WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?
Reading and listening to all the media commentary on the show cause hearings conducted by Racing Victoria stewards into the possible suspension of the training licences of Peter Moody, Danny O’Brien, Mark Kavanagh, and the father and son partnership of Lee and Shannon Hope, glaringly exposed the reality that many of the defendants have learned nothing of the impact of their knee jerk, and often irrational, throw-the-toys-outta-the-pram tantrums and tiaras, and prima donna outbursts, over the past six months or more.
What the commentary demonstrates is that through their legal counsel, these trainers are continuing to keep the cobalt cases front and centre of not just the racing community, but more tellingly, the community at large – not just in Australia but worldwide. They are contributing- substantially- to the image of racing being thrown under the proverbial bus every time they use their mates in the racing media (“the trainers cheer squad” as the no-nonsense Pat Bartley so accurately refers to them), to coming out swinging against anyone within striking distance – be it Racing Victoria and their stewards and veterinarians, veterinary science, their fellow trainers, their own veterinarians, the rules of racing, their own representative association, the racing media who dare to not slavishly defend them, the cat, the dog, their tutus, their prom dress – as they mistakenly, and one wonders fatally, disenfranchise those in the racing community whose support they desperately need.
It is a blueprint on how not to conduct your defence and protest your innocence. Clearly, it was the catalyst in forcing the stewards hand. With the background of how the Damien Oliver scenario played out, and Racing Victoria was hammered (and continues to be) over its handling of the issue at the time, the heat on the regulator would have been turned up to furnace levels. It would hardly surprise if the powers that be at State Government level did intervene. And they can hardly be blamed, could they? The image of racing in the community is at such low levels that legitimate questions are being asked of the ragged leadership- and their ability and intellectual capacity- to deal with racing’s own version of the “Fawlty Towers” with Basil and Manuel running the show.
Drastic times call for drastic solutions and Racing Victoria has to be seen to be behaving as if they ARE the custodians of the image, tntegrity and well being of racing. Are they capable of exercising this mandatory requirement? Time will tell. But let’s not hold our breath. We might die.
The reporting of the Show Cause hearings have also laid bare some of the half truths, outright lies and unacceptably duplicitous behaviour of many of the key players. The extra dimension to the scandal, which was added after the hearings came through the story co-authored by Fairfax Media’s Nick McKenzie, where he linked the previously inaccessible vet Adam Matthews, once part of the Flemington Equine practice with charged vet Tom Brennan (the former veterinarian to Danny O’Brien and Mark and Sam Kavanagh) with prominent figures in the Melbourne underworld and with strong connections to Victorian racing.
Clearly, Racing Victoria has not completed its investigations and interrogation of Tom Brennan- his sobbing to Shane-O following the death of Admire Rakti really MUST make an encore- and Adam Matthews. With Brennan recanting key elements of his original statements, and linking mate Matthews with aspects of this whole sordid, dark, dank, twisted sister evil scandal, what they might tell Stewards and who they might throw under the proverbial bus could blow racing apart.
Again, do listen, if at all possible, to the emotionally-charged weeping by the good Doctor Brennan when being interviewed by the Woodward and Bernstein of Australian racing. Almost a year later, it turns many things on its head.
Presumption of innocence, which almost certainly needs to be explained to many of the knuckleheads in the training fraternity and amongst the racing fraternity, in general, maybe given a holiday if further explosive evidence is offered up. The noble principles of presumption of innocence can only have a limited life span in such circumstances. And, so too, the heart rending stories of the financial and personal devastation of the training businesses, so forcefully and sympathetically reported by sections of the media – the “trainers cheer squad”. Send in the clowns along with the cascade of weeping violins.
You can play the sympathy card only so many times as the tens of thousands of employees of the scores of businesses in the manufacturing sector have found out in the hardest way when these businesses have gone belly up. Ironically, the figures quoted in the media about the size of the training businesses – their wages bills, turnover and the like- are an eye opener. It demonstrates the ability of many trainers to “spec” buy horses at yearling sales, and enjoy their five star frolics in the Mediterranean and Europe.
Some will continue to poke the bear, and even other members of racing’s animal kingdom that don’t need to be poked. That is a “living certainty”. Karma and “what goes around comes around” have a long history of exacting a heavy and lasting price. Humility is not a sign of weakness or guilt, but is often not in the DNA of narcissists, or, for that matter, fools. The time to come out swinging is for later – that’s if that time even arises.
HIT ME WITH YOUR RHYTHM STICK
The words of this famous Ian Dury and the Blockheads anthem of the eighties came back with a vengeance when the “whips controversy” was re-ignited this week with Racing Australia’s own one-man entertainer and saccharine-coated Gummy Bear par excellence – Peter “toffee tongue” McGauran announcing a new set of rules in the use of the whip in the closing stages of races.
