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Turf war threatens global status, says Scone racing icon

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One of racing’s most influential administrators believes Australia’s standing as a leader on the international thoroughbred stage will be compromised unless a turf row involving NSW and Victoria can be resolved.

Scone’s John Messara, who quit his post last week as Racing Australia’s first independent chairman after he was unable to broker a peace deal between the warring states, says a unified industry is essential for the sport’s wellbeing.

“The overwhelming feedback I receive is that the majority of participants want cohesive national leadership to guide the industry through the continual challenges that affect us all,” the head of Arrowfield Stud told industry publication Thoroughbred Daily News.

NSW and Victoria racing administrators’ industries have been at loggerheads for several years.

On the back of new races carrying hefty purses, Racing NSW has muscled in on prime spring racing timeslots that have long been the domain of the Victorian scene.

The move has caused much angst among traditionalists who argue such creations have undermined what is known as the Pattern – a system that helps benchmark racing around the world.

“There is a solution, but it is dependent on the goodwill of the various states,” Messara said.

“Quite a bit of work has been done on modernising the Pattern and, again, it’s a case of getting around the table with a determination to achieve an outcome.

“It has been a huge effort over many years by many people to lift Australian racing to the level of international respect it now enjoys, and I believe that a degradation of our Pattern would set us back in that regard.”

The renewed spotlight on Australian racing’s infighting came on the eve of The Championships, which kicked off in Sydney at the weekend.

Messara was a driving force behind the prestigious event, two days of high-quality racing at Randwick, during his time as Racing NSW chairman.

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