Queensland's Own Welcome to the best coverage of racing in Queensland Queensland's Best
Horse Racing Only
www.horseracingonly.com.au Horse Racing Only logo
Home Racing Queensland National International Blogs Photo Gallery Links Contact Us


By Graham Potter | Thursday, June 9, 2022

If you said that Pat Duff knows the racing industry like the back of his hand, you would be selling the man short. It is more than that.

When you ask the highly respected, veteran trainer his opinion on a subject, his knowledge and wisdom shines through.

He never seeks the limelight, but don’t be fooled by his quietly spoken manner.

When he speaks, he can be more hard-hitting than those who like to make a lot of noise, because what he says is directly to the point and can seldom be argued against.

He doesn’t shirk any issue. He doesn’t take sides. He is just the epitome of a straight-shooter.

Generally, Duff does qualify his views by stating, ‘well, that’s my opinion anyway.’

Most times his opinion is right on the mark.

So, the following views, should be seen in that context.

Duff was asked the question … what do you think about the current plight of the small trainer?

His response was as forthright as ever.

“I class myself as a small trainer now … and I think we now have to adhere to the fact that the world of small trainers is starting to fade away.

“I look at the racing landscape now as being similar to the supermarket situation. You’ve got your super stores and you’ve got your corner stores.

“Coles and Woolworths are obviously the super stores, and the corner stores are fading out. I think the small trainer has become the corner store in that example.

“It is a fact of life … and the simple bottom line is that we can’t do much to change that.

“I think we will see the time where the racing in most states in Australia will be dominated by a very small group of big trainers.

“It has already happened in Sydney. It is also happening here in Queensland … but more so in Sydney … and, as I say, it is something we can’t do a lot about.

“As I see racing, when I was involved as a young person … and even at a later stage … a trainer had a group of horses, and he was very full on in terms of working with his horses. Trainers I admired … like Fred Best, Jim Atkins … they never had more than thirty horses.

“It grew beyond that though for those trainers who are now the very big trainers.

“For a trainer to have three or four hundred horses in their care would never have been heard of in days gone by, but it simply is the case today and that is what we have to live with. Those trainers have become the super stores and the corner store is being left behind.”

It certainly isn’t a pleasant situation for the small trainer with the tide picking up speed against them. Whichever way you look at it, the walls are starting to close in.

Even the huge prize-money increases that have been trumpeted this week and in recent times reflects for positively on the high end of the racing game than it does on the battlers … arguably, just a case of the rich getting richer.

As Duff said in his summing up, “If you want to be in it and stay viable for the long term, there is only one way … get big or get out.”

“Well, that’s my opinion, anyway,” added Duff.

A drastic view or just a home-truth? You can decide.

If the nursery of racing … the route from the bush to the country to the provincial to metropolitan racing is diluted by the fading out of more and more corner stores … racing will ultimately be the poorer for it.

It is not the big trainer’s fault that their combination of hard work and good fortune has carried then to their elevated level in the game.

Everyone has the right to make the best living they possibly can … but let’s not fool ourselves that the current trend where the big get bigger and the small struggle … until they can struggle no more … is the correct formula that racing needs to maintain its attraction to both the current set of smaller trainers and, as importantly, to the next generation of trainers.

In that respect, at least, if it took the time to look over the shoulder that they keep patting themselves on, the industry might realise that it could be playing a very dangerous game indeed!

More articles

Pat Duff

Photo: Graham Potter
Pat Duff

Photo: Graham Potter
Queensland's Own www.horseracingonly.com.au Queensland's Best