As if racing did not have enough compelling reasons to disenfranchise the community, and enthusiastically encourage them to stay away- as far as possible from the sport- we witnessed yet another vain attempt to provide life support to a corpse. Racing does it so well, witnessed also with jumps racing. As expected, the Jockeys Association volunteered for the “kiss of life”. But to pardon the pun, they’re “flogging a dead horse”.
This is yet another example of the continuing vacuum in leadership across the highest levels of Australian racing. The decision makers, yet again, failed to launch a pre-emptive strike against the agenda-driven, well-organized and strategic animal welfare and animal liberation groups which are proliferating throughout the community, and, with a growing audience of “glamours” recruited to groups like PETA, carefully consenting to drive attention and endorsement to their noble cause.
If only racing’s leadership- and we use the word very, very loosely and with great trepidation- had the intellect, foresight and fortitude to be proactive and read the “tea leaves”. Sorry, we’re starting to laugh when we think of the Gummy Bears leading their rag tag troops. Stop, you’re killing us!
The animal welfare and animal liberations lobbies, just like the corporate bookmakers in the wagering landscape, have been coming at the sport for decades. So what does racing do? Wait till they are on it’s doorstep and then go into crisis management and damage control way after the horse has literally bolted. It’s the same as ignoring a tsunami warning. Or ignoring the warning of an impending bout of flatulence.
Even the most simple minds in racing (and that’s the overwhelming majority), understand why a whip is used and why it should continue to be used. But have the regulators, or for that matter, the Jockeys Association, educated the community on this issue? Or didn’t they think that was a priority, Sherlock?
Reading and listening to some of the Jockeys Association’s vigorous, and loud and vocal protests at the new rules, they are clearly aimed at the hapless members of the racing community already comatosed by cobalt, race fixing, criminal involvements and a host of negatives that racing throws at them each week, and even the vacuous lectures on “fan engagement” by self-styled multi-media “personalities”.
Yet again, it demonstrates racing’s inability, and its inadequacies in even focusing its messaging to its bored, tired, narrow and declining audience. Racing struggles to even preach to the converted. Just listen to the dead people’s racing radio station and read it’s tweets.
Worse still the bewildering acknowledgement by the Jockeys Association that there were only a few recidivist offenders against the existing whip rules begs the obvious question of what the hell if, anything, they did about it? And no, passing the blame to the regulators and stewards for educating the offenders, just does not wash.
The animal welfare lobby has an intoxicating whiff of success with whips and jumps racing. Two- year-old racing is already on their radar. But the elephant in the room is the welfare of horses who have been treated with prohibited substances. They will succeed in draconian penalties being imposed on the perpetrators. And no regulatory body or trainers or owners or jockeys association will be able to build a bomb shelter. Oh, and as for the whips and jumps racing, for how much longer can life support be administered? Five years, maybe?
QUIET: GENIUS AT WORK
If the ATC and its master Racing NSW are serious about making ownership more attractive and affordable, why don’t they just abolish the track fees rather than this laughable 10 per cent or so reduction for city track fees? Imagine Sheikh Mohammed, or the Coolmore partnership, or for that matter the flock of multi millionaire owners who populate the clientele of the Randwick, Rosehill and Warwick Farm trainers, popping the corks on their Krug and Dom bottles celebrating the miniscule savings, thanks to the largesse of their landlord. Stop, you’re killing us again! No, a 10 percent cut in fees WILL make a difference at all country and some provincial training centres. But then again, it’s all about keeping the elites happy, isn’t it?
SEND IN THE CLOWN
Word is getting around about a self-styled multi media “personality” attending a racing lunch not that long ago and making some explicit comments about a minimum one-year penalty for cobalt positives.Yes, it’s the same learned scholar of all things racing, who, when the cobalt positives were announced, proclaimed that anyone who was up to date with the use of prohibited substances in racing would have known about the widespread use of cobalt in the states and its sinister performance enhancing qualities. And yes, this is also the same imperious individual who has failed miserably to follow the line of asking the hard questions when he has had the opportunity to do so. A simple: “Are you telling me that you have never heard of cobalt?” might have made him the hard-nosed investigative journo that he aspires to be as opposed to the snivelling toadie that he is. Perhaps if he did, it might have cost him his spot on the “trainers cheer squad”?
THE COMEBACK OF JERRY GREENE
Remember Jerry Greene? The former employee of the Hong Kong Jockey Club has landed a gig back home as Marketing Executive of Irish Thoroughbred Marketing. Guess we’ll see plenty of Jerry Greene in his new role as the Irish breeders marketing arm takes on a more proactive role promoting their world renowned sires and their progeny, globally.
