V’landys is king but not without peer in racing royalty Down Under
By Max Presnell
July 29, 2022 — 6.00pm
Author’s Prelude (WPH)
I still buy the SMH to read Max Presnell’s erudite contributions based on rich historic experience. I used to do the same with ‘The Australian’ and Tony Arrold. I was intrigued by Max’s shortlist of six (6) of the most influential in recent racing history. Perhaps his ranking of Gai Waterhouse as higher than her illustrious father TJS will evoke most debate?
Featured Image: Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys in the royal procession at Ascot.CREDIT:GETTY
Riding shotgun in the royal procession at Ascot topped off a season when Peter V’landys confirmed that he is not only the most powerful administrator in Australian racing this century but any in my time going back to the 1950s.
Yes, even superior to the Australian Jockey Club committee who had the benefit of media moguls, knights of the realm, landed gentry and giants at law.
Kerry Packer also threw his considerable bulk as much around the corridors at the AJC Randwick office as the betting rings but without the traction of V’landys in the position of Racing NSW CEO.
The 2021-22 season ends with I Am Invincible (a possible catchcry applied to V’landys) as the leading sire and with four acceptors in one of the major events in Australia today, the Lightning Stakes at Morphettville.
During his reign he has been responsible for getting more money out of the state government for racing, which was regarded as impossible, as well as getting corporate bookmakers to give their fair whack back to the industry, plus putting The Everest on the world stage as a top race (popular opinion, if not my own).
Thus NSW racing has never boomed more affluent, triggering memories of those who have done so much for the industry since I arrived, although possibly more contributors than power players. The six highlighted are not in rating order but come to mind, as do dozens of others.
In 1996 Bob Charley, who was also a candidate being an AJC chairman, Racing NSW chairman, ARB chairman, punter, racecourse, trainer and publisher of two outstanding books on the turf, decreed: “Gai Waterhouse is the best thing to happen to racing since Phar Lap.”
Waterhouse even sparks interest abroad, as she did recently during her recent British sojourn.
“Gai Waterhouse will raise an army of eyebrows here [in England] with her assertion ‘the whole reason for racing is it’s a gambling industry and it really needs to be promoted that way’,” tweeted David Ashford to Winning Post.
GEORGE RYDER gets into the top six for coming up with the Golden Slipper for the Sydney Turf Club and being a forerunner for the owner syndication in which thousands are now involved. The Golden Slipper changed the face of Australian racing (although also not one of my favourites).
LLOYD WILLIAMS certainly wielded more weight in Victoria than elsewhere as a VRC committeeman but made a massive contribution to the Melbourne Cup and as the owner of countless horses.
PERCY SYKES, the super doc of racehorse veterinary skills, gets the nod by keeping more champions buoyant and hence maintaining racing as a feature for the masses.
Also getting a start is JACK INGHAM, an AJC committeeman, who with brother Bob founded the Woodlands Stud breeding empire and Crown Lodge stables. He was also a plunger, bigger than the normal high roller, in an era when they were thick in the betting ring.
And rounding out the top six is JOHN INGLIS, a gentleman and giant of the bloodstock industry who knocked down thousands of yearlings under his auctioneer’s hammer but kept countless battling trainers afloat. Bid now, pay much later.
However, his final bid was at Easter weekend, 2006. Confined to a mobile walker, he went to Randwick and got on a tote queue to plonk $100,000 on Racing To Win in the Doncaster and collected a cheque for $509,600.
A special mention, too, for colleague and mate John Holloway, an STC committeeman who dabbles in bloodstock promotion.
Holly was a prime mover in getting I Am Invincible to Scone when the stallion’s race record entitled him to a lesser venue. Holly hawked a service to the stallion for a negotiable $10,000 in his first season. This season I Am Invincible covered 193 mares at a fee of $247,500.
PS I enjoyed a beer with Arthur Mitchell at the Old Buffer’s Scone Rugby Match on Saturday (30/07/2022). He’d just arrived back from Europe; no doubt to enjoy the ‘Coronation’ of I Am Invincible as Champion Sire.