Some strong opposition still:
Subject: MEDIA RELEASE FROM DOWNS & SOUTH WEST TRAINERS AND OWNERS ASS. INC
A picture of Toowoomba as a racing wasteland is emerging as "C.T." day draws closer at Clifford Park.
The 150-year-old racecourse, a cornerstone of Queensland racing's heritage, faces obliteration with the onset of the hottest topic in the Sport of Kings, Cushion Track.
Queensland Racing Inc. which controls the State racing industry has nominated February 14 as the end of grass track racing in its undisputed thoroughbred breeding capital.
Then, heavy equipment will move in to gouge away one of the lushest grass tracks on the continent to make way for one of the most controversial synthetic racing surfaces in the world.
Despite the protests of the majority of local stakeholders, the reservations of the bulk of its members and multi-million dollar litigation against the Cushion Track company in the USA, Toowoomba Turf Club has vowed to proceed with what most people see as an act of vandalism.
Owners, trainers, breeders and punters are united in their resolve to desert Toowoomba racing if the TTC and QR Inc have their way.
Huge racing powerbroker Col Richards, leading Queensland punter and racing student Ferris Jermanus, Hall of Fame trainer Jim (J.J.) Atkins and a swag of trainers, owners and jockeys will either retire, leave racing or seek greener pastures if Cushion Track comes to town as the Clifford Park course proper.
The astute Mr Richards is one of the State's most successful land developers, breeders and thoroughbred sales operators and does not mince words when it comes to Cushion Track.
"If the T.T.C. goes ahead with its proposal, the future of Gainsborough Lodge Stud as a breeding operation can be considered to be in severe doubt," he said.
Mr Richards has owned the showpiece thoroughbred stud on the edge of Toowoomba since the early 1990s and has up to 15 horses in work with local trainers Fred Adams and Tony Sears.
"I will never start another horse on a cushion track and if it comes to Toowoomba I will close down my operation here," he said.
"There has not been enough investigation into the product and there are huge question marks about the level of maintenance required for cushion tracks, Mr. Richards said.
"While some horses might handle the conditions, there is a very concerning number who sustain various injuries or pull up very distressed after racing on it," he said.
Mr. Richards company Brisbane Bloodstock conducts one of the State's biggest annual yearling sales and next month Gainsborough Lodge will put 70 youngsters, a seriously significant draft, under the hammer.
Brisbane-based Mr Jermanus was at one time the T.A.B's number one account holder betting on Toowoomba twilights and is still a player of considerable strength.
He has also been a prominent owner and respected student of racing for nearly half an century and is lobbying Labor Party identities vigorously against the proposal.
"I am one of about six off-course punters that I am aware of who love the Toowoomba twilights but who will walk away if this idiotic plan(cushion track) goes ahead.
"I've been a punter for more than 40 years but I donn't even know nor care when the Caloundra cushion track meetings are on. You cannot predict a pattern of racing, which horses will handle it or if they will even survive the race. It seems to be a graveyard for horses and punters," Mr Jermanus said.
Indeed, allegations of supressed statistics of cushion track casualties, both in races and training, abound under a regime of enforced censorship of licencees who train at Corbould Park.
The standard agreement which trainers must sign before being allowed to train at Corbould Park contains a clause silencing any criticism they might have of the track.
"That is why you will never hear any trainer from Caloundra going public. But ask most of them on the side and they are scathing of the track," said one of Queensland's most respected trainers (Gold Coast-based).
"Soft tissue injuries, other serious foreleg injuries, bleeding, distress and death are becoming common stories out of cushion track," he said.
Apart from those based at Corbould Park, very few of the State's top stables patronise the synthetic track on racedays.
T.A.B. turnover on cushion track, although trumpeted by QR in reality portrays a gloomy picture.
An on-line search of T.A.B. results of the most recent meeting (December 19) revealed a combined on-and off-course hold of under $900,000 compared with Friday grass track meetings which regularly top $1.1 million.
(The Clifford Park Friday meeting of December 26 attracted a combined hold of $1,140,238 according to the T.A.B. on-line results page).
The Downs and South West Trainers and Owners Association, which represents the vast majority of the regional racing community, has been put on notice of desertion by a significant number of its members.
"There are at least 15 stables that we know of which will close in Toowoomba if cushion track comes," said DSWTOA committeeman Gary Wells. "And that's just the tip of the iceberg."
"Imagine the downturn in unemployment and the city's economy which is looming large on the horizon" he said.
Former TTC secretary Allen Volz has no doubt that Toowoomba will become a racing ghost town post cushion track.
"My prediction is that the track will not even last at Corbould Park given reports of its current performance, so where will this leave us in Toowoomba ?
"Conditions are difficult enough with the prevailing topography at Clifford Park, let alone having to contend with a product which seems to have extreme maintenance peculiarities.
"I am aware that members of the DSWTOA who have done their homework properly can establish a reliable water supply which would guarantee good grass growing conditions at Clifford Park for ever and a day.
"he trouble with Queensland racing is that it is being run by people with little knowledge of racing.
"Someone, somewhere, has to put a stop to this insanity before it's too late," he said.