ALBION PARK DISGRACE THAT NO DUAL CODE MEETING HAS BEEN HELD AT THE VENUE IN JUST ON 20 YEARS

ALBION PARK DISGRACE THAT NO DUAL CODE MEETING HAS BEEN HELD AT THE VENUE IN JUST ON 20 YEARS

19/09/13

When I sit down in the cold hard light of day and reflect on the Queensland racing industry across its three codes in the last couple of decades I find it “utterly pathetic” to think that no dual code meeting has been held at Albion Park in about the last 20 years. What a disgraceful indictment that surely is on the past Boards of the both codes of harness racing and greyhound racing that were given the responsibility for the everyday running of the two sports.

From an historical viewpoint, night harness racing started at Albion Park way back in September 1968 – meaning that particular sport has been racing at the venue for nearly half a century, 45 years for be exact. For its part, greyhound racing left the Gabba and moved to Albion Park back in 1993, so greyhound racing has also been in existence at Albion Park for 20 years. A dual code meeting was held at the venue on NRL Grand Final day 1993, but what’s happened in the 20 years since?

Now one wouldn’t exactly need to have been given an abnormally high amount of grey matter at birth to conclude that from within the ranks of the large number of people that have served on the Queensland Harness Racing Board, or the Queensland Greyhound Racing Board, or on the Board of Racing Queensland or prior to that when it was called Queensland Racing – that a couple of the Einsteins would have deduced that it would surely be in the best interests of the both sports going forward to stage at least one dual code meeting at Albion Park annually? When these people who have served on these boards, race club committees and the like have a story written about them whilst they are in office, or retire and/or die, you’ll often hear it said what a “great racing administrator” they were. In 99% of cases that’s just a lot of patronizing rot.

The fact that in just on the last 20 years of racing at Albion Park that absolutely nought has happened to have the two codes stage one or two industry days per year, infers to me that most of these past people couldn’t organise a chook raffle at the local pub on a Friday afternoon during happy hour – let alone try to take the racing industry forward in some small way. And along the way many of these people have an ego bigger than Texas, so it’s probably the “ego bigger than Texas” factor that has historically been the major stumbling block in the two codes working together. It is my considered opinion that all those people that have served in administration roles or on Boards or committees pertaining to the two sports at Albion Park in the last 20 years should hang their heads in shame at failing to grasp with both hands the blatantly obvious opportunity to stage annual dual code meetings.

As egos and/or a total lack of foresight has stopped this hardly momentous event happening in the past 20 years, I’ll even outline today how the day would unfold, which will hopefully plant a seed to germinate in a few minds. As I wrote last week, if the Justracing concept of running race clubs was adopted, committee people at race clubs would have to be changed every two years, meaning it’s highly probable that someone from a past committee may have fluked coming up with the idea that is put forward here today.

So here’s how the Albion Park dual code day would work as seen through the eyes of an ageing poor old simpleton who owns and operates racing websites and who has successfully managed a race club before, but never sat on a race club committee.

The day obviously needs the co-operation of both the Albion Park Harness Racing Club committee and the Albion Park Greyhound Racing Club committee. Oops, that could be a bit of a stumbling block. No – on second thoughts it wouldn’t be if I were running the Racing Queensland show in current Chairman Kevin Dixon’s capacity, as I’d simply say “this is what’s going to happen, organise how you’ll go about it and be back to me within a week.” It’s my considered opinion that there are clearly too many chiefs and not enough indians in racing administration. Then you’d need the various “code specific” Boards okay in Racing Queensland as well, along with the approval of the overall Racing Queensland Board. Bloody Boards – it’s like resident Gold Coast medico and former respected thoroughbred Group 1 winning trainer Dr Geoff Chapman says, “The ideal number for a Board is two, preferably with one away sick.” The Racing Queensland overall Board may have to approve some extra funding for prizemoney on the day – but that’s about a two minute exercise and it would only take two minutes if you had to boil the kettle first before the meeting started. They gave the thoroughbreds money for a race meeting at Deagon last Sunday, so it’s only fair that harness racing and greyhounds can have some funding also towards a joint day out, otherwise all that “We Run As One” campaign launched by Racing Queensland last weekend, which allegedly treats all codes equally – and gets them all into bed and honeymooning together – is nothing more than a lot of hot air, more “hot air” than the Hindenburg had that time – and we all know what happened to it. Then you’d need Sky Channel in bed on the project and they’ve proven in the past that they aren’t impossible to get on with.

