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Op-ed: A perspective from the outside

4 min read

My name is Blake Matthews. I’m a 27 year-old Accountant who loves the racing industry - the punting, the horses and the excitement it all brings. I don’t belong to a family invested in racing, nor have a social circle consisting entirely of thoroughbred people.

But through my job and new friends, I have recently found a passion for the racing industry and am now a convert. I am a regular attendee at the track, a punter, and an owner. One of the people that has fallen in love with everything about the industry.

However, being outside the industry bubble - alongside the majority of my friends - I know the brutal reality of what it is like to try defend a sport that is increasingly falling out of touch with society. This week I have been relentlessly defending the industry, especially those currently on the fence about racing, which is most of young Australia. These people are having a hard time becoming invested in the industry, and the events of the Melbourne Cup were a huge amplification of this.

Young people are having a hard time becoming invested in the racing industry

"My generation are the future of the industry. The future big punters, the future owners, the future Everest slot holders." - Blake Matthews

My generation are the future of the industry. The future big punters, the future owners, the future Everest slot holders. The future that will support this industry and keep it thriving.

And whilst everyone within the industry may realise that the death of The Cliffsofmoher was an anomaly, no one outside the industry knows this. What they see is 6 deaths in the last 5 Melbourne Cups, and think this is unacceptable. And frankly, they are right.

The Cliffsofmoher

I spoke with my girlfriend about her Melbourne Cup day on Tuesday evening, and her overwhelming concern was why a horse died in our biggest race of the year.

Her most poignant question, however, was why the racing pages she follows on social media have not addressed the concerns. If racing deaths are such an anomaly, why is the industry not defending itself? Why does it get swept under the carpet and not discussed? To that, it appears no one has an answer.

"If racing deaths are such an anomaly, why is the industry not defending itself?" - Blake Matthews

My girlfriend, like many others on the fence about horse racing, didn’t immediately jump to the radical conclusions brandished about by activists. She wanted to know the facts and learn about the processes in place to protect the animals.

I want this information publicly available too, published by a reputable source such as Racing Australia. So when I get tagged and bagged for supporting a “cruel sport”, I can hit back with an up-to-date, accurate article, video or infographic that explains the real truth. Racing Australia have an invaluable opportunity to load the industry’s army of supporters with the defence mechanisms to save the industry - give us the content and we will do the defending!

"Racing Australia have an invaluable opportunity to load the industry’s army of supporters with the defence mechanisms to save the industry - give us the content and we will do the defending!" - Blake Matthews

Whilst the media continues to bash horse racing today as cruel and inhumane, the industry should be equally vocal about the reality of the situation and how it is trying to work towards a target of 0 deaths. Show the drug testing and vet check systems that are in place. Explain there are over 30,000 race horses in work this year, and a minuscule proportion will ever succumb to an on-track injury. Highlight the reality that the whip doesn’t hurt the horse but is mainly an education tool. That bleeding from the nostrils is heavily regulated and monitored. Give us some pro-active work to counter these arguments that come each and every year.

We want the cold hard Australia-wide facts on the industry to actually address the core issues and refute rubbish published by the RSPCA and others.

Whilst some people will always oppose racing, there are a majority of people in the younger demographics who are currently on the fence. Radio silence from the industry ensures they will continue to slowly slip out of grasp.

The industry is very fortunate that it has a 3 minute window once a year where 90% of tomorrow’s enthusiasts are watching the sport. We still have a small chance to salvage this industry from it’s own demise. It’s time the industry gave us what we need to help in this quest.