Winning Edge chats to Peter Lawrence, revealing a well respected pro punter's view of the challenges & opportunities facing the racing & betting industries in the current climate.
Read the trascript here:
Brad Thompson: This week on the Winning Edge podcast, we're joined by professional punter and form analyst, Peter Lawrence. Good day, Peter, how are you?
Peter Lawrence: Very well, Brad. Thanks for having me on.
Brad Thompson: No worries at all. Thanks for giving us some of your time to talk about your career and your views on the sport. So, tell us how you got into racing.
Peter Lawrence: My father, even though he was a dentist, his father was a racehorse trainer in Rockhampton and his brother was also a jockey. So, he always had a cute interest in racing. Even though I had 2 brothers who showed no interest in racing at all and my mother wasn't interested, I obviously inherited his genes.
When I was a very small boy, maybe 6 or 7 years old, I primarily, at that time was interested in the trots, which some of the older listeners may well remember. The trots were much more popular many years ago. In fact, on a Friday night on the ABC, they used to have the two legs of the daily double live and then in between the 6th and the 8th race, they would have replays of the other races that had been run that night.
The betting units in those days were 25 cents. I used to have 25 cents on a couple of trotters during the night, which would be frowned upon they say, having a 6- or 7-year-old son having a bet on the trots. My first, my earliest memory of actually going to the races was actually going to see a dog at the dogs in Bathurst called Zoom Top. That was a famous Australian dog at the time.
I remember having one dollar on it and I was 4/1 on and I got beaten. That's my actual earliest memory of going to a race meeting of sorts. I didn't learn my lesson then about backing short price favorites. Then I guess as time went on and as I got a little bit older, I became more interested in the races.
Always was still quite interested in the trots even up until maybe I was 15 or 16 years old and would get the Trotguide on a Wednesday and still be very interested. In fact, because we lived in Bathurst during those times, went to the Bathurst trots which used to be on on Tuesday night. My father actually was friendly with a couple of farmers there that owned Hondo Grattan, that was a champion pacer.
He did actually own a third of Hondo Grattan for a short period of time. But we left Bathurst and went to live in England for a while. They actually couldn't afford to race Hondo Grattan because the wool industry was...the wool prices were bad.
Brad Thompson: Is that right?
Peter Lawrence: So, they gave his third share to Tony Turnbull, who was the trainer.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: So, he became the owner. And then we came back to Australia to live maybe nine months later and Hondo Grattan had his first win night at Bankstown and after that, he became a great champion. I had a real interest in the trots early on but as I got a bit older, that interest waned and I became more and more interested in the races.
Brad Thompson: All right. So, tell us about your major influences early on.
Peter Lawrence: Well, in that period where I was a teenager interested in the races, I was always looking at ways to actually win. I was always interested in reading about punters and get the Racetrack every month, I think it came out in those days. My early journey into trying something new was that Racetrack published, what I guess people would think of now as par times for all the different metropolitan race courses in Sydney and Melbourne with like a point system on, "This many points for this time."
It was a very basic thing. Didn't take into account track conditions or anything like that. I was very interested in comparing times of different horses and trying to back winners like that. And then when I was about 15 or 16 years old, the Don Scott book, Winning, came out. I suppose that really had a dramatic influence on my life. Reading about someone who'd won at the races, how they did things in a systematic way to quantify some sort of qualitative judgment on the races.
Scott definitely had a huge influence on the way I did the form, the way I approached betting on races, the idea that you would set your own market and try and back overlays, all things that are commonplace now. Reading that book on Scott and reading other books, Pittsburgh Phil's book and a few other books. And then I always had a great, a real interest in the times. I tried to combine the Scott method with a times method that I had gleaned from that racetrack era. That's really how I started off trying to do something a little bit different.
Brad Thompson: So, that studying of the form and learning more about it, that led to a career in bookmaking?
Peter Lawrence: Yeah, it did. Down the track a few years on from that, I convinced my father to float me some reasonably small bank and went book making. Even though, this is probably in the late 80s, people would talk about how the game was not nearly as good as it used to be and how there'd been a deterioration in people going to the track but it really was, compared to today, it was a bustling hive of betting activity.
In those days, I was living in Canberra. When I started there, the races were on every Saturday in Canberra and then on the alternate day, they'd be on in Queanbeyan, which is a little country town just right outside the border of Canberra. So, there was races every Saturday.
In the Canberra betting ring there, there was four bookmakers on the rails on the interstates, 19 in the outer and a waiting list of about 6 or 7 and on the locals, 4 on the rails and about 12 or 13 in the outer.
Brad Thompson: Big business then.
Peter Lawrence: It changed unbelievably. There was a very strong ring and there was lots of young aspiring bookmakers borrowing cash off each other to go to the New South Wales Bookies Co-op to get their bookies license and pretend they had a lot more money than they did. It was a really great time.
Brad Thompson: Also, tell us a bit about your journey and how your career then formed to become a professional punter.
Peter Lawrence: Well, the whole time I was a bookie, I was always what was called an opinion bookmaker. A lot of other people are good at handling clients and getting the right people to bet with them and let them do whatever they want, whereas I was always much more interested in having an opinion on races and betting over some horses and betting under some horses.
So, I was always using the book as really, a reverse style of punting. And I used to bet all the time as well. That was always how I approached being a bookmaker. Actually, just backtracking a little bit. I had a job, I did subscribe to Warren Block and Don Scott’s Super Form. And, of course, Warren Block, who was in charge of that, lived in Canberra.
I went one day to renew my subscription to the office, had a bit of a chat to him and then ended up working there for a few years. That was a great experience and got to meet Don Scott and got to talk to him on the phone and write articles. So, worked on that side of it.
Brad Thompson: Dream job for someone like yourself.
Peter Lawrence: Oh, it was a dream job. It really was and some great experience. That was really at the beginning of the whole computer revolution in racing. We used to enter all the results ourselves and then produce a magazine and send that to people. On, I think it was a Monday or a Tuesday night, we would enter all the picks, nominations for the upcoming Saturday and then produce a sheet that we would send to people and they would be able to sort of scratch the horses that weren't accepted and use a sort of worksheet to work out their form of the different ratings.
I became a bookie, became an opinion bookie, had a great time in Canberra. Then moved to the Gold Coast, which was a really very, very big sort of center of bookmaking. Laurie Bricknell was there. He's probably was at the time, the biggest bookie in the world. Terry Page was on the rails, a real sort of legend of Australian bookmaking. Lloyd Merlihan was there, who's still a legend of Australian bookmaking. So, they were really exciting times.
During that time that I was at the Gold Coast, the internet really started to get going and the crowd seemed to drop off a bit. There was also telephone betting, which I think seemed like a great idea at the time. But often, with the internet and telephone betting, what ended up happening was there was less and less need for people to go to the races. I think I saw the writing on the wall.
