For so long the Victorian racing industry was seen as the nation’s leader when it came to the thoroughbred game. Fuelled by poker-machine revenue courtesy of an always supportive government, the southern team was the pacesetter.
Underpinning on-course performance is the Melbourne Cup. The biggest annual sporting event on the calendar. The four days at Flemington racecourse being the pinnacle, but times are a-changing.
Rumblings out of Victoria aren’t good in regard to the financial health of the Melbourne Cup host. The Victoria Racing Club is struggling to balance its books. Flemington has a grandstand that needs to be rebuilt and the course proper is a worry.
And the corporate world is deserting the Flemington showcase because of global economic woes. Not good at all but then again those in charge down south have always been lavish spenders. How many general managers does one need?
To think the Victorians are given $70 million more annually in government grants and TAB income than their NSW counterparts. One would have to think racing across the border was far superior.
The NSW cousins may be $70 million behind but the state regulators under the leadership of Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys are dead-set bean counters. Paper clips may well be accounted for at head office.
Remember it was V’landys who stood up to the corporate bookmakers. The face of the race-fields legislation fight that went to the High Court. The Victorians, the Queenslanders, they sold out.
When Racing NSW needed partners in the fight to earn a fair return, it was left to rumble on its own. Unity may well have made the job a lot easier, but it wasn’t forthcoming.
The windfall from the High Court’s verdict, which amounted to wagering operators paying Racing NSW 1.5 per cent of turnover, is being pumped into the state’s industry.
As of yesterday, prizemoney was substantially increased across NSW. The country, provincial and metropolitan sectors are leading the country. Minimum prizemoney is at an all-time high. And the Victorians earn $70 million more. Their prizemoney increases aren’t due until next month. One should not forget that the amount of racing is greater in NSW to that in Victoria. Because of the geographical area of this state, there are about 200 extra meetings a year.
A marvellous achievement for Racing NSW, which is emerging from turbulent times. Not just the wagering war, what about equine influenza or the Pope’s World Youth Day at Randwick?
And of course there is Randwick. The once royal racecourse that was considered the best on this great island. Suffering from years of neglect, while those at the VRC turned Flemington in to a showpiece.
But Randwick is in the midst of a huge facelift to the tune of $150 million. The Australian Turf Club under the lead-by-example chairmanship of John Cornish is zeroing in on top spot once again.
The workaholic Cornish and the ATC team are intent on turning Randwick into one of the world’s great racecourses. Apart from the grandstand rebuild, there will be a ”theatre of the horse”. The ATC recently announced plans for a hotel-motel complex to be built on Alison Road. The grand idea is for a corporate precinct to be housed on-course. And the High Street side, opposite the University of NSW, is ripe for a retail complex and more units.
Imagine if the state government builds the light rail from Central to the uni via the sports and cricket ground, passing Fox Studios with a stop at Randwick racecourse?
The Royal goes back into Randwick, but not before time. If racing at Randwick fires, the ripple-down effect is massive. The NSW racing industry needs Randwick to be strong. Racing NSW has insured grassroots prizemoney levels are on the rise across the board.
The foundations appear strong. NSW may well be back on top.
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