THE MONSTERS BALL ISSUE

IS THERE A MONSTER IN THE HOUSE?

THE MONSTERS BALL ISSUE 1

Racing’s worst kept secret – the merger between the Australian Racing Board, aka the ARB, and Racing Information Services Australia, aka RISA following their purchase of the Australian Stud Book from the VRC and the ATC, which was officially made public last week- could potentially be the long awaited first step towards the creation of a potent national governing body for Australian racing.

But will it?

Racing Australia, as we have been told it will be called, will face an uphill battle to win over the hearts and minds of a cynical, territorial and divided industry, if it is to make any impact on bringing together the disparate and self interest driven State governing bodies, race clubs and participant groups.

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Mission impossible it will be unless the new Racing Australia is constituted and structured as a genuinely, rolled gold independent body. And that means parachuting the present ineffective and outdated State based representative structure and, with it, he with the icky toffee tongue.

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From what we are hearing in NSW, the latter may happen sooner than later.

Not surprisingly, “Toffee” has failed to endear himself to the great majority of the State Governing Bodies, Race Clubs and representative Participant Associations.

As one Race Club official observed, “Toffee” still operates as though he has never left the political hothouse of Canberra, from whence he came.

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If there is one quick and effective way of alienating racing administrators and officials it is through the bluster and steam roller tactics that are so inherent in the political bullring.

Australian racing is crying out for an end to the division and polarisation that has successfully prevented it from progressing into a modern sporting and leisure and entertainment business that’s able to appeal to generations coming through on a national level.

The merger between the ARB and RISA and the purchase of the Stud Book, if managed and structured in the best interest of the Australian racing industry on a national scale, could be its lifesaver.

If not, it could also create a Monster – a powerful and dictatorial entity controlled by ambition, self-interest with a touch of vindictiveness thrown in for good measure.

This is the polar opposite of what Australian racing needs.

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To succeed, all States MUST come together and ensure a truly independent Board and Chief Executive are head hunted for Racing Australia.

Anything else would render the new entity completely impotent and inevitably result in the worst sort of patronage and appointment of Board members and Executive staff based on mateship, IOU’s and the type of insidious and corrupt behaviour that has become entrenched in the management appointment process adopted by the Australian racing industry over recent decades.

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PACKER’S BETFAIR GAMBLE

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It’s been rumoured for some considerable time that James Packer has been contemplating a takeover of Betfair Australia of which he has been a 50/50 partner with the UK based betting exchange pioneer.

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It was always a question of when Kerry’s son and heir would expand his gaming and wagering portfolio, adding and integrating the potentially lucrative on-line opportunities that Betfair offers to his global gaming empire.

It’s a smart move, and if the takeover price of $10 million is correct, he could have secured one of the commercial bargains of the century.

Apart from the traditional on-line opportunities that Betfair- and for that matter any corporate bookmaker- can offer to a tech savvy market with an insatiable appetite for potentially rewarding instant financial gratification and gain, the potential to offer “new” fixed odds type gaming products are limitless.

And with the appetite for new products in gaming and wagering reaching binge proportions, James Packer’s coterie of highly paid and successful business strategists and advisers have bulls eyed an opportunity with the highly trained scent of a truffle dog or pig in the dense oak forests of France and Italy.

From Packer’s and his advisers perspective, they would have also concluded- quite correctly- that the fixed odds market and sports wagering will only continue to grow – exponentially in some cases.

They recognize the bleeding and bloody obvious – that traditional pari-mutuel wagering is dead in the water, in terms of not just growth, but as an increasingly outdated wagering model which has lost both its pizzazz and sex appeal.

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And not surprisingly the ageing, plodding, agenda driven Australian racing administrators are way out of their league when it comes to even understanding the dynamics and necessity of strategy, and the absolutely vital role it plays in the success or failure of a business.

They are driven exclusively by risk aversion and, MOTHER, a Hitchcock-like fear of failure.

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To James Packer’s credit, he has recognized that in this- the 21st century- if you don’t headhunt and hire the best business brains and are prepared to take calculated and responsible risks, you would be better off in a chateau somewhere in rural France pondering what might have been – if only.

It would be no surprise if the Packer team does not already have a strategy for acquisitions in the corporate bookmaking world.

Packer’s record and history suggests- conclusively- that he ain’t a fan of the “bit player” role in the corporate or commercial world.

He is a big picture man.

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The implications for the Australian racing industry are massive in the short and medium term.

Fasten your seat belts and get ready for a ride like no other- a ride of global proportions where many creative minds from other industries, especially from the wide world of entertainment, are being poached through the dangling of some mighty big carrots.

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THE STING IN THE TAIL OF THE CHAMPIONSHIPS FUNDING

THE MONSTERS BALL ISSUE 13

Another of NSW racing’s worst kept secrets came to fruition with the $10 million bequeath by the State Government to fund John Messara’s and Racing NSW’s poorly structured love child – the Championships.

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The reality, despite the best efforts of the sycophantic News Limited cheering squad at the Daily “Smellygraph”, is that the Baird Government and Racing Minister Troy Grant, below, were never going to withdraw funding from the Championships.

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Tactically, the offer of the funding as a loan drew the response from Racing NSW which the Government, very cunningly was after.

In a poker game, it was a premature show of hands and in doing so, the public utterings of Racing NSW’s Chief Executive, and increasingly regarded as the fall guy- Peter of the Vlundies, below- sent an unambiguous message to Premier Baird and Racing Minister Grant as to what the Racing NSW agenda was all about.

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The “Smelly’s” editorialising, which scaled dizzying new heights this morning on the subject of the Championships, will only accelerate the deterioration of the frosty relationship between the Baird Government and the State’s racing governing body.

The blindingly naïve and misplaced advocacy of the obscenely and one sided funding discrepancies between the Championships and the sink or swim policy towards NSW country racing will not only rankle Troy Grant and his country constituency, but alienate country members of the “50,000” participants, who, to use a well worn racing cliché, have been “eating the paint off their walls”, as they struggle to eke a living and a decent existence out of NSW country racing which has been the subject of appalling neglect for so long by NSW racing administrators.

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NSW country racing administrators and participants will not believe their continuing misfortune at being used-again-as a bargaining tool by racing administrators to badger the State Government into submission and lower the tax take out rate on the pretext of raising country prize money and fixing up decades of neglected infrastructure in country NSW.

To treat Troy Grant and Mike Baird as the enemy is a very, very naïve and dangerous game.

Beating city hall is mission impossible, not just in NSW, but in every other state. Just ask the racing administrators in those States.

