Racing Queensland has announced that chariot racing will replace harness racing throughout the state from next year.
Under new rules, all standardbred racehorses will be required to pull chariots, rather than sulkies, at TAB meetings from the beginning of the 2014/2015 season.
Racing Queensland board member Harvey Head said that the decision was made in the best interests of horse-drawn racing in the state.
“Like carsickness, harness racing is a relic of a bygone era,” said Mr Head. “Once upon a time people would go to the gallops on a Saturday afternoon then to the trots on a Saturday night. A lot of those people would even have been carsick in between. But now with the internet and greater exposure to cars no one is going to the trots any more and no one is getting carsick. It’s sad but it’s true.”
Mr Head said the move to chariot racing would be visually exciting and would draw large crowds back to deserted Queensland pacing venues.
“Imagine if you could see the chariot race from Ben Hur not just once but eight times at any given meeting. We’ll have people busting down the door. You can bet on it.”
The LNP government has applauded Racing Queensland’s willingness to take an old idea and present it as something new.
Minister for Racing Steve Dickson confirmed that harness racing trainers in Queensland would be eligible for a one-off government subsidy to replace their sulkies with chariots.
Mr Dickson also assured Christian groups that there was nothing sinister in Racing Queensland’s request to import and breed lions as part of its long-term strategic plan.