So on the dual code day I’d envisage an 18-race card and those 18 races would consist of 12 greyhound races and 6 harness events. Having 18 races is fine, as after years of places like this website advising TAB dinosaurs to get more race numbers printed on their tickets – by some miracle that took about a decade for the penny to drop – they now have availability for 18 races. So the fact that we have tickets which now go up to Race 18 allows us two ways to do the TAB tickets on the big day. You could code the races BR1 straight through to BR18 inclusive, or you could code the tickets BG1 to BG12 for the 12 greyhound races and BH1 to BH6 inclusive for the six harness events. The second idea seems the better option to me, but if you let someone with an IQ that registers in a TAB, put the rubber stamp on that one they’d feel warm and fuzzy and important in being part of the decision making process.

Now I’ve written similar statements to what follows below, in the past revolving around when some fool, or moreover a conglomerate bunch of fools in thoroughbred racing decided to have a 40-minute gap between racing, not 35 minutes. Honestly even 35 minutes is like toothache, but at least the thoroughbred industry eventually twigged that 40 minutes was ridiculous. To that end, I therefore rate what was stated at the harness racing industry meeting at Albion Park in Brisbane last Sunday week by Brad Steele, who is a member of the Racing Queensland Board and the Chairman of the Queensland Harness Racing Board, the most important statement that has been made in the industry for many years and every race club in this country should be forced to print it off and put it up on their committee room wall so people attending committee meetings see it, with the hope that the odd one may absorb it. Brad Steele stated during his address “People are much more comfortable sitting at home watching Sky Channel vision. And there’s other things we need to do when we get them to the track. I mean at the moment there’s probably about 30 or 45 minutes of real entertainment on a race night that’s run over a three hour period. To most of us harness racing enthusiasts we don’t mind that, but to the people who come along with partners that really don’t have an interest, it’s probably a really long night for them and I think we need to find ways of what else we can do in between races to keep people entertained and get them talking about their experience in harness racing.

Obviously where Brad Steele refers to “harness racing enthusiasts” that wording could also be replaced by “thoroughbred racing enthusiasts”. Greyhound racing is fine currently with just a 20-minute gap between races.

So when structuring the time schedule for this 18-race meeting I’ve been very mindful of what Brad Steele said that was quoted above. He’s 100% right – and I have no idea how all these mentally deficient racing administrators over the annals of time haven’t twigged to that one, as it’s really a no brainer, but it’s certainly terrific that one finally has.

In my proposal, the 18 races could be run with just a 15-minute gap between them if structured properly and as the greyhound races obviously all take less than one-minute to run, that would still give the harness horses time to warm up, etcetera.

Extra stewards would be needed to co-ordinate the day with swabbing and so on, but that’s all easily done and you’d have Paul Dolan calling the dogs and Chris Barsby the harness racing action given they are the senior caller in each respective code in the State.

Here’s my schedule for the 18 races:

Greyhound Race 1 – 12noon

Greyhound Race 2 – 12.15pm

Harness Race 1 – 12.30pm

Greyhound Race 3 – 12.45pm

Greyhound Race 4 – 1.00pm

Harness Race 2 – 1.15pm

Greyhound Race 5 – 1.30pm

Greyhound Race 6 – 1.45pm

Harness Race 3 – 2.00pm

Greyhound Race 7 – 2.15pm

Greyhound Race 8 – 2.30pm

Harness Race 4 – 2.45pm

Greyhound Race 9 – 3.00pm

Greyhound Race 10 – 3.15pm

Harness Race 5 – 3.30pm

Greyhound Race 11 – 3.45pm

Greyhound Race 12 – 4.00pm

Harness Race 6 – 4.15pm

So as per the aforesaid, the entire 18 races takes 4 hours 15 minutes to stage, subject obviously to Sky Channel fitting them in with their already normal pre-booked meetings on the day and obviously the 18-race Albion Park meeting would have Sky Channel 1 coverage, given it’s a metropolitan meeting encompassing two codes. The meeting start time above is flexible. For instance you could start the day at 11am during September when the weather is historically terrific and generally fine and daylight saving hasn’t kicked in down south. Via that 11am start (pubs don’t open until 11am on Sundays and you need them for off course turnover), six or seven races at 15-minute intervals are out of the road before other thoroughbred race meetings like Caloundra even start.