But then again the art of negotiation and compromise, of give and take has never been in the DNA of mean old bullies, MOTHER.

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THE MONSTERS BALL ISSUE 19

Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Horse Racing, JOHN MESSARA, Racing NSW | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ROBIN WILLIAMS, DEPRESSION AND WINNING RACING’S MENTAL BATTLES

While we all mourn the passing of Robin Williams, I was speaking to a friend about depression, and how so many learn to keep it hid just as any junkie knows how to keep their habit hid, and why we have lost so many outwardly “funny people” along the way and how no one “saw the signs”.

British comic legends like Tony Hancock and Kenny Everett, both decided that this world was not for them and checked out early.

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Spike Milligan, a comedic genius who was one of the ground-breaking trio of “The Goons” with another genius in Peter Sellers, were also both manic depressives who, like Robin Williams, kept that dark side hid most of the time, and, like losing balance trying to make it up those 12 Steps, would slip and then “share” and, for a while, that shattered glass was half full again.

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Sadly, it seldom stays this way, especially, when alone and there’s a bad moon rising, or one walks into that dark side of the moon.

All that positive energy dissipates, self-destruction takes over as the mind is a very brittle “thing” when it has gone through years of wear and tear and has been on overload.

It suddenly snaps as one tap dances on that precipice without a net expecting to fly, but also not caring if there’s someone there to catch you and ease that fall.

And why is it that we have lost- and continue to lose- so many who have made us laugh with that innate gift they have- that gift to lift so many up, except for themselves?

Smokey Robinson singing about “The Tears Of Clown” probably summed it all up in three minutes of “marionette pop” that we singalong to without stopping to think of those words.

These days I do and when I do, I see all those mentioned along with Lenny Bruce, John Belushi, Chris Farley and John Lennon.

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Many might disagree, but Lennon was always described as having this “sardonic wit”- very clever, sensitive, creative, brutally honest, and an extremely humorous man who also kept it well hid. That dark side.

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But on songs like “Help”, “I’m A Loser”, “No Reply”, “You’ve Gotta Hide Your Love Away” and “I’m So Tired”, he seemed to be crying out for help, and which finally came out of self-cathartic and primal scream exercises in “Mother”, and his smacked down, chilling recording of “Cold Turkey”.

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Depression is the greatest silent disease- and killer- as it creeps up on you- only you- and where you are the loneliest person in the world despite everyone around you, or, at least, someone only a phone call away.

Depression causes all types of breakups, and what I call “misrepresented relationships” as it is also a form of escapism and running away from responsibilities and reality- constantly running away, or trying to outrun those mental hounds of hell chasing after you.

And so you see counsellors, you are taken to speak to experts, you are shown those “happy places”, but if unwilling to accept any of this, none of it works.

The pen might be mightier than the sword, and the mind has another mind feeding it all the time, which works and overworks all on its own.

Today, we mourn the passing of a brilliant and much loved comedian who was different things to many people.

Let’s also not forget those we know who are with us today, and those we have lost along the way as, perhaps, saying, “Snap out of it, mate” was not enough.

In horse racing, I have lost two friends to depression- top blokes who, outwardly, had it all, but, inwardly, felt they had nothing.

A few months ago, racing lost a trainer to depression while two others- one being a very good friend- are struggling to make sense of it all.

It’s tough out there. And it’s made tougher when we lose someone as famous as Robin Williams as it brings the problem closer to home- a problem, which we have practised long and hard to shut out.

By bringing this problem closer to home, it might even lead to solutions as only we can heal ourselves.

And if we can heal ourselves, we can heal others by what we have learnt along the way.

We owe this to ourselves and we owe this to those we know, personally, who believe no one cares and no one understands what they’re going through in silence.

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Hans Ebert

Posted in Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA | 3 Comments

HOW ATTRACTIVE IS HORSE RACING TO SPONSORS?

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For decades, music companies have tried to find sponsorship for their record releases and promo tours by artists whereas promoters, who are still in this game of chance, know that without sponsors underwriting tours, their concerts will not only be bereft of cash, they’ll fall on deaf ears, and is one of the reasons why so many acts have played in so many markets and so many have asked, “They did? When?”

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In a far more creative-driven industry than horse racing as there is a need to appear relevant and cutting edge to music fans and artists, so-called “sponsorship marketing” in music companies plods along.

This is for the simple reason that average promo people from, especially, music channels have been hired and given senior marketing titles, who are only capable of presenting potential sponsors with the obligatory “naming rights”, a possible after-show party, and some horrendously blatant attempts at “product placement” in music videos- far worse than all the brands that made “Sex In The City 2″ one tedious commercial.

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The creative gun has got rusty from not being reloaded with any new bangs for a sponsor’s buck and continues to shoot blanks.

Happiness is not a warm gun- bang bang, shoot shoot.

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Celebrity endorsements

The flip side is that while music companies are lost in consumer translation, and trying to find sponsors, artists with strong management and creative and business independence, have an open thoroughfare to sponsors.

Why?

They’re more creative and, literally, “more giving” in what they can offer, which is why “celebrity endorsements” have evolved from the obvious to being a fleeting trend a few years ago when artists like Lady Gaga became “Creative Director” for Polaroid, Dave Stewart, formerly with the Eurythmics named “The Agent Of Change” for Nokia- mostly, publicity bollocks to look relevant- and to where today, products- new, dying, or even dead- have a chance of survival by standing out from the clutter through celebrity branding.

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Is this “celebrity branding” another con? Often, it is.

A celebrity- and sporting stars are celebrities- sells their name to the highest bidder, or most hip brand, and in the cases of Beyoncé, David Beckham, 50 Cent, Gaga, Rihanna, Dhoni,Tendulkar etc, become walking human billboards for a number of products.

Does it work when there is often no exclusivity and only excess?

That’s one for Brand Managers to answer.

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A one-trick pony?

With all this in mind, what can horse racing offer sponsors?

Or, are “naming rights” and “branding” all that can be served up as a buffet of very meagre choices?

Or, has there been no real thinking beyond the obvious as this might actually mean having to think outside of the stables, and even, perhaps, work, in an industry where many highly-paid executives in racing clubs can only juggle one ball in the air- and even manage to drop that.

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Multi-tasking is like speaking in Swahili to many of these also-rans with their glib Corporate Speak and always wanting to take it “off-line”.

Still, for years, they’ve been obscenely over-paid for this no-balls-no-glory work ethic for survival. And with a golden handshake around the corner from Easy Street, why should they care?

