A warm welcome from the desk of the CEO as we usher in the new racing season.
The 2015/2016 season was eventful for many reasons, but most particularly, for the high of the Melbourne Cup win of Prince of Penzance ridden by Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the great race. This was a breath of fresh air, creating much needed positive focus in Australia from within the industry and with the general public, and through the eyes of the watching world.
Beyond this momentous event, there was plenty of other notable activity which occurred around the country.
We saw Queensland unveil a new racing administration model, with commercial race day services and integrity/licensing/veterinary split into independent functions & offices. After a long absence, we also welcomed an upgraded Eagle Farm racetrack and state-of-the-art visitor precinct back to racing.
South Australia edged closer towards completing base infrastructure at the new Murray Bridge (Gifford Hill) racetrack, which should allow trial activities to commence there pre Xmas, whilst a new track access fee system, user based, was readied for roll out to trainers at Morphettville.
Victoria released the Bittar report, which included a heavy focus on the Integrity and RADB models, with proposals to restructure the current iterations to offer improved workflow and output.
Tasmania lost its CEO, Dr Eliot Forbes, who will take on the CEO role with Racing Queensland this month, whilst Western Australia announced its TABtouch Masters initiative, which will see a Group 1 event with a prizemoney minimum of $1m run at Ascot Racecourse in November 2016 over three consecutive weekends, a first for a race club anywhere around the globe.
With last season behind us, a new one beckons. Activities continue on many, many fronts, including for those key matters described below:
> Concerns with Racing Australia’s (RA) consultation process, associated with the raft of new and amended rules of racing they produce (15 were promoted in season 2016/17, including a number relating to the use and practices associated with therapeutics leading up to and including race day), has been raised yet again through a formal letter. Whilst acknowledging the need for review and change, the ATA re-stated their firm belief that the RA consultation process needs to engage Stakeholder representative groups when changes are being considered, and not after amendments or new rules have been drafted. We await the RA response with interest.
> The ATA submitted its consultation paper on 5 August to Racing Australia (RA) calling for further review of the current whip rules. We are aware stakeholder submissions from Owners’ and Jockey’s Associations have similarly called for change. In broad terms, the current rules are not working. Let’s hope RA will listen to stakeholders, and more importantly, will act to re-dress this problem quickly, and for the betterment of the industry.
> The new riding helmets continue to trial across the country. Helmets have been supplied to a select number of jockeys in NT, SA & NSW over the past five months, and more recently, at Flemington 12 August, for use at track work and trials. Queensland will follow at the end of August, with dates for WA & Tas yet to be agreed. RA will look to finalize its position on the helmets, hopefully by year end. Until then, the ATA will simply monitor feedback from jockeys through their association, the PRA’s and RA; and will provide relevant member updates as applicable.
> The Trainer & Owner Reforms (TOR), which refers to the standardised owner/trainer and joint owner agreements (the former incorporating the trainer payment security conditions), are at last nearing the winning post! The base documents need only ratification now at the RA board meeting scheduled 14 September, to in turn, allow the education & implementation phase to commence, with a view to achieving the national launch on 1 December 2016.
> The Trainers’ Trust is born! Flemington in Victoria hosted the launch, together with the running of the first ever race event, on 23 July - “TAB/ATA Trainers’ Trust Hcp”. More race day events are in planning stages for venues around the country, with Morphettville to host their race event on Saturday 17 September. These events, together with other initiatives we plan to roll out in 2016/2017, will be co-sponsored by our exclusive wagering partner TABCORP, with whom the ATA executed an enhanced sponsorship arrangement for the current season.
It would be remiss of us at the ATA not to make mention in this update of equine welfare. The decision by the NSW Government to close down greyhound racing in its state in 2017, is a salient reminder the racing industry must ensure that the high standards of equine welfare which we are all totally committed to maintain, are not compromised. Racing has many enemies among a broad coalition of vocal animal activist groups. Accordingly, it is incumbent on all participants to embrace equine welfare and the related issues pro-actively, collectively and with a unified objective, to ensure we retain independence on the management of this, and enjoy broad support in return from the public perspective.
Finally, on the good news front, the Racing Queensland board recently established a new Thoroughbred Advisory Panel. This body, to include select stakeholders who will meet with RQ quarterly, will assist with the development of strategies and initiatives to help improve and promote the racing industry in Queensland. Our very own Cam Partington (QLD State Executive) has been invited to fill a position on this panel, further testament to the high regard the ATA is held in by RQ, and recognition of the vitally important role the ATA plays for trainers and racing industry in this country. Well done Cam, we know you will do a fine job!
We are also extremely proud to unveil the inaugural Colin Alderson Rising Star award this week, which will form a part of the Victorian Thoroughbred annual awards night henceforth. This is a wonderful way to recognise in perpetuity Colin’s training achievements over his career, together with his overall contribution to racing throughout his 50 years of service, underlined by his recent Order of Australia (OAM) medal. A worthy award indeed recognising a titan of our wonderful industry!
Good luck to all trainers for the new season, we wish you every success, both on and off the track.
Chief Executive Officer