A couple of months ago a Group 1 winning Brisbane trainer warned me about the susceptibility of the then newly built Eagle Farm infield stables to rain and flooding due to the sunken design of the stables that had been constructed that way so that the stables wouldn’t impede racegoers view of the horses racing around the back like that old wooden shed has for years at the Gatton course.
At the time I saw clearly what the well-respected trainer was pointing out to me and attempted to obtain some further information about the flood mitigation measures included in the approved stable design plans from both the BRC and the Brisbane City Council, but the despotic crooks running Eagle Farm won’t talk to me, much to their discredit, and trying to deal with the Brisbane City Council is a nightmare, so I set the matter aside with a mental note to revisit the issue at some stage before the summer rains came, but as with the best laid plans of mice, men and not-for-profit racing writers I simply forgot.
Forgot until this morning that is, when I was driving along to the Racing Queensland Annual General Meeting (more on that farce later) and was just passing the Sandgate Hawks footy club and the heavens opened. I turned to my life life mate from the dogs industry who was in the car with me – well actually he was driving, I was still half pissed – and said “I bet they’re having fun at Eagle Farm this morning”, but before he could reply we’d turned right into Telegraph Road and Deagon came in sight and that was that.
Then I get home after a post-AGM lunch with a few bitterly disappointed fellas from the greyhound industry (more on that later too) and the video at the top of the page is in my inbox and poor old Robbie Heathcoate’s somewhere out there in the drink dog-paddling and trying to save his horses from drowning.
Now this was no ‘extreme weather event’ as so many folk who’ve totally f*cked up and looking for excuses try to explain a sun shower these days, it was just your stock-standard sub-tropical summer downpour, an hour of pissing down rain we get in BrisVegas a dozen times every Christmas season that causes localised flash flooding for a bit on low lying roads that creates a a few temporary hassles for motorists but soon quickly subsides as the water drains away when the rain stops.
That’s all well and good and is nothing at all out of the ordinary, an event so mundane that it rarely raises an eyebrow up here in the city of sunshine and broken racing dreams.
But this flood in the stables at Eagle Farm is different, because it has occurred at a brand new, supposedly flash as super-duper ultra-modern design $37.5 million facility with claimed built-in flood mitigation measures that have purportedly been put through a rigorous flood assessment process by the Brisbane City Council planning authorities.
Now you only need to look at the video from today to realise that the claimed rigorous testing process was obviously a total crock of sh*t, because super-duper ultra-modern designed $37.5 million facilities stabling hundreds of expensive race horses don’t flood in just an hour of quite ordinary heavy summer sub-tropical rain, or they shouldn’t anyway and there’s anY number of good reasons for that, but one stands out above all.
Horse and humans can’t breathe underwater.
With the benefit of hindsight even a mug like me can see that this was bound to happen, because as you can clearly see in the pictures above and below the Eagle Farm stables have been constricted at some considerable depth below the surface of the track, and are built around a river and a dam that have no discernible build up on the banks to prevent water run off and overflow that surely even Blind Freddy the consulting hydraulic engineer could see would threaten to – and now has – engulf the stables and swamp them and the horses inside.
Animal welfare anybody? Given that the low-lying roads and tunnel that are the only way in an out of the infield stables are highly susceptible to flooding too, how the f*ck are trainers supposed to save their beloved animals when it really rains like it did it the catastrophic floods of 2011 and the less catastrophic but still severely damaging floods just a few years later?
The simple answer from today’s debacle is that that won’t be able to, and that horses are going to drown, and maybe people who are trying to save them too, and if anyone wants to accuse me of being alarmist all I need say in reply is go the tapes and look at the replays. This is no Archie Butterfly beat up, it’s a fair dinkum animal welfare issue and a near-certain disaster just waiting to happen.
I reckon we now wall suddenly realise that there is a very good reason why no other race club in the world has built its major stabling facilities in a sunken race track infield, and that reason is clearly because they have the smarts and the expertise to know that infields of race tracks are usually constructed in a saucer-style design so that all the surface water runs off the course proper surrounding it and into flows into the dam or water holding facility in the middle that in dry times provides irrigation for the track. It’s not quite rocket science is it, and you don’t need anything more than a pair of meat pies and half a Gurners Lane to work that one out.
Most clubs prefer their tracks to drain fast so they can hold race meetings you see, but to be fair these clubs also have tracks and when they do reconstruct them do it properly, again because they like to actually race on their courses, holding dear to what Nifty Nev believes is the outdated first millennium idea that the core business of a race club is horse racing rather than Whimpey-esque new world notion that race clubs were established to that they could serve as a punter paid venue for the holding of soirees for yuppies that don’t bet, birthday parties for the boss who doesn’t breed, and the odd wedding or two couples who are mates with Katie Churchill or relatives of one of the Directors of the Club, and can therefore cop a heavily discounted mates rate for their big day and maybe even get slung a bit of sponsor-provided contra slurp from the BRC board room cellar.
This is a f*ck up of epic proportions, a $37.5 million dollars in borrowed money shambles that surely must serve as the current BRC committee’s epitaph. This time around there is no Racing Queensland or Evergreen Turf or Government delay or anything or anyone else to blame.
This one’s all on the shoulders of the boys from the Brisbane Racing Club, and if any of them had even a shred of a sense of directorial responsibility they would be walking the plank this morning en-masse and fresh elections would be being held so that Vegas racing can put the horror-show of the past five years behind us and move forward with a new BRC team and a fresh start.
And if the BRC bovver boys won’t man up and pick up the buck where it’s stopped – and I very much doubt that this current will of unrepresentative trough-snouting gutless wonders and gross incompetents will – then the Racing Minister should use her powers to intervene in the affairs of the club and sack the whole bloody lot of them.
There pricks have ruined Brisbane Racing and that’s bad, real bad. but do we really have to wait until someone else dies, or a whole lot of horses drown and the court orders the club to pay a hundred million dollar negligence caused compensation and damages bill before we do something about the problem that’s killing our industry?
If your horse gets fleas you treat it.
If if gets colic you call the vet.
If it snaps both fetlocks out of kindness you shoot it.
If your race club committee pisses $37.5 million dollars into an infield and creates a swamp that threatens to drown the whole bloody industry horse, jockey, stablehand, trainer, punter and all you simply get excuses and the sound of another aged single malt whiskey bottle being cracked open in the directors room.
This is just not on.
Enough’s a f*cking nough.
Heads must roll.