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By Robert Heathcote | Thursday, October 4, 2018

Love him or hate him, champion trainer Rob Heathcote is a passionate racing man. He wears his heart on his sleeve and there is never a doubt as to whether he is happy or angry about what is happening in his industry. He speaks openly, never hides behind anybody or fudges any issues. The fact that he pulls no punches when telling it like it is from his point of view doesn’t always make him the most popular player in the game but you always know exactly where he stands on things and that clarity, in a world where finding any point of certainty is often confusing, stands to his credit. Today he is angry and you can find out why in this edition of Rob’s Shout, the personal blog of Rob Heathcote, which appears exclusively on HRO.

I am out there fighting for racing in Queensland on as many fronts as I can because the crucial point is that someone has to say something. Someone has got to push back against tide in terms of the way things are going.

In Queensland we are in the unenviable position that our own racing administrators have their hands tied. They’re as good as handcuffed because the people they need to comment about and protest against are their employers (The Queensland Government).

At best, they can only have a soft push back because they are not in a position to push back any harder.

Well, I can.

I’ve had many years of this bumbling government racing screw-up and somehow, I am determined to help get the message across that enough is enough … whatever that takes!

The thoroughbred industry is the lifeblood of racing in this state. In essence it is a completely different industry to greyhounds and harness racing and for the government to not recognise the need to go back to three, separate, stand alone codes looking after their own affairs can only be attributed to the fact that they simply don’t want to see the obvious.

I, like many others, am firmly opposed to the fact that greyhounds, harness and thoroughbreds still fall under one administration body.

You can go almost anywhere in the timeframe of the last couple of years and the decisions that have been made have really been Keystone Cops shit.

Dismantling all of the racing boards on the back of the MacSporran report, the Eagle Farm balls up, the selection of the greyhound chief steward, after the greyhound scandal, as the head of integrity for the entire state. That to me is Keystone Cops shit. It is so wrong that they did all of that … and more … on so many levels.

No one needs to convince anybody of the importance of racing at Eagle Farm. It is the mother of racing in our state … the old lady. People bet on Eagle Farm more than any other track in Queensland. We closed the track down to build a new one and we all know the debacle that followed to the severe, on-going detriment to our industry.

In the middle of that the accidental Premier came in.

So, what did she do?

She appointed Alan MacSporran to do an inquiry into … and let me emphasise this … into the greyhound racing’s live baiting scandal but MacSporran then comes out with a report, which Palaszczuk ran with, to totally dismantle the entire racing industry … not just greyhound racing but horseracing, harness … the entire industry.

Where did that outcome ever fall within the parameters of that inquiry? To my knowledge, it was never announced that MacSporran’s powers had been extended. Horse racing should not ever have been part of any collateral damage … but the government did what it liked.

They put a bean counter in there whose job it was to save money … cut costs … cut, slash and burn. Well they did that and the most important thing in that exercise was they trimmed the track rebuild back from something like $13 million to $10 million. That $3 million ‘saving’ has probably already cost the industry another $10 million in the interim.

And they called it a bullshit ‘Tracking To Sustainability’ program.

I could go on … and on and on.

And you wonder why Queensland is so much on the back foot.

It’s all smoke and mirrors on the part of government and when you look through the mist there is nothing positive with the horseracing industry.

The very fact that the government dropped the Point Of Consumption Tax distribution bombshell details … which are highly unsatisfactory to the horseracing industry which will provide the hulk of that income stream … on a Friday night, on Grand Final weekend, on a long weekend holiday speaks volumes about the way they go about things.

They were buying a bit of time.

I think their thinking is there will be a bit of a hostile reaction for a week or two but it will flame out and they will get what we want which is inactivity … just like it has been for the last twenty years … but maybe government has just got another thing wrong.

Because of the fragmentation that the bad times have caused within the industry it has long been thought that it is highly unlikely that industry participants will ever stand together and push back against those who have the power, influence, and indeed responsibility, to support racing but who are not doing so.

Well here’s a surprise. With the government continuing to treat racing stakeholders like imbeciles and disrespecting both their value and that of the horseracing industry in general, they have provided the spark for all racegoers to get together on this issue and start the push back.

We might all have to feel some pain before we can go forward … and let me be clear here, when I say ‘all’ I am talking about stakeholders throughout the state not just those in South East Queensland.

"I really want to represent everybody with this push as I firmly believe that every racing stakeholder, where-ever they may be located, now has little option but to initiate some action which can, firstly, stop the rot, and secondly, turn things around and point the horseracing industry in a better direction then the cliff-face it is heading to now.

Industrial action or some sort of new radical approach are not preferred options … but we can no longer kid ourselves about where any further ‘consultation’, ‘lobbying’ or ‘working together’ with government will get us. That form is already well and truly on the board and it does not make pretty reading.

So, like I said at the outset, whatever it takes.

This goal is now starting to take up a lot more of my time than I hoped it would … but I don’t mind doing it.

This industry has been very good to me. I have been fortunate in that I have been successful. While I am at the back end of my career … I won’t be around much longer … I am not prepared to forsake my industry and turn my back on what is happening and just walk away.

That would be the easy thing to do but I do owe my industry something and I will not shirk that responsibility.

It is true to say that the actions of Queensland government and their indifference to the industry is helping me to retire early but, as far as this fight is concerned, I’m not going away.

More articles

Multiple Premiership winning trainer Rob Heathcote
Multiple Premiership winning trainer Rob Heathcote

"I’ve had many years of this bumbling government racing screw-up and somehow, I am determined to help get the message across that enough is enough … whatever that takes!"

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

"I've had two very passionate racing ministers, Grace Grace and now Striling Hinchliffe … and I think the treasurer (Jackie Trad) has worked very hard to come up with a really good package (with the POC tax) that I think does send a signal to the racing industry that we are here to help and we also want to see it prosper."

Many will disagree
Stirling Hinchliffe
Stirling Hinchliffe
Grace Grace

Premier Palaszczuk's comments quoted above were made on the Sky News program Richo, hosted by Peter Gleeson, which aired last night.

Gleeson also introduced a separate segment which featured Rob Heathcote and Peter V'Landys by saying …
Grace Grace

Premier Palaszczuk's comments quoted above were made on the Sky News program Richo, hosted by Peter Gleeson, which aired last night.

Gleeson also introduced a separate segment which featured Rob Heathcote and Peter V'Landys by saying … "The Palaszczuk government gets a massive fail on the way it has allowed racing in Queensland to deteriorate and now it is imposing this Comsumption Tax on corporate bookies at 15%, the highest in Australia and none of it comes back to racing on an annual basis. Eagle Farm has been closed for eighteen months because they can't get the surface right. Prize-money in Queensland is now half that of Sydney and Melbourne and in some of the reginal areas it is disgraceful."

Racing NSW's 'El Supremo' Peter V'Landys offered this view … "The solution for Queensland is it needs a major injection of cash into prize money. Prize money drives the industry. It is the economic stimulus that pays the owners, it pays the trainers, it pays the jockeys and it pays everyone associated with racing. In New South Wales there is 50 000 people directly or indirectly employed by the racing industry. There will be a similar number in Queensland. So there is an enormous economic stimulus triggered by prize money. The people who subsidise the industry are the owners of horses. You have to correct the disparity from what is paid out to owners (as a group) to what it is costing them to have horses compete … and the disparity is very big in Queensland. Unless that disparity is corrected there is not a big future for Queensland racing."
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