Industry chiefs meet federal parliamentarians of all persuasions
The importance of Australia’s thoroughbred industry leaders meeting with federal parliamentarians of all persuasions in Canberra this week cannot be understated.
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia (TBA), led by Tom Reilly, and breeding industry figures from around the country were at Parliament House for the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Producers event, held for the first time since 2019.
With the sitting week brought forward it caused somewhat of a logistical headache, but the Speaker Milton Dick, a proud Queenslander, who referenced trainer Peter Moody’s attendance during his welcome speech, stepped in to host the event at short notice in his courtyard at Parliament House.
It gave thoroughbred breeders the chance to meet with more than 40 MPs in an informal setting to discuss a range of issues concerning the industry and, while it is sensitive, none is more pressing at present than the looming wagering reforms in the wake of the You Win Some, You Lose More report.
Widden Stud’s Antony Thompson was pleased that the event was back on the annual calendar.
“Tom Reilly has certainly done a lot of terrific work with the federal and state politicians to lift the profile of our industry and it was his brainchild, this initial event, several years ago,” Thompson said.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to host any of our friends and supporters for the last four years, so it was nice to get back there and have a chance to meet with them in a fairly informal manner and discuss many of the industry issues.
“A lot of the issues that we face in the breeding industry are issues that need to be faced at that [federal government] level.”
The extraordinary investment made by Chinese billionaire Zhang Yuesheng in the Australian thoroughbred industry through his Yulong enterprise was also a major talking point.
Yulong’s chief operating officer Sam Fairgray was another industry figure who was in the nation’s capital and, having met face to face with the politicians, looks forward to welcoming them to Mr Zhang’s farm in Nagambie.
“A lot of them are interested in the industry, but they didn’t really have an understanding of how it all works, but they are obviously [now aware of] the investment Mr Zhang has put into the industry.
“They’re excited to come to the farm and see what he has done. It was great to see that there were ministers and politicians from all parties there showing their support.”
Most pressing is the wagering reforms and, while Reilly didn’t reveal what was discussed during one-on-one meetings with government departments and MPs earlier on Monday, you can bet that the potential impact of the proposals on racing, including the banning of inducements such as free bets, was front of mind.
It cannot be left just to TBA and other bodies doing the heavy lifting on critical issues such as wagering reform. The principal racing authorities need to step in as well, to ensure their case is heard loud and clear.
No one is suggesting that some gambling reform isn’t required, but just how far-reaching it will be should be the number one priority for racing.
It’ll be too late after the fact to blame ignorance for a lack of action by the PRAs when betting revenue takes a hit. It’ll make the post-Covid decline seem like a ripple in the ocean.
As for Racing Australia, the supposed peak industry body, has anyone checked if the lights are still on?
So, about the World Pool.
We know. We know. You told us about this only a few weeks ago, I hear you say.
But hang in there, please.
Now I have the evidence, even though the Melbourne Racing Club is spouting the fact that World Pool “punters can enjoy odds often beating the local starting price” when they bet on races 7, 8 and 9 at Caulfield this coming Saturday.
There was, not unexpectedly, plenty of black-slapping in New South Wales this week in the wake of The Everest – and it did look like a brilliant atmosphere and a great race – about the success of the World Pool betting on Sydney’s premier meeting for the first time.
Tote punters copped it through increased percentages for the privilege of doing so, too.
For instance, The Everest parimutuel market itself closed out at 121.72 per cent, even with the five-cent increments introduced – something Tabcorp refuses to do on a daily basis for Australian and New Zealand racing.
In 2022, the NSW tote percentage for The Everest was 117.5 per cent, meaning punters paid 4.22 per cent more (or an increase of 25 per cent) to bet on this year’s race.
Joe Pride’s winner Think About It started at $4.20 TAB fixed odds and at an NSW Official Price of $4.40, but just $2.95 on the tote.
The syndicates cleaned up on the winner using World Pool – they’re too good and benefit even more so given the huge rebates they receive for pumping their millions through the pools – but the pub punter, who was subjected to Sky Channel’s constant promotion of World Pool would, rightly, feel ripped off about the comparatively low dividend.
But, hey, that was just one race, right?
In the 14 Australian races the World Pool bet on at Randwick and Flemington over the past fortnight, the winning dividend on fixed odds starting price was better than the tote on eight occasions to the six times the tote came up trumps, the most obvious discrepancy being in the Turnbull Stakes (Gr 1, 2000m) when Hong Kong punters rallied around their local champion Romantic Warrior who started well into odds on and pushed winner Gold Trip out to a luxurious $30.50.
At Flemington on Turnbull Stakes day, it was 2-4 in the tote’s favour and last Saturday it was 6-3 fixed odds’ way.
There’s an easy fix, of course. Make World Pool bet to Australia’s take-out rates – 16 per cent for the win pool (plus the 10-cent rounding down rort).
Racing authorities will still gain plenty of increased revenue as a result of international punters and the locals won’t feel ripped off, particularly, it seems, if they’ve backed a winner that started in the market.
It might not sound like much but if there was a suggestion that the price of fuel should be based on a pooling arrangement where the price paid in outback Queensland is used as a basis to set the price in metropolitan Sydney or Melbourne, people would be up and arms and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would be called in to investigate.
I don’t see too much difference with the operation of the tote and the World Pool arrangement.
Troy Corstens might not have the firepower in the heart of the spring he might have thought he had a month or two ago, but he is hopeful that cheap NZB Ready to Run Sale graduate Dolphin Skin (Telperion) can return to her best form in the Ethereal Stakes (Gr 3, 2000m) at Caulfield tomorrow.
The NZ$13,000 filly, who won the Gibson Carmichael Stakes (Listed, 1600m) in July, has finished unplaced in two runs back from a spell.
“A couple haven’t come up, a couple have gone sore, a few have gone to the paddock, but we still have some nice horses who we should have a bit of fun with in for the rest of the spring,” Corstens told us.
“Umgawa is going very well and will probably run on Saturday in the Moonga Stakes and I think Dolphin Skin can bounce back over the 2000 metres.”
Corstens’ colt Aardvark (Capitalist), now part-owned by the James Harron colts syndicate, ran an encouraging third in the Debutant Stakes at Caulfield on Wednesday and I doubt the new investors would be too disappointed with the much-hyped two-year-old.