STOP TRASHING THE IMAGE OF RACING!
Racing is unquestionably it’s own worst enemy. Need convincing? Just listen to a podcast of an interview on Melbourne radio station RSN conducted by host Shane Anderson with Australian Racing Board Chief Executive Peter “toffee tongue” McGauran.
Being alerted to the interview we connected up to the podcast and it clearly demonstrated why racing has such a putrid odour about it among the community at large.
There’s no denying that racing has historically had it’s share of cheats – jockeys, trainers, bookmakers, owners, strappers, and yes, even administrators have fallen foul of the rules of racing, and they have been punished.
Some have even been punished with career ending penalties. And the reality is that in every profession, commercial or otherwise, and all over the globe, there will always be those who break the rules, deliberately or otherwise. In no way does that excuse rule breakers.
But it is one thing to tighten up every loophole in the rules of racing and throw the book at the “cheats” and pump hundreds of thousands of dollars into research and decoding the holy grail of performance enhancing drugs; but why does racing keep going out of its way to exaggerate the drug problem, a problem which, as recent events worldwide has shown, is almost endemic in other sports?
Despite their annus horribilis with drugs and match fixing, you don’t see the NRL, or the AFL or Cricket Australia or the Soccer Federation or Cycling falling over each other to get the media headlines to trash the image of their sports and their brands.
Not so with racing.
When you read and hear the most senior administrators of racing – the keepers of the faith- incessantly talking up the so-called drug problems and “cheating” in racing, how can anyone in the community not form the inescapable conclusion that corruption in Australian racing is entrenched in its DNA.
The reality is that the community at large is only just waking up to the fact that some of the so called “untouchable” and “pristine” sports – like rugby league, like Australian Rules football, like soccer, like cycling have joined the conga line with cricket, swimming, athletics, to name just a few, are as tainted, if not more, than racing.
So what does racing do? Go out of its way and take every opportunity to remind the community that it, too, is still part of the toxic mix of the cheating, match fixing and drug scandals, which is now endemic in these sports.
It is no surprise that racing chooses to go down this path. It is as always a further demonstration of the quality of its leadership.
Boards of racing governing bodies in the various States, their Chief Executives and upper management are anything but five star quality. Most would struggle to achieve a two start rating.
Racing does not encourage or attract the best available talent to manage its business.
Its executives and upper management would fail every imaginable and acceptable measure of success.
Racing’s leadership is shackled to the past.
Listening to “Toffee Tongue”, one could be forgiven for believing that racing was in a state of prolonged crisis – that drugs and cheating was rampant and out of control when the figures from his own organization – the Australian Racing Board (ARB) show otherwise. And convincingly so.
According to his own statistics, Australian racing is NOT suffering from a drugs and cheating epidemic or crisis. If anything the statistics show that there is a significant disincentive to administer performance enhancing drugs, to cheat, and to fix races. The ARB statistics are beyond dispute.
“Toffee Tongue” talks about the need to invest heavily in research – to fine tune and unearth tests for the sinister synthetic and presently undetectable peptides and other related performance enhancing drugs that are being continually being developed for human and equine athletes.
He’s right. But what “Toffee Tongue” needs to do is get off his high horse posturing, move his arse into another gear and communicate with his opposite number in every other sport that is facing a drugs, cheating, match fixing or any other integrity related crisis and seek common ground and a united position to put to the Federal Government so that these problems can be addressed on a national level and be funded and legislated accordingly.
Perhaps “Toffee Tongue” can use the political skills which one assumes he would have acquired during his Canberra days and knock on the door of his colleagues in the newly elected Abbott Government and do Australian sport a favour and get some action happening.
Somehow the odds are that most of us will be in that equine heaven before we see any action on this front.
THE UNDERWOOD: THE BEST OF THE BEST.
Saturday’s Underwood Stakes in Melbourne is arguably the best quality weight for age race for at least the last decade if not more.
Eight champion multiple Group One winning racehorses including the unbeaten superstar Atlantic Jewel to face the starter. Does it get any better?
There is little doubt that the spring racing in Sydney and in Melbourne is of the highest quality. It has reached a new peak with the likes of Atlantic Jewel, Puissance De Lune, Fiorente, It’s a Dundeel, Green Moon, Sea Moon, Royal Descent, Foreteller, Hawkspur, Super Cool, Commanding Jewel to mention just a few.
Add to this list the high quality internationals whose arrivals are imminent including Hong Kong champion sprinter Lucky Nine, and spring racing is poised to capture the hearts and minds of many fringe dwellers on the periphery of racing like it has never done before.
It is a marketer’s dream, and from what we are hearing, racing has commanded prime position in many outdoor billboards and is being talked about everywhere like never before.
Let’s hope the boffins that are in charge of racing over there realize that it is the champion horses and the social opportunities that will give them the positive headlines and have the turnstiles and wagering ticking over, and not the negative distractions that seem to have a magnetic attraction for some of the racing police and their superiors.
GAI ON THE MOVE?
The noises in the Sydney press suggesting that Gai Waterhouse is about to pull up stumps and move over to Melbourne, or “bleak city” as one racing scribe described its southern neighbour, seem far fetched to say the least.
There is little doubt that Gai feels somewhat marginalized by NSW racing administrators and decision makers.
The More Joyous saga and recent conflicts with NSW racing administrators have taken their toll leaving a legacy of differences which may yet prove to be irreconcilable.
But to pull up stumps and move her racing operation out of Randwick will be one of the biggest calls ever made in Australian racing.
Gai IS Sydney racing. She is Sydney through and through, and while it is highly likely that she will have a larger ands more regular presence at Flemington and is a big fan of the way Melbourne racing is managed and administered, reports of a permanent move sounds more like a wake up call to NSW racing and its administrators.