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The South Australian Jockey Club (SAJC) would seem to have got its desired result regarding jumps racing, with the introduction this week of a Bill into the SA Parliament by Green MLC Tammy Franks to outlaw the sport in the state (a previous attempt having failed in 2011).
In February, after the announcement of the 2015 South Australian jumps racing program, SAJC CEO Brenton Wilkinson made a very public statement expressing his disappointment that Thoroughbred Racing SA (the state’s racing governing body) had intervened to programme jumps meetings at Morphettville in 2015 – despite that fact that the arrangement was a compromise deal agreed upon by both SAJC and TRSA.
This public betrayal by the state’s leading racing club of a sector of its own industry was further exacerbated when the state Racing Minister, Leon Bignell, took this as his cue to also take a swipe at jumps racing, with his ill-judged and provocative remarks in a radio interview that the SA Labor Government might seek to ban jumps racing “under animal cruelty legislation”, despite its many public pronouncements before last year’s state election that jumps racing and its administration was strictly the province of TRSA.
The Bill introduced by Ms Franks therefore sees the SA jumps fraternity locked in conflict with the two parties who it might be reasonably expected would have the welfare of the sport at heart – namely the state’s premier racing club and the minister responsible for racing.
Keen observers suggest that there is nothing coincidental about the timing of the introduction of Ms Franks’ Bill, which would now would appear to have the implicit backing of both Mr Bignell and SAJC.
Ms Franks introduced a similar bill in 2011, which ultimately failed following opposition from both Labor and Liberal.
When a racing minister and a racing club are actively seeking to bring about the demise of a sector of their own industry, is it any wonder that jumps racing struggles to get any positive coverage in South Australia and that its very existence is now under threat?
The SAJC can be well pleased with its work – its own animosity towards jumps racing at Morphettville may now lead to the end of jumps at Oakbank, Murray Bridge and Gawler too.
However, the Bill will enable the SAJC’s role in jumps racing’s demise to be shifted onto the shoulders of the government.
Nevertheless, jumps racing supporters who are also SAJC members should take careful note of this betrayal and, if this Bill succeeds, be prepared to ensure that SAJC takes its fair share of the blame when jumps racing in South Australia is no more.