A true bush racing stalwart

John Wagstaff was bush racing stalwart


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Phillip Bate analyses news from the Queensland racing scene.

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WHEN sometime amateur jockey John Wagstaff was legged onto a horse at a bush meeting many years ago, the owner told him “I haven’t backed it. Just ride your normal race!”

That was one of several anecdotes told by John’s wife Penny Wagstaff to a standing-room-only congregation at John’s funeral in Brisbane on  October 15 after his death the previous week.

Aged 70, John was the ‘quintessential company man’ spending 47.5 years working for prominent pastoral company Clark and Tait, including 35 years as manager of Tambo property Mt Enniskillen from December 1977 to July 2012.

John also had an abiding love of bush racing. Many properties such as Mt Enniskillen had well-bred station sires which allowed John the opportunity to train, race and occasionally ride the best of their progeny at bush meetings such as Tambo and Blackall.

But to race horses you need race courses and John was a major contributor to the success of both the Tambo and District Race Club and Barcoo Amateur Race Club at Blackall, ultimately serving as presidents of both clubs.

Retirement to Brisbane didn’t diminish John’s involvement in racing. Instead, he joined the Bernborough Club and the Thoroughbred Racing History Association while maintaining his bush connections. This was best exemplified in the lead-up to Tambo’s 150th anniversary meeting held on May 31, 2014. 

Keen to establish a win-win situation through my column – he wanted publicity for Tambo, I needed copy – he sought my help in March before setting off on a three weeks overseas trip. 

“Have you written anything about Tambo yet?” was the first question he asked me on his return and then provided a plethora of useful information and contacts. He also went the ‘extra mile’ the week before the anniversary meeting by venturing to Doomben and acquiring the signature of Ten Thousand jockeys on the rug presented to connections of the winning horse of the 150th anniversary Tambo Cup – Primed, trained by Barcaldine-based Todd Austin.

No! Not 10,000 individual jockeys but the 11 jockeys who rode in 2014 Doomben Ten Thousand.  Ten were  Group 1 winning jockeys: Michael Rodd, Damian Browne, Glen Boss, Kerrin McEvoy, Nash Rawiller, Hugh Bowman, Tye Angland, Ryan Wiggins, Timothy Bell and Joe Bowditch – while remaining rider, Tegan  Harrison, was a Group 2 winning jockey and almost won the 2014 Ten Thousand on Temple Of Boom.

Tambo certainly received ample publicity in my column with six stories from March to early June before John decreed “You can stop now. Enough is enough!” Now, just over four years on it’s enough to state “John may never have been a Group 1 rider, but he was certainly a Group 1 family man and friend!”

Country race meetings spared strike action

John Wagstaff had an abiding love of bush racing and he was a major contributor to the success of both the Tambo and District Race Club and Barcoo Amateur Race Club at Blackall.

John Wagstaff had an abiding love of bush racing and he was a major contributor to the success of both the Tambo and District Race Club and Barcoo Amateur Race Club at Blackall.

ALMOST 20 non-TAB country and provincial race meetings will be exempt from strike action scheduled by the Racing Industry Participants Association (RIPA) for Cox Plate Day (October 27) and Melbourne Cup Day (November 6).

The association – which comprises the Australian Trainers Association (QLD), Queensland Jockeys Association, Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland Association (TBQA) and the Queensland Race-Horse Owners Association – is protesting the Labor Government’s decision not to allocate anything for prize money increases from the new Point of Consumption (PoC) betting tax distribution.

All participants in Queensland will stand-down for TAB meetings scheduled at Doomben, Gold Coast, Toowoomba and Townsville on Cox Plate Day and then again at Doomben, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast on Melbourne Cup Day.

The solidarity was evident on Monday when every trainer – bar one – of more than 900 registered trainers in Queensland refused to nominate horses for the four TAB meetings this Saturday. Consequently no Queensland nominations were received for Doomben (10 races), Gold Coast (9 races) and Toowoomba (7 races) and just two for Townsville (6 races). In addition, one sole nomination from NSW trainer Jarrod Austin was received for Doomben.

With nominations for all meetings extended to 9am, Tuesday morning RIPA spokesman Cam Partington said there was still potential for the Government to provide a positive response before weights were due to be declared by 5pm on Tuesday. “Late nominations could be received on Wednesday morning, weights declared that afternoon and acceptances declared on Thursday,” he said.