In those days, it was a very... It was quite a restrictive thing. You weren't really allowed to take any time off from being a bookie. You had to write an application into the race club and ask for a week off here, a week off there. The relentlessness of it was a little bit much. I lived in Byron Bay. Had to drive an hour and a bit to get to the races each Saturday. I decided, sort of around the year 2000 or 2002, it might have been, that I would stop being a bookie for a while and just concentrate on punting.
Brad Thompson: So, you've been a pro punter now for almost two decades. Went out on your own and became a pro punter in the early 2000s. How has racing and the betting landscape changed since you first started out?
Peter Lawrence: The change has really been extraordinary and the pace of change in the last 10 years has been particularly extraordinary. With the internet coming and people being able to bet online definitely changed things a lot. I think there's been a perfect storm of negative influences for punters in general in the last 20 years. I think the internet coming was one thing with that. It brought a lot of the English corporates to Australia.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: I think the fact that most of those have been registered in the Northern Territory was a huge blow for punters. I think when Mark Read first went there with Darwin All Sports, it was a real boon for punting and a great thing. But the fact that all these are registered in the Northern Territory has meant that there's not really anybody in that bureaucracy in the Northern Territory that really understood about betting.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: I think that combined with that, when I was a bookmaker and during all my younger life, the income stream for racing came primarily from the TAB and that income stream came from the parimutuel part of the TAB. The TAB wasn't a bookmaker in those days. The race clubs got their income stream from bookmaker turnover.
The stewards were, and I think this is a very significant thing, the stewards at the races, particularly the betting stewards, they were primarily interested in what was right for punters. If you were a bookmaker in those times and a punter made a complaint to the betting steward and you saw the betting steward walking up to your stand with the punter in tow, you knew 100%, he was going to be on the side of the punter. If the punter said he was betting 7/1 but you weren't, it didn't matter.
They were just on the side of the punter. I think once the TAB became a corporate bookmaker, the whole attitude towards punters by stewards completely changed and the closeness of racing associations like Racing New South Wales and RVL, the close relationship that they had with the TAB now meant they had a very close relationship with bookmakers.
Stewards, particularly in the time of Ray Murrihy and Terry Bailey and whatever else, they saw themselves really, as certainly the protectors of bookmakers rather than the protectors of punters. Punters these days really have nobody to turn to.
If you feel that you've been shortchanged or got a bad deal from a bookmaker or something's wrong, you have no one really, to turn to. You can't... Anyone who's ever tried to put a complaint into the Northern Territory government about one of the corporate bookmakers will know that the person you talk to has no idea about what you're talking about.
Brad Thompson: Yeah, I was just going to ask that
Peter Lawrence: They've never had a bet in their life.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. There's not much success, there is it?
Peter Lawrence: Oh, it's hopeless. There's been a disinterest in New South Wales stewards in looking after the rights of punters. Combined with that, you've had Peter V’landys taking over in New South Wales, who may have done a lot of great things for racing but one thing he's been steadfast about is that he has an attitude that the percentages bet by bookmakers is an irrelevance to punters and has seen punters as just a huge income stream for racing.
There has been a perfect storm and where we are today is that really, there's nobody that punters can turn to, to try and get a better deal or indeed get a fair deal with their betting. That's been a very dramatic change that I’ve seen.
Brad Thompson: In particular with New South Wales, relationship with TAB is a big factor there, do you think?
Peter Lawrence: Oh, a huge factor. I used to bang my head against a brick wall trying to talk to Terry Griffin who was the betting steward in New South Wales, about getting fair fluctuations sent off the course. It went from the price had to be on three boards to be recognized as a price that was being bet to the median price that was being bet. There was just no interest in looking after punters and getting proper fluctuations sent off the course and the same situation applies now.
That's because the focus of the betting stewards and the chief stewards changed from being, "Let's look after the punter and let's make sure those dreadful bookmakers don't take advantage of punters," to, "Let's look after the TAB." The TAB was the biggest bookmaker in Australia, still is the biggest bookmaker in Australia.
And still today, we said the situation with the fluctuations is the same where the SP will be $4.20 and you will look on Dynamic Odds and see that five bookies were betting $4.40 and two bookies were betting $4.60.
It happens 365 days a year. And the same situation with the deductions where you have deductions charged on top of other deductions. You will have the second favorite come out on a Friday, which might have been 5/2 and now, the third favorite is 5/2 and it comes out on a Saturday morning and the deduction's taken out at 5/2.
There was a race at Kembla on Melbourne Cup Day last year where the official deductions were 132% because the horses just keep coming out at different times. That's not a totally unusual occurrence. Not that long ago, in Adelaide, where if you backed the winner and copped all the deductions, you got 83 cents for your dollar.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. It's such a great example for this huge problem.
Peter Lawrence: Huge problem. There's nobody to there's nobody to discuss it with because, A, the people in the Northern Territory don't understand and, B, the people at, let's say, Racing New South Wales, they don't care. The people at RVL, they don't care.
Brad Thompson: Why don't they care? Like you've mentioned the TAB relationship but surely, there's other underlying factors as well.
Peter Lawrence: I've heard a famous interview that Peter V'landys did on 2KY or Sky where he said the average punter doesn't know the difference between 115 and 125%. Now, if that's the attitude you take towards what's good for punters and you only see them as an income stream that you can just keep taxing, then why would you care whether the deduction should have been 20 cents or 15 cents or 16 cents.
It's an irrelevance. The same situation applies to... We all know that some people get a live feed of the races and other huge bettors are allowed to cancel the bet 15 seconds into the race. That affects the average dividend over the year in big amounts.
How could you get anyone to care if the horse should have paid $4.20 but it's only paying $4.10 if your attitude is punters won't notice or don't care and the average punter probably doesn't notice or care between $4.20 and 4.10 if they back the winner. If that's your attitude, then it's very hard to get anyone to really take seriously what's a very big issue for racing.
Brad Thompson: Is there a solution you've got in mind or is it getting someone at the top in these racing bodies who cares for the punter?
Peter Lawrence: Well, I think that's obviously the solution to have people involved in the administration of racing actually seeing the long-term benefits to punters as being something worth concentrating on. But at the moment, it's just a wasteland of people who really don't care. I think the pervading attitude in most of the racing organizations in Australia is that punters are sort of a necessary but unpleasant part of the racing industry.
If they could find an income stream that would come from somewhere else, I’m sure they would rather take it from there but at the moment, they're sort of saddled with the punters. So, they take it from the punters but I don't feel a lot of love for punters in the racing bodies.
Brad Thompson: Is there any other solution you can think of like a punters’ union? What kind of roads could punters go down to try and achieve a better result?
