing map these days but take his starters out of the weekly Toowoomba meeting and it would struggle to survive. Clifford Park is below average Sunday standard at present with Queensland punters favoring the more competitive Sunshine Coast fixtures where the racing is more competitive and not so many second string runners are upsetting stable favorites in small fields.

To be fair Toowoomba is filling a temporary void on a Sunday. The Sunshine Coast has been forced to step up to the plate on occasions as the major Saturday venue with Eagle Farm still sidelined and Doomben showing the effects of too much racing. In a perfect racing world – where the industry wasn’t the laughing stock of the nation with its track redevelopment debacle – Sunshine Coast would be predominantly a Sunday and Friday night venue whilst Toowoomba would fit the twilight Saturday timeslot that it so successfully pioneered.

Looking north, we have champion bush trainer John Manzelmann, based in Mackay, but without whose numbers some of the iconic (some might call them picnic meetings) of the bush would not survive. Because he has so many numbers, he wins the majority of races and that draws the crabs, especially for a trainer – like Currie – who has had his moment in the sun with QRIC.

The Wednesday Whinge has over recent months received many emails from contributors – from industry participants to the punting public – wanting to have their say on the above issues. Sick of being accused of unfairly criticizing one particular stable we have refused to run most of these – not to mention the ‘sick’ threats that are made to us when we do from his ‘supposed’ legion of fans.

But here are a couple received in the last week concerning the two Queensland trainers in the crossfire of this unfortunate situation that we have decided to publish:

 

STRIKE RATE DEBATE CONTINUES FOR BEN CURRIE STABLE

THIS one was contributed by a prominent owner who races horses on the DOWNS:

‘SUPPORTERS of leading Toowoomba trainer Ben Currie highlight the fact that his strike rate is one of the best in the country.

Statistics don’t lie but it should be noted that from his 50 runners for the month of September (to Sunday) 12 winners were at his home track of Clifford Park, two at Ipswich and one at Sunshine Coast. No mention of Brisbane.

Currie has a fantastic strike rate at Toowoomba were the majority of his stable start. But even his legion of supporters has to agree that the results there have pumped up his strike rate.

Some have likened his results to that being achieved by Darren Weir in Melbourne and Chris Waller in Sydney. Whilst Currie has nothing like their numbers to work with, if he was being compared for city success to that duo his strike rate would look pretty ordinary (at least over the past month but there’s always room for improvement).

Currie’s meteoric rise as a young trainer has divided the racing industry, especially on the Downs. Some say he is a victim of tall poppy syndrome and that he and his dad have been singled out for harassment and unfair treatment by stewards. Others want the pair of them kicked out of the industry. There’s no in between.’

 

WOULD THERE BE EWAN ANNUAL WITHOUT TEAM MANZELMANN?

THEN there was this one from a racing follower in NORTH QUEENSLAND concerning JOHN MANZELMANN, whose reputation, character and ability as a trainer was recently given a resounding thumbs up by popular and successful owner-breeder Stan Johnston in this column. The latest Whinge reads: 

‘THE north’s iconic two-day country race meeting is on this weekend at Ewan.

Hardly a dot on the map – but the venue on the old beef road between Charters Towers and Greenvale – will be packed to the rafters by party-goers and punters from all over the State from Thursday.

Nowadays Ewan is run as a professional meeting due to the rapidly changing pattern of racing Australia-wide in recent years. There is simply a severe shortage of amateur riders.

Ringers today ride motor bikes for mustering – not horses – and the near century- old Ewan Amateur Club was forced a few years ago to go pro – albeit with great reluctance.

And, in many ways, it is not the same race meeting of old.

Mackay trainer, John Manzelmann, recently found guilty on charges that include a positive caffeine swab, has 17 runners over the two days and many argue the merits of such a dominant role by one trainer.

Frankly, Manzelmann seems to have a virtual mortgage on what is generally and had been universally regarded as a family fun day, where kids are VIP.

Swab offenders, including first timers, are often disqualified for nine months or more by Queensland stewards. Manzelmann’s $2,500 fine is the subject of continued and sustained debate.

And a shortage of jockeys has not perturbed Manzelmann either. He has prominent Gold Coast-based professional Chris Whiteley riding for him over both days.

With 10 races (at a minimum of $200 per ride and the pick of the Manzelmann horses), plus a $1,000 bonus for leading jockey of the meeting, Whiteley will bag a potential $3,000 or more with percentages.

Not a bad day’s work for a jock at an old bush  meeting once renowned as one of the very best and sadly one of the last REAL amateur clubs in the country – where they once raced for ribbons and a bet on the side and where everyone was just glad to party.

Mac Core, long time president and patron, might even shed a tear in his beloved whiskey glass.

No, really it’s just not the same anymore.

And it’s not just the absence of the much revered Mac – a man of great substance, a story-teller extreme – and a gentleman who will be remembered as long as horses gallop down the dusty straight of Ewan... as they will on Friday.’

 

THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY SIDE OF RACING FROM THE PAST WEEK

THE GOOD

THE AUTUMN SUN NEW STAR OF THE WALLER STABLE

THE amazing last-to-first win by The Autumn Sun in the $1 million Group 1 Golden Rose at Rosehill was the highlight of last Saturday’s racing.

The Autumn Sun, which won the Group 1 J J Atkins at Doomben in June, had lost his unbeaten record and Golden Rose favoritism when an unlucky third in the Stan Fox Stakes.

Trainer Chris Waller, who quinellaed the race, said: “I thought Zousain was home but I think he might have been beaten by a pretty special one.

"When the draw came out he was 11 of 11 so it wasn't going to be easy but I'd rather him there because I know how good he is and for him to finish off over the top of a good field it was pretty special.
"He is a Derby horse and the owners are hell-bent on winning a Derby so that obviously comes first and foremost.

