CEO report – 2010-11

The NSW Trainers Association (“NSWTA”) experienced a very successful year to 30 June 2011.  The Association has continued to grow and prosper since its inception in April 2008, assisting members and licensed trainers across New South Wales in a number of ways.

Rob Colquon was CEO for the 2010/11 year and credit must be paid to him for the good work achieved for trainers over the last year.

In the 2010/11 year, the NSWTA continued to receive tremendous support from its members. The 2009/2010 profit of the NSWTA for the year and retained earnings indicate that the NSWTA is in good financial health and poised to grow in coming years.  Importantly, the NSWTA is not reliant on either Racing NSW or any other organisation for funding, thereby ensuring that the Association can continue to act independently and credibly support the interests of its members.

From a financial perspective, one of the focuses of the NSWTA in the coming twelve months will be to diversify its revenue streams so as to not be rely on members as its sole source of funding.  The NSWTA acknowledges that given membership of the Association is not compulsory, there are difficulties associated with free-riders who receive many of the benefits provided by the NSWTA without contributing financially.  As such, another important strategic objective of the Association will be to ensure that specific valuable benefits are provided to members only.

The NSWTA will continue to be diligent in identifying areas of concern to trainers and committed to escalating these as appropriate.  Apart from Racing NSW and the Racing Industry Consultative Group (RICG), the NSWTA has had discussions with both the Minister and the Shadow Minister for Racing and various race-clubs and other stakeholders on behalf of its members.  Such dialogue has been productive and the relationships that the NSWTA has established will be of great benefit to trainers in the foreseeable future.

Financial Performance

For the year ended 30 June 2011, the NSWTA recorded an operating profit of $36,593, resulting in a retained earnings balance of $106,608.  This retained earnings balance means that the NSWTA is in good financial shape, especially considering the costs incurred in establishing the NSWTA offices at Randwick.

Note for 2011/12 year – due to the new structure it is expected that travel costs will increase to reflect an increase in consultation with Country and Provincial board meetings and CEO visits.

NSWTA Personal Accident Insurance Policy

As announced in August 2009, the NSWTA organised Personal Accident insurance on behalf of all licensed trainers across NSW.  With the approval of Racing NSW, such insurance was made compulsory.

This policy was successfully renewed in August 2011, with no increase in the premiums payable by trainers with some changes to the policy.  Subject to claims the NSWTA should be in a much stronger negotiating position next year with the policy pricing to be tested in the market.

On behalf of the NSWTA, I would like to thank Gow-Gates and Racing NSW for their support.

NSW Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Policies

The Public Liability and Professional Indemnity policies, which are a conditions of a trainer’s licence, were renewed for the current year. The 2011/12 year will see an increase in benefits without an increase in premium to be padid.

Programming and Handicapping

Following considerable feedback from NSWTA Members and other licensed NSW trainers, the NSWTA provided a detailed submission to Racing NSW regarding various aspects of the Benchmark Programming and Handicapping System.

The NSWTA will continue to take feedback on the merits of the system and avenues for improvement.


On behalf of the NSWTA Board, I would like to thank the following for their support of the NSWTA:

  • The Minister and Shadow Minister for Gaming and Racing;
  • Racing NSW;
  • The NSW Racehorse Owners Association;
  • The Australian Turf Club;
  • The Provincial and Country Racing Associations;
  • Unions NSW; and
  • Thoroughbred Breeders NSW.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Chairman Tim Hughes and the Board of the NSWTA for their considerable efforts for the year.  The current composition of the NSWTA Board is exceptionally strong and representative of the wide range of trainers that comprise the NSWTA membership. 2011/12 looks set to be a big year for the NSWTA and its members.

Finally, I would like to thank the members of the NSWTA for their continued support.

Steve McMahon


Gunna Happen

The win of Gunna Happen in yesterday’s Nowra Cup was one of the more satisfying during the past year that I have been involved with the NSWTA.  And not because I own the horse or even had a cheeky wager on him.  But because it was just rewards for the tenacity and principles displayed by his trainer, Robert Price.

Gunna Happen has a rare condition, specifically an over-active adrenal gland, which causes him to naturally produce testosterone in levels that are higher than your average eight year old gelding. In short, he is a freak.  This gland is so active that on two occasions, in May and June 2010, Gunna Happen returned a concentration of testosterone in excess of that prescribed under the Australian Rules of Racing.

Notwithstanding that all parties, including the Racing NSW Stewards and the Australian Racing Forensic Laboratory, agreed that nothing had been administered to Gunna Happen to increase the levels of testosterone, Gunna Happen was disqualified from both races in May and June 2010.  Further, and quite bizarrely, under the Australian Rules of Racing Robert was presumed to be guilty of breaching AR178 given the positive swabs.  Under the construction of AR178, the only issue is whether or not this presumption of guilt results in a penalty being imposed by the stewards in the form of a fine and/or suspension.  If the horse returns a swab in excess of the prescribed concentration, the rules don’t even bother determining guilt or innocence, let alone worrying about presumptions of innocence and the like.

