The unsung heroes of the racing industry will be formally recognised following the High Court’s decision to uphold NSW legislation requiring betting firms to pay a turnover fee to use race fields.
Racing NSW will next week begin to release funds in excess of $100 million it has been holding pending the outcome of the case, with strappers to get a share of prize money.
Working split shifts six days a week for the minimum wage is the lot of those who take care of thoroughbreds worth millions of dollars.
They rely on the generosity of owners who may slip them a couple of hundred dollars after a win, but mostly they do it for the love of the animal.
Part of the funding model released by Racing NSW on Friday provides for a percentage of prize money to be dedicated to strappers.
“This is not a victory for Racing NSW, it’s a victory for the 50,000 participants who work in the racing industry,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said.
“People have been using their labour free of charge and making hundreds of millions of dollars worth of profit.
“Now they’re going to have to pay for that labour and that’s the big win for us.
“We can increase prize money, spend money on infrastructure and make life a bit easier for our participants.
“We’ve got a long way to go yet. This is stage one but at least next week we can announce some substantial prize money increases and there will be a payment made to strappers out of prize money which we promised if we won this case.
“We will look at everybody in the industry from the strapper to the jockey to the owner to the float driver.
“Everyone’s going to profit from this.”
Racing NSW expects to collect around $50 million per year from the fees with improvements to racetracks, particularly in the country, among the priorities.
Racing NSW chairman John Messara has been touring country areas in recent weeks and said safety was high on the list.
“There is much to be done to improve the viability of our participants and to assist race clubs with track and infrastructure improvements, especially in country areas,” he said.