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New Thinking from new players must come into play, organisation charts need to be re-shuffled, academic approaches be “de-academised”, and pseudo intellectualism “outlawed” as every day of every week of every month or every year, sponsorship marketing dollars are going to, not only all those other industries out there, but also other sports- basketball, football, Formula 1, golf, cricket, the fight game, rugby, tennis etc.

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Attracting sponsors means marketing one’s self as being exciting, innovative, and knowing that being in sync has nothing to do with an old boy band.

Yet, horse racing continues to market itself to that same old captive audience and with cosmetic changes so shallow that the pock marks can be seen.

It’s nonsensical and another exercise in doing as little work as possible to maintain the status quo.

In other words, it’s The Fear Of Change, and that other paranoia of being seen to have passed the Use By date.

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Looking beyond the obvious

So what CAN a racing club offer sponsors and, at the same time, create new revenue streams and new ways of ensuring nothing swims upstream?

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Looking at racing’s answer to “celebrity endorsements”, in Hong Kong, if one had to pick three racing personalities with sponsorship appeal, I’d definitely lean towards Douglas Whyte, Joao Moreira and Tony Cruz, the latter having actually appeared in a television campaign for local sportswear brand Giordano when Champion Jockey.

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In Australia, Lady GaiGai stands head and shoulders above the rest, and can sell anything put in front of her. The Gai Waterhouse brand is hugely marketable, probably more so than the great Lady even realises. But who’s there in racing to tap into all this potential?

In another league is Francesca Cumani- not that she needs the money or, possibly, even cares- and standing in the shadow as his turn will come sooner rather than later is Tommy Berry.

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Of course, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the creative concept- and the product.

If the creative director working on Strepsils or Lozenges, who knows, using race-callers Darren Flindell or Rick McIntosh could work.

The point is to give sponsors something- one thing- that surprises them and where they see an ROI- Return On Investment- by buying into an idea that has that other ROI- Relevance, Originality and Impact.

Those ponderous, obligatory presentation ceremonies, the fireworks displays, people in horse costumes prancing around like clowns, the talking heads racing programmes etc- most have run their course. Some ran their course decades ago yet are allowed to limp along in their outdated formats and media platforms less and less people watch.

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As someone far more knowledgable about leading a successful racing club recently explained, there is the wagering side of the business, and then there is the need to create the experience to attract that huge market out there that still doesn’t come racing.

It’s not top of mind awareness.

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In Hong Kong, apart from the Happy Wednesday brand- and it must and will continue to evolve, there is world class racing in two great racecourses with their own USPs that house venues like Hay Market (two words?), below, The Chalk, Adrenaline, Millions, Gallery, the Beer Garden and more- all building blocks to create one exciting multi-faceted picture of the sport- a picture as exciting as a tight finish, and one which sponsors will look at and say, “I want to be part of all this. Where do I sign? Who’s gonna work with us in this partnership, close the deal and create some history?”

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Next month in Singapore is a worldwide conference called Sports Matters where the Keynote Speaker is Sir Sebastian Coe and every sport is represented. Except horse racing.

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I want to be part of changing this perception that horse racing is not a sport, that jockeys are not “real” athletes and, by going it alone, beat the odds, and surprise the naysayers by staying with the tried and true, but adding all the new ingredients that have yet to be put into the blender, mixed and served.

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Hans Ebert

Posted in Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, The horse racing industry, Tony Cruz | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE LEADERSHIP ISSUE

WHAT ODDS AS TO WHO HAS THE TOUGHEST JOB IN RACING?

THE LEADERSHIP ISSUE 1

The impending and surprise departure of Paul Bittar, below, from the most senior position of governance and administration in British racing – Chief Executive of the British Horseracing Board, has posed a most interesting and important question in racing circles: What is the toughest and most challenging senior executive position in global racing?

Like James Brown was the hardest working man in showbiz, what does it take to be the hardest working man in horse racing- globally- and who is it?

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It was a question given more prominence by virtue of the fact that Sportsbet (aka Paddy Power), a very big and powerful global corporate bookmaking conglomerate, has opened a market on who is likely to replace Bittar.

Quirky, no doubt, as a “fun” bet to the average punter, but significantly, it had rated Hong Kong Jockey Club Chief Executive Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges at odds of 7/1 as a possible successor.

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There is little doubt or argument that the head role in British racing is a formidable one. And our many good racing friends in the UK have acknowledged the very constructive and positive contribution that the “lad from down under”- Bittar- has made to British racing in times of great change and challenge.

In the same hemisphere, geographically, but a jetlag flight away from Heathrow, and by far and away the leading racing jurisdiction in the new world, Hong Kong clearly presents the most complex and challenging environment for a leader of racing in the 21st century.

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A complex and challenging culture, Government relationship, regulation, financial and taxation arrangements and operational constraints and restrictions in the former British colony, which is now a part of the People’s Republic of China, makes Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges’ job as Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, the toughest gig in world racing by the proverbial lengths of the Shatin, Royal Ascot and Flemington straights, combined.

Imagine the enormity of the task in understanding the sensitivities – cultural and political- and balancing and juggling the diverse interests of the racing, political, economic and cultural elites of Hong Kong and China?

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And then there are the various stakeholders – Club Committee and Members and staff- the good, the bad and the hopeless, the useless and those from Gobbledygook- Owners, Trainers and Jockeys, punters, the well connected and seriously wealthy “wannabe” owners from the mainland, and, most importantly, the potential threats to the revenue base of racing from Vegas’ Asian “sistah” casino city that is Macau.

Get the picture?

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The mere fact that Hong Kong is now firmly ensconced as the world’s leading racing jurisdiction, and its position acknowledged throughout Europe, the US, Australia, Asia and the Middle East, is testament to the leadership skills and achievements of its Chief Executive.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club has to be “all things to all people”.

It is mandated to underwrite a very substantial chunk of its Government’s revenue base each year by a significant and onerous taxation take, which is immunized by any economic market forces impacting on wagering revenue.

At the same time, it is also required to play the dual roles of a philanthropic and benevolent organization signing off cheques for millions of dollars each season to a plethora of very worthwhile and genuine charity organizations without which they would be unable to provide their vital humanitarian support services to those who are disadvantaged and in need.

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But that’s just one part of a very complex fine line that the Jockey Club Chief Executive has to traverse.

Winfried Englebrecht-Bresges must also lead and run a racing club, which, because of its outstanding success, attracts the attention and scrutiny of the entire racing world.

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Using a cliché that still holds relevance in today’s commercial world, it’s tougher to stay at the top than it is to get there, and that is exactly the challenge which has faced the Jockey Club, which it has accepted and achieved with the rare brand of leadership in racing so lacking in many global racing jurisdictions.

