There has been criticism by Victorian racing industry participants unhappy with the recent announcement by Racing Victoria of cuts to Victorian prize money and the circumstances surrounding it.
Prior to the recent Racing Victoria announcement, the industry participant bodies, comprising associations for owners (TROA), breeders (TBV), trainers (ATA) and jockeys (VJA), provided a joint submission to Racing Victoria, detailing what they believed would provide a much more sensible prize money allocation than the one announced by RVL. That submission also indicated that Racing Victoria needs to be more transparent about and focussed on cutting the administrative and operating overheads of its own organisation before cutting prize money, and that Racing Victoria could minimise negative sentiment to participants and the industry by making more sensible prize money allocations.
Owners Association Chairman, Jonathan Munz, said: “We told RVL that that any funding gap must be funded first from reasonable cuts to RVL administrative overheads and expenses, before RVL seeks to reduce prize money to fund its shortfall. We also said that they need to look at reducing existing misallocations in prize money for pet projects like the All Star Mile, to avoid the need to reduce mainstream prize money levels for Saturday, midweek and country races. Unfortunately, they did not follow our advice on getting prize money allocations correctly balanced. The end result was that they still got it wrong by cutting mainstream prize money for midweek races, public holiday fixtures and some country races, by a total of $3.385 Million. That could have been avoided with more sensible allocations. They also cut prize money for important Group One races which should not have been cut, with the Underwood Stakes, Turnbull Stakes and Moir Stakes being cut from $1 million to $750,000. Again this could have been avoided, with a number of races with higher than required prize money left intact or even increased. However, on the positive side, I believe that the united opposition of participants prevented some of the worse planned cuts to mainstream prize money.
For transparency, we have released a spreadsheet showing our contrasting suggested prize money allocation. It is much better balanced. The savings from re-allocating from the All Star Mile and other races not only leaves intact the $3.385 Million cut by RVL from mainstream midweek and country racing, but also avoids cutting the Underwood, Turnbull and Moir . It also increases Listed and Group 3 minimum prize money to the levels recently announced in NSW, which would have been a positive spin rather than the negative messaging from RVL. The other savings we identified from reducing cost misallocations was to be re-allocated to other prize money, unless RVL’s funding gap could not be met from overhead reductions.
Details of our proposal include reducing the All Star Mile to a $2 million race, with its supposed $2 Million marketing budget also deleted. That would save $4 million. I take issue with comments made recently by Brian Kruger trying to justify the level of investment in the All Star Mile. I find them misleading. In reality, the wagering performance of the All Star Mile is only slightly above that for the Newmarket Handicap and the race day attendance at the All Star Mile continues to be disappointingly low and well below that for the Newmarket. However, contrast the investment in those two races, with the Newmarket having prize money of $1.5 million. The claims of extra customer engagement and acquisition from the All Star Mile have never been quantified or substantiated, despite numerous requests for that data and we do not believe those claims are reasonable or justified. Any additional customer engagement will work just as well if it is a $2 million race, as suggested by us.
Other clear misallocations detailed in our submission are $500,000 for the Country Discovery (it should be a maximum of $200,000), $500,000 for the Blue Sapphire (it should remain at $200,000), and $500,000 for the new ill-conceived Country Cup winners race (which is a poor concept and should be deleted). Similarly, the Thousand Guineas also does not need to increase to $1.5 million and can remain at $1 Million. And it is clearly wrong that the Moonee Valley Cup carries the same prize money as the Underwood, Turnbull and Moir. Full details are set out in our spreadsheet.
Our submission was contributed to and agreed by a range of the leading experts in the industry, including major investors and participants and respected former members of the Australian Pattern Committee. Hopefully some informed public debate will lead to a future re-assessment of these decisions.
In relation to the introduction of a tenth race for Saturday metro race days, the jockeys and race clubs have raised concerns about the extra time involved and potential detrimental impact on tracks. Our view is that these concerns need to properly considered and addressed. We are also concerned that this proposal has been announced without financial or other operational details, which participants and race clubs have requested be provided.
We have asked the RVL board to meet and hear first-hand from a range of major industry investors and experts, who, like us, are deeply concerned about recent RVL announcements, in relation to both prize money and the much criticised changes to the Melbourne Spring Carnival program.“
Breeders association President, James O’Brien said: “Apart from supporting the joint participants submission, TBV is also concerned about cuts to prize money on the VOBIS Owners and Breeders feature race day. We think this is inappropriate, given that breeders and owners have paid VOBIS Gold registration fees on the basis of a given level of prizemoney and individual studs have paid large amounts to support that race day. On a separate note, we strongly oppose the new Spring program changes and in particular the pushing out by 5 weeks of the Group One Thousand Guineas. We have urged RVL to reverse its decision on the Thousand Guineas.”