In the Robert Price case, the stewards decided not to issue a penalty, presumably in response to the unequivocal fact that Robert had done nothing wrong.  However, this is not as generous as it sounds; under the Local Rules of Racing, Robert has no rights of appeal unless there was a penalty imposed.  Robert felt aggrieved – he unfairly had a black mark against his name and wanted to explore every opportunity to get it removed.  But the doors to the Racing Appeals Tribunal were firmly closed once the Stewards decided not to issue a penalty.

The result, in my view, is patently unfair.  Mr Price will go down in the record books as having breached AR178 even though everyone agrees that nothing untoward has ever been administered to Gunna Happen.  Clearly, the rules are deficient, and we have set the wheels in motion to have them changed.

Stewards imposed an embargo preventing Gunna Happen from racing.

Robert Price has fought tooth and nail since last year both to allow Gunna Happen to race again and also to clear his name.  Finally, after huge amounts of expense in providing the necessary evidence, Stewards relented and allowed Gunna Happen to race again – Robert won the first battle.

The embargo was lifted on 9 May 2011, which ought to have been a cause for celebration.  However, in the short three weeks between the lifting of the embargo and yesterday’s win, Robert Price sustained a broken neck while riding trackwork.  He is currently recuperating at home in a neck brace and vows to resume riding trackwork as soon as possible.

Given what he has been through, and the road ahead, it was entirely fitting that Gunna Happen saluted in the Nowra Cup yesterday.  The victory was testament to the tenacity of Robert to get the horse back to the track and this same tenacity will see Robert back in the saddle as soon as medicos allow.  The NSWTA will work on the other front – to ensure that the Rules of Racing allow for trainers and connections the fundamental right of natural justice, being to present their case to prove their innocence, with avenues of appeal remaining open to them regardless of whether a penalty has been imposed or not.

Rob Colquhoun – 30 May 2011


Victorian Wagering Review

It was interesting to read the final recommendations of the Victorian Wagering Review, prepared by Peter Yates, in conjunction with PricewaterhouseCoopers and presented to Racing Victoria.  This review was commissioned by Racing Victoria as a consequence of the unanimous Full Federal Court decision supporting Racing NSW’s fee of 1.5% of turnover.

The Review recommended a 3% increase in the fee collected by Racing Victoria (based on a revenue basis as opposed to a turnover basis) to 13% normally and up to 18% during Carnival time.  This recommendation was not unexpected and was consistent with what was widely understood prior to the release of the report.

The intriguing aspect from my perspective was the imposition of a “floor” in the amount payable by a wagering operator, being 0.5% of turnover.  This means that if the wagering operator loses in a given period, they will still be obliged to pay 0.5% of their turnover to Racing Victoria.  Such a model is a dramatic shift from the prior model, which effectively saw Racing Victoria provide a credit to the wagering operators for losses, that is, Racing Victoria was effectively taking an equity stake in the performance of the wagering operators.

The setting of this floor, based on 0.5% of turnover, represents an acknowledgement that divorcing the returns to the industry from the performance of the wagering operators’ businesses will benefit the industry in the long term.  In my view, it represents tacit support for the turnover model that has been so vigorously defended by Racing NSW, and which will be before the High Court in August.

The next pieces in the puzzle are (i) will the recommendations be agreed by the wagering operators and (ii) what will Racing Victoria when the High Court decision is handed down?

Rob Colquhoun – 17 May 2011

Standalone Saturday Meetings

We are half way through the two standalone meetings held out of the metropolitan region for the current season.  The meeting at Hawkesbury was as successful as could be predicted, with not even inclement weather deterring a crowd in excess of 10,000.  There were huge nominations across the board and competitive racing in all events, with all races having each way betting even though fields were knocked around with scratchings.  And this immediately after the ATC Autumn Carnival – you would think that field sizes might be under pressure given the amount of racing that had been conducted.

The Hawkesbury meeting has had some time to build a reputation and, with the support of the local community, is entrenched on the NSW racing calendar.  This is contrasted with the Scone standalone meeting, the first of which is set down for Saturday week.  You would expect that this too will be a huge success – the prizemoney on offer is enormous (including a $70,000 Maiden!) and the fixture will be supported by the local racing and breeding community, and potentially by the new Minister for Racing.

The success of these meetings could provide some answers as to how to stage and promote out of carnival racing.  Should there be more standalone meetings outside the metropolitan region in low-season?  Given the prospect that Randwick (and indeed the Kensington track) will be out of play for significant stretches over the next fifteen months, viable alternatives need to be looked at to protect the metropolitan tracks and keep Saturday racing in NSW at a certain level all year round.

