RACING stalwarts Geoff Daffy and Neville Wilson are pleading with Premier Denis Napthine and local MP Terry Mulder to intervene in a funding dispute at Camperdown racecourse that has the duo threatening to walk away from training.
Daffy, a Camperdown trainer for 40 years, and his assistant trainer Wilson, have stepped up a campaign to save their home track from being stripped of vital funding.
Racing Victoria and Country Racing Victoria will stop an annual $80,000 payment to the club on July 31 which is used to maintain the track for training.
Dr Napthine, who is also the state’s Racing Minister, is demanding RVL and CRV be “fair dinkum” in resolving the matter.
“The Camperdown Turf Club has a future as a training centre,” Dr Napthine said.
“The racing industry has benefited greatly from the facilities at Camperdown on so many fronts, whether it’s because of its existing trainers or having a number of trainers using it for jump-outs or trials.
“We all saw another benefit with the temporary closure of Colac because of a track upgrade. The facilities at Camperdown were fully utilised when the Colac Cup was transferred there. I just hope all parties can sit down in the near future and find some middle ground on this matter, which is so important to Western District racing.”
Former top gallopers including Keda, Gavel, Skipton Town, Shango’s Image, Lancet, Superact, Rough Seas and Yankee Miner — all Melbourne winning horses — have come from Daffy’s stables, where 25 country cups horses have been trained.
The 71-year-old trainer has five horses in work and five others in the paddock.
“There has always been a push for the larger clubs and these decisions have significantly advantaged larger clubs to the detriment of the smaller clubs,” Daffy said in a letter to Napthine and Mulder.
“For the smaller clubs it is death by a thousand cuts. The only salvation has been some past racing ministers who have had a passion for country racing, i.e. Hon. Tom Reynolds and Hon. Neil Trezise etc who were very supportive and could see through the ‘bean counters’ and the ‘spin’ they put on things to support their narrow view.
“Camperdown has been receiving a yearly allowance of $80,000 for training, a mere pittance in the overall scheme of things. This amount is not even the cost of an SUV in Racing Victoria’s fleet pool, notwithstanding other wastage that undoubtedly occurs.
“There is an argument that Camperdown has a small and ageing trainers’ pool, which is hard to deny.
“The negative advice that Racing Victoria has given to new, young, aspiring trainers has had a damaging effect on the Camperdown racecourse and has absolutely prevented any rejuvenation.
“I personally know a number of trainers, aspiring and present, who are unwilling to rent boxes at Camperdown due to the announced withdrawal of training funding.”
The combination of Daffy as trainer and Wilson as jockey was one of the most powerful and successful in Victoria for many years as they had an incredible winning strike rate. But since Wilson retired from the saddle in September 2012 his involvement has centred around a more hands-on approach to the training operation.
Daffy said local trainers had invested heavily in their training stables.
“I’ve got more than $500,000 invested in my stables as far as infrastructure and the likes at no cost to the racing industry and other trainers around here have investments in their stable,” he said.
“I’m sure if we got some positive, secure direction of the training centre at Camperdown from RV and CRV we would see things flourish in the future.”
Racing Victoria general manger Bernard Saundry told The Standard yesterday Camperdown’s training track funding would be stopped on July 31. But he said RVL was reviewing its infrastructure policies and would make an announcement in June.