Racing gets some bad headlines at the worst possible time.

With autumn racing carnivals in Sydney and Melbourne moving into top gear in the coming weeks, some of publicity over the last week for racing in both cities could hardly have come at a worse time.

And it’s also very unhelpful for the frolic they are indulging with the establishment of their own pay television racing channel. Pity that!

The Australia Day “no race” at Caulfield was truly a farce, and a blot on Melbourne racing. And the way the Melbourne Racing Club has handled the matter since has made it even worse.

The Blue Diamond Preview was a black type event and a lead up race to the Blue Diamond Stakes, one of the premier two years old event on the Australian racing calendar.

The Preview was won impressively by Langness, owned by the estate of Robert Sangster, and trained by Tony McEvoy.

But the stewards rightly viewed the film of the start of the race, before declaring it a “no race”. It was clear to anyone watching the start that a couple of horses got a “flying start”.

That being so, the starters response should have been to declare a false start, have the runners vetted, and then rerun the race. But because that did not happen the jockeys were obliged to ride their horses out to the finish, only to find out their efforts had all been in vain.

Now it so happens that the horses that got a flying start ran poorly! The flying start was of no advantage in the end.

But the no race decision, and no rerun, might cost the connection of Langness, and even the placegetters, plenty. Suppose the filly breaks down and is retired to stud? Its stud value will be a fraction of what it would be had it had a black type race after its name.

That farce came on top of complaints (again) about “track bias” at Caulfield in recent weeks. I struggle to bet on Caulfield because the track is so unpredictable. One day the outside races better, another day the inside does. And when it rains it can quickly become a bog.

Not a great week for Melbourne Racing. And it did not get much better in Sydney.

The Australian Jockey Club (AJC) was forced to announce last week massive cuts in the prize money for its autumn carnival, the club’s showcase carnival of the racing year.

The “reasons” given by the AJC were the ending of the lucrative San Miguel sponsorship, and the demand by the controlling authority, Racing NSW, that the metropolitan clubs lift base prize money for both Saturday and Midweek races (non black type or listed events).

Even the “Frank Packer Plate” has had its prize money reduced, as have virtually all events on the carnival days that will feature the AJC Derby, Doncaster and Sydney Cup.

I have looked up the AJC website, and surprise, surprise among the proliferation of “good news” press statements, not one mention of the reduced prize money!

Despite this, the AJC continues to be part of a consortium promoting its own pay television racing channel, through the entity effectively by the clubs, ThoroughVisioN.

And if you go to the ThoroughVisioN (TVN) site you will find this extraordinary statement:

“Although TVN is an independent company to date, it is fully funded by the thoroughbred horse racing industry, its key beneficiaries, partners and supporters.”

Really? How can TVN be an “independent” company when it is “fully funded by the thoroughbred racing industry”?????

It is NOT an “independent” company at all, and now the ACCC has cleaned up Flight Centre for misleading advertising it might have a look at TVN as well!

The ACCC might find the TVN.com.au site very interesting indeed. It proudly boasts that it manages the thoroughbred racing rights for all racing in Victoria, and seeks to manage other racing rights throughout Australia and globally.

That’s fine, but is it fine if TVN is in fact a company seeking to not only manage the rights, but tender for them itself? Where is the transparency in that?

The website is even more interesting. It says “TVN currently deals exclusively with racing’s most important partner, Sky Channel.”

What a load of absolute codswallop!

TVN, and the Sydney/Melbourne race clubs, seem hell bent on ending Sky Channel’s rights to cover Sydney and Melbourne racing, a move that will slash Sky’s value, and damage its owner, Tabcorp. In fact the “truce” between Sky and Sydney Racing ends this weekend, and yet another “blackout” may follow, with TVN cranking up its coverage to hotels and clubs, and, it hopes, to digital pay TV viewers.

So much for “racing’s most important partner”.

Sky Channel is far from perfect. It is very profitable, thanks to the very high fees pubs and clubs have to pay for the Sky Channel service. But if Sky loses the rights to Sydney and Melbourne racing, then the pub and club owner will be hit hardest.

The pub and club owner will have to pay one fee to Sky for the trots, dogs, and Qld, SA and WA racing (and NSW country racing), and another fee to TVN for Sydney and Melbourne racing.

How can that possibly be in the best interests of the racing industry, something TVN is committed to advancing?

Fortunately, Racing NSW has indicated it is taking a “close interest” in the TVN proposal, a proposal that is rumoured to be costing the race clubs $10 million to establish. Maybe the State Racing Ministers might be encouraged to do so as well.

The simple question that needs to be answered is this – if the Sydney/Melbourne racing industry can afford to outlay $10 million on a pay channel, why can’t the industry get its race tracks in order, and why can’t it avoid farcical “no race” incidents like the Blue Diamond Prelude.

I think their priorities are completely wrong, and their transparency non-existent.