Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys wants world’s richest turf race to eventually rival Melbourne Cup for betting interest


The Everest can still only dream of that betting realm, but the ambitious V’landys has quickly claimed No.2 spot ahead of a super day in which the slots-only race will be run an hour before the Caulfield Cup in Melbourne.

“The Everest, in a short period, has captured the imagination of the punter,” said V’landys, also the chairman of the Australian Rugby League Commission. “It’s by far our biggest race in NSW now. You have always got to be aspirational and the Melbourne Cup is the benchmark.

It’s by far our biggest race in NSW now. You have always got to be aspirational and the Melbourne Cup is the benchmark.

Racing NSW chief Peter V’landys

“As I’ve said many times, the Melbourne Cup is a race of a different generation and we’re trying to make The Everest for the younger generation. If that investment proves correct in the next 10 or 15 years it should be quite big.

“You have to remember 80 per cent of the 42,000 who were there last year were under the age of 35. The Melbourne Cup still appeals to this generation, but hopefully in 10, 15 or 20 years we can catch up.”

The Everest crowd at Randwick will be capped at 11,000 under COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday, but it will still attract Sydney’s social set and a healthy number of racegoers.

More importantly for expanding its global appeal is the fact broadcast partners SKY Racing will beam pictures of the race into more countries than in any other year since the race’s inception in 2017.

Glen Boss aboard Yes Yes Yes at The Everest last year. Credit:Getty Images

It will also show the race in a real-time video on Facebook Live.

“We have done races on Facebook before, but nowhere near as many countries as Saturday,” said Darren Pearce, SKY’s executive general manager media and international.

“It will go into Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Turkey, France and Russia. Those countries aren’t betting on the race, but they will be able to see it.

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“Basically wherever we have not got a broadcast agreement in the racing world, [they] will watch it on Facebook. It will be on Fox Sports in the States again to hit the American cable market. We are going to 65 countries with The Everest and it is getting bigger every year.”

It’s also believed Racing NSW will remove the geoblock on its website.

The mixture of 12 wealthy businesses, partnerships and individuals who pay a minimum $600,000 a year for a slot in the race have all been given a lifetime option on a position in The Everest.

This year’s race will be the first time the first four horses past the post will earn a minimum $1 million for their slotholder and connections.

But after an increase in total prize money in each of the first four years, V’landys said it was unlikely the overall stakes would be raised beyond $15 million in 2021.

Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club elected to maintain the purse this year despite the crippling financial effect of the global health pandemic.

“We’ve put every bit of profit we’ve made from the race back into the race,” V’landys said. “I think we’ve reached a mark where we’ll probably leave it there. It’s still the richest race in the world on turf, but that’s not to say a future board might not increase it.”

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Hamilton eyes F1 record on Schumie’s turf


Lewis Hamilton makes a second attempt to equal Michael Schumacher’s record 91 Formula One race wins on Sunday, this time around the Nuerburgring track where a section is named after the German great.

A Schumacher will in fact navigate the Schumacher-S section of left-right turns on Friday when Michael’s son Mick gets his first taste of an F1 weekend by driving for Alfa Romeo in first practice.

And eternal Kimi Raikkonen aims for a record 323rd race start to better the mark he shares with Rubens Barrichello at the Eifel Grand Prix, named after the western German region.

Raikkonen drew level with Barrichello at the Russian GP in Sochi last month, while Hamilton failed to do the same for race wins because he had to swallow a 10-second penalty for breaking practice start rules twice and had to settle for third on the podium.

“They are trying to stop me,” fumed the Briton after the race won by Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who with it reduced the gap in the championship with leader Hamilton to 44 points.

Looking at matching Schumacher, Hamilton had said before the Sochi race: “Of course it’s an honour, but it doesn’t really mean much. There are more important things in the world.”

But he will of course try again for the record books on a track where Schumacher is a record winner with five top spots while Hamilton has triumphed once, in 2011.

The Nuerburgring has a big history in the sport but owing to financial reasons has not been on the calendar since 2013, and was only added this year due to a revised schedule owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

Conditions could be challenging, to say the least, given the notoriously unpredictable weather, even more so at this year’s slot in the German autumn.