Peter Lawrence: Well, I’ve heard people talk about let's have a strike on one day and nobody bet to show our displeasure but I’m not sure you'd get many people involved in that. And, of course, one of the great problems with any of that is a huge number of punters don't have any expectation of winning.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: So, you're talking to quite a small subset of people who are trying to make a profit out of it and a smaller subset than they used to be. Certainly 15 or 20 years ago when I was a bookie, there was a lot of people at the races who were extremely hard to beat if you could beat them at all. They had an expectation that they were going to the races to play and make money.
It seems a lot of what's promoted now is fun punting and I think a lot of people don't have any expectation of making money. They have an expectation of having a good day out with a bit of fun betting. Let's face it, everything is being done to get rid of anybody who has any expectation of winning on the punt.
Brad Thompson: Why has that mindset changed, do you think? Is it purely because of the promotion of the races being fun or?
Peter Lawrence: Well, no. I think that the main...the significant factor in that has been that the British corporates came to Australia, bought up all the Australian betting houses and employed the same tactics that they...and it's the same methods that they've employed in Britain for a long time, which is you root out anybody who doesn't lose more than 8% on turnover and you get rid of them.
And you just have a business model that's not unlike a giant poker machine, it in fact is a giant poker machine. We saw a couple of weeks ago on stakes day at Flemington where the TAB went down and a great number of the corporates couldn't result their bets on the day within a couple of hours because they didn't even have anyone obviously working there who could enter the results of the races.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: They've got their staff down to such a minimal amount that it runs like a poker machine. All automated. Get rid of anybody who doesn't lose more than 8% on turnover and just let it run its course. They literally only have one or two losing days a year. It's hard to be sort of motivating people into, "Let's get into racing and let's really work out how we can win on the punt," when if you start to win or break square...
Brad Thompson: Yeah. They make it hard for you.
Peter Lawrence: ...or don't lose enough. Exactly.
Brad Thompson: One more thing while we're talking about nitty-gritty of betting. What are your thoughts on the decision to go to dollar dividends?
Peter Lawrence: Well, it's a little bit of a... I’ve mentioned it a couple of times on Twitter and got an absolute bagging for it but in my mind, it was just a colossal mistake by the Bookmaking fraternity in Australia. It was a total point of difference between the TAB and bookmakers.
Betting of odds is understood universally all around the world even in jurisdictions where they only have all tote betting like the United States when the race jumps, the odd displayed on the screen not the dividends. It'll show a horse as being 2/1 or 3/1 or 6/5 as they say over there or 8/1. It won't be being showed as a dividend.
Anyone who's been to school and done statistics and probability or to university anywhere in the world knows about odds. The idea that "Australian odds" in inverted commas are displayed as a return for a dollar just seems silly to me. The odds of a horse isn't $3. It's 2/1.
Joe Blow in the street understands 2/1 or even money or a 5/1 chance. It just seemed like a crazy idea to let go of that historical difference and such a well-known part of bookmaking and of all games of chance.
Brad Thompson: Why did they do that? I can't remember why they did that.
Peter Lawrence: They did that because, either they got hoodwinked into doing it by the TAB or the people in charge of the Bookmakers’ Association, was it New South Wales that led the charge, decided that young people when they went to the races looked at the tote board and saw a horse was paying $6 on the tote but it was only 5/1 with the bookies and they were stupid...
Brad Thompson: They were getting ripped off.
Peter Lawrence: And thought, "Yeah, let's go and have our dollar on with the TAB." Now, it just was crazy but that's where we've got to.
Brad Thompson: I want to ask you about the Point of Consumption taxes as well and the ongoing heavy taxation on punters. It's obviously a big reason why they're able to fund these big races in New South Wales and the like but what's your thoughts on the whole scenario of continually taking money away from punters?
Peter Lawrence: Well, that really does just all tie back into the idea that, and I’m not picking on Peter V'landys specifically but his attitude that punters don't know whether it's 115% on the board or 125, that has led to the Race Fields legislation, the Point of Consumption Tax.
We see now, it can be Melbourne Cup Day, it can be Derby Day, it can be Magic Millions Day, it can be Golden Slipper day at 9 o'clock on a Saturday morning and they've been betting on these races since Wednesday, the percentages in all these races is 130%. Now, the Point of Consumption Tax, the Race Fields Legislation is not paid by the bookmaker. It's 100% paid by the punter.
The most extraordinary thing about it is that the people who put forward these taxes and think they're a great idea virtually to a man, they're extremely conservative people in their own political leanings and none of them would ever vote for the liberal party.
When it comes to elections, they'd be heartily against taxation and ideologically against taxation. Yet in this one instance, they think it's just a perfectly great idea to keep on taxing punters and getting all the income stream coming from taxes on punters. Well, in the end, the money will run out.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. What's the tipping point, how long is it going to be sustainable this way?
Peter Lawrence: Well, that's a very good question. I don't know. Maybe punters are all stupid and it doesn't matter. I don't know. But at 130%, you're certainly up against it.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. Makes it very difficult. I wouldn't mind digging deeper into your own form analysis. Tell us about the areas and the states and the niches that you have.
Peter Lawrence: I've always kept a detailed database where it's based on, I guess, a Scott style way of doing the races. When I say that, I think that the big thing with that Scott attitude was to be able to put a quantitative number on a qualitative analysis.
So, make a judgment on the quality of each individual race and to be able to give that a number. I think that that's a very important thing starting out and trying to make money out of punting or trying to develop a system that worked. You need to be able to know the difference between the different classes of races and the difference of the quality even within that class. You'll see group one, there are group one races but they're not all the same.
You need to be able to, in your own way, come up with a way of saying, "I think this is a race of this quality," and to give it a number that shows that. One of the really significant things also is that people need to spend their time. Not everyone can keep a database and bet on all the races all around Australia and in different states. It's very hard to have the time to do that unless you're devoting your whole life to it. People need to think about what gives me the best bang for my buck.
I think that I hear a lot of people talking about how important it is watching the videos and I meet a lot of young aspiring punters and they always say, you know, "I spend a lot of time watching the videos." Well, they must like to spend a lot of time just sitting on their own to get away from their family because it's tremendously time-consuming watching races over and over again and I think that it's a skill that not very many people have.
I think that part of that, I think it's an important thing to... It's more important to be able to have a handle on what is the actual class of this race and what is this course capable of doing. We'll often see a video where Horse A may look unlucky but if you know the capacity of Horse A, you may will find that it's actually run to the best of its ability.
A good friend of mine used to say, "I always worry when that horse has been trapped in a pocket that the pocket is going as fast as the horse can go." Now, I think that that's something that's...it's an important thing you need to know. Know it might have looked unlucky but that's just about as good as that horse can go.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: I think time is best spent on working out the quality of races.
