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By Michael Beattie | Sunday, August 4, 2019

Racing NSW’s prize money boost to country carnivals, announced at the start of July, was the latest in what is generally accepted as a long line of progressive, meaningful and forward-looking steps taken by racing authorities in that state.

But it was not universally received as such by … ironically enough … some country trainers whose reaction reportedly included comments such as, “it’s not going to benefit us country trainers one little bit. The top trainers and their good horses will come down and win them all” and “Racing NSW need to put money into the smaller clubs throughout the year and give trainers and owners of country horses a chance to run for more money. Do those dissenters have an argument or are they missing the point?

Well respected racing administrator Michael Beattie, the CEO of the Clarence River Jockey Club and the Secretary of the Northern Rivers Racing Association, clearly and powerfully debunks that argument here when giving his perspective on the current state of play with regard to the position of country racing and how its situation has improved over the last five years. This is his view

“The philosophy that says increasing prize money in country areas is not a good thing just doesn’t make sense to me. I would go so far as to say that anybody who supports that theory is not being fair and probably have not thought it through.

“Let’s take away the last set of prize money increases for the moment … just completely take those away … and consider this.

“Peter V’landys, over the last couple of years, has promoted the Country Championship. Now the Country Championship runs seven legs of $150 000 plus one wild card race for $50 000, That’s $1.1 million. And it’s $500 000 for the final … all restricted to country horses!

“That’s $1.6 million that didn’t exist in prize money five years ago … and it is for country horses only. Country trainers have to have a look at that.

“Then, and I’m a bit scratchy on how many of these we run, but every Saturday in Sydney we promote a Country Highway Handicap race of $75 000. Now I reckon we probably do about forty-five a year. You do the maths … that’s roughly $3.3 million a year. That’s another figure that country trainers have to take into account.

“That’s $5 million that country racing didn’t have at all five years ago. Didn’t exist. Non-existent. That’s $5 million that only country horses can win.

“You then add to that the fact that prize-money for every country race from five years ago, on average, has doubled. It has gone from $11 000 to $22 000.

“Now there will be a percentage of those won by city or provincial trainers but even if half of them are … and they are not … the country trainers are still ahead.

“So, it is a ludicrous argument to say that increasing country prize money is to the disadvantage of the country trainer. That argument is not well thought out.

“I race a lot of horses as an owner and I will put my hand up to tell you that I love what racing NSW does with the prize-money in that they pay prize money down to tenth place.

“Even there, there are nay-sayers who say that shouldn’t happen.

“You’ve only got to look at what has happened in Queensland where we saw Queensland racing spiralling down when they didn’t pay down to ten.

“There last cash injection saw them move to the same model that has proved to be successful in Victoria and New South Wales. Their industry was in freefall and the change was virtually forced on them … and paying down to tenth place has helped them.

“You need to ensure that owners have a return to keep the industry buoyant and there are too many horses that don’t win a race to give too much money to the winners.

“The other thing that trainers have to understand is that the industry is funded by betting turnover. Betting turnover is funded by field size.

"If the last two horses in the race take the field size from a field of eight to a field on ten, the fact that they can’t win or are not competitive is irrelevant because the fact they are in the race will grow the turnover.

“That is a fundamental principle that needs to be understood.

“If more trainers bring more horses to the races they should be welcomed from anywhere because they become genuine contributors to the region in which they race. They grow the turnover and thus make an important contribution to the industry.

“It is not rocket science.

“Prize-money increases and bigger fields can only be good for the game.”






Extracts from the Tumut and Adelong Times (written by Jeff Hanson).


Racing NSW announced a significant prize money boost to country carnivals and their feature events Wagga, Albury and Gundagai have been beneficiaries of the increase with the Albury Turf Club and Murrumbidgee Turf Club now boasting two separate $200,000 feature events.

Despite the increase in prize money, there is a concern that it could push smaller trainers out of these time-honoured meetings with the large pools attracting city class trainers and horses.

Tumut trainer Kerry Weir was appalled by the decision.
“It is probably the worst thing that’s happened to the industry for a long time,” he said. “It’s not going to benefit us country trainers one little bit. The top trainers and their good horses will come down and win them all. I’d be surprised to see a Wagga horse in the Town Plate this year.”

Gundagai strapper Michelle said, “While I think it is great, I do have my concerns over the impact on local trainers. More city horses will come and it will be hard for a country horse to get a start. Racing NSW need to put money into the smaller clubs throughout the year and give trainers and owners of country horses a chance to run for more money.

"Look at the city, they struggle for nominations but Gundagai the other day had heaps left over – why not reward the clubs who attract the horses? Even the picnics could benefit from more support.”


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Michael Beattie
Michael Beattie
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