It is the prime reason why racing is on its arse and down the crapper in so many of these countries, and which, in the most glaring example of Italy, is on the brink of extinction.

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It is no secret that Hong Kong under “EB” has become a blueprint for many racing clubs in both the old and new world.

How many can read or understand this blueprint is another matter altogether.

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Hong Kong racing’s strength is reflected and measured by the ability of its leadership to continue to reinvent and reinvigorate and grow its brand- and grow its IP whilst navigating the Club through the continual and inevitable turbulent waters that it encounters each racing season.

Being, not just the Chief Executive, but a successful one of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, IS, the toughest gig in world racing.

Even Soul Brother Number One would agree.

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THE ADDICTION TO WAR

'I'm afraid the situation is dire, gentlemen...we're running out of bogeymen.'

It is difficult to identify any sport or sporting jurisdiction or sporting authority, which is in a constant state of disputation with its own stakeholders and participant groups as Racing NSW.

If it isn’t a Race Club, it’s a Stakeholder Association, or an interstate governing body, or a Professional service sector, or even it’s own staff.

Yes, Racing NSW has a record of litigation, much of which that it can’t be proud of, particularly when many of the disputes are of its own daft creation, and instigations that could have been mediated or negotiated without the angst, the considerable financial cost and the fractured and irreparable damage to professional relationships, and to the brand and image of racing and its governing body.

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Does no one on the Racing NSW Board, or its Chairman, or the State Government, or any of the influential figures in racing in NSW, ever wonder and ask the pertinent question as to why Racing NSW is in a constant state of disputation with just about anyone they deal with?

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It’s an observation and a very inconvenient question that is embarrassingly asked whenever the subject of the state of racing in NSW is the topic du jour with interstate racing people.

And it happened again last weekend- and this week- in separate conversations regarding the “war” with NSW veterinarians, and the ongoing dispute with jockeys over the collection of their fees on behalf of their Association.

Racing NSW’s tactics are textbook cases in bully boy tactics which must stem from penis envy mixed with low self-esteem.

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They are based on attrition and a willingness to resort to the costly weapon of litigation, which disadvantages most of the less financial aggrieved parties, leaving them with two unpalatable options – surrender or bankruptcy.

See what we mean about bully boy tactics?

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The war with the “vets” is yet another striking example of a war, which just should not have happened, nor is the very pointless, divisive and inflammatory war being waged with NSW jockeys.

Is it any wonder why racing is just so marginalized in NSW when all you ever hear or read about relates to disputation and legal challenge?

It demonstrates a flagrant disregard for the monumental task of turning racing into a sport of choice for engagement and participation.

NSW racing makes no attempt to make the sport attractive and welcoming to the generations coming through.

What “welcome” mat? What new initiatives?

It just plods along with 6-7 horse fields and the usual suspects. Excuse us while we stifle a yawn.

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It continues to successfully disengage itself and drive away potential “fans” and customers- in droves.

Pretending to fight “fake” wars and turning potential allies into enemies and, ultimately, victims to paper over glaring deficiencies, and prosecute selfish and self-serving agendas, is blatantly disingenuous and demonstrates the vacuum in leadership at the highest levels of NSW racing.

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We can only continue to live in hope that the mercy rule is applied in the glaringly appropriate areas of NSW racing.

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GRAND FINAL CLASH WITH START OF SPRING CARNIVAL

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The VRC’s Turnbull Stakes race meeting on the first Saturday in October each year is always the mouth-watering entrée to their world famous spring racing carnival.

Next year, because of the ICC Cricket World Cup commitments, the AFL season will start a week later and finish a week later with the Grand Final pushed out from its traditional last Saturday in September to the first Saturday in October.

When the Grand Final and Turnbull Stakes last clashed in 2010, courtesy of a drawn game the previous week, the VRC and Racing Victoria transferred the meeting to the Sunday, which turned out to be a financial catastrophe.

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So, in 2015, the Turnbull Stakes meeting will go head to head with the AFL Grand Final.

Whilst wagering is still expected to take a hit, both the VRC and racing Victoria have ample time to lessen the blow.

What did amuse us was reading in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, comments attributed to Racing Victoria Chief Executive, Bernard “The Plodder” Saundry.

If ever a racing organization and its CEO needed a top line spin doctor then this bloke does.

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Said The Plodder, “We have a good relationship with the AFL, who acknowledge the significance of the spring racing carnival and they have afforded a commitment to work with us in delivering the best outcome for Victoria”.

Translator required please.

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So is the AFL writing out a cheque to Racing Victoria and the TAB to compensate for the loss in wagering turnover? Or are they going to trial a night grand final? Or maybe they might stage the 2015 grand final on a Sunday?

Sorry “Plodder”, but the AFL does not give a flying fuck about racing or Racing Victoria, or for that matter your verbal diarrhoea when fixturing, or for that matter, when dealing with their game and its participants.

You better believe it mate, racing is not in the same league as many of its main competitors. And plodding white man speakum hokum and crap.

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Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, WINFRIED ENGELBRECHT-BRESGES | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH FROM THE MUPPETS

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Nash Rawiller

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Beaker

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Karis Teetan

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The Great Gonzo

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Tye Angland

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Big Bird

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Tommy Berry

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Elmo

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JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 9
Neil Callan

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 10
Animal

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Zac Purton_4_RH_29032014__E001.jpg
Zac Purton

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 12
Oscar The Grouch

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Hugh Bowman
Hugh Bowman

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 14
Zoot

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JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 15
Douglas Whyte and Brett Prebble

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 16
Bert and Ernie

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JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 17
Joao Moreira

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 18
Cookie Monster

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Matthew Chadwick

Matthew Chadwick

kermit

Kermit

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PARTING SHOT

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 19
Ritchie Callander

JOCKEYS SEPARATED AT BIRTH WITH THE MUPPETS 20
Miss Piggy

Posted in DOUGLAS WHYTE, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, JOAO MOREIRA, NASH RAWILLER, The horse racing industry, Tommy Berry | Leave a comment

WHEN WILL HORSE RACING RE-BRAND ITSELF

REBRAND 1

Every product undergoes various re-branding processes- Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald’s, Adidas, Disneyland, Playboy, McDonald’s again when that clown Ronald was eased out ‘cos he came across as a creepy pedophile etc.

REBRAND 2

Hell, even artists like Madonna, Gaga, Rihanna, Beyoncé etc are constantly reinventing themselves as they are “brands” and have to in order to stay relevant, change with the times, change because of constantly changing consumer moods and behaviour and the millions of endorsements deals backing them.