That could provide some interesting racing and also be a big maiden challenge for the Formula Two season leader Mick Schumacher, who along with Ferrari academy partner and F2 rival Callum Ilott will make his race weekend debut, in the car of regular Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi.

Ilott will drive for Haas in first practice, with Haas and Alfa Romeo in close ties with Ferrari who supply power units.

“I am overjoyed to get this chance in free practice. The fact that my first participation in a Formula One weekend will take place in front of my home audience at the Nuerburgring makes this moment even more special,” Schumacher said when the announcement was made last week.

There is big speculation that Schumacher could land a place at Alfa Romeo next year, and team principal Frederic Vasseur has labelled him “a champion in the making.”

Schumacher will drive an Alfa Romeo in practice alongside Raikkonen, a past champion from the 2007 season and the last driver to lift the trophy for Ferrari.





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Brandon Starcevich knocked out after hitting the turf, Lions vs Suns


The Brisbane Lions are showing why they’re considered one of the premiership favourites in 2020 as they put the Gold Coast Suns to the sword at the Gabba.

A dominant first half from the Lions sees them head into the main break holding the 8.6 (54) to 4.3 (27) lead.

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Despite the one-sided nature of the contest, the Lions have been left counting the cost after losing three players in the first half.

Young Lions player Brandon Starcevich was the first to go down in what was scary scenes in the second quarter.

A kick deep inside Gold Coast’s 50 from Brandon Ellis landed around 15m from goal with Starcevich flying in from the side of the pack in an attempt to spoil the ball.

Unfortunately his desire to impact the contest saw his legs taken out from under him and left him crashing to the turf face first.

As he hit the deck he remained prone face down before play was brought to a halt as training staff attended to him before he got back to his feet and walked to the bench.

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Moments after Starcevich went down the Lions lost Lincoln McCarthy after he copped the full force of a knee to his quad from ruckman Archie Smith.

Smith lumbered out of a centre bounce after the ball and slammed his left knee right into McCarthy who instantly hit the deck and slowly hobbled from the ground.

Despite looking like his night was all but over, McCarthy strapped up the nasty looking corkie and returned to the game in the final few minutes of the quarter.

Jarrod Berry was the third player to go down after landing heavily on his right shoulder and popping it out. Both Starcevich and Berry were ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Midfield superstar and Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale was everywhere through the opening two quarters as he racked up 19 disposals despite close attention from Touk Miller.

Lions skipper Dayne Zorko was damaging in front of goal with two majors, equalled by livewire forward Cam Rayner.



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NT Government adviser wanted ‘fast timelines’ for Darwin Turf Club loan guarantee, FOI shows


The Chief Minister’s former chief of staff, Alf Leonardi, requested “very fast timelines” from a government agency to finalise a taxpayer-backed loan guarantee for a multi-million-dollar sports and gaming lounge at the Darwin Turf Club, Freedom of Information documents show.

But despite receiving ministerial approval, the FOI documents show the project was left in financial limbo for more than a year because of ongoing disagreements between the Government and the club’s loan provider, Westpac.

The financing issue came to a head when the turf club warned that without its promised loan, construction of the new venue, known as Silks, would come to a “grinding halt”.

The warning prompted Mr Leonardi to demand “urgent” action to remedy the escalating situation.

Alf Leonardi (centre) was Mr Gunner’s chief of staff until August 2019.(ABC News)

Turf Club needed loan guarantee

The turf club first launched plans for Silks in March 2017, but to secure finance it needed the Government to act as a loan guarantor, making taxpayers liable for up to $3.5 million if the club were to fail in its repayments.

But by June 2018, the matter remained unresolved.

“This has all gone very strange,” Mr Leonardi wrote in an email to bureaucrats.

He ordered immediate action, including the appointment of a departmental official to prepare a “letter of comfort” to extend a pre-existing loan guarantee given to the turf club a decade earlier.

“Please get very fast timelines from the agency,” Mr Leonardi wrote.