Brad Thompson: Is it fair to say you don't watch many videos or?
Peter Lawrence: I do. Look, I have someone who watches the races for me and makes a few notes. But also, the thing is I think that it's a very critical thing to understand that backing horses that are over-bet in the market will lead you to the poor house even if you're getting the right information. If a horse you've marked without ever looking at the video, you might have priced it 8/1 but the video watchers have all seen that it was a bit unlucky last start and it's 4/1.
But if the price should be 6/1, it's over-bet in the market. I just think it's a zero-sum game or worse for most people spending a lot of time watching videos. There's some real expert video watchers out there. You would need to spend many years doing it before you'd be better than they are at it.
There's an optical illusion a lot of the time. The horse will seem to really fly home in a very poor maiden and people always talk about what a turn of foot it was but if you analyze the times, you'll see that in fact, it was actually a slow race.
Most people, there's a great optical illusion in virtually every race every day, is people talk about horses finishing very quickly flying home but virtually, every horse is going slower in the last section of the race than they are in the middle section.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. Just going past some slow ones.
Peter Lawrence: Yeah, exactly. I think that that business of horses being over-bet in the market is a very, very important one for people to conceptualize if you're trying to make a profit of racing. For example, if you went to a two-up game with a group of friends and they all identified that the tosser was doing something weird with his hand and it was making tails come up more often than heads and someone was bookmaking on it.
They also knew this and now the tails was 4/6 and heads was 6/4 but you were completely blind to this reality and you just kept backing heads at 6/4 and it still came up 55% of the time, you would win. They would be right. There was a bias to the tails but the market over-bet it. I think that that's a very, very critical thing that people don't understand.
People are always arguing about track bias or it could have happened or if this horse had got a better run. It all depends on if the market is over influenced by these things. If there's one place the market is definitely overinfluenced by, it's the horse that looked to be unlucky last start. Just ask the people who backed Fidelia.
Brad Thompson: There's a few horses like that, I think.
Peter Lawrence: Absolutely.
Brad Thompson: Without giving away too many of your secrets, it sounds like your database doesn't factor in the videos and unlucky runs as much as others might.
Peter Lawrence: It probably doesn't factor in those things as much as others might but by having a rating next to each horse's run, you're able to identify where a horse might have dropped off and watched the... See, I’d rather do the form and then watch each individual run, go back and see if there's something, a reason why that horse might have underperformed.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. On the video watching, tell us about the 80-20 principle.
Peter Lawrence: Well, I think that that principle is in all walks of life and particularly, applies to where you want to put your time into doing the form or to betting. You need to focus on the things that are giving you the maximum amount of income. I think most people would do better on betting on a Saturday than they do betting midweek.
So, you should focus most of your attention and most of your turnover on where you're getting the best bang for your buck. You will get, I think the markets are generally more competitive on a Saturday, you've got the on-course bookies who are still having a bit of a go.
I might just say that amongst all the corporates that are out there at the moment, that the outlier as far as bookmaking is definitely TopSport. They're run by Lloyd Merlihan, a great Australian bookmaker and they really have a go and they let people on no matter whether you're a winning punter or a losing punter. I think that Saturdays offer you the best opportunity to be winning.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. You never hear a bad word about TopSport. So, big thumbs up.
Peter Lawrence: No, with good reason.
Brad Thompson: All right. So, obviously, you weight a lot of your betting time into Saturdays then, is that fair?
Peter Lawrence: Saturdays is the definitely the day where you can increase your turnover and get more money on, for sure. Better class racing.
Brad Thompson: How do you like to bet generally? Is it early or late, corporates, Betfair, tote?
Peter Lawrence: Well, look things have changed a lot in the last 10 or 15 years and really dramatically. I can remember there was a man who worked at Sportingbet called Brad Spicer. I rang him after the races one Saturday and really gave him a mouthful because he would only bet me to win 10,000 on the races that were run that day and I thought this was very un-Australian and a real blight on racing. Well, fast forward 15 years, and...
Brad Thompson: You'd love that.
Peter Lawrence: Exactly. You'd be down on your knees blessing anyone who would let you on to win like that. And then when the corporates came in of course, there was a bit of a trick in finding people who would be able to still keep betting and suggesting to them they might like to have a few bets for you. Well, they put a stop to that by, I think, making it illegal.
Certainly, making it very hard to get paid out. Being able to... Whatever tricks they could come up with. So, betting early, if there was no restriction and you could get on for whatever you like, I think betting early probably still offers the best opportunity for people if you're a small punter if you can pick the mistakes and there are mistakes in those early markets.
Give them credit. The people who do those early markets on a Wednesday, they put them up within a few hours. They're usually a very good set overall but it's impossible that they're not full of mistakes at the same time. That's where the best opportunity lies but also impossible to get on very much money in those early markets.
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Brad Thompson: All right. I'd like to just go into some general racing topics. Which are the best horses you've seen in your time?
Peter Lawrence: Very interestingly, probably the three best horses I’ve seen, certainly the three highest rated horses in the history of my database have been Might and Power the day he won the Caulfield Cup by 7 and a half lengths and when he won the Queen Elizabeth Stakes by 10 and a half lengths that day, I think it was. He beat the horses that had run the quinella in the Doncaster the previous Saturday.
And of course, Black Caviar and Winx. They'd be the three highest rated horses I’ve ever had. The arguments that go on between people on who was the greatest horse of all time and this, I think it often depends on what day you're talking about. I'm not sure that any horse would have beaten Might and Power when he won the Caulfield Cup that day but there were days when he was off his game.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: There've been days when Winx has been off her game. The day she just narrowly got up and beat Red Excitement at Randwick, I think it was and when she only just got there to beat Funstar, I know she missed the start, but. I think one of the incredible things about Caviar and Winx was even when they were off their game, they still found a way to win.
But having said that, they primarily raced in weight for age races against inferior horses all the time. That's been a big change that I’ve witnessed in the time I’ve been doing the form. The focus used to be on the great handicapped races and now, the focus is on the weight for age races.
Brad Thompson: Have you got a favorite out of those three?
Peter Lawrence: I think because I was bookmaking when Might and Power won the Melbourne Cup and it was a huge result for me.
Brad Thompson: Makes it better.
Peter Lawrence: I think he was. He's probably my favorite horse. And just doing it from the front. Having said that, Black Caviar's winning Newmarket was equally as dynamic. I think it was a great shame for Winx's legacy that they spent the last few years just running in the same seven or eight or nine races every year and not testing her in in some other way but her wins in the Cox Plate were phenomenal and the other days where she really gapped her rivals.
