Category: The Trots

Why Couldn’t Club Menangle Subsidise Prize Money Levels to Save Them From Being Slashed? – After All, They’ve Got a Hundred Million Bucks in the Bank

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For the past 3 months harness racing owners, trainers and drivers in New South Wales have been bleeding.

Harness Racing NSW is all but broke.

The people who run that organisation have somehow managed to blow $30 million in the past six years, and now they are robbing Peter to pay Paul just to keep the fast sinking ship marginally above water.

Due to gross financial mismanagement withing the organisation, HRNSW have no cash.

The peak body that distributes the prizemoney should have been able to withstand the shock when the Coronavirus hit out of the blue, but sadly only months before its leaders had drained the Future Fund established for this exact purpose, just so that they could pay the gas bill, so when COVID-19 came a’knocking there was nothing left in the kitty.

So HRNSW slashed prizemoney across the board, and although the pain was spread across the State, the hardest hit were the professionals based in and around the major racing centre of Menangle and their owners, the people who rely on the earnings from their winnings to put bread on the table.

They have all been suffering, but they shouldn’t have been.

A few million dollars to maintain the purse levels would have kept everything sweet, and Club Menangle could have subbed it, easily.

This club has $100 million in the bank.

The interest on that alone could easily have kept the prizemoney levels up through the pandemic season. Easily.

The $3 million that it spent to buy the breeding rights for the blank shooter Lazarus could have too, no worries.

But the Club didn’t offer and it didn’t give, and as a result everybody hurt.

Everybody but the Directors of Harness NSW and Club Menangle, that is.

Did anyone see any of them take a 20% reduction in their board meeting fees?

If so, I must have missed it.

So why didn’t Club Menangle come to the party and support our sport and the people in it who need that prizemoney to keep things ticking over?

Was it all the behind the scenes financial assistance they are providing to the self-immolating APG?

I don’t know, but I don’t like it.

In fact I think it stinks.

Direct all your questions to the Club Menangle Chairman Robert Marshall.

I’m sure Bob will be happy answer you with a tweet.

Whoever Would Have Thought That Oranges Would Cost $12 Million in the Riverina?

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Orange is a small town of about 40 000 people, located 254 kilometres from Sydney inland to the west.

It is more than three and a half hours drive from Wagga, a much bigger town of nearly 60 000 people.

A few years back, Harness NSW decided for some reason or another to build a brand new harness racing track in Wagga.

The new track was to be called the Riverina Paceway.

The track construction was initially costed at $3.8 million.

By the time it was finally finished it had cost more than $12 million.

No-one seems to be able to tell us why, so we decided to have a look and see if we could find some clues.

This is the development approval for the track issued by the Wagga Wagga City Council.

What we are looking at is the names of the companies awarded contracts for the building of the track by Harness Racing NSW.

It is not known whether all these contracts were put out to public, competitive tender.

If they weren’t, there are some serious questions to be asked of HRNSW.

If they were there are too.

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This below is Peter Basha Planning and Development.

It’s a small one man operation in Orange, with its office situated between a vegetarian restaurant and a Thai massage parlour.

This company was in charge of the whole Riverina Paceway construction show.

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This is McKinnon Design.

It’s in Orange too.

McKinnon Design were the joint number 2 men on the Paceway construction, or joint number 1 man, whichever the case may be.

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This is Heath Consulting Engineers.

Guess where it is?

Did you say Orange?

Spot on.

Gee that Thai massage parlour looks familiar, doesn’t it?

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This is Wilkinson Murray.

Yes, they are based in Orange too.

Or at least they have an office there.

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So here you have it.

The four largest contractors engaged by Harness Racing NSW to undertake a $3.8 million paceway construction that ended up costing $12 million were all based in a little wee town called Orange, 250 miles away from where they were building the track.

What are the odds of 4 companies from Orange each winning a statewide open tender for a $12 million paceway construction job?

Slim you’d have to say, wouldn’t you?

The big boys from Sydney, Newcastle and the Gong would eat them alive on experience and price. Their competitors in Wagga almost certainly would too.

So how did they all get a piece of what turned out to be a most lucrative paying pie?

