Pssst, wanna surefire bet? Okay, then listen up.

On Wednesday last week the New Zealand Racing Board and the three racing codes asked for the thoughts of industry stakeholders from which, hopefully, to create a strategic way forward.

That surefire bet is that not one of the racing clubs being asked, and here we are talking essentially galloping clubs, will recommend they cease to exist. Because that's exactly where any strategic plan has to start.

Guaranteeing failure here is the inescapable fact that in history no one has ever sacked themselves.


We have far too many racing clubs, evidenced, in one of many ways, by the fact the financial upkeep of facilities is starting to become a major issue that urgently needs solving.

The time to discuss this is long gone. Action is urgent. Socialism be damned, benevolent dictatorship is the only answer as advocated by Sydney's racing guru administrator John Messara in The Informant's excellent interview last week.

The silver tongue of Messara's articulation has single-handedly, and quickly, changed the face and business model of Sydney racing and also of New South Wales provincial and country racing. The only other visionary of similar quality was New Zealand's own, the late Ian McEwen, who dragged Moonee Valley from very much the poor cousin in Melbourne racing to be at least the equal of the two acknowledged giants Flemington and Caulfield.

Because of McEwen's singular brilliance, the Cox Plate is one of the world's greatest weight-for-age races instead of just another Melbourne Cup lead-up. Benevolent dictatorship, even if velvet gloves are needed, can work here, but we must start now.

Okay, we don't have a John Messara, but neither does any other racing jurisdiction in Australia, or any other racing country in the world. Genius is not too strong a word. But what is wrong with copying his model. The difficulty is Messara did not make his quest a popularity contest. Not everyone agreed with what he was doing, but he knew he was right and so history has proved.

Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew knew how to do it. Okay, that wasn't benevolent to all in initial reforms, but the end result justified the means. Racing needs the same model.

There has been talk of being aware racing clubs financially supporting local communities, but where is it written that that is horse racing's responsibility. If the local motel and wine shop do lesser business because the racetrack disappears for sensible economic reasons, so be it. Much more important is the racehorse owner who is paying ridiculous float fees to get a horse to the races because of our lack of centralisation.

And, anyway, the days have passed when racegoers stayed away race-eve and perhaps the night of the races. Life is now too busy.

Most of us have great faith in Winston Peters' determination to change things, but he faces a tough battle passing major reforms with a socialist-leaning new Government because, as Messara points out, politicians simply don't understand racing.

If there is a clearly obvious racing club that should be deleted, you can't point too many bones at whoever internally there opposed self-deletion, it is simply human nature from those passionate about the industry. Even if they are the proprietors of the motel or the wine shop. That's why the current initiative has potential for being self-defeating.

Human nature again - most in racing see things from their own perspective, while the only thing that matters, yes, the ONLY thing, is the industry as a sole entity. Be nice if the respondents to the current survey embrace that.

As Messara says: "It all comes down to people at the end of the day, personnel are critical. A single person can change the world."

Messara did.

Go Winston.

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