“Common sense is not so common. We keep saying we could do this and we could do that, but nothing ever happens”.
Trainer Neville Parnham was being interviewed on TABradio this week after another successful race meeting for Family Parnham and reacting to hearing the hosts led by that excitable chihuahua Gareth Hall talk and talk and talk about how this race meeting and that race meeting in WA could be improved by doing this and doing that.
The top trainer wasn’t annoyed. He just seemed tired and frustrated listening to how the racing product in his state could be improved. Over and over again.
Frankly, what Neville Parnham said could have been said about every racing jurisdiction anywhere in the world. Everything can be improved but it’s never easy. Change seldom is.
Finding the talent – a combination of businessman, savvy marketers, creative content providers and those who know their way around government ordinances- are more rare than the Dodo bird. But as it was about racing in Western Australia that was being discussed, let’s stick to the script…
One of the main problems with WA racing is that it keeps talking to itself. It’s been talking to itself for decades. Been slapping itself on its back for decades. It’s like being Kanye West. But WA racing hardly has the following of Yeezy. It remains the Rodney Dangerfield of Australian horse racing.
This dismissive attitude is something lost on me when one thinks of the great horses from WA- Northerly, Eurythmic, Placid Ark, Scenic Blast, Miss Andretti etc.
There are then the Hall Of Fame trainers like George Townton, Bob Burns Snr whose son trained in Hong Kong during the Sixties and Seventies, Alfred Jordan, JJ Kelly, Fred Kersley, of course, Neville Parnham and the famous riders led by Damien Oliver and a roll call that includes Damian Lane, Paul Harvey and, going back in time, Frank Breen, Frank “Tiger” Miller, and Eric Treffone.
Today, and when one, especially looks at a time of the year when racetracks throughout Australia are a wagering death trap because the meetings often take place on tracks ranging from Heavy to soft that invariably result in raining outsiders and is an anathema to those with “the coin”, racing in WA on tracks like Ascot and Bunbury, and even the smaller tracks in Western Australia are hardly affected. Ever. There’s no need to call the exorcist.
While way too many in Melbourne and Sydney have absolutely no knowledge nor interest in WA’s racing product, some of the smarter punters we know in Hong Kong and Singapore ONLY focus on the race meetings taking place throughout Western Australia. And wherever Jamie Kah rides. They’ll tell you it’s where the smart money goes- and not always on the tote.
These are experienced punters with an aversion to losing, were brought up singing “Don’t Bet When Wet” and who can tell you about the pitfalls of laying down their hard earned money at Caulfield, Flemington, Moonee Valley, Mornington, and will never look at racing in New South Wales unless it might be a short priced favourite ridden by Chad Lever at Kembla.
To them, watching and appreciating racing featuring good horses ridden by the big name riders and trained by the usual successful suspects is one thing. Being in the sport to win on a regular basis is another.
Makes sense and it’s also something racing clubs the world over should bear in mind when trying to attract the next generation of racing fans- their aversion to losing even one cent, how this consumer group marches to the beat of its own drummer and have never even heard of everything and everyone the experienced racing person takes for granted.
They’re still to be interested in and attracted to horse racing. Many believe the same horses run in every race and that these horses are owned by jockeys wearing garish “blouses”.
There’s no interest because horse racing is still all about gambling and they’d rather take a gamble on love or, Gawd forbid, marriage. But with all the choices laid out for them out there, it’s all about choice and living in the age of entitlement.
Getting back to horse racing in WA, apart from the effective marketing of its racing product, there’s the problem of the time difference: Horse racing in WA often takes place after most in racing in Victoria and New South Wales are already coming down to the wire with no thought of going anywhere else except for the desperados who’ll carry on by laying down their last twenty bucks on the greyhounds or the trots.
As for looking at racing in WA? Hardly ever a factor. When the wonderful WA mare Dainty Tess trained by Dan Morton and ridden by Jamie Kah recently won the Group 3 Irwin Stakes in Morphetville, how much coverage did this news receive in Melbourne and Sydney?
However, back home, there was the usual whooping it up. But who else knew? How could this win, this horse and other success stories and changes taking place in Perth be used to promote horse racing in Western Australia outside of the state instead of following a What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas “strategy”?
A huge fan of racing in Perth has been champion rider Douglas Whyte. He’s tasted success over there and has been a wonderful ambassador in promoting Perth for its racing and as a destination to many in Hong Kong.
There’s no time difference between Hong Kong, Singapore and, hmmmm, Malaysia and there are a number of well-informed followers of form in these cities who can speak extremely knowingly, and not only about William Pike, below, who had a short stint riding in Hong Kong, Chris and Neville Parnham and Fred Kersley.
They can tell you about Clint Johnson-Porter, Lucy Warwick, Randy Tan, Matthieu Autier, Aaron Mitchell, Daniel Staek, Joe Azzopardi, Ryan Hill, how well Fred Kersley Jr is doing riding in Victoria, trainers like Grant and Alana Williams, below, and Simon Miller, the towering figure of owner-breeder Bob Peters, also pictured below, and more interestingly, those names kept on the down low behind certain ownership syndicates and the reason for some betting fluctuations.
These people have been doing their homework for decades. They’re no fools. They also know the politics stunting the growth of racing in Western Australia and those who a few short years ago were playing those games that some people can’t help themselves from playing.
What I was listening to recently was an interview conducted around two years ago with someone in media and based in Perth. “There are quite a number of people who have retired in especially Perth, but also other parts of WA. They and others don’t really want outsiders moving in and upsetting their lifestyle. With music, you have heard the young talent here, but what’s their future? It’s not here. As for horse racing, you know how it works and who’s involved and what’s behind the curtain.”
In 2009 when in Perth to be on a Speakers panel at the OneMovement music conference and festival, there was much excitement about promoting the city as a CONVENIENT destination and meeting place to bring together ‘live’ music from around the region and combine all this with horse racing.
Alas, OneMovement fell victim to financial problems and bit the dust. It shouldn’t have and the basic idea should not be allowed to stay buried.
OneMovement was a big idea that became reality and had at least the Asia Pacific region and, to an extent, America looking at Perth as a destination- the city and what it offers and what MORE it can offer other than having horse racing on Good Friday.
This OneMovement thinking should be resurrected whereas the Repeat button should be reined in for the measured thinking, knowledge and experience of someone like our favourite race caller in Australia in WA’s own Darren McCaullay.
The question is this: Does Perth wish to be more than what it is- it does- and is the WA racing product content to carry on being what it is with the blinkers on when it comes to looking at The Big Picture- other than having racing on Good Friday? Whoopee.
Next? Don’t be surprised if a few cash-rich foreign investor groups from Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan move in very soon and seize the day along with the business opportunities to be had in Perth and elsewhere in Western Australia and give the state a makeover whether it wants it or not. And if and when this happens, it will certainly impact its horse racing.
#horseracing #WesternAustralia #Perth #WilliamPike #BobPeters #TABtouch #DouglasWhyte #DarrenMcCaullay