That is a question I am unable to answer.

Perhaps it would be best if you asked the HRNSW Chairman at the time, Rod Smith.

When he’s not busy flogging new and used cars out of his yard on Parramatta Road, you will probably find him on his expansive farm in the town he grew up in.

What town’s that?

Orange.

Funny that.

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The Race of the Century – And the First to Greatness – First We Take the Aftona Fair – And Then We Take the Ekka – Charlie and Archie’s Little Girl Steps Out For Her Debutante Ball

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And so it begins.

The march to Ekka Glory in 2023.

No American trotter has ever crossed the ocean and taken out the big one at the RNA Showgrounds in the 2nd week of August before.

But there has never been a Summer Storm before either.

This little filly of Charlie’s and mine is a dynamo, a real goer.

Cross-bred to buggery, just like all princesses are.

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Trained by the great Kimberly Gilman-Daios, the Kima Frenning style Monte specialist of the United States.

If it trots, our Kimmy can train it, better than Frenning, better than anyone in the whole wide world.

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Keep your hands off Tonkin, Aiken and Stewart.

We’ve got our Kima signed to a ten-year exclusive contract to work only for Winners Circle Racing.

Our Kima only wants to work with winners.

You’re all ten lengths behind.

Co-owner Charlie Longo’s the driver.

Here he is there with all the Winners Circle Racing crew.

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Think Chris Alford crossed into Tony Herlihy with a splash of Stanley Dancer in the pedigree, and you are halfway there.

Imagine a driver six lengths better than Dexter Dunn, and you’ve made it the whole way.

I’m in charge of tactics.

The form’s been done, and we’ve written off the chances of the 3.

That Jim Taggart Jr is no good. He’s only driven five thousand winners, and its been months since he drove five on a card. Taggart’s on the slide, while we’re on the up. $25 million in earnings might look good on paper, but a badge saying Number 1 Gun At Aftona Fair 2020 pinned to your AC-DC t-shirt looks a whole hell of a lot better.

The trainer Messenger is not much chop either. Any bum can train 3 winners in a day a million times, and win the Monticello title, and get declared the 12th most successful trainer in the united nation. It’s not as easy to win at the Aftona County Fair, as this posh pair are about to find out.

Henry Westbrook the third’s filly Maya Scape might have won the 3-year-old pacer of the year award at Batavia downs, but this is the trots, the real deal, not some poxy geared up pace. There won’t be any escape for Maya ir Henry I can assure you. Give them both a miss.

So then there was one.

David Dewhurt’s little vixen, Honey Trap. We won’t be falling into it. I can assure you. Dewhurst might be a big deal down in Saratoga, but these hot shot casino racers don’t cut much mustard with us up here at the dodgem cars.

Think you are going to lead, do you Double D?

Then think again sunshine. The winner’s share of this two grand purse is Summer’s, before the starter even hits the button and says go. Charlie’s going to zip her straight to the lead, jog them the first half in 65 seconds, and come home the final quarters in 30 and 29.5 to smash the track record to pieces.  They won’t see which way he goes, until he catches them up to lap them.

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This is only the beginning, the stepping stone on the way to August 2024 Ekka glory.

We’ve wintered in Miami, and now we’re back.

After we brain them in this one we will do a couple of years cleaning up the shows, just to run up a long picket fence. Then it’s on to the Rowe Cup, the Messenger, the Maori’s Idol and ID 24, and then its up to the big show. The real show.

The Ekka.

It’s all about the trophy, and the certificate, and blue ribbon and the sash.

There’s a big stretch of ocean between the Little Apple and Oz, but it was a long way to Tipperary too, and the Kokoda trail wasn’t a short trek made for wimps either.

Gath, Golino, Conroy and Co, look out.

You’re about to be hit by a Summer Storm.

Let the games begin.

 

Ride High? – You Bet He Does

There is no doubt in the world that the Clayton Tonkin trained pacer Ride High is an exceptionally good horse.

He proved that during his three-year old season when he took on the best and beat them, and his record of 12 from 13 doesn’t lie.

But is Ride High really the best pacer we have ever seen on an Australian paceway?

