The recent fiasco with the abandonment of the Benalla race meeting has again highlighted the ATA push for the complete overhaul of the implementation process for the RVL Track Preparation Policy.
The process is not working and has not been working properly for some years.
Each year during the months from the middle of spring to late autumn, many Country Race tracks are not prepared in accordance with the RVL Track Preparation Policy. They are either too firm, or in the instance of Benalla the track was prepared in a state that is both unsuitable for racing and unacceptable from a participant’s perspective. The watering policy which resulted in sections of the Benalla race course being overwatered and soft to heavy in sections, exposed the serious flaws in the processes and management associated with the present Track Preparation Policy and is unacceptable to the ATA.
The process, framework and management of these country race tracks in the lead up to a race meeting must be overhauled so that circumstances such as those that caused the abandonment of the Benalla race meeting are not repeated.
It is the ATA view that the implementation of the Track Preparation Policy requires a greater hands-on management process. It requires a structure of Regional Track Managers who are responsible and accountable for overseeing the preparation of tracks in accordance with the RVL Track Preparation Policy.
This responsibility is far too important to be entrusted to one Management Resource, as is the current arrangement. In the lead up to a race meeting, the Track Management and Preparation process must also involve the hands-on input of the Regional Steward, where a proper assessment of the track is made of the watering regime that is required to ensure that the Policy is adhered to.
Similarly the problem with inaccurate track ratings needs to be urgently addressed. Track Managers and Stewards have demonstrated a reluctance to upgrade or downgrade track ratings prior to the start of a race meeting or until after the running of the first or second race, where it is clear to trainers and jockeys that the rating has changed prior to the start of the race meeting. Consequently the credibility of track ratings continues to be seriously questioned.
It is simply not good enough to develop a Track Preparation Policy and leave it to local track managers, some of whom lack the necessary experience or training to implement this.
The feedback that the ATA has sought suggests that there are competent and experienced track managers within the Club system who could oversee and assume responsibility for these important roles in the regions. Victorian racing already has regional stewards with integrity responsibilities and regional service managers who provide administration and organisational back-up in the regions. The management and preparation of tracks is one of the most fundamental components of racing and demands the same priority that these other areas have been given.
The problems with the management and preparation of tracks will continue to persist and seriously disadvantage trainers, owners and jockeys unless RVL makes a serious attempt to make the necessary changes that have been identified and proposed by the ATA for several years. The financial cost to trainers and owners through the loss of race meetings, and injuries suffered by horses through problems in track management and preparation, is considerable and unacceptable. The loss of wagering revenue directly affects returns to the industry and ultimately the same trainers and owners suffer the consequences.
For the record, RVL failed to acknowledge in its public statements on the Benalla issue that the additional compensation payments of $600 for runners engaged at the meeting and the reprogramming of the $70,000 Super VOBIS Bonuses which were allocated for the Benalla race meeting, were both proposed by the ATA at a meeting which was called to discuss Benalla and the wider Track Preparation and Management issues.