I must say also, there was, I think, Arriba, when he won the Australia Day Stakes at Flemington one day by six lengths was really an incredible performance. When I was a kid, I used to back Kingston Town every time it started. I was at Randwick one day when and when he won in fact, just beating, I think a horse called Northern Reward, just by a nose in weight for age race.
A lot of the great champions of the past did get beaten quite a bit whereas we've seen this phenomenon in recent times in Australia where between them, Winx and Black Caviar won 58 races straight. So, it's a definitely a new phenomenon.
Brad Thompson: We don't really have a Winx or a Black Caviar at the moment do we. So, can you see where that next superstar might come from?
Peter Lawrence: I'll tell you what, it's an interesting thing punting. In one of those very early books, Don Scott did write about getting under champion racehorses and backing them at every start and it's actually not a bad idea. I did back, used to back, despite the short odds, Black Caviar and Winx at every start.
Overall, you do definitely show a profit backing those good horses, in those, despite their short odds. As for finding out, being able to predict who the next one's going to be, it's a trick. Off the top of my head, there's certainly none of the three-year-olds around you would be, at the moment, thinking that they're going to go on and be next Black Caviar or Winx.
We have this phenomenon now in Australia where the colts go to stud after they're three. There's no steroids for the geldings to race as many times as they used to race in a preparation. So, we see these totally dominant mares that seem to be the ones that can run these huge winning streaks together.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. Or they go to Hong Kong like Classique Legend.
Peter Lawrence: Exactly, that's right. Well, not even just like Classique Legend, you can see an impressive maiden winner at the provincials and it will go to Hong Kong and they'll get half a million or three-quarters of a million dollars for it.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. Half their luck.
Peter Lawrence: Like there's a lot of horses being... Exactly. A lot of horses being sold to Hong Kong, that's right.
Brad Thompson: A few other avenues I wanted to get down. Your thoughts on stewarding the comparison between high-profile trainers and jockeys versus how the bush trainers and jockeys are treated.
Peter Lawrence: It's a tough job stewarding, there's no doubt about it. There seems to be far less of an appetite go after the big trainers and the big jockeys than there used to be. I think back to not very long ago, Jim Cassidy was outed twice during his career. Now, it's a very, very rare thing to see a high-profile jockey outed on a handling charge.
And if they are outed, it's always, they made an error of judgment and they're usually given six weeks or something. Whereas in the old days, you'd be given 12 months. There just doesn't seem to be much stomach for it. There seems to be much more stomach for having a go at the inexperienced apprentice for going too fast.
We've seen that not that long ago in Melbourne where two apprentices apparently went too fast in front on a horse and Tom Sherry got outed at Wyong for going too fast on some horse, still in front with 200 to go but not much stomach for the horse that flops out the back and just runs on nicely. I understand in years in years gone by, the stewards had far greater powers and now there's avenues of appeal.
I just wonder whether they just don't think it's worth it. It's the same with the high-profile trainers. There's been a string of trainers who've been outed for cobalt, often for horses that by and large, horses that didn't run a place in whatever race they were in.
And yet, and I’m not criticizing Chris Waller, he's a great trainer, his effort on Epsom Day when he won, I think, six out of six in Sydney and won the Turnbull Stakes to boot in Melbourne is like a Bradmanesque training performance as far as I’m concerned. But the fact is Junoob won the Metropolitan, tested positive for Lasix and he got a 30,000-dollar fine. It's hard to understand how these things exist in the same racing sphere.
There's such a desire now in being a team player, whether it's with your racing New South Wales or being on Sky, which is owned by the TAB or... Everyone wants to really champion the team and the team racing, that I think there's just not really much stomach for making a case out of the high-profile trainers. On the other hand, they have done it with Darren Weir and Robert Smerdon in Melbourne. So, who knows? I don't know.
Brad Thompson: If you ask a lot of bigger punters, they'd like to see some of the high-profile trainers and jockeys get asked some more questions.
Peter Lawrence: I don't think it's a good look for racing when like for example, the ride on Joviality on Melbourne Cup Day.
Brad Thompson: I was going to bring that one up. I thought that was lingering in the back of your mind.
Peter Lawrence: Well, it was mind-boggling for the leading rider at Flemington where the straight, a huge long straight, racing against some very poor horses, decides to go up on the fence and ride follow from 600 when the option was there to peel out wide. Now, I’m not saying that James McDonald did it deliberately. I don't think that there was any skullduggery involved but it certainly was a ride that needed...the questions needed to be asked and if people are going to be suspended for making poor errors of judgment.
Like I just watched the replay of Noel Callow's ride at Benalla in the 25th of September where he's been charged for not giving a horse every chance. You'd be very hard-pressed to say that there was a difference in the two rides. Now, the stewards have just decided Benalla on a Friday, Noel Callow, this is a good one to show that we're doing something but on Melbourne Cup Day, I don't think they wanted the press of the leading rider being questioned over his ride on the favorite to be frank.
Brad Thompson: Do you think it might have been different if there was an apprentice jockey on Joviality?
Peter Lawrence: Oh, for sure. I do. And if it was a lesser-known rider, I do. I think it probably would have been different, yeah. Big questions need to be asked. Because let's face it, if I’m... Again, I’m definitely not saying there was any impropriety by James McDonald but in another case where another jockey rode the same way and there was impropriety, what's to stop them from doing it again the week after or the week after that? The saying justice must not only be done, it must be seen to be done. I think in this case, it wasn't seen to be done.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. I think all punters want is consistency so they're not scratching their head over which rides are looked at and scrutinized and ones which are overlooked.
Peter Lawrence: Exactly, exactly. There's a general acceptance now, I think, of horses early in their campaigns being flopped out the back and allowed to run on well and it's a nice sort of warm up for the cup, sort of thing. I don't think that there's much attention paid to those rides.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. While we're on jockeys, your thoughts on the increase in minimum weight for jockeys. Seems to be creeping up each year particularly in Victoria. What do you think about it and what are some alternatives?
Peter Lawrence: Well, I think that Racing New South Wales have just got it exactly right at the moment. They've dropped the minimum back down to, I think, 52. I'm not even sure you can't ride lighter than that. I think that the race needs to be handicapped on its merits and if your weight handicap weight is 48 or 49 and you can find an apprentice that is happy to ride at 48 or 49 or you can get Dean Yendall who can ride at 49, why does your horse have to carry 54.
Or in the case in Victoria at the moment, through this crazy thing with Covid of having the minimum 56. So, if your rightful weight in that race before the increase was 54, now you're carrying 56. But the horse that was handicapped on 56 and a half, it's still carrying 56 and a half. Every horse down the bottom of the weights in Victoria, every owner of those horses is just being penalized for absolutely no good reason at all.
Like we saw over the Carnival day after day after day where it was lower weights, the bigger race. I think in the Caulfield Cup, 13 or 14 horses carried 53 or less. And then the next day, the benchmark races are on at the provincials and the minimum is 56. These are the same jockeys riding on the next day.
