Twilight zone – Trainers battling to come to terms with yet another pull on their working hours
The jury will remain out until the betting figures for the first Flemington twilight meeting are known early next week, but there was certainly a deal of initial resistance from participants to the new Saturday timeslot.
Trainers Mick Price, Matthew Williams and Greg Eurell challenged Racing Victoria to show the financial benefit, if any, of the twilight fixture as they were battling to come to terms with yet another pull on their working hours.
The nine-race card at Flemington ran over five hours from 3pm to 8pm (AEDT) and for Warrnambool trainer Williams, that meant a very late night.
“Being a country trainer, I am not a big rap for it,” Williams said. “I get that you need the punting dollar for turnover, but it is my view that if it wasn’t showing a very good spike today in turnover, you’d be saying what are we are doing here at this time of day?
“It’s horrible on staff. My concern there is, is it going to take someone hurt in a car crash or something like that to wake them up and say, ‘Hang on, what about the participants’?
“What about the people that have still got to get up early in the morning to work horses and feed horses and they are getting home at these ridiculous hours all the time.
“It would want to be a good turnover to be worth it.
“We go on about the welfare of the people and the participants, well, we are not really showing a lot of care for their welfare with all these twilights in my opinion.”
Price also wanted to know the extra work for participants was paying off for the industry.
“As participants, I don’t think you’d get many people voting for it as it impacts on personal lives,” he said.
“If the turnover is significantly different and if it is of significant benefit to the industry, well, it may be justified.
“But if it is just a little bit – like five, six or seven per cent – compared to a normal day meeting, it might need to be assessed.
“I’d like to see some proper figures in comparison to if it was a day meeting.”
Price said that there were other aspects of the new timeslot that worried him.
“I think 40 minutes between races is a bit long. I am not sure why that is,” Price added. “I am sure there is some sort of reason, but I would say, in general, twilight racing, we need to measure the benefit of it to the industry.
“As participants, if we benefit significantly from it, fair enough but if we only benefit a little bit by it, is it worth the impact on the personal lives?”
Eurell said he will also take some winning over.
“I am a little bit anti about the twilight meetings,” he said. “The industry is pretty full on – seven days a week. We race Thursday nights, Friday nights and there’s a night meeting at Cranbourne tonight and there’s racing tomorrow so it just never ends for us or the staff or the jockeys.
“It’s a hard caper and it does become very taxing. We start the night meeting very early now and they go all the way through and they finish late.
“We’ve got sales to attend to in the new year and that goes right on beyond Easter and it just becomes a very trying experience for all of us.
“At the end of the day, we truly believe that we are the guys that are putting it (the show) on. It is very difficult, but we have no life when it comes to this.
“We certainly love what we do but there are certainly other things we would like to do.”
A Victoria Racing Club spokesman said full turnover figures for the meeting should be available on Monday while it was estimated crowd numbers on Saturday had safely gone beyond last year’s corresponding meeting when just under 6000 people attended.