Yes, as Bowie once sang, Ch-ch-ch-ch- changes unless that wheel ain’t broke and nothing need fixing.

REBRAND 3

Yesterday morning I was listening to Perth Racing committeeman Eddie Riggs being interviewed on TAB Radio’s The Big Breakfast whereas the night before, a very astute global player in the entertainment world, including sports, had asked when was the last time horse racing had re-branded, or re-invented itself.

Now, here is someone who wouldn’t know Chris Waller from Fats Waller and mudlarks from mud pies, and standing on the periphery watching from the sidelines, and weighing out the pros and cons as to whether he should jump into the horse racing industry- his entrepreneurial skills and one of the best celebrity roller decks in the world would be a huge asset to the perception of the sport- and asking something I hadn’t thought about- at least, not from a global perspective.

Re-branding horse racing was and is an interesting question as it has to do with trying to reach a wider audience comprising different target segments which means an increase in wagering plus attracting sponsors.

It also means fighting for more of that pie being gobbled up by online gambling that goes on 24/7 and the big spending casinos that throw everything including Le Cirque De Soleil AND the gold-rimmed kitchen sink as part of their five-star junkets for high rollers and their friends.

REBRAND 4

REBRAND 5

As for Perth Racing committeeman Eddie Griggs, he did an admirable job answering all that was asked of him in the fifty minutes he was on air.

The interview was, at least to me, a reversed club sandwich.

He lost me at Gloucester Park, the politicking, and when it came to all the maths, but hit me between the ears with the meat in the sandwich.

This was when, at the start of the interview, he touched on the changes needed in racing clubs- mostly the hiring process and, more importantly, having those people best equipped to handle a particular job as opposed to hardcore racing executives, or those walking on eggshells in the shadows of these- their mother superiors who had jumped the gun- trying to be what they’re not.

Management by fear creates shrinkage.

Management through ignorance creates chaos.

REBRAND 6

Let’s face it, when a Director of Racing or a Financial Controller, somehow falls through the cracks, and gets involved in marketing or music or tries to tap into the psyche of the New Millennia through social media, one ends up with a dog’s breakfast sitting on top of what has become an eight-humped camel.

REBRAND 7

Marketing is a word used by racing clubs often while “marketing to the younger race goer” or “marketing to the next generation of racing” has become a daily mantra and, often, vapid soundbites to the media- that very small hardcore posse in the racing media.

REBRAND 8

Here’s the problem: “marketing” cannot work without a Creative Director guiding the ship so it doesn’t hit any icebergs along the way.

Like way too many music companies- and the music industry is a far more creative-driven one than horse racing- the role of a Creative Director and the team needed to ensure ideas are effectively executed and approved are rarely on any organisation charts.

Marketing is derived and dependent on the Creative Product, and if this Creative Product originates out of committee decisions and approval processes, and in the case of horse racing, with wagering hanging over the heads of the creative process, it all becomes gobbledygook- bland communications put out there for the sake of it and ignored by the end consumer.

REBRAND 9

And if all these marketing efforts are ignored by the end consumer who dismiss it as the equivalent of wall paper muzak, no amount of social media or that antiquated term known as “PR” will help.

“PR” in 2014 and in a DIY world of free social media??? Please.

REBRAND 10

When we started http://www.fasttrack.hk, the strategy was, and still is, to bring an alternative look at horse racing to the HKJC’s Happy Wednesday audience- younger, cooler, well-traveled, in the know and who enjoy fashion, music, technology, cuisine, wines- and are taking quicker and quicker baby steps into the world of horse racing.

REBRAND 11

It’s an inter-active lifestyle site that’s re-inventing itself and which works closely with the HKJC’s marketing people to think and say and do and create what might otherwise get caught up in the red tape, bureaucracy and “counter productive creativity” prevalent in the inner workings of your typical racing club.

REBRAND 12

In music industry terms, it’s like a major music company having an indie label to work with artists considered too outré while looking at non-traditional business streams and offering sponsors more bangs for their bucks- new bangs. And gawd knows how exciting a new bang can be.

REBRAND 13

Hopefully, this “outside looking in approach” of racing clubs working with partners outside of the box that houses the stables catches on.

It can actually set free the “racing people” to do what they do best instead of trying to be what they are not, like, for example, getting involved in advertising and thinking what an ad should look like because they’ve watched Season 3 of “Mad Men” or suddenly knowing music marketing ‘cos they watch “The Voice”.

Mad Men (Season 5)

Racing clubs are exactly that- racing clubs- and cannot be part-time ad agencies, part-time production houses and sometime-music marketing people.

It will never work as most racing clubs are already fragmented enough when it comes to the business side of the sport, and all the ways needed to make horse racing and those who are its main attractions tick and hum- the owners, the trainers, the jockeys, the equine talent, the venues, the race tracks, the prize money, sponsorship…

Who knows, with the HKJC, and with its Happy Wednesday USP and brand, www. fasttrack.hk might just evolve into an enterprising, consumer-driven mothership that takes horse racing to where it’s never gone before- and re-brand the sport in the process to attract that wider mainstream market.

REBRAND 15

Hans Ebert

© Racingb*tch 2014
All Rights Reserved
No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the author, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials.

Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Hong Kong Racing, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, PERTH RACING, www.fasttrack.hk | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

IF HORSES WERE ROCK STARS

(Courtesy of www.fasttrack.hk)

1a

1b

Dee Snyder

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2a

2b

Billy Idol

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3a

3b

Robert Plant

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4a

4b

Steve Tyler

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5a

5b

Madonna

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6a

The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals

Rihanna

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7a

David Bowie

David Bowie

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8a

Barclay's Summertime Festival - Day Nine - London

Mick Jagger prancing about

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9a

9b

Jim Morrison

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10a

10b

Steve Vai

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11a

11b

The White Stripes

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12a

12b

Freddy Mercury

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13a

13b

Lenny Kravitz

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14a

14b

Alice Cooper

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15a

15b

Jimi Hendrix

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16a

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

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17a

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber, wannabe Rock star

Posted in Horse Racing, The horse racing industry, www.fasttrack.hk | Leave a comment

DOES PERTH RACING WANT TO HELP ITSELF BE MORE THAN WHAT IT IS?

“It’s always been like that, mate, and it will never change.”

A friend who’s one of the most “connected” people in Australian racing circles was explaining about Perth and his and many others’ image and interest in horse racing over there- which is non-existent.