Brad Thompson: This makes it impossible for the jockeys.
Peter Lawrence: The 56 minimum in Victoria is crazy.
Brad Thompson: I'm sure there's a reason why they do it but what's your real take on it?
Peter Lawrence: Well, I’m sure that the reason that they do it is that the wealthy jockeys are so powerful with such a strong lobby group that of course, it's better for them if the minimum is 56 because most of the horses carrying 58, 59, 60, 61, there's a lot more rides for them.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: Most of the big jockeys in Australia are quite heavyweight jockeys now. Craig Williams would be and Karen McAvoy can get down to the lower weights but it gives them a lot more opportunities. It's just a terribly unfair situation in Victoria. I really don't understand why they're going on with it. But in New South Wales they've got it perfectly right.
I think if your horse is handicapped correctly and you're happy to find a rider to ride it at that weight, you should be able to. But if you choose to put Hugh Bowman on, if his handicap is 50 but you say, "No, I’d rather carry 56 and put Hugh Bowman on." When you declare riders, say, "No, we're happy to have 56. We'll have Hugh Bowman." But if you choose Dean Yendall, carry 50. I don't understand why those horses are penalized down the bottom.
Brad Thompson: With the differences between New South Wales and Victoria, is it another good example of why there should be some national cohesion for the sport?
Peter Lawrence: I'm not sure about national cohesion. I think that competition is good in all things. I think it's been disappointing in the last couple of years that so much of the competition in New South Wales seems to have been purposely directed at negatively affecting the Victorian Spring Carnival, which is the jewel in the crown of Australian racing.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: I think some of these races that are on have really, for example, the Yes Yes Yes Stakes or the sort of the race that's run a couple of weeks after that, Everest, that's 1.3-million-dollar bonus if you've already run in the Everest. Well, that is just clearly an example of attacking that sprint race on the last day of the Melbourne Carnival with no good reason for doing it other than to keep those horses away and weaken their carnival.
I can't say I think that that's a good way to be going about things. Having said that, the Everest has been quite a success and I think the Golden Eagle has been a phenomenal success and it will be a big race in years to come, grow in stature. So, some of those things that have been done by race in New South Wales even with not possibly with the best intention have been very successful.
Brad Thompson: Yeah, I want to get your thoughts on track conditions and how they're managed. Always a lot of talk about deliberate overwatering of tracks and rail bias, inaccurate or not regularly updated track conditions in the days before a race. What are some of the solutions you have and what are some of the main gripes you have with track conditions?
Peter Lawrence: Well, it's just been such a big issue for the last 10 or so years, maybe even going back a little bit further than that. I think it started with Terry Watson at Caulfield. He was the first one to start giving out, "The track is dead," in the morning rather than good. I know one of the great track curators said to me one day just before he retired when I first started here, if I produced the track out like it was the highway just out the front of this racecourse people would pat me on the back.
Now, that would be sacrilege to have anything like that. Now, I’m not suggesting we should have necessarily fast or rock-hard tracks but I’ve spoken to a lot of course curators over the last number of years about it. Not one of them has been supportive of the watering of tracks to have them as a dead track on race day. We've got this situation now, where we've changed from calling a track when it's a 4 from being dead.
We now say that that's good, so that sounds better. We also have the race clubs tell the course curators that the tracks should be prepared to be a Good 4 and that's the perfect racing surface. Well, the fact of the matter is the skill and the equipment that they have in on Metropolitan tracks for watering and producing a good four is vastly better than they do in provincial tracks. So, we see these huge swings...
Brad Thompson: Inconsistencies.
Peter Lawrence: ..between... Exactly. Or a track is given out as a Good 4 on race morning and in fact, regularly, it can be anywhere from a 2 to a 6 and it happens all the time. In fact, I think one day at Hawkesbury recently, the track was given out as a 4 or 5 and it was a Heavy 8 when they were coming down the outside fence. Because now, we see the track reports, which used to be well worth listening to on Sky Racing in the morning at 6:30, it's just "Good 4, Good 4, Good 4, Good 4."
Everyone's a Good 4. It really doesn't mean anything because everyone wants to say it's a Good 4. If you've been told Good 4 is the perfect surface, then you're inclined to say it's a Good 4. I think it's probably too late for a solution. I think that it's just the overwhelming idea in the industry is that soft tracks are good and that that's what we should be racing on.
I think every course creator will tell you that it makes preparing the tracks going forward very difficult if you're always racing on water affected surfaces. It creates biases. It means the tracks get chopped up. It's hard to keep them going for the whole of the carnivals. If the overwhelming narrative is that it's better to have tracks soft than to have them good and that what punters like doesn't matter, it's very hard to turn it around.
A lot of the narrative is just wrong. A lot of the narrative is about how horses can't handle a good track but the when a horse gets sent to Hong Kong and they race almost exclusively on good and fast tracks. The same in Japan. And this business of, "Oh, well, now, we have all the imported horses and they're soft-boned and they need the soft tracks," it's just total nonsense. Because throughout my whole life, the great sires in Australia have been European horses like Sir Tristram and Danehill. These horses didn't come from Australia, they were imported.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: All the thoroughbred is an English horse. It's the same breed of horse racing in Japan and Hong Kong and Australia and England. It's not a different breed. But it's become just a narrative that's believed by people. I know that in Hong Kong, if the track isn't good, the curator needs to present a written explanation to the club as to why it wasn't good because they know that good tracks promote turnover and that punters like betting on good tracks.
The turnover declines if the track's slow and is even worse if the track's heavy. It's not a smart move and if you or I owned Randwick Racecourse and our income came from maximizing turnover, the first thing we'd do is have a Good 4 track every day.
Brad Thompson: Watering tracks artificially must cost race clubs quite a lot of money as well not only for the water but for the resources to put the water on the tracks.
Peter Lawrence: Yeah. I'm sure the expenses are huge and then you can't find those figures anywhere, what the actual cost of the water is.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: I know that in Brisbane over the last year, they were trucking in water to put it in the dam in Doomben. The strange thing is that for 30 years, you used to get the paper out in the summer in for the Brisbane races and right down at the top of it, where the fine track fast and you would have these huge fields in Brisbane. But now strangely, Queensland south Australia they, virtually never race on a good track anymore.
At Doomben, they've gone to really trying to have it as a Dead 5 all the time and the same at Morphettville. Unless they race on the parks track, it's not uncommon for Morphettville to actually be a 6 on the day.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. All right, on to another bugbear of punters. The fact that horses can be accepted in two different states or meetings and they're not scratched until race day when in some cases, they've already raced or clearly can't be in two races.
Peter Lawrence: Mm-hmm.