His recent times suggest so.

Two starts back Ride High recorded the faster quarter-mile (400m) ever run by a winner on an Australian track, scorching over the granite in an amazing 25.8 seconds for his last split, which gave him a last half-mile (800m) time of 52.7 seconds, for an overall mile rate of 1.51.6.

The amazing thing was that the horse did it first up for six months, and totally unextended, with driver Kima Frenning just sitting there motionless in the cart holding the reins. God only knows what he would have run if Kima had put the pedal to the metal and let him go.

Pacer just don’t run that fast.

The great American colt (and later terrible sire) Pet Rock holds the world record of 1.47.4 on a 1000 metre track, but he ran that sitting in A RocknRoll Dance’s slipstream on its back, and neither of those world class horses broke 26 seconds for any of their quarters.

Last night at Melton the star pacer came out and did a similar thing again.

Ride High didn’t break 26 seconds for any of his quarters this time, but he did run the third fastest time ever recorded at the track of 1.50.8, and he did it with Kima swinging against him and not even pulling out the plugs. It was simply extraordinary.

Everyone in harness racing is singing Ride High’s praises today, and then superlatives are flowing like Jesus’s water turned into wine, but I wouldn’t be drinking any, for I reckon it comes from a poison well.

You just can’t run these sort of times that Ride High is, and do it the way he’s doing, drug-free. No way in the world. I have been a harness racing devotee since the days of Pure Steel and Paleface Adios, and it just doesn’t happen.

So let me be the first to come out and say it.

Ride High is running juiced.

He’s a damn fantastic horse, but this pacer is being micro-dosed with synthetic EPO or something similar – probably a combination of things – that temporarily widens his arteries and increases his red blood cell count to the point where it allows him to fly at top speed for 800 or 1000 metres, when a normal elite class horse can only do it for four.

Whatever they are giving Ride High won’t swab, not under the present testing regime and the current batch of Victorian Stewards anyway, but the Blue Magic that Tonkin used to dose his horses up with in the early to mid 2000’s didn’t either.

Until one day it did.

The same is going to happen here.

Everyone’s going to laud this horse to heaven, and he’s going to break the track record at Melton and he might break the world record too, as long as he doesn’t break down or go to heaven first, like so many pacers trained by Clayton Tonkin and/or his partner Emma Stewart often do.

Ride High will be crowned horse of the year, and Tonkin will win the training award, and if he and co-owner Peter Gleeson are so inclined they sell him to America for ten million bucks.

But it’s all an illusion, for one day – who knows how far away – the testing regime will catch up with the people like Tonkin who are exploiting its present deficiencies to break the rules and cheat us all, and the walls will come crashing down around him.

A big statement?

Yep.

A huge one.

But you just remember that it was me who made it.

One day you will call me a genius.

For now though, Tonkin and Ride High will wear the crown.

Ride High?

You bet he does.

 

 

If Something Seems to Good to be True – It Usually Is – Lochinvar Art’s 1.48.6 at Melton Was

Pacers are very consistent when it comes to speed lines and form, especially the really good ones.

If a top-flight horse runs a best time of 1.53.8, then you would expect it to be able to run that same time anytime it gets a favourable run, and can rely on it running near or not far from those numbers each and every time in steps onto the track.

Lochinvar Art is a superb horse, one of the best of its generation, and it proved the rule.

This pacer ran mile rates of between 1.53.8 and about 1.57.0 in every race that it competed in, and until the 25 January this year you could almost set your watch by it.

But then on that date Lochinvar Art stepped out at Melton and ran 5.2 seconds faster than it ever had before.

Five seconds!

That’s half the length of the straight.

No horse could ever possibly improve that much, it would defy a hundred years of the study of form, and the laws of physics and biomechanics too.

It would pretty much be the equivalent of a 100 metre sprinter who had run consistent times in the 9.8 – 10.0 second range coming out one week and running 9 seconds neat.

Impossible, simply impossible.

No its not.

Lochinvar Art did it the night it obliterated the Melton track record by running the never before heard of time of 1.48.6 seconds for the mile.