Rob Colquhoun – 2 May 2011


Hot Danish

I was especially saddened to hear the news on Sunday that Hot Danish needed to be euthanased due to laminitis, arising from treatment to an infected tendon sheath.

Hot Danish was one of those rare horses that had the ability to galvanise the racing public, especially in Sydney.  She always competed and was remarkably consistent, even when she struck an affected track, which was not to her liking.  She brought people to the races and reminded many, including me, that racing is often about more than the almighty dollar.

Given the Saturday is the anniversary of one of her finest triumphs, the 2010 All-Aged Stakes, I hope the ATC and the crowd that is in attendance gives her a fitting tribute.  Our thoughts are with her connections who had to make such a tough decision.

Rob Colquhoun – 19 April 2011


Chairman and Independent Directors

It was a huge privilege for me to be able to announce the appointment of Tim Hughes (Chairman), Adam Kilgour and Richard Pegum to the NSWTA Board.  These are three people at the top of the tree in the corporate world and having met them all, it is exceptionally easy to understand why they are so successful.  For them to give up their time to the NSWTA on an honorary basis and to help us grow as an industry body is an outstanding result and makes me very excited about the future.

As I noted in the CEO report for the 2009/2010 year, it is one of my goals to make the NSWTA self-funding and not be so reliant on contributions from members for its survival.  The appointment of Tim, Adam and Richard makes achieving that goal so much easier – with their expertise and connections they open doors of outstanding opportunity.

The composition of the NSWTA Board is now second to none.  We have leading trainers from across New South Wales in all three sectors and now we have independent directors to help steer the ship from a commercial perspective.

Rob Colquhoun – 7 April 2011


Black Caviar

My brother-in-law, a non-racing type, remarked this morning that the most popular topic in the lifts in his inner-city law firm is currently Black Caviar’s appearance in the TJ Smith at Randwick.  I would hazard a guess that it has been a while since racing was front and centre of the public’s psyche, such is the pulling power of the great mare. I was lucky enough to be at Flemington to see her win the Newmarket, where she toyed with a legitimate Group One field with 58kg.  The enduring memory of that day was, though, the reaction of the crowd.  With a furlong to go, they rose as one and just applauded.  They knew they were seeing greatness and were appreciative of the fact.

I really hope that the bumper crowd that are in attendance at Randwick get the same opportunity.

Hats off to the Australian Turf Club for their marketing of Black Caviar this week.  Notwithstanding the 150th AJC Derby, they realise that Black Caviar’s appearance is a one off and they have taken full advantage.

Rob Colquhoun – 7 April 2011


Smart Missile

I cannot imagine a more hollow feeling on a racetrack than seeing your horse scratched at the barrier prior to a Golden Slipper.  Especially a colt, second favourite, and the only horse to lower the colours of the outstanding Sepoy.  Such was the fate that befell Eduardo Cojuangco, Andrew Baddock, Anthony Cummings and Glen Boss last Saturday with the sensational scratching of Smart Missile.

Clearly no-one has an issue with the withdrawal of a horse that has sustained an injury in the barrier stalls that render it unfit to run.  The only issue to come out of the Smart Missile episode was to ensure that such an injury had indeed occurred.  The Racing NSW guidelines regarding scratching at the barrier (which my predecessors helped to formulate) state, rightly, that “it is necessary for the Veterinary Surgeon to exercise a value judgement based on the particular circumstances of each incident.”  That is, the person qualified to assess the fitness of the horse is allowed to use that qualification and make a decision.

It is imperative, in my view, that the judgement of the Veterinary Surgeon not be clouded by policies that act to “deem” a horse to be unfit to run, such as the a policy that states that a horse that is cast for more than 30 seconds.  In the vast majority of cases a horse that is cast for such a length of time will be unfit to run, but it is crucial that the Veterinary Surgeon assess the horse and make an informed decision.

As for Smart Missile, as Anthony’s father has been known to remark, the cheapest commodity in racing is patience.  He will come back an outstanding three year old and hopefully for connections, a Rose can replace a Slipper in the Golden stakes.

Rob Colquhoun – 7 April 2011


Praise for Hawkesbury Race Club

The announcement on Thursday 3 March 2011 from the Hawkesbury Race Club that they would remove track fees for horses trained on track is a short in the arm for local trainers, and we encourage the move to be replicated by other clubs across New South Wales.  Hawkesbury has strengthened its financial viability through the construction of its hotel and  it is now in a position to reward owners and trainers that provide horses to the Hawkesbury area.  The fact that the Board and Executive of the Hawkesbury Race Club has determined to remove the fees is to be highly commended.

Rob Colquhoun – 7 March 2011


Injured Riders

The spate of injuries to both trackwork riders and jockeys over the past few days serves as a timely reminder of the dangers associated with our sport. The NSWTA hopes that Paul Rowe, Jake Hull, Jeff Penza, Alex Squires and Corey Brown make swift recoveries, as well as all jockeys and riders that are currently injured.