Several weeks later, the guarantee extension received ministerial approval despite departmental advice that there was “limited information available” about the Silks project.

Following the sign off, the turf club proceeded with its development plans for the new venue.

But the FOI documents show its promised finance failed to materialise for more than a year because Westpac and the Government remained at odds over the most appropriate format of the guarantee extension.

By June 2019, the turf club had already commissioned $2.5 million worth of construction works using its own cash reserves, and it needed the loan to be executed immediately.

“It is now critical we have the ability to drawdown funds urgently,” the turf club’s chairman Brett Dixon wrote to several unidentified people, whose names were redacted in the FOI documents.

“If the agreement is sitting with Govt, please let me know if you would like me to personally get involved to expedite the execution of it as we can’t wait any longer.

“Works will come to a grinding halt in the next few days.”

After receiving Mr Dixon’s email in June last year, Mr Leonardi forwarded the correspondence to two government staff members.

“Urgent, urgent, urgent,” he wrote.

But the FOI documents show the Silks loan still took several more months to execute because the Treasurer was unable to sign an amended guarantee extension because of a declared conflict of interest, meaning another minister had to do so.

‘No taxpayer money at risk’

A government spokesperson said the 15-month delay in finalising the loan guarantee — and the subsequent impact on the construction of Silks — did not put taxpayers at increased risk.

The turf club’s chairman agreed.

“[In June 2019] the Westpac funding documentation had not been executed meaning there was no money borrowed from Westpac, hence there was no taxpayer money at risk,” Mr Dixon said.

“All on-site works up to this point of time had been funded by Darwin Turf Club’s own cash reserves.”

The Silks venue opened in June 2020.

The Government’s support of the turf club has been in the spotlight since mid-2019 when it controversially approved a $12 million grant for a new grandstand after earlier promising expenditure restraint because of extreme fiscal pressures.

The grant attracted more scrutiny after the tender to build the grandstand was awarded to a company co-owned by the turf club’s chairman.

An independent probity auditor and a subsequent government review both found the tender to have been conducted appropriately, including the management of potential conflicts of interests.

Earlier this year, the grandstand controversy resurfaced after FOI documents showed Mr Leonardi had helped draft a letter that the turf club used to lobby ministers for the grant.

Mr Leonardi, who was replaced as Mr Gunner’s chief of staff in August last year, declined to comment for this story.



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Gunner Government worried about backlash over Darwin Turf Club gambling venue support


The Gunner Government was reluctant to promote its financial backing of a new venue at the Darwin Turf Club because the facility was “very gambling and poker machine-oriented”, Freedom of Information documents obtained by the ABC show.

In July 2018, Treasurer Nicole Manison agreed to extend a taxpayer-backed guarantee worth $3.5 million so the turf club could secure a bank loan to build a sports and gaming venue known as Silks.

Three months later, the turf club’s chairman sent the Chief Minister’s then-chief of staff, Alf Leonardi, a draft members’ update about how plans for the Silks project were proceeding.

“Been a long long road but I think we are there!!!” Brett Dixon wrote, asking if the Government wanted to add comments to the update.

The update included references to a “modern spacious gaming room”, as well as quotes from Tabcorp, which planned to set up an outlet within Silks.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with the Darwin Turf Club to deliver an exciting punting experience like no other,” Tabcorp was quoted as saying.

There were large crowds at the 2020 Darwin Cup.(ABC News: Amy Culpitt)

‘We may want to think this through’

But when Mr Leonardi forwarded the draft update to Chief Minister Michael Gunner and other senior staff, he raised the issue of how it might be perceived, given Silks would feature 55 poker machines as well as trackside TAB facilities.

“This club has been guaranteed by the NT,” Mr Leonardi wrote.

The Government’s director of communications, Maria Billias, responded, saying: “I don’t necessarily mind it from a construction/jobs perspective.”

It is not known what — if any — comments the Government provided to the turf club for the members’ update.

However, the Government never issued a media release about its decision to approve the loan guarantee extension.

