Week in Rowe-view

‘If you wanted racing to boom, you’d put the best CEOs that they could afford’

If we needed a reminder about how important it is to keep the government onside when it comes to horse racing and gambling, the closure of the sport in Macau and the impending demise of Singapore certainly provides it.

Decorated Kiwi trainer Stephen Gray and his wife Bridget, who experienced a “life-changing” 24 years running a stable in Asia, finally conceded they were not prepared to see out racing in Singapore until the sport’s October 5 deathknell.

They will depart Singapore at the end of the month and return home to New Zealand, training from a private farm at Palmerston North. They’d earlier considered moving to Australia almost two years ago, having applied for boxes at Eagle Farm in Brisbane, narrowly missing out to young Group 1-winning trainer Annabel Neasham who was instead granted those boxes in August 2022.

It’s a common theme, as you’ll read further down in relation to Macau, but Gray laments the lack of foresight from Singapore Turf Club management and the country’s government to allow local horseracing to soon become extinct.

He highlights the importance of clubs and racing authorities employing competent administrators to oversee the sport.

“I guess it comes down to the fact the last two [STC] CEOs weren’t horse people,” Gray told us.

“If you wanted racing to boom in Singapore, you’d put the best CEOs that they could afford in charge, which is what they do with other companies based here. 

“If we’d had [the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s] Winfried Englebrecht-Breges or your man in Sydney [Peter V’landys], those sort of people running it here, it would boom.

“You’d have the casinos hooked up to be able to bet [on racing] as well.”

For all the criticism levelled at Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys and the way he conducts business, much of it which is arguably fair, during his 20-year tenure in charge of the state’s peak thoroughbred body he’s managed to keep the government in his corner. 

There have been five NSW state elections during that period, with Labor in power until 2011, the Liberal Coalition from that year until the 2023 vote before the Minns Labor government was elected to government.


Macau, of course, held its final meeting at Taipa on Saturday – in front of crowds not seen in the gambling city for at least a decade.

Former Macau racing participants, including Australian jockey John Didham, pictured left with leading trainer Joe Lau, returned to take in the final meeting.

Harry Troy, a former jockey-turned-broadcaster, also volunteered to get back behind the microphone for the first time in 12 months to call the meeting in English.

Despite “lots of doom and gloom here”, Troy described the 14-race card as a huge day.

“The place was packed, even the public grandstand, and there were people down on the running rail, sights we hadn’t seen for a decade and lots of people … who I hadn’t seen for more than ten years,” Troy told us.

“It was very emotional, but it was a great way to finish it all.”

Troy had a rehearsal of sorts a week earlier to ensure he hadn’t lost the art of race calling.

“I promised all my friends that I’d do the English coverage. The club cut the English coverage 12 months ago, but I went back and had a practice the week before and I wanted to be there on the last day, given that I’ve been in Macau for 27 years,” he said.

Troy also expanded on the comments made last week by expatriate Australian trainer Geoff Allendorf in ANZ Bloodstock News about the unfortunate demise of racing in Macau and the faint hope that it could be revived by another entity.

“I think it’s gone, but if there was interest in it, the clever thing to do would be to let the government throw her [Macau Jockey Club chair Angela Leong] out completely, cancel her gambling concession, which they have done, get rid of her and then go and make an approach to the government if there were interested parties,” he said.

“That’s the prayer that we’re hoping for at the moment that maybe in six to 12 months down the track, [an organisation] might come and make an approach to the government. 

“The big talk with all the locals is why doesn’t the government run it as a charity, the same as the HKJC, because it would be very, very viable.”


Good horses are often easy to train – and even easier to place.

But it’s what trainers, owners and agents do with those horses of less ability that can make all the difference to a pedigree page or maximise a horse’s value. 

And that’s what agent Sheamus Mills has achieved with Monolink (I Am Invincible), a $900,000 daughter of stakes winner Harlem River (Fastnet Rock) who the agent had much higher hopes for than a Victorian picnic maiden she has now won.

Also a half-sister to the stakes-placed Lady Harlem (Sebring), Monolink won a $5,000 maiden over 1200 metres at the Swifts Creek picnic meeting in eastern Victoria by 5.5 lengths on Sunday. She started at the generous odds of $1.50!

Monolink, who had stints with trainers Tony Gollan and then Mick Price and Mick Kent Jnr before joining David Noonan for her picnic escapades, is no knock on Mills who has proven his own ability to buy and manage quality horses over a long period of time. 

His colours won two valuable stakes races at Moonee Valley the previous Saturday. Gumdrops (Written Tycoon) convincingly took out the Typhoon Tracy (Gr 3, 1200m) and the Australasian Oaks (Gr 1, 2000m)bound Vibrant Sun (The Autumn Sun) was the winner of the Alexandra Stakes (Gr 3, 1600m) at the same track.


Racing is now on New Zealand free-to-air television seven days a week under the Entain-TAB deal. 

As part of the rebranding of New Zealand’s racing broadcaster Trackside, which was unveiled on Tuesday, it is no longer restricted to those with pay TV for the first time in a decade. 

When I was a kid, Channel 9 used to show the daily double during the cricket, and it infuriated me, but then one day it clicked and I’ve been captivated by the thoroughbred ever since.

Group 1-winning trainer Robert Wellwood, who co-trains superstar filly Orchestral (Savabeel), wrote on X after the announcement: “That’s a big step. Without free-to-air I doubt I would have fallen in love with racing.”

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