IS THE AGE SITTING ON MORE JOCKEY BETTING SCANDALS?
It’s that time of the year in Melbourne and for horse racing – like no other we have experienced anywhere else in Australia or for that matter in the world. Melbourne just gets so involved in the Spring Racing carnival and stops full stop at around 3pm for the race that was once billed as “the race that stops a nation”. That might change with the international profile that the Spring Racing carnival and the Melbourne Cup particularly has gained over the past few years. What the late Robert Sangster once described as a “week long cocktail party” has grown into so much more; it has transcended all demographics who have fairly and squarely claimed ownership of the week long cocktail party.
But as the Melbourne Cup and the Spring Racing carnival are front and centre, the clouds hanging over the Victorian racing industry have just got darker. From what we heard over the weekend, the storm clouds are about to take a tornado-like proportions.
If what we are being told is correct, the Age and Fairfax media are about to dump more dirt on the jockey betting scandals that have plagued Victorian racing for the past three months or so. If the rumours are right, the next instalment in this very sorry and poisonous saga could hit the headlines around the middle of the week or on the weekend.
It is claimed that three more jockeys – two very high profile and the other a lesser known “pint sized melon”- are set to be named for betting on races. On of the two high profile jockeys, is as big a name as you can get in Australian racing having won just about every Group One race on the Australian racing calendar and has already stamped his name on the Group Ones this spring.
The second jock does not have the profile or record of the first, but nevertheless is a very successful rider who has ridden with success in Hong Kong.
The third is more of a bit player who could find himself stacking supermarket shelves if he falls foul of the rules of racing.
But it’s not just the jockeys that are wearing the worry beads in Victoria at this time. Some well known names in the training ranks appear to be competing vigorously with the jockeys hoping to do better than them in the race to outdo them for the unwanted headlines that racing can do without. Puncture marks on the necks of horses, tubing equipment found in stables on race day and some unfavourable results of DNA testing, are the sorts of headlines that has sent Racing Victoria hierarchy into a state of almost permanent damage control.
Having said all of this, the reality is that no one has been charged with any breach of the rules of racing – YET. The evidence that a tornado is about to cut a swathe through Victorian racing is compelling. What is utterly frustrating from a racing perspective is the now well rehearsed lines that are being trotted out about the inability of Racing Victoria to access intelligence and relevant information from Victoria Police to get on top of this sad and sorry mess. Surely the powers that be can short circuit the red tape and show some leadership in at least reversing the perception that Victorian racing is shambolic in relation to its ability to act decisively and strategically when it comes to questions of integrity and its participants playing by the Rule Book?
The great danger for Victorian racing is that post carnival, the blow torch will be well and truly applied to its very tender belly. And that may involve the types of judicial inquires that could well and truly open Pandora’s box.
QUESTIONS ABOUT NEW VRC BOSS
David Courtney had barely been appointed the new Chief Executive of the VRC when racing’s well oiled rumour mill went into overdrive. It appears that the ex-CEO of Crown Casino had instigated legal action against his former employer for over $1.2 million in remuneration after his employment was terminated in 2010 at the biggest game in town in Melbourne town.
“And now, my Gangnam Style Dance shall begin.”
His appointment to one of the most coveted management positions in Australian sport was greeted with a “David who?” response by just about everyone in racing. And predictably when the circumstances surrounding his departure from Crown were shrouded in a pall of white smoke, it made the VRC appointment even more intriguing.
Our sources suggest there may have been some pretty serious irreconcilable differences between David Courtney and both James Packer and Crown’s most senior executive Rowan Craigie over a range of matters, and like most marriages in Anglo Saxon societies, it is difficult to include bigamy in a marriage contract.
That said, the timing of the VRC announcement, last Thursday, almost on Derby eve, and on the cusp of incumbent Chief Executive Dale Monteith’s departure raised more than just the cursory set of eyebrows. Perhaps it was deliberate, but the appointment was much anticipated and will continue to be the subject of speculation, with its almost matter of fact announcement.
