The thoroughbred racing industry can sniff a quid, especially a taxpayer-funded hand-out, at 2000 metres on a wet track.

The Federal Government has already promised a $110 million assistance package to compensate for the ravages of the horse flu epidemic but the industry reckons there’s a lot more in the kitty.

A carefully orchestrated push is on for hundreds of millions of dollars more following the death of the Tamworth-based gelding Tip of the Iceberg last weekend.

But first, a brief history lesson. During the Hawke Government the barons of the racing industry began to complain bitterly about the commonwealth’s stringent quarantine regime. They maintained it was a noose around the neck of the industry, a costly and time-wasting process that was holding back the movement of thoroughbreds to racing carnivals and studs across Australia.

They found a ready listener in Bob Hawke, the shocking punter and glad-handing friend of pre-eminent trainers like Colin Hayes and Bart Cummings. As a result, the quarantine regulations for horses were modified and reformed. Having demanded changes to the system, it is a bit rich for the moneybags of racing to now complain that quarantine operations are too lax!

And how ironic if former High Court judge Ian “Tub” Callinan QC, who has been handpicked by Prime Minister John Howard to head the official inquiry into the flu epidemic, should lay the blame at the door of the Hawke Government and recommend compensation to the racing industry of, say, $300 million.

If Kevin Rudd is elected PM at the end of next month, the Callinan report could be one of the first guano sandwiches to land on his desk. Nice timing.