THE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD ISSUE

WAGERING TRENDS PROVIDE GLIMMER OF HOPE

THE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD ISSUE 1

The wagering figures out of the feature race meetings from the “bleak city” that is Melbourne over the past month offer Australian racing a glimmer of hope for the immediate future.

Wagering growth which has been stagnant or deflationary over recent years has threatened to undermine the financial underbelly of racing in the major states – NSW and in Victoria, the two bellwether States in Australian racing. If either of the big two sneeze then the rest of the States catch financial pneumonia – simple as that.

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What has been driving the promising upward trend in wagering in Victoria is undoubtedly a combination of a bumper crop of seriously good horses competing in the feature black type and Group races; the very much underrated impact of the Black Caviar factor and the radical change in race programming which has seen both the Melbourne and Moonee Valley racing clubs push their feature race to the end of the program- though the logic and timing of having these races at the end of the night is debatable.

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The quality of top class racehorses this spring has been of the highest calibre for many years. The past two weekend and Friday night Group Ones could not have been better. The Underwood at Caulfield was a race to remember with Atlantic Jewel and It’s A Dundeel delivering everything that the pre-race hype promised.

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The Moir on Friday night showcased the best sprinters post Black Caviar and might have produced the best of the current crop of sprinters in Samaready.

Caulfield Raceday

The Rupert Clarke on Sunday attracted one of the best 1400 metres fields in recent times with Rebel Dane proving just how good he is in a star studded field.

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It is easy to underestimate the massive legacy that Black Caviar has left for Australian racing – not just among punters but more importantly in the way she has promoted racing to the community at large.

While the impact on racing itself is generational, Black Caviar has single handedly energized Australian racing. It is impossible to quantify or find any accurate measure of the impact of her dominance of the media headlines.

What we do know is that she is still dominating conversations and social media that has ensured racing is front and centre at its time in the sun during the spring racing carnival.

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To the surprise of many, pushing back the feature race to the last race on the program has, to date, delivered the spike in wagering that the Race Clubs were desperately looking for.

It was a throw at the stumps for the Race Clubs who could quite easily have finished up with truckloads of scrambled eggs on their collective faces if the experiment had so far failed to deliver.

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But it has, and if the trend can be maintained and find its way through to an overall spike in wagering for the entire race day, then racing will be the beneficiary.

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The elephant in the room however is the weather. Bleak City in spring serves up a potpourri of the most fickle weather in the land down under.

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Imagine a Cox Plate or a Caulfield Cup run as the last race on tracks which have been pounded not just by horses hooves but by rain and hail storms. Just ask the punters in bleak city and they’ll describe it in graphic detail.

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But credit where credit is due, at least the Race Clubs down south are being innovative. They are rolling the dice and to date the experiment is working. Let’s hope it continues.

THE LEVEL PLAYING FIELD ISSUE 12

THE “LEVEL PLAYING FIELD” MYTH

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It has become one of those meaningless and mythical buzz words or cliché’s – over used to the nth degree by those feeling disadvantaged and by others desperately seeking to gain an advantage.

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The deafening cry for a “level playing field” has lost all relevance, meaning and credibility as it has permeated the utterings and pleas for help not just in racing, but across just about every other popular mainstream sport.

Try the NRL, the AFL, Basketball, Soccer, to name just a handful. It’s a phrase coming to a sport near you.

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But reality bites and bites hard. A “level playing field” has never existed and is unlikely to ever exist, that is unless good old fashioned socialist principles are introduced into the sports where the participants are crying foul.

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Take racing and the naked hypocrisy of some of trainers who keep publicly whingeing and whining their life away about how they are disadvantaged by the absence of the nirvana which a “level playing field” would instantly deliver to their success rates.

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The reality is that these trainers are often the ones who, for reasons well known to themselves, just cannot get their horses into the winners stall as regularly as their arch rivals And let’s face it, you don’t need to be an Einstein to work those reasons out.

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These very same trainers are at their most vocal best when it comes to integrity issues. They have got the art of finger pointing their rivals in private conversations down to a fine art.

