Typically industry notices are issued for biosecurity news or updates to drug rules, however Racing NSW Chair, Russell Balding, explained in the third paragraph of the June 2 notice, that in this instance it was provided ‘to give you an update on that current litigation and as to why we considered it necessary for such action to be taken.’
The litigation referenced is Racing NSW’s legal fight with the Racing Australia stakeholders on anti-competitive behaviour against the largest racing state.
Two themes are most prominent throughout the notice that was emailed to New South Wales racing participants. The first is the record levels of investment made in prizemoney by Racing NSW, with a list of headline prizemoney increases given its own, highlighted section towards the end of the notice.
The second is Balding's explanation of, ‘the actions taken by the other Principal Racing Authorities against the NSW Racing Industry’, are outlined in the extract:
‘We believe that it has always been about protecting the Victorian Racing Industry. By continuing to have an outdated and no longer fit for purpose Pattern for Black Type Races and not to recognise The Everest and The Golden Eagle as Group 1 races is anti-competitive and has allowed Victoria to have little competition for the wagering dollar during the peak time of the year to race – the Spring.
‘To divert the attention away from this pure act of commercial protectionism, Racing Victoria has been running a concerted media campaign which is only full of spin and designed to mislead.’
The notice also asserts important claims around future infrastructure investment, integrity processes - and perhaps the most critical issue for our industry’s sustainable future; equine welfare, with Balding stating that Racing NSW’s Integrity and Welfare Programs are ‘second to none’.
TDN AusNZ attempted to seek clarity and specific detail on these initiatives so industry participants can be as confident as Racing NSW are that the State’s integrity and welfare protocols represent best practice.
Clarification from Balding
Balding, who first noted that the industry notice, “...was just about keeping our participants informed,” explained that it was the victory of Racing NSW in the preliminary discovery in the NSW Supreme Court on which he wanted to update participants.
In the notice, Balding listed the outcomes from the NSW Supreme Court’s decision to rule in Racing NSW’s favour, in respect to being allowed access to in-house documents from Racing Victoria and the other Principal Racing Authorities regarding the formation of a ‘breakaway’ national racing body which would exclude Racing NSW.
We asked Balding: “...what will the court case prove, and where to after that?” To which he replied, “No comment.”
Balding also had no comment when asked if he believed that a national Pattern could be restored.
Speculation over the increase in prizemoney for Racing NSW’s spring feature, The Everest, has been rife in the media recently, with several news outlets reporting that it will jump from a $15 million to a $20 million feature.
Balding refused to comment on such speculation, but when pressed on whether the peerless prizemoney offered in the race ‘put a target on the industry’s back’ given Australia’s current economic situation, he added:
“What you’ve got to remember is that when you go back to day one when we launched The Everest, we had 12 slotholders that put in $600,000 each. So the bulk of the prizemoney is coming from slotholders, not from the racing industry. And when the racing industry put extra money in, the money that the turnover generates, in respect to the interest in that race and the wagering on that race, more than covers what the industry is putting in. I think you need to look at that.
“At the moment, it’s $15 million in prizemoney for The Everest. That’s not from the racing industry… $7.2 million of that is from racing participants. People need to understand it’s not all racing industry money. It’s individuals’ money, it’s participants’ money. It’s the slot owners’ money that’s in there and they’re investing in it, and then you need to look at the return of The Everest back into the New South Wales industry in betting turnover and interest. It’s reinvigorating our spring racing.
“The race has been an instant success, and not only here. Overseas, people talk about it. It’s The Everest.”
Balding mentioned, in line with Racing NSW’s original vision for the race, how The Everest has succeeded in attracting a younger audience; vital to the ongoing health of the industry.
With the mention in the notice of a further $125 million to be, ‘expended on racing and training infrastructure works throughout New South Wales over the next two to three years’, TDN AusNZ asked Balding if he could provide more detail about where the money will be spent. He said:
“Yes, we will. Seventy million of that came from coalition government grants, and a lot of that is being spent in country NSW. We will put a notice out there indicating: a) where we’ve done all the works previously, and b) where the works are going forward.”
Asked if he felt constant pressure from the industry to be transparent about that level of detail, Balding added: “Yes, but not really pressure. We should be transparent about it. And, it’s not so much about being transparent - people aren’t aware unless you tell them.”
When asked if the infrastructure investment would include training centres, reflective of what Victoria has achieved with Cranbourne and Pakenham, Balding stated: “Similar. But it’s more so that we’re making the facilities available for horses, for training leading up to a race. What we’re trying to do is to increase the stabling and boxes as well, so you’re going to increase your horse population.
“What we’re also looking to do is make sure, as best we can, that horses in metropolitan, and even provincial, boxes on course, they’re horses that are not just in work but are ready to race, so they’re not tying up a box for six or eight weeks while they’re pre-training.”
Balding also added that he is looking for: ‘1000 acres to build a major training centre’ within two hours of Sydney, in an effort to future-proof the industry.
‘Second to none’ welfare protocols
Turning to welfare, we asked Balding for details of current activity within Racing NSW’s Welfare and Integrity programs, which he claimed in the notice, ‘...are second to none.’ He had this to say:
“When you look at our welfare program and the money we’re putting in it, it is second to none compared to other jurisdictions. We’ve got programs for rehoming and retraining, and we’ve got partnerships with corrective services at Muswellbrook, and we’ve got programs with the veterans.
“When you realise what we’re doing, the properties that we’ve got and how we’re looking after the horses, you will agree it’s second to none.”
“When you realise what we’re doing, the properties that we’ve got and how we’re looking after the horses, you will agree it’s second to none.” - Russell Balding
When asked for specific details on those initiatives, such as transparent disclosure of the 1.5 per cent Equine Welfare Fund investments, Balding asked us to contact Racing NSW Chief Operating Officer, Graeme Hinton.
Upon being given the opportunity, Hinton refused to offer TDN AusNZ any further information, mentioning that ‘there is additional info in our annual report that you should refer to.’
The 2023 Annual Report will likely be published next month at the start of the new financial year. The 2022 document, however, revealed no breakdown of proportional or specific spending on welfare initiatives. There is also no specific outline on where the 1.5 per cent Equine Welfare Fund is invested, or how many horses have been rehomed through the Racing NSW welfare programs.
However, the 2022 Annual Report extensively discusses Equimillion, the innovative new event for off the track horses sold at a Racing NSW auction. An incredible minimum of $1 million in prizemoney will be exclusively offered for retired thoroughbred racehorses.
Despite the first event being slated for this October, specific details on the sale and event since the inaugural announcement, on April 6 2022, have been scarce. The Equimillion event has its own website, equimillion.com.au, which is currently a single landing page containing the message, ‘Coming soon.’
Asked for details on how TDN AusNZ readers can learn more about the event due to take place in four months, Hinton said he was not able to provide them at this stage.