All the pundits went mad about the pacer’s effort, with many declaring Lochinvar Art as world class, and some even swearing that he was a certainty to win the next Inter Dominion.

Swimming in their own pool of praise though, all the so-called experts missed asking the one vital and essential question.

How did this horse who had been racing against the best his generation had to offer since he was two, suddenly come out and run five seconds faster than he ever had before?

It’s a rather sad indictment on the quality of much of the current day racing media that no-one understood the fundamentals of the sport well enough that they saw fit to question this seemingly miraculous feat performed by Lochinvar Art, but they didn’t. That’s just the way it is I guess.

I will ask it though.

No I won’t, I will answer it.

One word.

Drugs.

It is not physically possible for a horse to suddenly become 5 seconds faster than they were before, unless they have been in some way chemically enhanced. It’s just not. I’ve been following harness racing for over 40 years, and it just doesn’t happen. Ever.

But it did, and that means Lochinvar Art was juiced to the gills.

I have no idea what the gear was, although I have a very strong suspicion. It doesn’t really matter though, the simple fact is that the uber-talented young pacer couldn’t have run this time straight, and everybody and their dog knows it.

Everyone except the Stewards, that is.

1.48.6, on a 1000 metre track on which no horse had ever broken 1.50.0 before, not even the out and out champions.

Pull the other one, it jingles.

 

 

I Said I Loved You But I Lied – Why Harness Racing NSW Has Really Reduced Prizemoney and Slashed Spending – It Ain’t the Virus, Stupid – Part 1 – The Background

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This announcement was made by Harness Racing NSW on the 1st of May 2020.

It should have been made a month earlier, because that was April Fools Day.

Did you really believe that these huge cuts to prizemoney, infrastructure spending, drought assistance and club funding were made because the Coronavirus outbreak left HRNSW with no other choice?

Then more fool you.

The real reason was because Harness NSW stripped $7.4 million out of the Future Fund to pay for the huge cost over-runs on the Riverina Paceway project in Wagga.

The Riverina Paceway

Originally the new paceway was going to cost $3.6 million.

This was the figure quoted in late 2015 in NSW Harness Racing’s Annual Report.

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Within 18 months the cost had almost doubled.

Now it was $6.5 million.

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Another 12 months went by, and the cost almost doubled again.

It was $10 million now, triple what it was at the beginning.

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But wait, there’s more.

Three months later the Riverina project now cost $12 million.

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And that’s before the brand new track failed within months of opening, and more money had to be spent on remediating the surface.

Sound familiar? Yeah, just like Eagle Farm.

How hell did a project initially costed at less than $4 million end up costing more than $12 million?

That’s a story for another day.

The imminent problem was how the hell were Harness Racing NSW going to pay for it?

Enter the Future Fund

The Future Fund

HRNSW had established a Future Fund in mid-2015 for the precise purpose of having sufficient funds available to provide for a buffer against future shocks.

Future shocks like the Coronavirus.

The money in the fund was supposed to there to keep things ticking in circumstances exactly like these.

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It was pretty black and white.

The funds were there to sustain the industry through emergencies.

COVID-19 is an emergency. A once in a lifetime one.

If there was ever a need to use the Future Fund to sustain the industry by maintaining prize money levels for owners, trainers and drivers, it was now.

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The money was not there to pay for massive, unexplained over-runs in costs on a project in a provincial pacing region that was initially supposed to cost just $3.8 million.

There was a separate Racecourse Development Fund for that purpose.

Racecourse Development Fund (RDF)

The RDF was established to pay for capital works (building) programs such as building new tracks at the Riverina, and upgrading tracks at existing venues.

It was also there to pay for new plant and equipment required for clubs and their harness racing courses.

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There was just one problem after the Riverina Paceway ended up costing almost 4 times what it was originally budgeted for.

There was no money left in the RDF.

HRNSW had spent it all.

to be continued …….

 

 

 

I Said I Loved You But I Lied – Why Harness Racing NSW Has Really Reduced Prizemoney and Slashed Spending – It Ain’t the Virus, Stupid – Part 2 – The Burn

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In 2013 there was $30 million in cash sitting in Harness Racing NSW’s Racecourse Development Fund (RDF).

