In a recent presentation to a racing audience Gerard Whateley made the distinction between racing as a sport and racing as an industry. He…
Public holidays in Australia are normally filled with race meetings in all corners of the country. Yet this Friday, it’s almost a black hole.
Believe it or not, Western Australia and Tasmania are the only progressive states in this nation when it comes to racing on Good Friday.
Two meetings – one at Ascot and another at Launceston – will fill Sky Racing on what used to be the worst day in the world for sports fans.
Luckily, the NRL paved the way for Good Friday sport and the AFL begrudgingly followed.
We’ve come so far in such a short amount of time that this Friday is now producing a smorgasbord of sports, from AFL, NRL, Super Rugby, A-League, NBL, and a lot of statewide and local footy.
Yet in the three biggest racing states of Victoria, NSW and Queensland, there isn’t one race meeting.
You might hear the argument from jockeys or trainers that it’s great to have a day off – and no one could argue with that – but give them a day off on the Tuesday before and the Tuesday after Easter.
Good Friday racing would be a boon for the industry. Don’t put on a meeting at Flemington, Randwick or Eagle Farm, take those meetings to the country.
Imagine the crowds a Good Friday race meet would get at Hanging Rock, Gunnedah, Innisfail and the like? It would bring racing back to the people.
It doesn’t even have to be thoroughbred racing. Harness meetings at Wedderburn, Bankstown and Marburg would also introduce new people to the sport.
I understand that Good Friday means a lot to Christians but this is about choice, and making the most of a small window when people have time off and are looking for something to do.
I applaud the racing jurisdictions in Tasmania and Western Australia for taking the leap and hosting racing but the benefits of their initiative won’t be fully realised until the rest of the country jumps on board.
If you think this story is about wagering, you’re wrong. This is about the opportunity to encourage families to have a day out at the races and enjoy the theatre of the sport.
There’s so much to like about racing outside of gambling. The skill required to train a horse, the courage it takes to steer one around a track, and the rollercoaster ride of both pure joy and devastation when it comes to ownership.
Good Friday racing could be less about the dollar and more about advertising the industry.
Let’s hope that this time next year we aren’t having the same conversation.
Make sure you return on Friday for my preview of the big races on Saturday, which includes Group racing at Caulfield and Rosehill.