WHAT IT IS 1

To a simple question as to why Perth racing is so badly ignored and much-maligned by “Eastsiders” came a laundry list of reasons why- the different time zones, the “inferior horses and riders”, how Sydney and Melbourne “only send our crap horses to their carnivals ‘cos our big carnivals are over by then”.

Then, there are the stories of one of the biggest punters in Oz, and notorious “enabler” to many young jockeys,”investing” in WA racing, the clout of one of Perth’s best-known- and loathed- jockeys and his missus, how promising jockey Alana Samson gave up her career over there as it wasn’t worth it, the huge turnover of here-today-gone-tomorrow apprentices, and how “no one” bothers to bet on WA races- even those in Perth.

Whew! It almost makes one wonder if Perth is some fictitious land Down Under that, like Vegas, practices the mantra that what happens in Perth stays in Perth.

WHAT IT IS 3

Then, there’s the flip side of the coin:  Those who say that many in Perth are happy to keep things as they are and maintain the status quo of being a retirement home like Florida is in the US for the Golden Girls and the Twilight Boys.

WHAT IT IS 4

All this, of course, is a huge difference to around five years ago when veteran concert promoter Michael Chugg, below, and others were selling many of us on the convenience of Perth as a location- us, in the Australasia region- through the OneMovement music conferences and accompanying concerts.

WHAT IT IS 5

For the first OneMovement event, Chuggie, a huge racing fan with good mate Michael Gudinski of Mushroom Records fame, and gang flew in David Holmes, manager of Coldplay, had hit making American songwriter Diane Warren as the Keynote Speaker along with regional brand managers, and senior music executives, to point out the attraction of Perth as a destination with its same time difference as Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, the plans to open a casino, and, of course, the pulling power to punters in Asia and Greater China of horse racing in Perth.

WHAT IT IS 6

After one or two other Movements, it became more of a Bowell Movement, with everything coming to a screeching halt, and a disappointing veil of silence from Chuggie and his Chuggettes.

Perhaps put this down to a lack of support from a broke and broken down music industry with no leaders with vision.

The first OneMovement was a great success and introduced many of us to a city that is friendly, unpretentious, has some excellent local music talent no one’s heard of because, like racing, the marketing has been piss poor.

never change 1
What’s the bet, racing fans outside of Australia know far more about racing in Perth- the riders, the trainers, the horses, the form, the owners- real and otherwise- and the big players?

But ask who runs Perth racing, who’s the Director of Racing, who’s the Chief Steward, and there’ll be a shrug of the shoulders.

never change 2

It’s almost as if Perth racing manages itself and suffers from an inferiority complex.

Let’s not be shy and retiring, folks.

Racing in Perth runs rings around racing in Macau.

SONY DSC

With the MJC on its last legs, there can be a reasonably profitable market in wagering from those who would think nothing of leaving on a Friday and reaching Perth via Singapore for a race meeting on Saturday.

As we all know, the ties between betting on all WA races- not just Perth- from Singapore and Malaysia- plus the ownership of horses- has been well-documented- the good, the bad and the fugly.

Anyone who is surprised by that has been living under a rock.

WHAT IT IS 9

What Perth racing needs is someone with strong leadership skills capable of finding ways and the balls to, at least, TRY and work with Hong Kong on co-mingling while being able to raise its profile, up the ante, clean house, and get rid of the rotten apples including the imbecile who ran into the course at Belmont in the last race today while marketing and enhancing the careers of young talent like Chris and Brad Parnham boys, boom apprentice Lucy Warwick, below, and Ben Patterson. If not, like Damien Lane, they’ll be on their bikes.

WHAT IT IS 10

Willie Pike, of course, many Hong Kong punters remember for riding three consecutive winners for John Size at one meeting when he rode here a few seasons ago and is a drawcard and good for turnover.

WHAT IT IS 11

After Douglas Whyte rode in Perth for the first time last year, he returned to Hong Kong full of praise about the racing, the people he had met and, like myself, in love with the city- and able to see its untapped potential from a business point of view.

WHAT IT IS 12

Think about this: Would an organization like the HKJC consider sending a jockey the calibre of Whyte, who was substituting for a suspended Joao Moreira to PERTH if it wasn’t, in some way, testing the water?

Or offer a relative unknown like Willie Pike a license to ride in the most competitive racing environment in the world when there was a queue wanting to get in?

never change 4

Perth and Perth racing have much going for them.

The question is whether they understand this and, if so, really want to make a Go of it, or are just happy to plod along and continue being the Rodney Dangerfield of Australian racing or be the master of its own destiny?

The ball is in their court.

never change 5

Hans Ebert

Posted in Australian horse racing industry, DOUGLAS WHYTE, Hong Kong Jockey Club, Horse Racing, Macau Jockey Club, PERTH RACING | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

THE NO BRAINER AND S*** FOR BRAINS ISSUE

THE NO BRAINER 1

BREEDERS LEVY AND THE FUNDING ‘NO BRAINER’.

THE NO BRAINER 2

Buried conveniently underneath the carefully staged campaign conducted by Racing NSW and its official propaganda unit – Rupe’s Daily “Smellygraph”- ranting and railing like hyenas in heat against the State Government for a lower tax rate to help fund racing, is one of the most obvious- and potentially lucrative sources of dosh for NSW racing: the Breeders Levy.

THE NO BRAINER 3

Remember the Breeders Levy? We do. It was such a no-brainer that even the Druitt Street kitchen cabinet were forced to acknowledge that breeders, just like owners, trainers, punters, totalisators, betting exchanges, corporate and the “not so corporate” bookmakers, should be required to make a financial contribution to the racing industry.

The NSW Breeders, aka the “Hunter Cabal”, have been freeloading off the thoroughbred since the “big bang” created the racing industry.

But, because the NSW breeders, aka the “Hunter Cabal”, are a protected species, there’s been fuck all done about getting a levy in place to help fund the NSW racing industry.

It’s, of course, an industry that, according to its Zena-type leader- fearless, peerless and, we hear, with great legs, is in a funding black hole, with the State Government turning off its hearing aid to the deafening cries for help from this fearless- and leggy- protector of his very own and very precious “50,000” brothers and sistahs with back up editorial support from Sister Ray and his arfing junior Corona-swigging running dog.

THE NO BRAINER 4
Protector of Racing NSW

Imagine for one moment if roles were reversed and the dastardly corporate bookies were in the firing line?

Yes, all the heavy artillery would have been rolled out in a conga line from Druitt Street to the NSW Supreme Court or whatever legal jurisdiction is around to force the freeloaders to cough up.

