Centuries ago, in Egypt, after toiling for 40 days and 40 nights, the great prophet and leader of the Israelites, Moses, descended from Mount Sinai with the words of God chiselled into two stone tablets — the Ten Commandments.
At a stretch, comparisons may be drawn with the Seventeen Commandments delivered to New Zealand horse racing by Egyptian born-Australian bred, horse racing prophet, accountant, stockbroker, John Messara.
Messara was commissioned by the Kingmaker of New Zealand politics, Winston Peters, to channel the wisdom of God and review the intrinsic issues that have held New Zealand horse racing back since the glory days when rugby, racing and beer were predominant in the land of the long white cloud.
Determined not to be outdone by Moses, Messara actually toiled for a whole four months, then descended from the clouds with not just Ten Commandments, but Seventeen, which were chiselled into cloud tablets for the whole horse racing industry to scour through and devote themselves to.
And, like Moses, Messara stated that you couldn't just pick and choose which Commandments you want to follow, the success of his masterplan required all
Commandments to be followed otherwise death and damnation were sure to follow.
However, while one of the Ten Commandments is not to covet thy neighbour's wife, servant, ox, donkey or anything else that belongs to your neighbour — Messara wants to
covet all assets from the New Zealand racing clubs he has recommended closing, and assign them to an infrastructure fund to develop those racetracks he recommends retaining.
That may be a bone of contention with horse racing fanatics who stoutly believe
that racing clubs own these assets.
However, the fact of the matter is, as highlighted by Messara and according to the Racing Act 2003, members of a racing club have no pecuniary interest in the property of a club. However, the Act is a little vague in regard to dissolution of a racing club, stating that assets of racing clubs must be disposed of "for racing, public, charitable, or other purposes in the manner that the club, with the approval of the racing code with which it is registered, determines".
But after all, if it wasn't for financial support from New Zealand Racing, through wagering income, these racing clubs would have very little in the way of income or assets — even though individual racing clubs may have created this monster in the first place. The industry has however evolved since those days.
There is no doubt the Messara report will be contentious, as have been previous reports into horse racing — all of which have been pretty much ignored, to their peril.
There is however, no contention that horse racing has intrinsic issues facing its survival — it is dying a slow death at present.
There will be a bitter pill to swallow for racing clubs that have been resigned to oblivion and jubilation from those who have survived the cull.
As a former apprentice jockey, trainer and owner in this beleaguered industry, I have first-hand experience of the trials and tribulations everyone involved in the industry has faced over the past few decades as we have struggled with insufficient stake money which makes racing a horse pretty much unviable.
I was lucky enough that the last horse I raced won $30,000 in stake money from three wins and numerous placings — but I still lost money.
Messara's Seventeen Commandments to transform the New Zealand horse racing
industry make perfect sense — regardless of how difficult they will be to implement.
Horse racing simply cannot afford to maintain and upgrade as many racecourses as we currently have and expanding our market overseas ourselves is fraught with danger.
Stake money and minimum stake money must increase for the industry to remain viable and keep owners in the game, strategically placed synthetic all-weather tracks are absolutely necessary given our weather conditions.
As recommended, exposing New Zealand racing to overseas markets by outsourcing commercial activities to an international wagering operator that can gain exposure and has the resources and technology to achieve this, makes perfect sense.
Outsourcing would also remove resentment throughout the industry from many who believe there are too many fat cats collecting too many six-figure incomes at head office.
And last, but certainly not least, keeping in mind the sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not kill", the government must stop killing off horse racing by coming to the party and repeal the existing betting levy that sucks $13 million a year out of horse racing — because horse racing contributes far more to the New Zealand economy in so many other ways.
In fact, by more than a billion dollars every year and the government subsequently clips this ticket further down the track.
Let's hope everyone involved in New Zealand horse racing can embrace these Seventeen Commandments much better than we seem to embrace Moses' Ten Commandments.