WHEN WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH
There have been wonderful, heartfelt expressions of grief and sympathy expressed by those who knew Nathan Berry and were close to him on his tragic and premature departure from this world.
The tragic story of his passing has touched even those on the periphery of racing.
But it’s his wife of just two months – Whitney, the Berry family, twin brother Tommy and Mum Julie and Dad Kevin, Whitney’s family – the Schofields, Nathan’s nearest and dearest, and the depths of their grief and sorrow, which we could never, even begin to imagine.
At 23, the best years of Nathan’s life were ahead of him.
Married just two months ago to the “girl of my dreams”, Nathan had everything going for him, personally. Nathan and Whitney had a life ahead of them with so much to look forward to. Nathan made no secret of his deep affection and love for the “girl of his dreams”.
Asked by Richard Calendar on TVN on the eve of his wedding after a post race interview whether he was nervous, Nathan replied with that warm smile that we had become accustomed to: “Why would I, I’m marrying the girl of my dreams”.
Professionally, Nathan was on such a high. He had just won the Magic Millions on Unencumbered, who is one of the “live” chances at Rosehill tomorrow in the Golden Slipper, and which he was to ride.
Nathan had started to make a real name for himself in the Sydney jockey ranks. The black type rides and winners were starting to happen.
Tragically, fate had other plans and took Nathan Berry away from those who loved him dearly, and from those whom he loved.
It is a sad and cruel reality of life, that life itself does not always dispense fairness in any shape or form.
RIP Nathan, we’re sure you’ll keep a close watch on the loved ones you’ve so tragically and prematurely left behind.
GAI JUMPS TO THE RESCUE
The jumps racing fraternity down south are doing high fives thanks to Australian racing’s first lady – the irrepressible Gai Waterhouse.
Her contribution to the domestic industry is well documented and acknowledged. And yet, what sets Gai apart is her unquestionable and admirable appetite for a challenge- not that there are too many mountains in racing that she has not climbed.
She must have been weaned on the song, Climb Every Mountain.
Lady GaiGai has won just about every Group One and Group and black type race in Australia. Last year she took out Australia’s greatest race – the Melbourne Cup with- Fiorente. It was a magic moment for Gai Waterhouse.
Not content with her exalted place in Australian racing, Gai recently decided that she wanted to have a throw of the dice at training jumpers.
Enamoured after taking in Victoria’s premier jumps racing carnival at Warrnambool in late April/early May, and wanting to be part of the action, Gai fulfilled a promise she made at last year’s carnival and a select team of three horses – the imported stayers Glencadam Gold and Tenby Lady and local Valediction have all received their official qualification at jumps trials in Victoria to compete in the jumps races.
And, not surprisingly, Gai’s first starter over the hurdles – Valediction- made a success of his jumps debut and that of his trainer during the week in Victoria. And Gai being Lady GaiGai was as effusive and as enthusiastic as ever about her foray into jumps racing.
For a minute there, we expected her to do a few victory jumps herself. Someone really should bottle her enthusiasm.
In doing so, Gai Waterhouse has gifted Racing Victoria a potent PR weapon to combat the anti-jumps racing and animal rights lobby, who, thanks to the limp-wristed, tail wagging, meek and mild, compliant responses from Racing Victoria, below, are getting increasingly vocal, eroding and undermining jumps racing.
Black Caviar aside, Gai Waterhouse arguably has the highest profile amongst homo sapiens in Australian racing. Ditto amongst women and not just in racing.
She has single-handedly managed to give NSW racing the small degree of relevance that it has in that State.
From a marketing perspective she is Australian racing’s wonder woman. She lives and breathes racing – as a profession and as a passion. She can walk the walk and talk the talk.
Like their counterparts in NSW, the marketing and management lightweights at Racing Victoria are probably wandering around aimlessly, bereft of any strategies to take advantage of their “lottery winning” stroke of good fortune to seize the day.
Would they have spoken to Gai over the past year and made her front and centre of their jumps racing PR strategy to win over the hearts and minds of the “fence sitters” and the anti-jumps racing and animal rights lobby groups? We reckon the answer is obvious.
WHY IS THE ROSEHILL CARNIVAL STRUGGLING?
If attendances are any guide, then Sydney racegoers have voted with their feet in staying away from two magnificent days of racing at Rosehill Golden Slipper Festival of Racing.
A paltry and embarrassingly low attendance of 8000 odd- well, some more odd than others- racegoers made the trek to Rosehill last Saturday.
There can’t be any sugar coating about the ramifications for the future of the Slipper carnival.
