MJC boss wants quiet revolution

Robin Parke

DO not expect fireworks from Ray Alexander, the new chief executive of the Macau Jockey Club. But be prepared for a quiet revolution.

The former secretary-general manager of the respected Australian Jockey Club (AJC) is carefully fitting into the scene at Taipa or, as many would believe, carefully picking his way through the daily minefield.

The 53-year-old one-time journalist shocked racing circles in Australia when he quit his high-profile position for Macau and the uncertainties of Taipa.

He is there for three years and gives himself until the end of the present calendar year to really make his presence felt.

''I'm positive about it all otherwise what was the sense of me coming here? But it's no good sitting back here and thinking that everything is ticking over nicely. There are things to be done and they will be, but not overnight.

''But I would expect by the end of the year that we will have moved strongly in several areas,'' he says.

Do not be surprised if that means new faces at the complex, particularly in the ranks of licensed personnel.

''Any racing club or business needs to attract the best available. It is not always possible, of course, but I do strongly believe that there are jockeys and trainers available who would come to Macau and enhance our racing,'' he says.

Improving certain highly visible problem areas of Macau racing is a priority for Alexander, as is stiffening up the racing judiciary there.

The MJC was badly hit recently with the departure of Dudley Feldman to Singapore and the death of Les Muirhead after a heart attack and operation.

Former acting chief stipendiary stewart Tom McGinley is back at the course but this is a stop-gap operation.

It makes sense for the MJC to recruit in Australia and Alexander confirms this.

He says: ''There are one or two excellent stipendiary stewards in Australia and I have had talks with a couple of them.

''I do not want to prejudice those discussions at this stage by naming names but we will have a top-line chief stipendiary steward at Taipa before long.'' Alexander brings a wealth of experience to his new position but the question insiders ask is just how much control he will exercise.

Predecessor Edmund Wong Ming-nan, who did not endear himself to many on the complex, has been switched to the position of executive director and still flits about the administrative area.

Alexander diplomatically plays down suggestions of overt or covert interference from Wong or directors.

''Obviously, there has to be a transition period. I have just arrived here, having only briefly seen Macau once before. I don't know the people and there has to be a settling-in process.

''I am familiarising myself with the people and the operation,'' he says.

Alexander has a reputation as a hard worker who gets things done - and that is the dictum he will follow at Taipa.

''I have had a couple of interesting meetings here in recent days. I had one pencilled in the other day for an hour with the racing department and it lasted for three.

''We had everyone tossing in ideas and discussing them. I thought it was fruitful but, more importantly, showed that people wanted to be involved,'' he says.

Left unsaid is the suggestion that previously it was one or two men taking the decisions - and the rest jumping to obey.

The Taipa totalisator has apparently come out at $20 million with the quasi-legal bookmakers not operating for the past six weeks.

''That is a situation that will have to be permanently resolved, one way or the other. If they are going to be legalised in some way, then we must work it out.

''Otherwise they're gone. I consider this to be another real priority here,'' says Alexander, who missed the current Asian Racing Conference annual meeting in Manila to remain at his Taipa post.

Since the present shutdown in bookmaking operations started, the MJC Telebet has grown encouragingly and Alexander sees this as another aspect of the operation that deserves attention.

''Telebetting and up-to-the-minute information go hand in hand. We are pleased with the level of support but want to see it go higher. We are looking into a couple of ideas that could prove fruitful,'' he says.

Alexander is convinced of the potential of Macau - a prime reason he took the job.

''I'm not here to twiddle my thumbs for three years. A number of people spoke to me and they virtually all talked about the potential of Macau.

''Well, it's that potential that I want to see realised. But I do not want to see Macau compared to Hongkong, that's ridiculous.

''Nor do I necessarily like the slavish copying here of everything that Hongkong does or has done. I think we can establish a separate identity and carve out a name for ourselves.

''It won't be easy and it will mean a lot of hard work. I have never been afraid of that and I do expect the same from those around me,'' he says.

Alexander has not blown into Taipa like a late summer typhoon. It is simply not his style.

But he has brought the qualities of determination and dedication to the position.

And he is no mean politician, either.

Given his head, and a bit of luck, he could be the man to turn Taipa around.