Dig deep enough and the “level playing field” is nothing more than an ADVANTAGE which sportsmen seek so desperately over their rivals.

It is no different in the deregulated corporate commercial world where there rules, rules and more rules, which no one obeys, and which every organization spends a truckload of money hiring smart and aggressive commercial lawyers to manipulate and avoid compliance.

In racing, as with many of the aforementioned sports, a “level playing field” is almost, if not completely impossible to achieve.

All these sports, racing included, discriminates.

In racing the dynamics of vast differences exist in track and training facilities from region to region and between the metropolitan and regional centres.

There are also massive differences in ownership bases, where metropolitan trainers have access to a network of owners and potential clients with substantial wealth to indulge in racehorse ownership.

Then there is access to the best veterinarians and veterinary science and technology, and to the best staff and back-up resources.

World’s best practice and expertise comes at a considerable cost, hence the success of trainers who can access the best R&D used in the development of completely legitimate cutting-edge feed formulations and veterinary products, which the vast majority of their competitors find it almost impossible to get their hands on.

Cliché’s like “level playing field” are always the preferred choice of “spin doctors” and sporting codes and organizations looking to validate big budget spends or expanding empires and their resources, or PR campaigns to change public opinion and the laws.

For many participants in sport, it is a convenient, but not a very smart strategy to explain or excuse lack of success.

Like many popular cliché’s the “level playing field” will inevitably be retired from regular everyday use. And the sooner the better.

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MORONEY SWOOPS ON ONE OF UK’S BEST STAYERS

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Well known and successful ex-kiwi trainer Mike Moroney, now based in “bleak city”, has triumphantly announced that one of Europe’s best young stayers, the four year old mare Voleuse De Coeurs, has been purchased by his bloodstock agent brother Paul and will arrive later this month for a tilt at this year’s Melbourne Cup.

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The purchase of Voleuse de Coeurs from one of Ireland’s best and most successful stables – the Dermot Weld yard, is coup for Moroney.

Weld had flagged his intentions to set the four year old mare for a tilt at the 2014 Melbourne Cup. And Weld, who labelled the mare a seriously good staying prospect, should know having trained two Cup winners the trail blazer for the internationalization of the Melbourne Cup – Vintage Crop and Media Puzzle.

As expected Voleuse De Coeurs cost plenty – well over a million Aussie for her new owners – interestingly, the Macau-based Sun International, who are making their presence really felt in Australian racing following their recent purchase of the Eliza Park breeding and racing operation to complement their spending spree at the major Australian yearling sales this year.

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The purchase price of Voleuse De Coeurs escalated after her win last month in the Group One 2800 metres Irish St Leger, one of Europe’s most prestigious staying races.

Ironically Paul Moroney had a deal done to purchase the mare prior to her St Leger win for another Australian-based syndicate of stable clients, but it fell through not long before the race.

In betting markets for the Melbourne Cup, Voleuse De Coeurs is quoted at odds of 15/1.

THE BEACH BOYS GOOD VIBRATIONS CONNECTION

Having had the pleasure of seeing the Beach Boys ‘live’ on many occasions and growing up with their wonderful music, it was intriguing to note the debut of 2 year old filly Kokomo entered for the Gimcrack Stakes at Randwick on Saturday.

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Delving deeper and thanks to our friends at the Newcastle Herald, a Beach Boy fan has been unearthed.

Kokomo is not the only horse with a Beach Boys connection in its name for owner Heath Newton. I Get Around and Wouldn’t It Be Nice, named after two more classic hits by now, the Beach Men, have both won good races for Heath Newton and his trainer Paul Perry, best known as the trainer of two great sprinters and now two of the hottest Danehill line stallions in the world today – the Coolmore owned duo Fastnet Rock and Choisir.

Kokomo is a full sister to Wouldn’t It Be Nice both being by Choisir.

Wonder which Beach Boys hits will be chosen for Heath Newton’s next two year old? We’re tipping Fun Fun Fun- which some of us raced in Macau many years ago.

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