Brad Thompson: What are your thoughts on this one?
Peter Lawrence: Well, it's just another extension of the fact that really nobody cares about the punter, nobody. The race clubs can't be bothered when a horse has won on a Friday afternoon. If they've won a maiden at Moe on the Friday and they're in a maiden at Ballarat on the Sunday and they're $2.50 at Ballarat on the Sunday, they'll still be in there on the Saturday afternoon they've already won the maiden.
Because RVL doesn't care. Who cares? It's only the punters that are going to pay the price for that. A lot of trainers can't be bothered scratching the horse. I think there might even be a fee if they scratch it rather than RVL scratching it.
Horses are in Melbourne and they've already been floated down from Sydney. The trainer can't be bothered scratching it from the race in Sydney because who cares? I think the overriding attitude of "Who cares," is a problem because it is the punter that actually funds the industry.
Brad Thompson: Do you think they just try and pour more resources into things which don't affect the punter too often?
Peter Lawrence: I think that there's... Look, I just think that people take it upon themselves to feel as if they're purists in racing the same way as the purist people took it upon themselves, the purists at the trots. We talked about the trots earlier. People might be surprised to know that the crowd at Harold Park on a Friday night going back 30 or 40 years used to be bigger than it would be at Rosehill on a Saturday.
The purists, within their wisdom at the trots decided that there shouldn't be standing starts anymore because it's clear that what we need to have is mobile starts and give everyone a fair chance. But a lot of the interest in the trots was in the handicapping and coming off mobile start. Now, we mentioned Hondo Grattan, it was the first horse to win in the Inter Dominion twice.
The second time he won it, he won off 30 meters handicap. Well, the Blacks A Fake won the dominion five times, I think. The purists think that's great just like all the money used be... the big money used to be in handicap racing in racing. I think when Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup, it might have been worth 10 times more than the Cox Plate.
Now, all the big money is in weight for age racing. And you see, a lot of the great handicaps have been turned into weight for age races. The TJ Smith used to be a handicap, now it's a weight race. The Durban 10,000 handicap, now it's a weight race. The Goodwood used to be handicapped, now it's weight race. It's boring. But the purists think that they've done... They've really shown how superior they are in that they've made it into something that everyone can love.
But they forget that it's punting that drives racing and they sometimes don't want to accept that fact. Like, I’ve looked at a few things recently on articles written by reasonably knowledgeable people, how do we get people back to the track and we have to focus more on the good stories and we have to focus more on the horse. These things are great to focus on and I’m not saying they aren't important but you won't find a more beautiful horse than in the equestrian at the Olympics.
You won't find a better spectacle than the cross-country equestrian at the Olympics. It's beautiful and the horses are magnificent and the connection between horse and rider is phenomenal but nobody watches it. The reason people are interested in racing is not solely but primarily because of the betting. I think that people, they don't want to admit that. It seems like some sort of dirty secret.
But unless you can promote the excitement. Like I remember seeing just last year, I think it was Ben Asgari from racing.com and they'd backed Vow & Declare in the futures market and there was a shot of them giving each other a massive high-five when it hit the line.
That's exciting and that's what people are drawn to when they're drawn to racing. I'm not saying that the other things aren't important but if you continually move away from that focus and act like racing's a great place to go for a party or to drink champagne, the game's going to die out just the way it died out with the mobile starts. You need people to be excited about backing winners and not think that that's a dirty secret part of racing. It's actually the engine room and the lifeblood of racing.
Brad Thompson: Do you think more should be done to educate young punters or young enthusiasts to get more involved in punting and more educated and informed about punting?
Peter Lawrence: Well, see, it's a very difficult question because clearly, that would be a good thing for the future of the sport and for the future of racing. If they made the percentages 110% and everyone had a great chance of winning and the good punters would win and here's how, you know, you ran a master class, I know, at the Star Casino one time, Dom Beirne did a math class and people would come and try and learn about it.
That'd be great. Also, society's attitudes have changed towards punting and towards gambling in general. One of the great problems with racing is that it didn't do a good enough job differentiating itself from other forms of gaming like poker machines. We often get clumped in together with people who are betting on...
They're not actually betting or gambling, they're just gaming on poker machines because there's no prospect of winning. People see betting on the horses as similar to that. So, it's a little bit on the nose. I guess that people are trying to be careful in race clubs. Let's not promote the gambling aspect too far but by the same token...
Brad Thompson: Even though it funds the game.
Peter Lawrence: Even though it funds the game. That's right.
Brad Thompson: Yep. Well, we've spoken about some of the challenges the industry is facing. Can you tell us about the solutions to some of these problems?
Peter Lawrence: Well, yeah, we don't want it to be all doom and gloom even though I think it's important to be able to critique whatever situation you're looking at and do it honestly. I think one of the issues with racing is that there isn't really much journalistic critiquing of what goes on, perhaps too much rah-rah-ing. But having said that, there are some tremendous positives that have come out of racing in the last 15 or 20 years.
I think the broadcast of racing on the television has improved out of sight. I think the racing.com coverage is great with some lots of young guys that are obviously keen on racing and keen on having a bet. The Sky Saturday coverage is sensational. There's definitely some great things that have happened in racing in recent times.
As far as solutions to some of the real issues that I think confront racing and will confront racing going forward, I think it's a mistake if people think that just by fertilizing the ground and tilling it and extracting as much as you can out of punters' pockets over the last 10 or 15 years, that that situation necessarily will go forward.
I think that there needs to be some reasonably dramatic changes going forward and if I was put in charge of racing as the sole administrator, I think one of the first things I would do would be make all the corporates have to be licensed in the states that they're actually betting in so that they come under the jurisdiction of that state.
I think that the minimum bet should be raised midweek to $5,000 and on Saturdays, $10,000, which would be a considerable hike but TopSport for example, does bet people doing $10,000 on a Saturday. I think the nonsense of you can only back the horse once should be outlawed.
There needs to be some strong stewarding of what's going on with the online bookmakers so that they comply with those new bet limits and comply with the regulations that are in and that there needs to be penalties if they don't comply. I think this business of you log on and it's $3.90 and you type in the bet at $3.90 and then it says, no, bet declined. It's now $3.50. There needs to be some way around that.
I think in an ideal world, I think again, if I was made the ruler of the betting landscape, I’d ban the online bookmakers from offering tote dividends. I think that that has just seen a total cannibalization of the tote pools particularly in exotic betting. I would ban all kickbacks to the huge betting syndicates. A lot of these places are getting a 7-10% kickback and a lot of them have the facility to cancel their bets 15 seconds into a race, which is another area that I think should be looked at and stamped out straight away.
