6 March 2023

Questions after Black Opal Stakes left off Tourism Minister's promotional list

| Claire Fenwicke
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horse racing

The Black Opal Stakes is Thoroughbred Park’s largest event of the year. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The ACT Government has downplayed a social media post from the Territory’s Tourism Minister after a major sporting event was left off his post promoting what’s on this month.

Chief Minister and Tourism Minister Andrew Barr put up a graphic on his accounts spruiking several March events in Canberra – including the Enlighten Festival, the Canberra Comedy Festival and Wine Machine Canberra – but failed to include the Black Opal Stakes, which is marking its 50th anniversary this year.

Shadow Minister for Racing Mark Parton slammed the move, questioning why Mr Barr wouldn’t highlight the ACT’s largest racing carnival, which attracts thousands to the Territory.

“While publicly the Chief Minister has previously stated his Government is not trying to end horse racing in the ACT and would like the industry to become more self-sufficient, it is astounding he has decided not to include the Black Opal when promoting Canberra events during March,” Mr Parton said.

“It is clear the Chief Minister is beholden to the ACT Greens, and he has no interest in promoting Canberra events that do not suit his world view.”

The Greens have previously not kept their opposition to horse racing in the capital a secret.

The party refused to back $40 million in government funding for the sector last year, while it has also previously petitioned to end public funding for the sport.

Also, a Melbourne Cup Day release of the draft District Strategies and the draft Territory Plan included an option for Thoroughbred Park to be developed without the racetrack.

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The Black Opal Stakes and Canberra Cup are expected to host more than 12,000 people across the upcoming long weekend, which Mr Parton said would greatly benefit the economy.

“This year will see the 50th running of the Black Opal and is likely to bring many people to the ACT that will benefit hotels, restaurants and local businesses, but the Chief Minister does not think that is worth promoting,” he said.

“I think it is embarrassing that the Chief Minister has actively decided not to promote this important Canberra event and further highlights this Government is trying to end racing in the ACT.”

Mr Barr’s office has rebuffed the suggestion the omission of the horse-racing events from the social media post was intentional.

“The Chief Minister’s social media post is not an exhaustive list of events in March and did not purport to be so,” an ACT Government spokeswoman said.

“The racing carnival is highlighted in the ‘What’s On in March’ section in the printed edition of Our Canberra.”

Other sporting events in March were also left off the list, such as local Raiders and Brumbies football matches.

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Canberra Racing Club chair Les Boag said this carnival was shaping up to be the largest since its inception, and invited the ACT Government to show its full support.

“Government have included us in the letterbox drop, which is appreciated, but hasn’t yet advised if they will support our request for social and CBR tourism promotion in the week leading into this very special celebration,” Mr Boag said.

“We wish to work well together with the Government to maximise the benefit to Canberra.”

Mr Boag said the carnival would showcase the best of the region and support many of the area’s artisan producers.

“Our partnership with the community is a bigger focus than ever before and we are excited to announce that Hall Markets will join us on our second event day – Canberra Cup Race Day – with a major focus on children’s entertainment to make this a really significant community event,” he said.

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Never seen an industry that gets so butthurt it isn’t seen as the be all of everything as the racing industry.

Yes it should have been included – but does it really matter?

And does it really draw that many people from elsewhere to visit the region?

Outside of those directly engaged (i.e. with horses or interests in runners), and outside of those in the relative region around Canberra (i.e. where Canberra is effectively an events hub), how many people truly travel to Canberra just because of the Canberra racing carnival?

The industry will claim it is a lot of people – but I’d be surprised if it is of particular significance, even in comparison to something like the Brumbies or the Raiders. The industry thinks otherwise, but it does really only appeal to a certain demographic and segment of the overall community.

I think you should have actually read the article, the industry representative wasn’t the one complaining, the Liberal opposition was making the most amount of noise.

Although it does clearly show where the government’s priorities lie when they include “pride weekend” which wasn’t even a Canberra thing as well as a number of smaller events but leave off the biggest racing event in the ACT on the 50th anniversary.

“The industry thinks otherwise, but it does really only appeal to a certain demographic and segment of the overall community.”

So just like every other event held here then?

Capital Retro11:13 am 08 Mar 23

The name “black opal” probably offends some people so the editor probably cancelled it.

More acceptable would have been “hydrated amorphous silica with a dark hue”

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