What we have been told about David Courtney is that he has very strong financial management skills and commercial expertise. We are not so certain of his racing knowledge and understanding of an industry that in many ways operates in a vacuum and has done so for many years and is paying a bitter price for it. However it is important for the Victorian racing industry to give David Courtney a go. The Victorians, more than ever, need to close ranks and stop the bleeding that is occurring.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
We have no idea about the very public spat and jabs that took place at Shatin yesterday between trainers David Hall and Sean Woods and some with the HKJC’s veterinarian services, but it just didn’t read well. It left a bad taste in our mouths and, rightly or wrongly, gave the impression that unsound horses are being patched up with a jab here and a jab there to keep them racing when they should be retired.
Perhaps all this jabbing- and some jockeys were surprised to hear from David Hall that this is pretty much common practice- this is not breaking any rules per se, but it will make many, especially the Chinese racing media with long memories, think of someone like “Doctor” Patrick “Snake Venom” Biancone and his medicinal bag that has seen him come undone so many times in the US.
Chris Riggs, the HKJC’s head of veterinary clinical services, was damn right to ask if Hong Kong racing wanted to go down the same slippery slope as American racing with its lasix, basics, Cialis, coke and gawd knows what else administered to horses on an ad hoc basis.
What’s worse is that from this little story which could have been handled and discussed over a beer and where cool heads would have prevailed, we can now say that tongues are already wagging, there is plenty of bullshit flying around and every time there are now any form reversals, more conspiracy theories than will be thrown out and it will all become a mountain instead of being a molehill that was could have been based around the old saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” This was unnecessary publicity and, no, not all publicity is good publicity.
Hopefully, the negativity of this public spat will not cloud the positive aspects of what the HKJC has achieved and the problems it has fought bloody hard to rectify.
The other worrying aspect of Hong Kong racing is the loud chorus of gloating from the usual suspects about the somewhat dry spell Douglas Whyte is going through. We know where and who and why this almost choreographed gloating is being orchestrated by who have some axe to grind against Hong Kong’s champion jockeys and with some others who are easily led joining in and sounding like vultures and a murder of crows. It’s schoolboy crap.
Douglas Whyte is a champion bloke and has been Hong Kong’s Champion Jockey for twelve consecutive fucking years and no one can take that away from me. He’s had blips before and he has risen to the challenge- and won. He loves a good fight and he loves to prove his knockers wrong. Don’t worry about him, boys and girls with nothing better to do with your time. The Durban Dragon will breathe fire and many people will choke on their words. And that’s a dinner we wouldn’t want to miss. Same goes for those who smile to our faces and try and stab us in the back. It won’t work, kiddies, and here are two words for you:
2012 MELBOURNE CUP ATTRACTS A QUALITY FIELD
If the 2012 VRC Derby will be remembered for its sub-standard field, then the reverse surely is true of this year’s Melbourne Cup. Putting aside, the odd “walker” or three or should have been turfed out of the final field for the likes of Brigantin and Shawardi in particular, the depth of the Cup field is beyond doubt. It is one of the best quality field of stayers in the world’s richest staying handicap ever assembled.
The status of the race, the carnival and everything about Melbourne at this time of the year is what keeps bringing Luca Cumani, Godolphin, Alain du Royer Dupre, Ed Dunlop, Dermot Weld, Mikel Delzangles back each year. It is the reason Andre Fabre entered Brigantin for the race. It is why Australian owners and trainers are embarking on a spending orgy in Europe to buy the next Melbourne Cup winner, and will continue to pillage the staying ranks in Europe.
For Frankie Dettori, in particular, the 2012 Cup will be a special and lasting moment in his life and career. It will be his last ride for Godolphin when he mounts Cavalryman. Frankie and Godolphin have been a regular double act for many years on the first Tuesday in November. It would be an ironic yet fitting finale to one of racing’s greatest partnerships in the modern era, if he can salute the judge. Cavalryman is a longshot in the race, but racing and romance are inseparable.
The race has so much going for it this year – Dunaden and Americain shooting for dual victories in the race. Then there’s Red Cadeaux who failed last year by a nostril to share the victory podium with Dunaden, and Mount Athos and My Quest For Peace, desperately striving to give Luca Cumani his maiden victory. And the wily old fox Dermot Weld who has won the race twice, aiming to make it a hat-trick of wins with Galileo’s Choice whose CV boasts two Hurdle wins in Ireland. And what would a Melbourne Cup be without master trainer Bart Cummings? This year racing’s legend has two runners – Sanagas and Precedence. What a victory it would be for Bart Cummings to win his 13th Melbourne Cup with a German bred import in Sanagas.