“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.