Disheartening as it might be for the ATC and for Sydney racing, there is no getting away from the uncomfortable fact that the saturated and deliberate preferential promotion of the Championships has almost realized a self-fulfilling prophecy for the Sydney Autumn Racing Carnival.
The very choice of the word “Championships” to brand the two day Randwick extravaganza spells the death knell for the “Slipper Festival”.
With nothing more than a week separating them, they are in direct competition for the hearts and minds- and wallets- of the racing and non-racing public. And faced with the choice of going to the “Championships” at a central venue with all the artificial hype and hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars and outta control “spinning” as opposed to a struggling and much less hyped “festival of racing” over three Saturday’s – the choice is a no-brainer.
With State Government funding for the Championships beyond 2014 a political time bomb waiting to be detonated and looking increasingly like an issue that Premier Barry O’Farrell and Racing Minister George Souris would rather distance themselves from, Racing NSW and the ATC are throwing everything bar the kitchen sink in a desperate last throw of the dice to “spin” the Championships as an event that Sydney and NSW just cannot do without out.
The logic is so flawed it hurts, mama. The demise of the Slipper Festival has not only begun, but can quite easily become a runaway train.
Of course, there will be the short sighted arguments that will hark back to the “good old days” when the Slipper Festival and the Easter carnival co-existed very successfully. But the reality is that the “good old days” are consigned to the scrap heap of history.
Times have changed, society has moved on exponentially from the 80’s, 90’s and even the ‘noughties.
Racing has become largely irrelevant in Australia. It has failed so miserably to capture the attention and become a “hot ticket” item and keeps coming off second best with every other mainstream sport.
Time and again, it stupidly continues to allow these other sports to grab the headlines, seeking instead to turn the blowtorch on itself by hiding behind the tedious statements that it regularly makes about how it is continually spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on Integrity, keeping a kindergarten-like scorecard activity on the number of integrity changes it continues to make during each racing season or calendar year.
Ironically, when it is confronted with having to extract its finger from its derriere and get the turnstiles clicking, it is an abject failure.
Racing never has understood even the most basic principles of marketing or branding, or promotion or communication.
The Championships campaign, and the Victorian Relaxed Racing campaign are joined at the hip and should be a case study in how racing should not be marketed.
The characters used in the Championships advertising campaign are a complete turn-off to the target market that the ATC and Racing NSW so desperately want to attract to Randwick- characters and casting so out of sync with anything that resembles Racing’s USP, it is embarrassing.
The amateurish campaigns that Racing’s governing bodies and administrators sign off on are an indictment of their ability and exposes their abysmal lack of professionalism.
But, like many organizations who survive despite themselves, they paper over the cracks with “spin”- the only communication dynamic they understand and which, again, goes the whole way in explaining why racing has such an appalling public image and is largely irrelevant in modern society.
AUSTRALIA MUST FOLLOW UK LEGISLATION
The decision by the UK Government to legislate and force corporate bookmakers operating their businesses offshore to avoid paying the racing industry fees and charges for wagering on UK racing must be replicated in Australia.
Thanks to expat Australian racing administrator and current British Horseracing Authority Chief Executive Paul Bittar, the UK Conservative Government has had their arms and whatever limbs were needed, twisted.
The threats by some corporate bookmakers Down Under to move their operation offshore if product fees were raised, requires a swift and decisive legislative response from the Federal Abbott Government.
But the Abbott Government MUST be lobbied hard and consistently, particularly by that dinosaur of Australian racing – the Australian Racing Board, which, supposedly, is the supreme governing body of the industry Down Under and run by the children of Methuselah. Sheesh.
And who better to lobby Tony Abbott and his cabinet, but- gulp- the Board’s Chief Executive Peter “toffee tongue” McGauran.
“Toffee Tongue”- as has been well documented- is a former cabinet minister of the Howard Government in which Tony Abbott held a number of significant and much more important portfolios than “Toffs”.
More important, Abbott’s chief minder- Peta Credlin- we understand previously held a senior role in Racing Victoria.
C’mon “Toffs” roll up your sleeves, show us you have balls, and move that money maker ‘cos, mate, this is your moment in the sun- your moment to shine and let the sunshine in from The Age Of Aquarius or a Blues Brother seeing the light.
Prove it to your mate Lord Pierrot V’lundies’ “50,000 participants” and whatever six figure number you can pick for the rest of Australia, that you can do it.
Wouldn’t you like something to be remembered by other than, well, a rather gooey smile?