Turn It Up! Review landscape changes

Racing guru John Messara (second from left) at Flemington in 2016. Photo: Getty Images
Racing guru John Messara (second from left) at Flemington in 2016. Photo: Getty Images
Hopes of John Messara waving a magic wand over the racing industry were doomed this week.

All it took was the release of a letter sent to the man charged with reviewing the industry's structure by Racing Minister Winston Peters.

The first sentence of the letter officially invites Messara to undertake a high-level assessment of the racing industry in New Zealand.

No alarm bells there.

But, as I read on, at least one is ringing.

Peters asks Messara to focus his report on how the current model supports the financial viability of the thoroughbred sector.

Later in the letter, Peters again tells Messara his review should put particular focus on thoroughbred code.

That was enough for me to become to concerned.

I am sure Peters has his reasons for directing towards thoroughbred racing.

It is the biggest of the three racing codes and Messara has a wealth of experience and success in that sector.

Peters does tell Messara it's likely he will have to engage with the harness and greyhound codes but does not specifically direct him to review their operations.

It is significant that the letter states Messara's recommendations will potentially change the shape of the racing industry.

What I can not fathom is that the review is not evenly focused on all three codes.

Racing issues could be split into four groups.

Those affecting thoroughbreds, harness racing, greyhounds and the issues that affect all three codes.

This letter says to me that at best two of these groups of issues will be addressed by the report.

But the challenges specifically facing harness racing and greyhounds could be completely ignored.

What is my position on this? I want the whole racing sector to flourish.

I want to see all codes overcome the legislative and structural roadblocks that are holding them back.

Messara may well do that - I am sure the optimists out there would agree.

The pessimists may suggest otherwise.

They may suggest the racing minister wants to see thoroughbred racing prosper to reward his pals and those who have previously backed him.

They may also suggest Messara has been put in a position to recommend changes that will involve thoroughbred racing flourishing at the expense of harness racing and greyhound racing.

It is hard to argue Peters' changes to bloodstock tax announced in the budget were not an example of exactly this.

It could happen again in 100 different ways. But I think it is highly likely to come through the distribution of turnover on overseas races.

If Messara does not try to direct more money bet on overseas racing into the thoroughbred coffers, I will be amazed.

The Racing Act has a section that forms the basis of a complicated but fair formula to split up those returns among the codes.

If that were to change I believe not only would it be unfair, it would also set the start of a breakdown in the relationships among the codes.

As I have already said, I advocate for every aspect of the racing industry being examined and, hopefully, strengthened.

But I am not hopeful this will happen now, because this report process stinks.

Happy trails

 

 

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