Not The Full Story

The facts often take a beating in the modern world of corporate and political life – even in racing. Or as Charles Dickens’ hungry young character asked; “Can I have some more, please sir.”

A recent Australia Institute report on mining attracted sympathetic treatment from the Fairfax press when it claimed that the Queensland government was subsidising mining interests to the tune of $9 billion or more at the expense of the state’s less fortunate citizens. However, it got a deserved thumping from economist Henry Ergas in his column in The Australian.

In fact, the report treated investments in rail and port infrastructure as pure “costs” and dismissed anything on the other side of the ledger. “For example, the report treats the $3.7 billion spent on Queensland’s coal rail network as a gift by taxpayers to the mining industry”, said Ergas, despite the state later selling those assets for a thumping $4.6 billion as well as recouping many millions en route in line rentals.

Similar examples abound in other spheres where you may hear only one side of the discussion, usually that of left-leaning groups like the Greens, although all sides of politics are guilty to some degree.

Still in Queensland, Racing Minister Dickson is busy trumpeting what a great deal he has done to screw more cash out of TattsBet when giving them a long term renewal of its license. The tote will equip more pubs and clubs, improve its marketing and, according to the Minister, “help grow the Queensland economy”. The government will also reduce its own tax take to 82 cents in each $100 (compared to $3.22 in NSW).

There is no word on how the Minister or Racing Queensland will reverse the movement of horses and dogs out of the state (permanently or to race at northern NSW tracks) or otherwise do anything positive about the appalling state of fields at Albion Park. Monday meetings are now a no-go area for genuine punters due to the poor standard of runners. On Thursdays, the same dogs go around every week but meetings are still padded out with Maidens and Novice events,

In NSW GRNSW gilded the lily when it said that the rebuilt turn at Maitland – a cutaway job – was based on “good experience elsewhere” with that device. No such evidence is available. It is all pie in the sky. Similar turns at Wentworth Park, Launceston and Cannington have done nothing less than further bias the track in favour of inside runners, or create extra interference. The outcome at Maitland was to improve win rates for runners in boxes 1, 2 and 8, which hardly needed any help in the first place. You will not find that evidence in the official statistics because the GRNSW data was not re-started after the track change. (I did it manually).

GRNSW is no doubt still busy working out how it will shift the Tweed Heads operation into Queensland jurisdiction, a plan it announced 18 months ago. It offered no reason for the proposed change. The massive legal and contractual challenges to this deal make it another candidate for the “pie in the sky” list, yet no further information has been put out since the original announcement. That must be confusing for many. The fact that Racing Queensland welcomed the move does it no credit either.

On the edges, readers might remember that on the occasion of the NSW parliamentary hearings an anti-racing group carried carefully prepared posters calling on the NSW government to cease providing subsidies to greyhound racing. Those subsidies were never identified and questions to some of the demonstrators produced nothing more than “you know it’s true” type responses. In practice, greyhound betting in NSW supplied almost $22 million in taxes to the state government in the last full year. And that’s without counting all the normal taxes paid by participants and organisations involved in the business. That’s more than confusing – it’s dishonest, but that’s what these people try to get away with.

Victoria usually has plenty to say, the latest being a story about $6.2 million to be spent renewing the Traralgon track and grandstand, yet it said nothing at all about what sort of track we would end up with. Public comments were not sought in advance, nor about Cranbourne where a major change is in the offing.

In both Queensland and SA, decisions to terminate the use of the follow-on-lure were made despite all the hard evidence demonstrating that it produced better results than the traditional finish in the pen. Emotional claims by some trainers should never have been allowed to influence those decisions. That amounts to a disservice to the racing public, but they will probably never know about it. NSW also experimented with the FOL at two tracks but never published any results and let the subject fade away.

WA has released plenty of information about the new Cannington track but it deliberately included a bend start for the 600m trip, apparently without bothering to analyse experience with those starts at numerous other Australian tracks, as well as the current Cannington track. Had they done so, they would have found that higher interference and less predictability for punters should have steered them off.

The obvious conclusion is never to believe anything you read until you get independent confirmation and hear all sides of the story. Seldom will that happen with racing authorities. It’s one thing to put on your best face but quite another to deny the public the full truth.

PROMISING

Let not the week go by without noting the terrific run by relative newcomer, Irinka Hope, to win in 41.99 over the Wentworth Park 720m trip last Saturday. The bit I liked was not only did it rail well but it also appeared to maintain very high pace on the turns. Not many dogs can do that. We will watch with interest as it moves through the grades.

The only surprise was that its sire is El Grand Senor, a fine sprinter but a dog that could not go past 520m to save its life. Indeed, early in its career it had trouble even doing that. Perhaps mum helped a little (Nana Cook)?