RIPA suspended an earlier strike threat after meeting with Treasurer Jackie Trad and Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe last week hoping for a positive response from the government by noon last Thursday. With none forthcoming, RIPA met again that night and announced on  Friday mornng that strike action was unfortunately unavoidable.

Mr Hinchliffe addressed State Parliament last Thursday when he defended the government's record of help to racing saying all of the PoC was going to racing.

A RIPA media release states: “Despite claims that 100 per cent of this new tax will be returned to racing, the clear fact is none of this will be returned to Thoroughbred racing this year. Prize money is our wages. Ten years ago our people were receiving 75pc of what NSW racing delivered in prize money. Now Queensland sits at 45pc and as all the other states embrace this new betting tax this gap will only widen further.

“The significant financial investment from this new ‘betting tax’ given by the other states into their racing industries is in stark contrast to what is shown in Queensland. While this industrial action is certainly not the industry participants’ preferred response, the government’s lack of understanding of the importance of the current situation in Queensland leaves us with no alternative.”

Stressing the vital importance that the industry rally together and support this industrial action, TBQA president Basil Nolan said breeders understood the impact this could have on a horse’s preparation – not to mention the loss of potential prizemoney for the day. “However we are asking the industry to see this as short-term pain for long-term gain. We need to send a clear message to this Government that their lack of support will set the racing industry further back,” he said.

Media reports indicate the stark increase in numbers from Queensland since the bigger prize money purses were introduced in NSW were highlighted when comparing this year’s results to 12 months ago. When isolating like-for-like meetings from mid-August to mid-October 2017 versus 2018 (five meetings) there was noticeable leakage in acceptance numbers to meetings at Lismore, Murwillumbah and Ballina. Statistics showed south-east Queensland-trained horses accounted for 53.8pc  of acceptances at those meetings in 2018, compared with 39.5pc over the same period in 2017.

Racing faces ruin under Labor’s betting tax

THE unprecedented action to trigger state-wide strikes is a last ditch effort by the Queensland racing industry strangled by Labor’s racing tax, according to LNP Leader Deb Frecklington.

“Once again the Queensland racing industry has been let down by the Annastacia Palaszczuk and her government. This is a $1.2 billion industry that employs thousands of Queenslanders and provides enjoyment to many others.

“Stirling Hinchliffe failed as Transport Minister in the last term and he has now failed the Queensland racing industry. Labor need to be supporting the racing industry, but instead they’re taxing it out of existence,” she said.

LNP Shadow Racing Minister John-Paul Langbroek said people employed in racing in Queensland faced a bleak future due to a greedy, short-sighted government. “Racing stakeholders have been begging Labor to provide guaranteed income to the industry from the Point of Consumption Tax. It’s disgraceful that racing is only getting a one-off payment from a permanent tax on the industry,” he said.

Breeders welcome QTIS Bonus increase

THOROUGHBRED Breeders Queensland president Basil Nolan has welcomed a move by Racing Queensland to increase mid-week Queensland Thoroughbred Incentive Scheme (QTIS) bonuses from November 1.

The bonuses for mid-week non-maiden metropolitan QTIS races will increase from $10,000 to $12,000 to offer total prize money and bonuses of:

  • $43,000 (for QTIS registered Fillies)
  • $37,000 (for QTIS registered Colts and Geldings)
  • $25,000 (for Non-QTIS horses)

The same bonus increase will apply to maiden metropolitan QTIS races to offer total prize money and bonuses of:

  • $38,000 (for QTIS registered Fillies)
  • $32,000 (for QTIS registered Colts and Geldings)
  • $20,000 (for Non-QTIS horses)

Mr Nolan said he was “very happy” to see the winning bonuses now align with those offered at provincial meetings. “QTIS has been a shining light for Queensland racing and its growth is crucial to the ongoing viability of both the breeding and racing industries in our state,” he said.

Racing Queensland Thoroughbred Strategy and Development Manager Ross Gove said the increase was another step in the right direction. “This increase, whilst modest, is an extension of Racing Queensland’s commitment to the Queensland breeding and racing industries,” he said.

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