A year later there was just $24 million.

Most of the $6 million that was gone was spent on Bathurst.

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By 2015 the cash in the fund was down to $19 million.

Within 12 months it had reduced even further.

Now at the end of 2016 there was only $11.5 million.

Of the vanished $13 million in two years, almost $10 million had been spent on Menangle, and another $1.7 million had been spent on nearby Penrith.

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Another $5 million disappeared in 2017.

Then another $5 million vanished in 2018.

Now there was only $1.5 million left of the $30 million in cash that had been there just 5 short years before.

Where did the $10 million go?

Good question.

$1 million went toward Wagga, but that was offset by additional income of $1.4 million that was received from the sale of land at Tamworth.

So how did HRNSW spend the ten million?

I can’t tell you.

The financial accounts don’t say.

There is only one thing we do know for certain.

It was gone.

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Another 12 months goes by.

A further $1.2 million disappears.

Where did it go?

To ‘Other’.

$1.2 million went there the year before too.

What is ‘Other’?

Who knows?

The Financial Accounts don’t say.

Now there is only $300 000 left.

Six years earlier there was $30 000 0000

It’s all gone.

HRNSW have a problem now, a real huge one.

They have committed to pay $750 000 a year to the clubs for track maintenance.

But they don’t have it.

The Racecourse Development Fund is broke.

The HRNSW Directors have sent it broke.

They have spent almost $30 million in just six years, and no-one knows where $10 million or more has gone.

What are they going to do?

to be continued …….

I Said I Loved You But I Lied – Why Harness Racing NSW Has Really Reduced Prizemoney and Slashed Spending – It Ain’t the Virus, Stupid – Part 3 – The Burglary

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Harness NSW is in big trouble now.

There is nothing left in the Racecourse Development Fund.

They’ve blown $30 million in just six years.

There is $21 million left in the operational account, but there is a big problem there too.

In the same time that they’ve been spending $30 million like its lollies, operational expenses at HRNSW have gone through the roof.

In 2014 it cost $44 million a year to run the joint.

Now just 5 years later it costs $65 million.

Costs have gone up $21 million.

And HRNSW has only got $21 million in the bank.

At the same time TAB revenue is in free fall, and dropping like a stone.

They’re actually losing money, hand over fist.

It costs more to run HRNSW that they are pulling in as revenue, and because they have blown the $30 million there are no longer millions of dollars of additional coming in from the interest.

The Government saves them for this year by handing over $2.7 million from the Point of Consumption tax booty its pulling in, but that’s just a one off grant.

The POC money is going to be spent on roads and schools and hospitals in the future, not be plowed back into a harness racing industry that is already being propped up by the Government to the tune of over $7 million in Tax Parity payments that the genius V’Landys negotiated for them.

HRNSW is broke, flat broke.

What the hell are they going to do?

Pull a break and enter job on the Future Fund, that’s what.

The money was supposed to be there to future proof the industry, not to pay for day to day expenses like track maintenance. They shouldn’t do it, it’s not theirs for operational spending, its there for natural disasters and emergencies.

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But like kids stealing coins from their mothers purse, they’ve already been filching bits and pieces every year to pay for marketing and bit of the infrastructure.

They promised the industry that the petty theft would stop, and HRNSW assured us that they were only skimming from the interest on the Future Fund’s investments, and that the capital would never be touched.

But Mum’s about to wake up and find her purse is light, and Dad will go ballistic.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

HRNSW do what punt-addicted bank clerks and accountants in charge of the cash at the Rural Bank or the Port of Brisbane have always done. They convince themselves that its just a bad run on the punt, and that with just one more big bet they can get out of this wretched hole before it sinks them forever.

So they close their eyes and cross their fingers and say all or nothing, and …

They go the big dip.

$7.4 million slips out of the Future Fund and into the Raceourse Development Fund to cover all the dough they’ve burned.

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It’s a pyramid scheme.

Bill Vlahos would be proud of them.

HRNSW have bought themselves some time to try to punt or sell their way out.

And then out of nowhere, the Coronavirus hits.

to be continued ……

 

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