OFFICIALS from Nathan Tinkler’s Patinack Farm have hit out at reports the mining magnate’s racing empire is on the brink of collapse.
Four Patinack Farm horses were scratched from Brisbane racing on Saturday, fueling speculation the embattled former billionaire was about to pull the pin on his lavish racing operation, The Courier Mail reports.
However, Tinkler Group spokesman Tim Allerton said minor flooding at Patinack’s Canungra base, and not financial pressure, was the reason behind Saturday’s scratchings.
“There was a wash-out at the track some weeks ago and horses have not been able to train properly,” he said.
“We didn’t want to race horses that were only half-fit.”
He said work was being done to repair the Canungra track work facility, which should be fully operational again by the end of the month.
“Until that is back up and running we will only be racing a minimum number of horses over the next few weeks,” said Mr Allerton.
Yesterday, The Courier Mail reported that racing stewards were believed to have conducted a raid on Patinack Farm’s Canungra stables this morning to check on the condition of Nathan Tinkler’s horses.
The raid follows the surprise scratching of Patinack’s four runners at Doomben on Saturday, with Count Encosta, Boys On Tour, Reflectance and Sookie all taken out.
Speculation on the Queensland arm of the business has been growing following several below par performances in recent weeks from Patinack trained runners, which had previously been performing in superb form under the guidance of Thompson and Queensland stable manager Brett Killion.
Racing industry insiders claim the Newcastle Knights owner is set to place his Queensland operations on ice until his business empire bounces back from mounting debts.
More than 30 people are employed at Patinack’s Canungra base in the Gold Coast hinterland and many are already reportedly looking for new jobs as speculation continues that Mr Tinkler’s racing empire is on borrowed time.
The mogul has closed his Melbourne stables and speculation continues that Queensland will be next to go.
Patinack Farm has 15 horses listed for sale at next month’s Magic Millions carnival after more than 300 were offloaded in a fire sale earlier this year.
Retail king Gerry Harvey has confirmed loaning Mr Tinkler millions of dollars.
A win to Ferment in NSW at the weekend was a rare bright spot for Patinack on the same day four horses were scratched at Doomben, sending the racing rumour mill into overdrive.
No Patinack horse has won in Brisbane for 28 starts, placing further financial strain on the business.
Patinack Farm is easily the biggest employer at Canungra, but locals say many staff have had enough.
“It’s already come out that a lot of them weren’t getting their super and a lot of them are looking for new jobs,” a Canungra trader said.
“They can see the writing on the wall and it’s been the talk of the town.”
Another trader said it would be a sad end to a sorry saga if Mr Tinkler closed Canungra’s Patinack operations.
“It’s sad because when he set up Patinack out here everyone thought of him as a saviour who was going to drive the economy for the whole town,” he said.
“But he got a lot of people offside right from the start.”
Some contractors and suppliers contacted by The Courier-Mail yesterday said they were paid up to date, but others have cut their losses.
Mr Tinkler bought his Canungra holdings three years ago for a reported $28 million, but real estate agents said he would be lucky to get close to $20 million for it now.
Read more at The Courier Mail.