Albion Park harness and greyhound meetings are currently free admission and that aspect would remain the same for the proposed 18-race days. In fact “free admission” could even come with an exciting twist, as upon entry to Albion Park, each adult over the age of 18 would be given a pre-printed Tattsbet $5 win ticket to complete. All each adult would be required to do, would be to fill in the race number and code to have their free bet. That simple strategy 1) would give them an understanding of filling in a betting ticket and 2) let them experience the thrill of having a bet. By implementing that $5 free bet idea that would get another historically non-thinking Queensland entity, Tattsbet, off its hands and involved on the day to actually do something constructive for the racing industry – instead of nothing. Tattsbet could have a stand on the day as a contra to their sponsorship and they could have a running video showing people how to fill in tickets and how to work out the cost of an exotics ticket and they could have people there helping new and inexperienced punters fill in tickets, as happens on Melbourne Cup day.

There would be free rides for the children but most importantly these would be restricted to only horse related entities such as pony rides, a merry-go-round and rides in the sulky of a mini-trotters and the like, as we need to get the equine and/or canine theme across here – which jumping castles and animal farm exhibitions don’t achieve. How the hell will you ever teach a child to like fruit if you never let them taste fruit and instead take them to McDonalds every night? In short you won’t, so the child needs to absorb the horse theme. A greyhound licensee whose broodbitch has recently had a litter of pups could have her on display to show the kids just how cute greyhound pups are.

There would be a special racebook done up for the day and all 18 races and the relevant form would be in the one book and a lucky race book purchase would win a big trip away somewhere, courtesy of someone like Harvey World Travel.

In the back of each racebook would be a place for a person to put their name and address and mobile phone number and at the start of the day and between Races 1 and 2 some 20 names would be read out and those 20 people would have a $100 bet with Tattsbet on a greyhound or pacer of their choice on the day. Racing Queensland or the Albion Park Club could sponsor that.

There would be both an approved harness racing syndicator and an approved greyhound syndicator operating under a tent on the day to give attendees the opportunity to get involved into ownership of a greyhound or a pacer.

On the day there would be none of this $7 a stubbie of beer rubbish, or $6 for a pie, that happens all over this country at race meetings. How the hell can you charge people exorbitant amounts of money like that for a drink? It’s utterly disgraceful. Ned Kelly’s mother wouldn’t let young Ned play with them. I recently attended a thoroughbred race meeting and to buy three small bottles of soft drink cost $13. That’s obscene, so people like myself would get involved on what is a fair price for food and beverage on the day. No wonder no one goes to race meetings any more – most simply can’t afford the food and beverage, hence only millionaires can afford to attend. If you are going to make racing attractive to young people with families, you firstly have to make sure that the poor buggers can afford to buy their children a bit of food and a drink to help make the experience “an enjoyable day out”, as that’s what you want attendees telling their friends, not “little Johnny died of dehydration as we couldn’t afford the cost of a drink for him and wee Billie died of starvation as we just couldn’t afford the $24 for a pie each for the four of us”.

To encourage people to be on course for all 18 races, the racetrack photographer would be paid $1,000 or whatever to do up a special framed print of all 18 winners on the day and that would obviously be a rare one-off picture. The winner would be drawn five minutes before the last race from a barrel that contains a page the attendee has filled in from the racebook. That simple strategy now gives both the Albion Park club and Racing Queensland the name and email address of all attendees on the day, which they can retain for future purposes. Within seven days of the event when race club or Racing Queensland staff have had time to professionally compile a complete email list, email each person, thanking them for their attending on the day and ask them if they can offer their thoughts on how to improve the day in the future. That way the next year when you stage the same event, you can email all these thousands of people and tell them what date it’s all happening again, as it’s easier to get the already existing satisfied customer to become a repeat customer, than to find a new customer. Plus the feedback from the day can hopefully offer constructive ideas of how to improve next year’s 18-race dual code meeting.

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the popular What’s In A Name segment as well as a Media Release yesterday about harness racing happening on grass thoroughbred tracks, as was advised on Justracing 10 days ago. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there’s a fascinating look back at 18 advertised thoroughbred stallions from 1978, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls looks at today’s Newcastle Cup.