AUSTRALIAN RACING’S INTEGRITY AT THE CROSSROADS (WITH MULTIPLE VITAMINS FOR COMPANY)
Not a week goes by in Australian racing without another dark, murky and astonishing chapter in what is rapidly developing into Australian racing’s worst scandal and worst nightmare. This week it was the about-face by Melbourne based veterinarian Tom (Dr Doolittle) Brennan who, through his solicitor, contacted Racing NSW and Racing Victoria stewards and admitted that he had failed to provide full and frank evidence to the respective stewards inquiries.
Brennan’s about-face admitting that he had sold Melbourne trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh a substance in a bottle labelled “Vitamin Complex” supplied to him by another veterinarian with the assurance from that veterinarian (nodding off yet?) that it contained no prohibited substances including cobalt, has added another shock dimension to what appears to be a never-ending and crushing nightmare for racing.
Brennan further admits that he administered the “Vitamin Complex” in intravenous drips given to horses trained by both trainers during the 2014 spring. Brennan claims he was paid $3000 each from both trainers, which, he asserted, he then paid to another veterinarian. Yawn. Mark Kavanagh denies that that he made any payments, with O’Brien disputing aspects of the evidence in respect of the payment. Righty hoh.
In the Racing NSW case involving Sam Kavanagh, he admits to providing two bottles of an injectable substance or preparation labelled “Vitamin Complex” to the trainer which he obtained from another veterinarian along with (yawn) dosage instructions and received two payments of $1000 from persons associated with Sam Kavanagh which he asserted he paid to (yawn) another veterinarian. Brennan also admits that he disposed of an exercise book used by the Flemington Equine Clinic that recorded details of the two bottles being posted to Sam Kavanagh.
It’s like walking through a field full of land mines and with no escape from activating every single one of them. It is difficult not to see how these cobalt cases will not end in a sea of tears for many of those involved.
And NSW racing has just dealt with another “black” chapter in its own cobalt nightmare with the Racing Appeals Tribunal dismissing the appeal by disqualified trainer Darren Smith against his 15 year disqualification on a raft of cobalt charges.
Australian racing can pontificate as much as it likes and rally behind household names in its training ranks, who have the temerity and narcissistic arrogance to publicly proclaim that they should be immunized from charges as a trade off for “promoting” and “doing so much for racing”.
Complicit in all of this are sections of the print and electronic media and their pathetic social media trolls who, collectively through their actions, are guilty of bringing the racing industry into disrepute.
As small a group as they are, the rule breakers and cheats in racing are so fortunate that the racing industry in Australia deals with their “crimes” in such a “soft” fashion. It’s a feather duster, ‘wet lettuce” regime of penalty and punishment. Compare this with sport like cricket, cycling, AFL, NRL, where penalties start from mandatory career ending punishments to jail. Yes, jail terms.
Isn’t it time every single man and woman associated in the Australian racing industry stood up and spoke with one voice that it will no longer give oxygen to the thieves who are dragging down racing to depths of despair- and to a point of no return?
TABCORP IN DEEP STRIFE
It’s not the sort of news you would expect to read about when you pick up the Sydney Morning Herald and read that one of Australia’s best known companies and brands in racing- Tabcorp- is in deep brown water…
Thursday morning’s edition carried a dual headline of “Gambling Organised crime funds filtering through” and “ Tabcorp in regulator’s sights” to a joint story by Perry Williams and Patrick Durkin. The crux of their story revolves around the Australian Transaction Reports And Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) launching civil penalty proceedings in the Federal Court against Tabcorp and its NSW and Victorian wagering businesses “alleging extensive significant and systematic non-compliance by the wagering operator”.
AUSTRAC is the government regulatory body which the Herald reports “seeks to keep dirty money out of Australia’s financial system and has alleged more than 100 separate breaches of the law by Tabcorp including an incident involving a betting plunge on an NRL Cowboys versus Bulldogs game in 2010 that caused bookmakers to suspend betting”.
AUSTRAC head Paul Jevtovic is quoted by the Herald saying that “AUSTRAC has provided a number of opportunities for these companies to improve their standards and compliance. However they have failed to take the necessary steps”.