All the well-worn and tired clichés and one-liners would have been dusted off and reprised to mortally wound the enemy.

THE NO BRAINER 5

But you just could not do that to a protected species could you?

So why hasn’t the Breeders Levy been introduced in NSW?

Perhaps the Premier Mike Baird and Racing Minister Troy Grant should ask the same question of Racing NSW and the public face of the campaign to bully the State Government to lower the tax rate?

Ironically, the Championships were originally proposed as the southern hemisphere’s version of the Breeders Cup.

What an absolute fucking give away.

And when, in a further twist of the most delicious irony, the jewel in the crown of the Championships – the Queen Elizabeth with its obscene $4 million prize money- finished up in the pockets of the patriarch of the Hunter breeders cabal – Arrowfield Stud supremo and Racing NSW Chairman John Messara, thanks to the magnificent victory of his champion racehorse It’s A Dundeel.

THE NO BRAINER 6

THE NO BRAINER 7

Knowing Messara’s passion for all things racing and breeding- and he’s certainly no idiot- he would have been embarrassed by the coincidence.

If a Breeders Levy were in place, it would relieve any embarrassment and talking-from-both-sides-of-the-mouth rambling, and go a long way towards answering the question being asked with increased frequency as to why the Breeders are excluded from making a financial contribution to the industry that they make a handsome profit out of.

THE NO BRAINER 8

Yes, we do recognize that some of the smaller breeders are, and have been doing it tough for a long time, but the Hunter farms have been making what can only be described as obscene returns from stallion fees and yearlings over many years, a substantial portion of which winds up in the off-shore tax havens and bank balances of well-known global breeding conglomerates.

Perhaps funds from the Breeders Levy could underwrite the Championships, leaving whatever contribution from the State Government to fix up the absolute disgrace that Sydney race tracks are in these days- despite all the money spent on “renovations”.

Something’s wrong, very wrong, Sherlock.

THE NO BRAINER 9

Surely the Racing NSW Board with its commercial expertise and basic marketing knowledge would understand the damage that is inflicted on the brand and image of racing by the justifiable complaints about the state of Randwick, the Inner Kensington Track, Rosehill and Warwick Farm?

You’d think so, unless that deaf, dumb and kid- Tommy- is too busy playing that mean pinball.

THE NO BRAINER 10

If racing was a mainstream sport- and why it still isn’t is a moot point- you could bet your last dollar something decisive would have happened- and swiftly.

But racing marches to the beat of its own drum, oblivious to missed opportunities and professional management.

THE NO BRAINER 11

We’ll say it again: It’s time to apply the scorched policy to the management and administration of racing in NSW.

THE NO BRAINER 12

Start at Ground Zero, throw open all the executive and board positions, and remove WAR from the vocabulary of horse racing in NSW.

THE NO BRAINER 13

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ROBBIE’S TRACK SENSE WITH NO HORSING AROUND.

THE NO BRAINER 14

Robbie Waterhouse has long been recognized across the racing industry (and even by his detractors) as one of its most important intellects.

When it comes to racing issues, Robbie has often enriched the debate offering a refreshing clarity of discussion and argument, and not blindsided by the tunnel vision and cover-up mentality of many of the self-interest driven decision makers.

Robbie has articulated his views on the preparation of tracks in the 21st century for some time now.

We heard them again after last weekend’s fiasco with the Kensington track when trainers and jockeys alike exposed the abominable mess that the poor old Randwick course proper and the Inner Kensington track are in.

It makes so much sense not to pour- and waste- millions of megalitres of water into tracks, which, with the help of moderate overnight rain produces something resembling the Kensington surface last Saturday, or at worst, a quagmire, as has been experienced in Sydney all too frequently.

THE NO BRAINER 15

Racing needs to listen and respect the wisdom of analytical thinkers like Robbie Waterhouse who have contributed to the debate on many important subjects in racing- from tracks, to handicapping and programming, just to name a few, which have delivered bucket loads of angst to every participant layer of racing.

Perhaps then, and only then, will there be an industry that operates on a foundation of rational and logical thinking, and not blinkered by the loud and irrational public utterances of those who can only offer knee jerk reactions on any racing issue.

THE NO BRAINER 16

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ELITES FLEX THEIR MUSCLES IN EUROPE. AND NOW WHAT?

THE NO BRAINER 17

THE NO BRAINER 18

Some very interesting statistics compiled by British bloodstock economist John Lynam, who also happens to be the brother of Ed Lynam, the well-known English trainer, who has got plenty of mileage out of this year’s European flat racing season as the trainer of champion European sprinter Slade Power.

THE NO BRAINER 19

Analysing the 2013 Tattersalls yearling sales, John Lynam noted that there was a “massive increase at the high end of the market” with 92% of growth in the increased aggregate coming from sales of over 100,000 guineas.

Interestingly, the emergence of the Qatar royal family into racing has proven to be a major plus for European racing and breeding, and their presence, on a global scale, is growing.

THE NO BRAINER 20

At the 2013 Tattersalls Yearling Sales, Sheikh Joaan Al Thani’s Al Shaqab operation accounted for 12% of turnover, second only to the well-established Dubai Maktoum family and their separate operations which accounted for 20% of the aggregate.

To use John Lynam’s words, these two Middle Eastern royal families have been basically “bailing out” the British bloodstock sector in recent years, demonstrating conclusively how heavily dependant British racing is on Middle Eastern money.

THE NO BRAINER 21

Whilst racing does- and must always- welcome investment in the industry with open arms, there is always a flip side to a “skew” in large scale investment from oligarchs whose power is based and exercised purely from wealth.

Racing needs to be constantly reminded of the dangers of unfettered power, and oligarchies have a track record of, sometimes, strangling an industry and a commercial market if their intentions and principles are not benevolent or honourable.

It can leave an industry (which racing is these days), vulnerable and, at the behest of vested interests whose agendas often don’t align with the industry or its participants.

British racing, and for that matter European racing, is unrecognizable from what it was just a few decades ago.

THE NO BRAINER 22

And while there are many positives in racing’s contemporary landscape and its evolution, the erosion of its grass roots base and participation is in great danger of becoming irreversible.

THE NO BRAINER 23

It’s a process that racing, irrespective of which hemisphere or country it is conducted in, can ill afford.

Yes, we’ve banged on about this before, but it cannot be emphasized enough: The development of elitism in Australian, and, particularly, NSW racing, is something which we rang the alarm bells about some time ago.

THE NO BRAINER 24

The next- and immediate challenge- is for racing to have an open conversation about the subject and debate the threats and opportunities that elitism poses to racing- and how investment should not only be welcomed and actively sought, but also managed for the benefit of the investor and the industry.

