It’s a fair bet that not one Queensland racing supporter voted Labor last weekend.
What a turnaround. Surely that’s never happened before.
It’s hard to remember an industry and its players being so against a sitting Government.
Trust me, I have no love of politicians on either side. But I experienced the difference between the parties first hand at this year’s Magic Millions.
Campbell Newman’s table was overflowing. Party people with a genuine love of racing. I’m pretty sure he didn’t know who the favourite was, but the leader surrounded himself with those who did.
The Government of the day was represented by just one bloke. Not the Minister. He wasn’t interested in attending. Instead, he sent an advisor. Impeccably dressed, as they all seem to be. I was lucky enough to sit next to him.
He’d never been to the races before. Didn’t understand it, and had no intention of learning that day. He ate the meal, finished his water, and left before the Gold Coast’s biggest event.
I’m guessing he now has plenty of time to catch up on the form.
Racing people are famous for having strident views. Raised voices are as common as wet tracks. The usual position is that no-one agrees on anything.
But in this case, it seemed that everyone was on the same page. The multi-million dollar industry, one of the state’s largest, was heading in the wrong direction. And people were hurting.
Not just owners and trainers. The tote worker, and the beer-pourer, and the stablehand.
Not just in the city. In the regions, and the country towns, where racing is sometimes a once-a-year affair.
The lesson would seem to be – ignore such folk at your electoral peril.
So now, we have a new Government, and a new Racing Minister. A bloke by the name of Steve Dickson. Not one of their big guns, it must be said. He lists martial arts as one of his interests. Could be the perfect preparation for this job.
An audit has been ordered of the Racing Queensland books. That might tell us where the money was going, and more importantly, where it wasn’t.
There’ll be immediate action on an election promise, to re-instate slashed country race meetings. Bravo.
Those behind the decision to scrap meetings in the bush, have obviously never been to one. Might have been that joker I sat next to.
Some small towns have their biggest day of the year on Cup day. An event that brings people together from miles around. A glimmer of hope, in tough times for so many.
They don’t just drink and punt. They dress up, and talk business, and support each other. And that’s worth every cent of funding.
As important as all that is, let’s hope Campbell and his new Minister don’t think that it stops there. Because there is so much to do, right here in Brisbane.
Prizemoney must be raised for city racing. Quickly. Owners and trainers have been carrying the can for too long. The comparison with other states is a giant embarrassment.
More cash keeps all those players in the game. It attracts better horses and jockeys. Better racing leads to bigger crowds.
The racing surface at Eagle Farm needs urgent work. Everyone knows it. It should be our showpiece. Instead, we now have punters refusing to bet on it.
As soon as the Winter Carnival is done, do it. Properly. Make the old girl a track to match the great courses of the world.
Those at the Brisbane Racing club know all this. They’ve been taking great strides in improving facilities at both Eagle Farm and Doomben. There have been decent improvements in a short time. They’re racing lovers. They want their sport to shine.
Problem is, they’ve been operating with hands tied behind backs. Racing Queensland, in its infinite wisdom, cut grants, and created obstacles at every turn. Let’s hope that’s a thing of the past.
New Minister Dickson needs to get people involved from the top down, who have a passion for racing. They must want to be there. It’s more than a job. Just ask all those who get up at 3am every day, to keep the industry alive.
That’s what the advisor in the expensive suit didn’t understand. Those in the racing game are different. They live and breathe their industry. And they refuse to be treated as fools.