"His value however has fortunately skyrocketed again today. He'll have a price tag now and maybe he can tick the box of winning a Derby as well."

APPLEBY BACK IN BLAZE OF GLORY WITH JUNGLE CAT

THE international invaders, spearhead by popular UK-based Godolphin trainer Charlie Appleby, signaled their return for the spring when Jungle Cat won the Group 1 Sire Rupert Clarke Stakes at Caulfield.

Appleby said he aimed Jungle Cat for the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes after he won the Group 1 Al Quoz Sprint in Dubai in March, which was his last start.

He said Jungle Cat was “a seven furlongs horse” and there weren’t many options over that distance in Europe so he decided to target this race. There were 1400m races in France but they were run on “easy tracks” and Jungle Cat loved firm tracks.

Appleby said he would let the dust settle on what Jungle Cat’s next start would be but he doubted it would be in The Everest.

He said Jungle Cat won in the style of a horse which would be suited by 1600m and he would look at him having his next start in the Toorak Handicap (1600) at Caulfield on October 13.

 

THE BAD

WAS IT FAIR TO SECURE A START WITHOUT A PUBLIC TRIAL?

THERE was nothing ‘bad’ about the win of Courseshewill in the first Queensland two-year-old feature of the season in Queensland.

But some punters and those who have followed racing in the north for more years than they can to remember were critical of stewards allowing Courseshewill to start without competing in official trials.

The Liam Birchley-trained youngster was the only two-year-old to start in the Pat O’Shea Memorial Plate on Sunday ‘sight unseen’. He finished powerfully to beat smart triallist Arnwood and Badoosh.

“There was a time when unless a two-year-old trialled publicly it could not start in this race. It’s unfair on the punters and the rivals,” one veteran racegoer said. “This isn’t unique to racing these days, especially on the Downs, where there are more jump-outs than trials. So much for this whole transparency BS we keep hearing from QRIC”.

To be fair to Birchley, who had won the race twice previously with Paprika and Sin City, he had publicly declared that official trials were unavailable for the horse and definitely put no knock on its ability.

“She is a lovely filly and is paid up for the Magic Millions,” Birchley told AAP. “She is an all-female bonus horse. I have learned not to get ahead of myself but the Millions is naturally our aim.”

The race marked the last race call of Paul Dolan who has been a fixture in gallops and greyhound circles in Queensland for 45 years. It was a fitting farewell for one of the nice guys of the industry who will continue to call at select bush meetings in the State.

 

WALLER FANCIES IN SYDNEY STEWARDS’ REPORT AS USUAL

WITH so many starters there is rarely a race meeting in Sydney on a Saturday where a Chris Waller-trained fancy doesn’t figure in the Stewards’ Report.

The most notable from last weekend were Youngstar, which ran an unlucky third to stablemate Noire, in the Shannon Stakes.

The report read: Near the 200m, when endeavouring to improve into a tight run between Kingsguard and all Too Huiying, Youngstar made contact with all Too Huiying, which shifted out, and as a result became unbalanced. In this incident, Youngstar was accidentally struck by the whip of C Reith, rider of All Too Huiying. Youngstar then raced in restricted room for some distance near the 100m to the inside of Kingsguard and was not able to be fully tested until near the 50m.

What the stewards didn’t say is that by the time Youngstar overcame all these difficulties her well backed stablemate Noire had come with an unimpeded run down the outside where she should have been to take the prize.

Then there was the Waller-trained last start winner Invincibella which ran an unlucky fourth in the Golden Pendant in what can arguably be described as not one of Hugh Bowman’s better rides.

The Stewards’ Report read:

Invincibella - from its wide barrier was shifted in behind runners in the early stages. When questioned regarding his riding from the 600m and the reason he did not shift to the outside of Eckstein soon after straightening, H Bowman stated that after following Eckstein that runner shifted off to improve near the 500m. He said when he formed the view that Eckstein was not travelling well and he observed both Prompt Response and Daysee Doom, two fancied runners, he elected to improve to the inside of Eckstein with a view to saving ground and improving between runners. He added, after making good ground on the turn and in the early part of the straight, both Prompt Response

and Daysee Doom did not quicken as he had anticipated and this resulted in Invincibella being badly held up on the heels of Prompt Response for some distance. H Bowman further stated that he then elected to endeavour to secure clear running to the inside of Prompt Response, but was disappointed between Prompt Response and Princess Posh and did not secure clear running until inside the 100m, whereby Invincibella commenced to improve. He said over the final 50m he again could not test his mount when held up on the heels of Champagne Cuddles. Whilst the Stewards advised H Bowman that in their opinion his best option was to follow Eckstein and shift to that runner's outside on straightening, they found his decision to seek runs through field was not unreasonable in the circumstances, given he was electing to follow two fancied runners into the race and that Eckstein at that point was under pressure.

WHETHER punters who backed Invincibella would have been as understanding of Bowman’s predicament is debatable but needless to say it was another ‘good thing’ beaten from the Waller barn.

 

THE UGLY

WHEN IS A GOOD 3 TRACK NOT FIRM ENOUGH?

IT had to be the most unusual explanation of the day at Caulfield when jockey Brendon Davis was asked to explain the flop of plunged Darwin sprint star Captain Punch.

The Stewards’ Report read, in part: Knuckled on jumping away. Raced three wide without cover. Rider Brendon Davis reported that his mount would be better suited on a firmer track.

Granted, Captain Punch is accustomed to racing on what some might describe as a ‘bitumen surface’ in Darwin but how much firmer track does it need – when it raced on Saturday, Caulfield had been upgrade to a GOOD 3.

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