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By John Schreck | Wednesday, October 4, 2017

John Schreck, a former Chief Steward in both Sydney and Hong Kong, has seen both the colourful and the dark sides of racing. His wealth of experience and his deep knowledge of racing matters across the board is unquestioned and the reputation he built as a racing ‘lawman’ remains firmly entrenched in racing’s history. Schreck’s personal blog, ‘From the Sheriff’s Desk', appears exclusively on HRO.

In months gone by it seemed the proposed Tabcorp / Tatts merger was over the line but those in the know are now probably starting to hedge their bets with the possibility that maybe the deal will not be done.

This change of landscape has come about because the proposed Tabcorp / Tatts merger has hit a roadblock with the decision by the Federal Court to refer the matter back to the Competition Tribunal for further consideration.

This decision has thrown the schedule for the merger into disarray. Shareholders were due to vote for or against the merger on October 18 but that won’t happen now as the Competition Tribunal will only be able to reassess the application after that date.

Importantly, the Tabcorp offer expires on December 31. You would think that is time enough to resolve the matter but the way these things sometimes mark time, or go back and forth without finding a resolution means that deadline is something that will be hovering over proceedings in the coming weeks.


The merger, if it succeeds, could lead to a national betting pool.

Over the years everybody has promoted national betting pools. I have always been somewhat against that because I’m of the view that, if there was a national pool, the takeout would have to be controlled by some sort of external body.

If that didn’t happen it would make it too easy for the monopolistic body to vary the takeout to their satisfaction ... and that is not always to the satisfaction of the customer and the customer, of course, is the punter.

I do know the monopolies work in Hong Kong but it is set up differently there. They give such a lot of money away to charity and the government and that sort of thing that they can justify a monopolistic situation.

It is obviously different here with a private corporation ... as would be the case if Tabcorp and Tatts merge.

So can understand those who think competition is better for the racing fans.

Whatever the arguments for and against the merger, it is going to be every interesting to see where it all goes.


The announcement by Racing Queensland of its multi million dollar industry infrastructure plan has again raised debate about the well-being of racing in that state.

For example, the number of racetracks in the state is an issue.

I know a lot of people were very critical of Mr Bentley when he was Chairman of Queensland Racing with his attitude of trying to centralise the sport somewhat.

Clearly ... clearly ... there are too many racetracks in Queensland. There is absolutely no question about that at all and no longer can all of those tracks be justified.

It was alright in years gone past when roads were bad and trucks were slow and all of those kind of things relating to transporting horses to another venue, but these days roads are better, vehicles that transport horses are quicker and mostly more comfortable than they were ... and the need for rationalisation of race courses in Queensland is now absolute.

Somebody has to bite the bullet and do it.

Mr Bentley tried and was lambasted for it but there can be no question that what he was trying to do in that regard was the right thing to do.

Horse racing is an ultra-conservative business which is very reluctant to embrace change.

That has always been the case and that has always been a problem.

Times change and if you don’t alter course accordingly, chances are you will get left behind ... or worse!


For the last nine months, since an amendment to the whip rule in February this year, the Stewards race-day reports in New South Wales have listed whip use transgressions prior to the 100m mark ... as identified by stewards during the meeting.

Many of those listed notifications come with an added comment from the stewards which states ... ‘Bearing in mind the totality of whip use, no action was taken.’

Just to clarify that for those who are not fully aware of the details, in February 2017 the whip rule was amended to incorporate a ‘steward’s discretion’ factor when adjudicating on whip rule breaches, importantly ... and amongst other things ... with regard to the aforesaid ‘TOTALITY OF THE WHIP USE' over the whole race.

This was obviously a significant amendment to the controversial rule.

Full credit to the New South Wales stewards for publishing this information (not all jurisdictions do that) which not only shows the public they are suitably active in policing the whip rule but also puts those riders in breach of this rule (whether they are penalised on individual occasions or not) on notice that their actions are under scrutiny.

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