Having said that, it’s an area that racing is not very comfortable with or adept at handling.

Maybe everyone- even the bully boys- suffer from shrinkage and become girlie men incapable of winning a debate as they’re just not good enough negotiators.

THE NO BRAINER 25

Posted in Australian horse racing industry, Horse Racing, HORSE RACING AND SOCIAL MEDIA, JOHN MESSARA, The horse racing industry | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

CHAR SIU BAO BAO (叉燒包包): THE ONLY MAN TO BRING HORSE RACING TO MAINLAND CHINA LIKE ONE GIANT DUMPLING

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 1

Char Siu Bao Bao (包包) is a big man- a very big man resembling a Chinese Fat Bastard from the Austen Powers movies- and a multi-billionaire from the Ho Lee Fook province who owns vineyards in Bordeaux, Petrus, Napa Valley, Mudgee, Hawkes Bay, Wanchai and Tsimshatsui with plans to open up anything that’s, well, BIG.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 2

He thinks so BIG, he makes every other multi-millionaire in Mainland China with plans- and there are so many with so many plans- look like Mini Me.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 3

Bao Bao (包包) has a magnificent obsession with horses and BIGGER than BIG ideas involving horse racing in- where else?- Mainland China- and which is where he whisked me to on his private Baojet and showed me around his multi-billion dollar complex from where he plans to completely change the face, body, ass and hooves of horse racing.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 4

In his Forties and with interests in also changing the movie business with 6-D movies screened in special cinema complexes he is building in Boracay, Bao Bao (包包) mentioned how he wanted to buy Gai Waterhouse, Aiden O’Brien, the Ascot and Meydan Racecourses, Macau, former Hong Kong trainer Andy Leung and Billy Nader, Executive Director of Racing with the HKJC.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 5

As his guest, and not wishing to dampen his enthusiasm and quash living his dream, I had to tell him that Gai Waterhouse was off the market. He was disappointed and shed a little tear. It was tough to watch the big man cry.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 6

Still, as we toured his property- it took three days- his mood picked up and he pointed out to a long, dildo-shaped building in purple that would be his breeding area for jockeys. You read that correctly the first time.

He clapped his hands as we entered the building and an entire milk bubble hidden by concave mirrors for good fung shui opened up like a bud flowering to reveal what he told me was his amateur boom boom breeding room for future jockeys where several short, stocky, muscular women sporting beards exercised on hobby horses.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 7

Bao Bao (包包) playfully whipped them on their Kardashian-sized buttocks as he walked past: “They no move fast”, he said, and then let out a blood curdling laugh which scared all the wild animals around his property as a murder of crows flapped around in fear.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 8

My host then asked if I could help him with another of his ambitious plans: To clone a list of jockeys he had hand-picked and whose faces stared down at me from a huge billboard lit up with their names, giant photographs and videos- Joao Moreira, Ryan Moore, Hugh Bowman, Douglas Whyte, Gary Moore and Nash Rawiller.

“You can get for me?” he asked. “Billion, okay? Only want DNA. Have top McDonald’s scientists to create super nuggety jockeys.”

“Maybe Gary Moore,” I replied meekly.

“Ahhhhh, Botox Man!” he thundered and those animals again ran for safety.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 9

Hearing that getting his hands on a Gary Moore DNA was possible, pleased him. He hit the concrete desk in front of him, split it in two, split his pantaloons in the process, cleared his throat, spat, snorted, passed some gas, and stuffed a million dollars- in cash- into my mouth as, what he said, was a sign of good faith.

I was gobsmacked. I was also nearly choking to death.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 10

I thought I had seen and heard it all until we arrived in a room marked “Transformers”.

MCDTRAN EC065

Bao Bao (包包) pressed his left cheek onto an electronic safety door pass, which opened into a giant laboratory where flying horses- the BIGGEST, most muscular horses I have ever seen- danced in the air like Mick Jagger on strings before suddenly changing shape- one time a tank, then Oprah Winfrey, then a rocket, then Le Cirque De Soleil, and then back to another muscular horse that looked like The Lone Ranger’s Silver on steroids even unknown to Lance Armstrong and Madonna.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 12

“You like?” asked my host. “You like movie? Transformers? My idea! Mark Wahlberg. We build him here. Before he only Mark Wah Wah. Small balls. We give him new balls. We make him General Transformer. Next, maybe we give Bieber big balls. Already give Kardashian women super big asses.”

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 13

Right next to the Transformers room, which took us a day to reach was a truly spectacular race track unlike anything the world would have ever seen.

As we drank bottles of Chateau Lafitte and toasted the future while dining on dishes of Peking Duck, Bao Bao (包包) talked openly of his feelings about all those other Chinese entrepreneurs and their plans to bring horse racing to Mainland China.

“They small Ningning dim sums he said” as he pointed to his BaoBao racecourse which had four different courses next to each other to suit mudlarks, horses that are dirt freaks, those that performed best on a firm track, and those that need a track with some give.

“This way, everyone has fair chance,” he explained. “Trainer pick what track for horse. Every horse race at same time on four separate tracks.”

I wondered what my old mate Caspar Fownes would have said if he was there with me.

caspar

It was an amazingly unique idea: A racecourse for all seasons- and one that was indoors to ensure the weather gods would never bugger up a race meeting.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 15

As it had now been six days since I first arrived and had seen enough to last me a life time, I told my host that the time to leave had arrived.

He had one last weapon in his arsenal to show me.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 16

As we opened another bottle of Chateau Lafitte and toasted the future while stuffing our faces with another dish of Peking Duck while the cast of Glee sang gay songs for us, a familiar face approached us.

It was Luis Suarez, the hard-tackling, hard-biting footballer.

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 17

Suarez smiled. He had no teeth, however. “My secret weapon”, explained Bao Bao (包包). “Scientists making him bigger molars and bigger teeth.”

Suarez was his new racing manager and chief negotiator. “If people argue, he bite! He my bitch!”

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 18

And with that, Bao Bao (包包) laughed out aloud again as birds fell from the sky, animals around us howled in terror and Luis Suarez stared at me, licking his lips and smiling.

My host and I hugged like girlie men. He lifted me off the ground, twirled me in the air and threw me into the Baojet for that trip back to Hong Kong.

Jon Landau might have written about seeing the future of Rock’n Roll in Bruce Springsteen. I had seen the future of horse racing. I was blessed.”

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 19

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 20a

CHAR SIU BAO BAO 20b

Hans Bao Bao Ebert

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