Roll Up, Roll Up! Loosen Your Purse Strings For The Turf's Sale Of The Century

Sydney Morning Herald

Monday August 11, 2003

CRAIG YOUNG, cyoung@access.fairfax.com.au

Roll up, roll up . . . racing is having the ultimate garage sale. Roll up, roll up. You can even buy a racetrack.

We have mahogany tables, chairs and office furniture all made redundant by a statewide purge on administration staff. Take your pick from any of a number of human resources managers, racing managers and information technology gurus. They've all been speared.

Take your pick. And with every purchase, Racing NSW ``we are the game's ruling body" will throw in a free racehorse. Why? Because the four-legged hay-burner doesn't have a track to be trained on. It's a surplus product.

But wait, there's more. We'll also throw in a saddle, bridle and racing plates. No horse no need for the gear.

And there's more, for we at the garage's head office are just putting the final touches to the next ``key issues" or ``key programs" paper to determine what should go next.

The latest strategic paper dropped into The Sting's lap last week the one we mentioned was being finetuned a couple of weeks ago. The one about downsizing race-club numbers by ``joint venture", ``takeover", ``merger", ``strategic partnership" or ``outsourcing".

This last one is a real ripper. If you don't have a race club, what are you going to outsource?

Anyway, why not start at the top. The Australian Jockey Club and Sydney Turf Club should become one.

Why? Because that's where you will find most of the savings. You see, all these strategic papers from the keepers of the garage talk about saving $25 million if their recommendations and ideas are implemented.

The latest paper doesn't mention the AJC and STC becoming one but, what the heck, we will. After all, they're the biggest clubs in NSW. They have marketing teams, accountants, HR managers, payroll teams, racing managers: the whole nine yards.

Imagine such a merger the savings. Job losses everywhere. Don't worry, there will be twice as much work, just make those left do overtime without pay.

And you can sell off Canterbury racecourse, too. Yep, the paper says so. Doubtless Warwick Farm would be next.

Anyway, pump the Canterbury proceeds into Hawkesbury racecourse. The paper says so. The STC will take over that mob. Sorry, of course, it will be a joint venture.

Whatever, Hawkesbury will be brought up to speed, developed into a track capable of hosting midweek and the odd Saturday meetings. Top-grade training, too.

Same goes for the Central Coast. Get rid of Gosford or Wyong. What about selling both? If that happened, the paper reckons, you could build a state-of-the-art course to house both clubs.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't one or more of the previous papers from the garage keepers urge clubs to look at increasing non-racing revenue? That's why the AJC has applied to put 30 pokies into Randwick.

But how are other clubs going to increase revenue if they don't have a clubhouse with a function centre? How are they going to do it without any staff ?

Really, Gosford and Wyong administration staffs amount to about eight people and a couple of race-day casuals looking after sponsors and the like.

Big savings made there, slashing the provincial staff. Imagine what it is like in the bush. I'm sure the Armidale team has a human resources manager. Come to think of it, probably two.

However, Armidale might be for the chop. You see, the paper reckons 20 primary tracks should be established and these would hold all TAB meetings.

So, Armidale and another 20-odd tracks may as well be sold. Are they worth $25m?

Money, money, money. More of the folding stuff to go into prizemoney. That's where the blokes at the garage want it to go. The garage blokes who are preening themselves about field sizes being up during the past season. That their programming initiatives are working.

Well, what a rip-snorting meeting it was at Randwick on Saturday. Headquarters had three races with fewer than eight starters, while Rosehill, a week earlier, had two. A week before that there were only seven races.

It doesn't really matter. Those at the garage have a rather large stick. They sanction race dates and if clubs don't fall into line they may not race on the days they've taken for granted.

So, roll up, roll up, racing's having a garage sale. How much for Canterbury?

© 2003 Sydney Morning Herald

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