In their highly damning Herald story, Williams and Durkin report that “Gambling operator Tabcorp faces a Federal Court trial and $17 million in fines over its failure to tell the government’s counter terrorism financing regulator that more than 30 Tab accounts were opened in false names and used to filter fraudulent credit card funds for organized crime figures”.
The story further reports that “the AUSTRAC lawsuit identifies the betting plunge on the NRL Cowboys-Bulldogs game on August 21 2010 as one of the multiple suspicious transactions that were never reported. The unexpected plunge on the first scoring play of the game in which the Cowboys kicked a penalty goal was backed in from $13 to $7 within hours of the match and caused bookmakers to suspend betting. AUSTRAC alleges that despite reporting the matter to NSW Police, Tabcorp failed to lodge a suspicious matter report as required by law”.
The Federal Court action by the regulator is a serious blow to the image of Australia’s best known wagering operator, who, in recent times, has managed to embroil itself in a number of controversies including the media rights debacle with Racing Victoria, which still remains unresolved and carries the pathetically apologetic daily message on Sky at Tabcorp agencies excusing their non-live coverage of Victorian racing.
If Tabcorp is not in crisis management over this latest controversy, then it should be. Questions should and must be asked of its management.
THE ADVANTAGES OF KNOWING YOUR CUSTOMER
Listening to the podcast of RSN’s “ace” reporter Shane Anderson’s interview with HKJC Chief Executive Winfried Englebrcht-Bresges demonstrated yet again why Hong Kong racing is leagues ahead of Australian racing.
To Shane O’s credit, he allowed the subject of his interview to conduct a “masterclass” into the necessity of getting to know everything about your customer as a key to unlocking the front door to a successful relationship with the lifeline of racing. Yes, the customer is always right and the customer has always been king, queen, prince, princess and pauper.
Yet, how many racing administrators and administrations anywhere in the world have actually succeeded in turning such truisms into reality rather than posturing endlessly at all their expensive and wasteful corporate talkfests?
Knowing your customer inside out and upside down is fundamental to succeeding in business. It does not take a Rhodes Scholar to work that one out, but it DOES take a Rhodes Scholar to put it into practice, particularly in the racing industry.
And this is where people in the racing industry in Australia who believe in their own bullshit and regard themselves as self-styled “marketing gurus”, let themselves- and the racing industry-down badly.
Thankfully, the era of the “shock jock” will soon become a distant memory and a bad dream. A large section of the racing media, who profess their undying passion for racing are very much a part of the problem racing faces. They are not the solution.
Giving oxygen to whingeing and whineing bogans in the training ranks banging on about not getting a free bloody sandwich at a race meeting, or blaming anyone but themselves for being caught administering prohibited substances to a racehorse is an indictment on the wannabe “shock jocks” and their cheer leaders.
Regrettably the quality of and leadership vacuum in Australian racing filters through all layers and particularly to its communications channels. There is a lack of direction or priority. There is little, if any, debate about the issues that matter instead a buffet of bloated trivia which trashes the brand of racing and leaves it struggling for relevance.
Perhaps they’re just scared shitless of what the “customer” might really tell them if they dared ask the questions that continue to avoid being asked.. And that goes for the scaredy cat wannabe “shock jocks” as well.
Rumours are swirling around NSW racing corridors about a very prominent racing administrator who might soon face sexual harassment charges. This particular sleaze bag apparently has form, but has managed to have previous complaints swept under the carpet. This time, they just might be raised at a very senior ministerial level.
One of our alert readers has pointed out that the Racing NSW website is still advertising tickets for the “Chumpionships”. Only problem is that they were staged in April, nearly four months ago.
Embarrassing that it has taken Racing NSW so long to begin to attempt to address the problems that handicapping and programming have wreaked on NSW racing. And there is no guarantee that their proposals are the “magic bullet” for the appallingly small field sizes and their impact on wagering. They’ve finally woken up to adding an extra race to the Saturday metropolitan program restricted to country horses. Sounds like Racing Minister Troy Grant might have read the riot act to Druitt Street?
A high profile Melbourne trainer needs to be reminded that “hell hath no fury like a woman’s wrath”. This bloke certainly cannot afford the fallout if he got “sprung”. Just change your love shack, mate. This would be a scandal you could do without!
Picture tip for Oz racing’s next big controversy. Hoodyhoodyhooda?