An each-way bet

The jumps racing industry is facing another hurdle, this time in the form of opposition from the State Government.
Racing Minister Leon Bignell attacked the sport in the media last week, calling it a “thing of the past” and saying he had expected a push to remove it from the Morphettville track would have been a midpoint towards its “eventual phasing out”.
Reacting to news that the sport’s leading body Thoroughbred Racing SA had overruled the SA Jockey Club’s desire to have jumps races removed from Morphettville, Mr Bignell said the decision went against public sentiment that the sport should go.
But he made an each-way bet – saying it was okay to maintain it at a regional level at meetings such as Oakbank.
Controversy over jumps racing is nothing new.
It makes the headlines in the media every year.
But the Minister’s comments present the most serious exertion of pressure on the sport to date because they come from the Government level.
Oakbank has weathered plenty of storms over its 139-year racing history.
There have been horse deaths in iconic jumps races, annual protests and the loss of sponsors.
But opposition to the sport has reached a new level when the Racing Minister himself indicates a distaste for it.
Mr Bignell, who would not speak with The Courier directly to clarify his reported comments, claims that most South Australians would like to see jumps racing phased out.
But Oakbank Racing Club chairman John Glatz wants to see some figures to substantiate that claim.
He argues that Oakbank’s crowds of about 60,000 racegoers each year bear out a different view – that punters enjoy the sport and the point of difference it offers at the world’s largest picnic race meet.
He also points out that Oakbank is a tourist drawcard that creates an economic return of about $10m for the region – without a cent of Government assistance – unlike the millions of dollars poured in to the likes of the Tour Down Under.
If he wants to see real change, perhaps it is time for Mr Bignell to lead the industry he is Minister for towards the exit strategy he wants, not just snipe at it from the stands.