The severity of these injuries serves to highlight the prudence of decisions focussed on safety, such as the installation of plastic running rails at Warwick Farm and both Randwick tracks.  Hopefully these become industry standard over time in New South Wales, finances permitting.

Rob Colquhoun – 7 March 2011


 Tabcorp Backflip – Thankfully

I was relieved to hear the announcement from Tabcorp yesterday that the practice of banning wagers of less than $3 after midday at TAB windows would be abandoned.  As a holder of a licensed monopoly, being to conduct retail wagering in NSW off-course, Tabcorp was under a clear community service obligation to ensure that all punters were able to “get on,” and the ban served only to alienate older and less affluent punters.  Ironically, the response from Tabcorp was that these punters could still use the automated machines to get set, which failed to recognise that this demographic of punter would be precisely the demographic that would find it hardest to adapt to the new technology.

I am all for efficiency but not in a way that drives industry participants away.  Given the current competition for the wagering dollar, the only measures that affect the way that wagering occurs that should be considered are those that are inclusive, not exclusive.  Congratulations to Tabcorp for having the commonsense to reverse the ban.

Rob Colquhoun – 14 February 2011


Vale Battlefield

On behalf of the NSWTA, I would like to express my sincere condolences to the connections of Battlefield, as well as the trainer Paul Messara.  Having horses put down can never be easy, but for an injury to occur in such public circumstances and to a galloper of such immense promise and charisma must be truly heart-wrenching.

We also hope that trackwork rider Brett Marshall makes a speedy recovery.

Rob Colquhoun – 8 February 2011


Australian Turf Club

The announcement today that the merged club will commence operations from Monday 7 February 2011 heralds a new era of racing in NSW, particularly in Sydney.  The process behind the merger has been well publicised and there appear to be a number of those that disagree both with the process and also the merger itself, particularly members of the soon-to-be-former Sydney Turf Club.

The NSWTA has supported the merger since its announcement in August, with the $174million injection being as compelling a reason as any to support bringing the two clubs together.  The promise of upgraded training facilities at Randwick and improved public facilities at Randwick and Rosehill so as to foster renewed interest in the industry is too good to turn down.  Even though the bulk of the injection was not a loan (as initially anticipated) or a grant, but rather the sale of an asset (being the rights to the future proceeds of Trackside), it remains a fact that without the merger this asset would not have existed, as it required ministerial intervention to come into being.  So, for that reason, if no other, the merger makes sense.

The merger will make more sense if the views of the members of the two clubs continue to be considered and respected.  Group races should continue to be raced at their current tracks and, to the extent possible, at the same times of the year as currently run.  The split of meetings between Randwick/Warwick Farm versus Rosehill/Canterbury should remain the materially the same as it is now and if there is a reduction of metroplitan meetings, as has been proposed by some through amendment to the RDA, these lost meetings should be split proportionately between the tracks of the two former clubs.  Such practices should continue until such time as members of the former clubs become comfortable with the merger and any fears that the rights of one former club will be prejudiced are allayed.

One aspect of the merger that is personally disappointing is the loss of Michael Kenny to the NSW thoroughbred racing industry, at least in a formal sense.  Since I commenced in my role at the NSWTA, only ten months ago, I have found Michael to be extremely knowledgeable with a wealth of expertise, but also a fundamentally decent and trustworthy individual.  As Michael prepares to preside over the last two meetings of the STC, being tonight at Canterbury and tomorrow at Rosehill Gardens, I would like to thank him for his support for the NSWTA and congratulate him on a job well done.  That being said, I have every confidence that Darren Pearce will make an outstanding CEO of the new club and look forward to developing further the already strong relationship that the NSWTA has with him.

Finally – the name.  Australian Turf Club.  I agree with John Cornish’s comments that taking elements of the names of the former clubs represents the compromise that a merger is supposed to entail (and accordingly I presume that the other option was the “Sydney Jockey Club”) but it will take a while to sink in.  For the cynics out there, does the reference to “Turf” mean anything regarding the likelihood of a synthetic racing surface in the metropolitan region in the near future?

Rob Colquhoun – 4 February 2011


Dear Members,

Welcome to, the Official website of the NSW Trainers Association. We will be using the website to publish all news bulletins, press releases and other important information for the NSWTA.

I would also like the website to provide easy access for Members to all relevant racing and other websites. I will be continuing to add to the site over the short term but feel free to contact me with any suggestions for the website that will improve its usefulness for Members and other links that you would like to be included.

There are some plans in progress for the NSWTA and I encourage members to check back here regularly to check for updates.

I hope you find the site informative.


Rob Colquhoun CEO – NSW Trainers Association