Plan to fix ‘national embarrassment’
THE battered Doomben racecourse will be nursed for a fortnight in an attempt to ensure Queensland's premier race - the Stradbroke Handicap - is not moved for the second time.
Racing officials were yesterday scrambling to find answers for a "national embarrassment" which saw a two-hour delay between races on Saturday, due to the track resembling what some jockeys described as a "ploughed paddock" in certain spots.
Freshly minted Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell revealed he would investigate the use of a "renovation plan" for a number of tracks throughout the state in an attempt to lessen their workload, with the other major track, Eagle Farm, out of action for the foreseeable future.
Metropolitan meetings could be shifted away from Brisbane to allow over-raced surfaces to recover under the plan.
The concept has been hugely successful in racing powerhouse states Victoria and New South Wales, with the likes of Bendigo and Scone hosting major meetings this year.
Melbourne Cup winning jockey Kerrin McEvoy, who led the charge in condemning the Eagle Farm surface a year earlier, said it was "crazy" that Doomben was expected to bare the brunt of a weekly workload.
"These tracks are being asked to race week-in, week-out and they just can't do it," he said.
Mr Parnell slapped down suggestions the Stradbroke (June 9) could be shifted because of the state of the track, saying it was "premature" to be having such conversations.
"Once the problem was identified yesterday, they moved the rail, and they did an amazing job to do that so quickly and get the Group One meeting out of the way," he said.
Extra attention will be given to the back straight of the Doomben track over the next two weeks with Ipswich, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast carrying the metropolitan load of racing until next weekend.
"I think it's important we have a renovation plan for all of our major TAB tracks which gives them all the right time to have their rest," Mr Parnell said.
"We have got some of the most raced tracks in the world in Queensland and I think having a renovation program is important."
Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe yesterday claimed the track was in "great condition", but said he would seek additional assurance from Racing Queensland today during a prearranged meeting that "everything is in order".
"While yesterday's events were regrettable, it is less than useful for people to talk down the industry," he said.
"So far we have seen what are the hallmarks of a truly great winter carnival.
"I understand that nationally-reputed racetrack specialist Mick Goodie (formerly of Vitoria Racing) will - along with the whole team - be ensuring that the track remains race ready."
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said: "I understand that weather played a big factor in relation to that. I honestly know that people who put together the winter carnival expect big crowds for the rest of the events and let's hope Brisbane comes out and supports it."
"Unfortunately, we can't control the weather," she said.
Opposition Deputy Leader Tim Mander called on Mr Hinchliffe to inform the public what the problem was with the track.
"The conditions at Doomben and Eagle Farm are now beyond a joke. It's become a national embarrassment and the Minister needs to intervene and find out what the heck is happening out there," he said.
"It is a multimillion-dollar industry and it is simply embarrassing what is happening at the moment."