More challenges on horizon

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By Racing Queensland Chief Executive Officer BRENDAN PARNELL

The eyes of the nation have been on the Sunshine State over the past month, but that does not mean that challenges aren’t on the horizon.

Once again, I would like to acknowledge and thank all of our industry participants for their continued understanding and adherence to the COVID-19 protocols in place.

Last month’s snap lockdown reinforced that we are not out of the woods when it comes to this pandemic, and the proactive response from the industry ensured that we were able to continue with minimal disruption to all participants.

We continue to see the impact of COVID-19 across the nation, and I encourage all participants to continue to monitor all Queensland Health directives, and to stay as vigilant as possible.

Winter Carnival on show

The TAB Queensland Winter Greyhound Racing Carnival has been a raging success.

The Carnival’s showpiece night saw some of the best greyhound racing in Australia on display, highlighted by the $375,000 Group 1 Sky Racing Brisbane Cup and the $150,000 Group 1 TAB Queensland Cup, with more than $600,000 on offer across the meeting.

I extend my congratulations to Victorian trainer Jason Thompson, who claimed a fifth Brisbane Cup thanks to a dominant four-length win from his star chaser Equalizer.

Sir Truculent also continued his affinity with Queensland, backing up his Listed Gold Cup triumph in the summer with a stirring six-length romp in the Queensland Cup for stayers.

A special mention to Queensland trainer Tony Brett who was tasked with looking after both Group 1 winners throughout their stays here in the Sunshine State.

It’s a testament to Tony’s ability to prepare his own chasers in races across the winter, as well as taking in a number of inter-state hopes and leading them to Group 1 glory.

Ekka sweepstakes returns

The Ekka sweepstakes returns this year on August 8, with roughly 50 greyhounds appearing in the showring.

The sweepstakes is a fantastic opportunity to showcase racing greyhounds to the public in a non-racing environment, and we’ve seen recently through the Ipswich Show the fantastic feedback and appreciation received.

A special thank you to those who are competing on the day, and to Di O’Donnell and Racing Queensland’s Nicola Hardman for organising what will be a fantastic day for the code.

As an aside, all three codes of racing will be on show throughout the Ekka.

Stewards’ sectional camera installation

Following hot on the heels of the recently completed running rail replacement at Rockhampton, I am pleased to advise that a number of club funding grants were approved in June that will enable the installation of sectional cameras at the Capalaba, Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Townsville tracks.

In addition, home and back straight stewards’ vision will also be installed at the Bundaberg, Rockhampton and Townsville tracks.

Both technology upgrades will be appreciated by participant and wagering stakeholders with stewards’ vision critical to QRIC’s oversight of racing and the sectional camera allowing run home times to be publicised for all runners in every race.

RQ Board update

Last month, Racing Minister Grace Grace announced the appointment of Jodie Jones and Christopher Edwards, replacing Margaret Reynolds and Max Walters OAM.

They join Chairman Steve Wilson AM and Deputy Chair Sharon Dawson, along with Dale Cartwright, Graham Quirk and Jane Seawright on the RQ Board.

Jodie joins the Board as a director with expertise in harness racing, enjoying more than three decades as an owner and breeder of standardbreds, while Christopher is a senior leader of RPS Group in Brisbane and oversees its commercial and delivery capital projects – and infrastructure work – across the nation.

I look forward to working with both Jodie and Chris, as well as our existing Board members going forward.

I Would also like to acknowledge the fine contributions of both outgoing Board members, Max Walters and Margaret Reynolds.

Max was a significant contributor to our most recent media rights negotiation and played a key role in securing a significant financial uplift for our clubs, while Margaret was a strong and passionate representative for the harness code, who continually prosecuted the case for increased funding and returns to participants.

GBGC update

A quick update on the Greater Brisbane Greyhound Centre – I am pleased to report that behind-the-scenes work continues to take place.

The community consultation phase of the planning approval process has also commenced, and concept design is progressing impressively.

An industry stakeholder engagement briefing is planned at the Ipswich Greyhound Racing Club later this month – stay tuned for more communications once a date is confirmed.

RQ undertook the first round of industry stakeholder consultation in September 2020 and was delighted with the feedback and suggestions presented at that stage.

The masterplan and preferred track layout information that will be presented at the Ipswich briefing will strongly reflect the insight provided in the first-round consultation.

RQ Outlook

The 2021/22 financial year will present additional financial challenges for the Queensland racing industry as it navigates the challenges for the merged (and now potentially de-merged) TAB business.

During the past 12 months, QLD TAB’s merger guarantee payments ceased and with co-mingling and virtual racing product Trackside still not delivered by TAB, there will be a sharp revenue decline from our retail wagering partner in FY22.

While meaningful progress has been made with new technology and products – as well as club sponsorship this year – QTAB performance remains an ongoing concern.

With the potential de-merger of Lotteries and Keno from Tabcorp, the Queensland industry will be closely monitoring TAB progress during the next 12 months.

National Straight Track Championship postponed

Finally, a variety of restrictions – and border closures – across the nation have necessitated the postponement of the National Straight Track Championship, which was scheduled at Capalaba on August 15.

RQ remains committed to progressing the event later this year and will advise of the new date as further information comes to hand.

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