Were these prize-money cuts inevitable?
No one wants to take a pay cut and naturally racing participants – owners and trainers, in particular – are up in arms about Racing Victoria’s plan to reduce prize-money “across a broad cross-section of races” in the new season.
Thoroughbred Racehorse Owners Association chair Jonathan Munz led the charge on Tuesday night, delivering a strong rebuke of the governing body’s proposal, which was conveniently first leaked to RV’s media arm Racing.com on Monday morning.
“Before RV considers reducing prize-money, it needs to reduce overheads and inefficiencies at RV – I understand they are also looking at that, and that is a good thing,” Munz said in a TROA-issued statement.
“And after they have addressed that, they need to look at existing misallocations in prize–money to reduce or avoid the need to reduce mainstream prize-money levels for Saturday, midweek and country races.”
That said, the RV board directors and management would be derelict in their duty if they did not rein in expenses if there is the shortfall in revenue, as they have forecast due to declining wagering. It is just how and where they make those savings.
The bigger question is, everyone knew that the pandemic-induced turnover spike was unsustainable and that the Victorian joint venture expires in 2024, so was it irresponsible to put up prize-money levels to what are unsustainable levels in the first place?
As RV’s executive general manager of racing Matt Welsh admitted this week, the so-called prize-money arms race with New South Wales was well and truly over, at least from the southerners’ point of view.
Predictably, as has been the case numerous times over the past year or two, Racing NSW’s Peter V’landys and his complicit board took the opportunity to revel in RV’s tale of woe by boosting The Big Dance (1600m) from $2 million to $3 million in prize-money and the Country Championships and Provincial-Midway Championship Final to $1 million each.
Money well spent? I don’t think so.
Another jurisdiction struggling to maintain, let alone increase returns to its participants is New Zealand, and industry figures are staking their future on a deal with international wagering giant Entain, which operates Australian online bookmaking brands Ladbrokes and Neds.
Entain was in March anointed as TAB NZ’s preferred wagering partner, but for the deal to proceed the New Zealand government’s racing minister must sign off on the 25-year agreement, which Kieran McAnulty is yet to do, although it is said to be a foregone conclusion that the former TAB NZ bookmaker-turned-politician will agree to the long-term partnership.
“We are a bit restricted in what we can say until that ministerial approval comes through, but we are obviously excited about the opportunity,” Entain’s executive director of stakeholder engagement Karl deKroo told us this week.
“New Zealand has got a really rich racing heritage and it’s probably fallen a bit behind Australia in terms of prize-money funding and those sorts of things, but the deal is set to be done that is really going to inject a lot more back into the racing industry and that can only be a good thing.
“We have seen the Kiwi horses come over and perform really, really well in Australian features and we need to do everything we can to ensure the home product continues to grow.”
As part of the deal, Entain has agreed to make payments of up to NZ$260 million, with NZ$160 million to be payable this year, with the balance subject to passing of certain legislative amendments.
If the minister gives the tick of approval, Entain has agreed to an ongoing profit share model with the New Zealand industry, which will result in funding to TAB NZ of more than $1 billion in the first five years of the agreement.
There was a roar which awoke a sleepy Magic Millions auditorium mid-afternoon on Wednesday when Ducimus filly Paris Calling got up at Belmont at massive odds.
The chorus of cheers came from Magic Millions auctioneer and Premium Bloodstock Services principal Grant Burns and David Houston, the manager of the auction house’s Perth operation.
As it turns out, the duo co-owns the Trevor Andrews-trained juvenile, a $5,000 purchase from last year’s Perth sale, who was having her first start at the midweek meeting.
She scored at upwards of 40-1 on the totes and it appears the agent or two and a battling journo who were minding their own business at the nearby tables as the race was being run were completely left out of the impending coup.
Connections picked up $37,000 in prize-money as a result of her maiden victory, of which $19,000 was courtesy of the Westspeed bonus, another testament to the WA breeding incentive scheme.
Punting dividends were not declared.
In racing “inside information” is craved by many, but for the most part the so-called ‘good oil’ can quickly send you to the poorhouse.
Twelve months ago, we reported how a team of Godolphin/Darley staff bid strongly at the Calcutta to buy their Scone Cup representative, Criaderas, only for trainer James Cummings to scratch him the next morning, leaving the employees licking their wounds.
This year, Inglis’ Chris Russell is said to have also made a big play with some of his colleagues to buy the Team Hawkes-trained Wild Planet in the 2023 Scone Cup Calcutta in the hope of scooping a major piece of the prize-money up for grabs.
Alas, the gelding was withdrawn on race morning, leaving the group without a run for their money and their pot of cash left in the pool.
Wild Planet had drawn barrier one for the Scone Cup, so perhaps the Hawkes were aware the inside lanes of the Scone track would be a complete no-go zone for the Friday meeting.
The track was rolled on Friday night, reversing the bias for Saturday’s standalone meeting, with the rail proving red-hot. The quaddies on both days paid more than $20,000.