Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding open to stand-alone Saturday Wagga Gold Cup meeting

FLYING VISIT: Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding AO and general manager of industry and analytical, Scott Kennedy, in Wagga on Thursday. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

FLYING VISIT: Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding AO and general manager of industry and analytical, Scott Kennedy, in Wagga on Thursday. Picture: Kieren L Tilly

RACING NSW is open to the idea of a stand-alone Saturday Wagga Gold Cup meeting, but have left the ball in the court of Murrumbidgee Turf Club (MTC).

Racing NSW chairman Russell Balding AO and general manager of industry and analysis Scott Kennedy visited Wagga on Thursday in the first of a series of forums to be held across the state.

Balding is open to discussions surrounding a stand-alone Wagga Gold Cup Saturday meeting but said it would be up to MTC to put a ‘compelling’ case forward.

Tye Angland and Chris Waller have both come out in support of the concept since the success of this year’s carnival two weeks ago. NSW Minister for Racing, Paul Toole, has also said he is open to sit down and discuss the idea with the MTC.

A cautious Balding said it was ultimately up to the MTC to put forward their case.

“You need to have a look at each case on it’s merits,” Balding said.

“The stand alone meetings that we have in the metrop are working very well. Hawkesbury’s worked well, Scone works well. Gosford is lobbying very, very hard, but you’ve got to be careful how you place them and where you place them.

“We’re open to it, it’s up to the clubs to come back and put a compelling argument to us.”

Balding said there were several factors that would need to be considered before making such a big decision.

“Once you have a stand alone, you don’t have the metrop racing, therefore you have to look at the total impact on turnover...you have a look at where the horses are going and where they are progressing,” he said.

“Scone has worked well because a lot of the Sydney trainers are taking their horses north anyway, with the winter carnival in Queensland, so that works naturally.

“Hawkesbury works well because it’s the completion of the Championships, the Autumn carnival in Sydney is basically finished, there’s been a lot of racing in Sydney so that works well.

“You need to be able to place it, so it works for the benefit of not only the club itself but the industry.”

Around 25 industry participants turned out to the forum, where handicapping and the benchmark system was the common theme among complaints from Southern District trainers.

“The general gist is the industry is going pretty well at the moment but the issue from the local trainers point of view is to do with handicapping and benchmarking,” Balding conceded.

“No system is perfect. As I said to a couple of the chaps there, I’ll go to another forum and the trainers will say to me that the benchmark system is terrific, don't change it, don’t go back to a class system.

“It’s a hard one but you have got to work with the industry to get it right...it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Balding said the forum in Wagga proved beneficial.

“It went well, the purpose of today obviously was to engage, or consult, with the industry and particularly engage with the participants directly,” he said.

“The participants here in Wagga are very good at coming forward, and the other thing was for them to raise issues with us, and for us to listen to those issues.

“There are matters that will be taken back, and of course, we’re going around the whole of NSW, a number of country areas, provincial areas as well as metrop, to get the direct feedback from participants to feed into our strategic plan.”