Anyone who tells you that's not the case is just not telling the truth. The average tote player is betting into a market against, A, people that are probably smarter than them, B, people who are getting a 7-10% kickback on their bet and, C, they can cancel their bets 15 seconds into the race. Well, it's impossible to win. The tote needs a complete overhaul. I think if the online bookmakers were banned from offering those tote odds, that you could see a rejuvenation of parimutuel betting.
Brad Thompson: Are you saying the tote would just be available through TAB but wouldn't be available through corporates?
Peter Lawrence: I don't think it should be available through corporates unless the corporates have to put the money back into the TAB.
Brad Thompson: Yeah, fair point.
Peter Lawrence: Now, anyone who thinks that having a national tote pool under the current circumstances is a good idea has just not thought about the idea properly. One of the only places where there is some value in betting at the moment is betting best of the best. Well, under the current scheme, if you had one [01:14:00] national tote pool, that value would disappear.
Brad Thompson: Yeah, that's correct.
Peter Lawrence: But I think if you stop the corporates betting the tote odds, the idea of going to a national pool would have some merit if the TAB takeout was reduced to 10% or I think in fields of under 10, 1% per runner.
So, if there was a field of 5, it would be 105%, field of 7, 107 but in the Melbourne Cup, 110. I think you would see a huge rejuvenation of parimutuel betting in Australia if that was the case and it would be a very vibrant market and if the kickbacks were stopped to the whales. I think that's a very important thing.
Brad Thompson: What's the likelihood of these things coming to fruition and what needs to happen?
Peter Lawrence: Well, in the short term, that some of them aren't... The suggestions I had for the TAB aren't very likely but they may become more likely as the pools continue to dwindle. It just doesn't get much press how much smaller the tote pools are today than they used to be 20 years ago.
But some of the things I suggested there as far as regulating online bookmakers could come in tomorrow if the people who were overseeing racing, if those boards were filled with grassroots people who actually understood racing. You know, by punters, by small-time trainers, by people who make their living out of racing who would like to see a rejuvenation of those things.
Really, for companies whose assets and with betting houses that are worth billions of dollars are only required to bet you to win $1,000. It's just so small. It's ridiculous really. I think the minimum bet really needs to be raised. I think that there needs to be all these places licensed in these states so that there is jurisdiction by the stewards in those states with things like deductions. The only being able to back the horse once, that really... All those things are terrible for turnover and are terrible for punters.
Brad Thompson: On that point, are you saying to be able to back the horse twice through the max limit of 10,000 on a Saturday or beyond the 10,000?
Peter Lawrence: Well, I don't quite understand if you back the horse at $4 and now it's $3.50, why you aren't allowed to back it at the 3.50.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: Or conversely, there's been plenty of times where I might have backed a horse at $3.20 and now, Agency A is betting $4 even though everyone else is $3.90 and they are obviously keen to lay it but I’m not allowed to take the $4. It's because the whole thing is so automated and being run, as we discussed before, as a giant poker machine that there's just nobody working there who is making the decision, "Yes, we'll lay that again."
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: I make the point again, if TopSport, which is a family-owned bookmaking business will bet you to win 10,000 at the $4 and then $10,000 at the $3.50, I just can't quite understand why the other corporates...
Brad Thompson: That make a lot more money.
Peter Lawrence: Which make a lot more money, why they aren't required to bet a reasonable bet. I think these things would really have a big impact on turnover. One of the problems is that a lot of the taxes that have been brought in in the last 10 years particularly, have seen a reduction in turnover because it's not worth it for those corporates.
Brad Thompson: Yeah. Just back on the tote rejuvenation, do you think there's a legitimate appetite to rejuvenate tote betting?
Peter Lawrence: I think that so much of the focus has been on fixed odds and clearly the TAB is doing whatever it can to get people to move into fixed odds. The way the fixed odds is administered at the moment, it's all in favor of the bookmakers. But I do think that so much of the income stream from racing used to come from that parimutuel betting. I know that it's comparing apples and oranges looking at what they do in Hong Kong but a lot of what they do is all about stimulating turnover there.
I do think that there should be, if there isn't an appetite for regenerating the parimutuel, I certainly think that there should be. But it can't be rejuvenated under the current circumstance of the 17-20% take out, the rounding down, not giving dividends in 5-cent increments. All these things have just...so negative to the ongoing success of the TAB.
Brad Thompson: Yeah.
Peter Lawrence: I think that the other thing that sounds a little bit out of left field but going forward, we've seen the money, all the money that's come from taxing punters, going into what looks to be higher prize money. But in almost every respect, owning resources has never been less affordable for the average person. It's only maybe five years ago, I think, that Darren Weir became the first trainer in Australia to train the winners of $10 million in prize money.
Last year, Chris Wallace trained the winners of $40 million in prize money. A lot of this money has been funneled into the pockets of a very few wealthy people. A huge amount of of the money that's been taken from punters has really been put into the pockets of breeders, who by and large, I’m not talking about the small breeders or the hobby breeders, but the big conglomerates like Coolmore and Godolphin etc.
They really don't return anything to the industry. I think that getting them to pay their fair share is certainly an important thing. On the issue of racehorse affordability, I can remember in, I think, 1999, I was at the Magic Millions. Laurie Bricknell and I bought a Marscay filly that was $40,000 and that was the median price at that sale. I think a year or two ago at the Sydney Easter Sale, the average price for a yearling was $430,000.
Well, it's got completely out of the reach of the average person to own a horse either on their own or with a friend. That is a big issue. I think it was a sad thing really, for racing, that Bob Charlie failed in his attempt to get artificial insemination legalized here. I think bringing the costs down of owning racehorses is an important thing going forward to keep the industry vibrant.
Brad Thompson: It'd be a great way to keep grassroots people interested in the game as well.
Peter Lawrence: Absolutely, absolutely.
Brad Thompson: Just back on the point about, which is, I think, is an important point, which is getting grassroots racing people onto these boards which make decisions. How have we got to the point where we don't have representation on there and how likely is it that someone will put their hand up? [01:22:00] Is the problem that nobody from a racing background with a grassroots punting background is nominating for these boards or they're just not getting accepted into these type of boards?
Peter Lawrence: I think that there's been a concerted push by people in charge of those boards to get people who don't know anything about racing onto the boards so that they'll be more compliant.
Brad Thompson: Yeah, yeah.
Peter Lawrence: Now having experience of being on a board might be a great thing but if you don't have any experience with being involved in racing, I’m not sure that you bring any great value to that board going forward. Going back when Jack Ingham and Lloyd Williams and people like that were big characters in racing and on boards, I’m sure racing was much better off having people who really knew about what was going on making the decisions.
Brad Thompson: Fantastic, Peter. Well, great to get your thought from the game and to identify a couple of ways we can try and improve the game for everyone. Wonderful to finish on that point.
Peter Lawrence: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Brad.
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