Champion trainer Chris Waller has called on government and Racing Queensland to end years of empty promises and deliver an overdue infrastructure package to the Gold Coast.
Waller has advocated to government, Racing Queensland and the Gold Coast Turf Club for some time about the poor state of training facilities at the venue where he has operated a satellite stable for the past five years.
The Gold Coast Turf Club has presented a business case to Racing Queensland’s Infrastructure Fund for a new synthetic, all-weather racing and training track, upgrades to the B Grass and course proper, tunnels and lights.
But while other projects have been green-lighted, the Gold Coast has been stalled for years.
“From the participants’ point of view it’s become very frustrating,” Waller said.
“We see it throughout the world, if jurisdictions get forgotten, they get left behind. And that’s how I see racing in Queensland at the moment.
“Now is the time, with good leaders in the government from the top, Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Minister (Stirling Hinchliffe), they do understand how important racing is.
“Track upgrades is something they need to get right straight away.
“Gold Coast in particular is just a track that has had promises for four years from Racing Queensland.
“I’m not blaming their leadership, but in this day and age, if you want to get credit you have to make things happen and we’re just not seeing it happen.
“I thought it was common sense you need to upgrade facilities to ensure you are building towards the future, not just putting bandaids on things.”
Waller, whose horses won a record $44 million last season from training bases in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, was frank in his assessment of how facilities at the Gold Coast ranked.
“They are not up to world standards,” he said.
“Gold Coast is just a great place. It has the location, climate and it’s such a vibrant city. It deserves a better racetrack.
“Everybody in the world knows the Gold Coast.
“There’s no use having a substandard track in a city that is so good in other aspects.”
He also noted how important good training facilities are from an animal welfare point of view.
“We’re all very conscious about looking after the horses properly. If you can reduce injuries and produce longevity, that should be the first and foremost part of the discussion,” he said.
Waller said the worldwide pandemic of 2020 had showcased how important racing is across a wide spectrum of society, not just through employment, but also socially where it provided entertainment while other sports were shut down.
“COVID has exaggerated that fact more than ever. Not just in Queensland, but the rest of Australia, how strong the industry is,” he said.
Waller has used Queensland as a launching pad for some of his best horses, including his champion Winx, who kicked off her sequence of 33 straight wins in the Sunshine State and he wants to see Queensland racing prosper into the future, noting how government investment in New South Wales and Victoria helped those states thrive.
“We want Queensland to become as good as Victoria, New South Wales, which is what the people who have invested in the industry deserve. It shouldn’t be a poor cousin,” he said.