‘There is no ‘mini-casino’

Mr Leonardi, who was replaced as the Chief Minister’s chief of staff in August last year, declined to comment to the ABC.

But a spokesperson said the Gunner Government had no issue with being associated with gambling.

However, several FOI documents indicate a tendency to distance itself from the potential negative impacts of gambling associated with some of the venues it has supported.

Natasha Fyles stands in front of micrphones and looks serious.
One month before it approved the Silks guarantee, Ms Fyles said the Government was reducing the community-wide cap on poker machines.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

In August 2019, a “hot issue” brief was prepared for Attorney-General Natasha Fyles to deflect ongoing criticism over the Government’s decision to provide a previously-unbudgeted $12 million grant to the turf club for a new grandstand, in addition to the loan guarantee for Silks.

The main dot point in the brief stated: “There is no ‘mini-casino’ being developed at the Darwin Turf Club.”

The brief also pointed out Silks would have had fewer poker machines had it not been for the previous CLP Government’s decision to increase the cap from 45 to 55.

A separate FOI document showed the Government removed draft references to “corporate bookmaking” from its final response to a series of Questions on Notice from the Opposition about Silks.

Despite the Government’s apparent reluctance to publicly promote gambling activities in venues that have received its support, Labor has trumpeted its efforts in trying to combat problem gambling.

In a press release issued one month before it approved the Silks guarantee, Ms Fyles announced the Government was reducing the community-wide cap on poker machines.



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Western Sydney Stadium turf inspected after multiple ACL injuries in Roosters-Dragons game


Western Sydney Stadium’s actively playing surface is predicted to be provided the all crystal clear for Parramatta to host Canberra on Saturday night time next an unbiased pitch inspection by the NRL.

Hrs soon after Sydney Roosters players Victor Radley and Sam Verrills suffered period-ending knee accidents, the NRL done an inspection to start with point on Saturday early morning.

Stadium administration were being self-confident the pitch was protected and the match was expected to go ahead alternatively than be moved.

Equally Radley and Verrills went down untouched in Friday night’s 26-12 get more than St George Illawarra.

The staff explained on Saturday that scans have confirmed the pair have torn anterior cruciate ligaments.

They will see a surgeon on Monday.

There is no recommendation the turf was dependable for the accidents, with coach Trent Robinson distancing his club from any these types of statements following the match.

On the other hand, there is very little question indications of have on and tear are exhibiting at the floor.

Assuming all matches are performed as scheduled, there will have been 11 video games in 22 days occur the close of Sunday evening.

One more three are established to be performed there future 7 days.

It was a challenging night time for Sydney Roosters with Sam Verrills (ground) and Victor Radley suffering knee injuries.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

It arrives following the NRL moved a video game from Campbelltown to Kogarah this week to let for a clean area specified a weighty workload at the previous location.

“If we have any issues around the security of the pitch then we will move the [Eels v Raiders] game,” NRL main government Andrew Abdo explained to 9 on Friday night time.

“You saw previous week we made the shift and we are going to assess that yet again tomorrow morning.

“I know there was a great deal spoken about it. The participating in surface area has experienced a ton of have on and tear.”

There ought to be considerably less reliance on Western Sydney Stadium, Campbelltown and Gosford from up coming weekend, with golf equipment returning to house grounds.

On the other hand, Western Sydney Stadium will nevertheless continue to be an choice for up to four golf equipment, specified its capped potential of 7,500 is about 3-situations that can enter suburban grounds.

Abdo claimed the overuse of grounds was viewed as by the Project Apollo committee, and Western Sydney Stadium had passed a safety and security check before participate in on Friday.

Roosters crew manager Chris James and a different club official took a close glimpse at the turf in which Verrills went down.

In the meantime, stadium administration mentioned they would perform with the NRL, but have been self-confident there would not be any challenges.

“The stadium turf has been keeping up effectively less than a major actively playing schedule,” a Western Sydney Stadium spokesman reported.

“Any accidents to gamers are a problem.

“The stadium team will do the job with the NRL and golf equipment to be certain the finest doable surface area for each individual and just about every sport.”

AAP/ABC



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