THE MATOS MATTER AND VICTORIAN RACING’S SERIAL ROOTER
The oddest of odd spots reported under the title “Jockey Shoots Trainer” tells an amusing story of a Trainer named Saul Matos in the US state of Delaware, who was shot earlier in the week in the Delaware Park racing precinct and transported to a nearby hospital suffering a non-life threatening wound to a part of his lower torso. The offender- a 30 year old jockey named Ruben Rojas was arrested by Police and will face assault and firearms charges. And what caused the shooting? No prizes for guessing correctly; the shooting was the result of a dispute over a woman. And how did the Police get their man? “The suspect fled in a vehicle which he had arrived in and then fled from the area, and in the process , it was learned that he had tossed a weapon that we believed was involved in the shooting out the window of the car and into a creek that runs through Delaware Park property”, said Delaware State Trooper Jeffrey Hale. A salutary warning perhaps to a Victorian trainer who has, not for the first time, raised the ire of those from whom he has lured their partners. This sleaze bag who fancies himself as a 21st century Casanova also has a good strike rate with the odd female apprentice or two or three. Yeah, he’s a right kent.
THE GET REAL DEPT
For those in the media who are propagating the “cobalt is not performance enhancing” line, perhaps they should read in full, and preferably with the assistance of a translator, the reserved oral decision by the NSW Racing Appeals Tribunal in dismissing the appeal by Darren Smith against the disqualification imposed on him by Racing NSW Stewards.
THE TWITTERING HYPOCRITES OF RACING
One of the more revealing aspects of being on Twitter is seeing how so many start to change their tune where, like that insipid, grovelling Academy Award winning speech by Actress Sally Field, they suddenly wanna feel the love. Why? Cos their power bases- if they ever had any in the first place- fast erode and they need all the friends Twitter can buy to show their relevance.
So while twitterers like the always amusing @TheGaiLays and @DirtyCowboys never veer from their chosen and relentless paths of total unforgiveness, it’s equally amusing, albeit a tad sad, to see two well-known names in Oz racing- and advocates of so-called “social media”, meaning, Twitter- actively trying to “engage” others on Twitter by eating humble pie, and trying their darnedest to be nice while doing the back-peddle shuffle.
Alas, known for blocking those who disagree with their opinions, their tweets are just transparent attempts at damage control. More obvious is the Aussie Twitter troll who insists on making himself heard about any and every controversy- he’s been having a cobalt field day recently- but, when faced with a subject beyond his stunted intellect, takes the safe way out and retweets with the pathetically apologetic proviso that, “I didn’t favourite it, I only retweeted it.” Mate, grow some balls if you wish to mix it with the big boys.
ONE WAY STREET
Emails making the rounds by a group of punters about one corporate bookmaker in Oz that immediately closes accounts once punters start to win gathers momentum as, well, to put it mildly, that’s not exactly fair play. We’ve asked a number of people in reasonably high places about this company, and, alas, we can’t print the words used to describe these Shylocks suffice it to say that they have burnt many by also refusing to pay winning accounts. Shame them or try and take legal action and prepare to be visited by their heavies. Almost makes one think about finding a real job, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, with the chump change wagering landscape in Oz these days not enough to keep many corporates in business, quite a few are making hit and run missions to sign up new account holders in Hong Kong during the racing off-season. To them we say, beware the ides of March and be mindful of the laws of the city: It’s illegal for anyone in Hong Kong to place bets with anyone except the HKJC. This is a double- headed dragon in that if someone in Hong Kong wins, they might find it impossible to collect as they have bet with an illegal bookie and which makes payment illegal. By the same token, if they were to lose, they don’t have to pay up as it’s an illegal contract between both parties. So, what’s the point, Einstein when these agreements are, quite literally, not worth the paper they’re written on?
Add to all this, intimidation tactics along with phones being tapped, computers being hacked and all manner of other means to pry open Pandora’s box, and the What’s The Point mantra becomes as plaintive as singing a medley of Send In The Clowns and What’s it all about, Alfie?
Meanwhile, when we hear that “wagering is up in Victoria” and that “TABCORP’s numbers don’t lie,” we have to laugh- hysterically- while all the time wondering what CEO David Attenborough might be thinking as he, no doubts, tugs at the ropes of his parachute to see if it’s still working.
BRUCE? BRUCE MANN? HELLO?
Where in the world is former TVN boss Bruce Mann? Whatever and whoever pulled the rug from under him and detonated his gig from within- and we all know who that was- Bruce Mann is far too experienced with an international and broad-based knowledge of broadcasting to be set adrift on a trip to nowhere- and would be an asset to finding some of the answers to Oz racing’s dysfunctional media landscape.
Then again, seeing more and more of Oz racing falling apart at the seams every other day, perhaps he’s bloody glad he’s got his golden handshake and will soon be free of any non-compete contracts to make his comeback in another industry minus all the pettiness that racked TVN along with the tireless task of fighting the enemy within.
As the cobalt juggernaut continues to ride roughshod over racing in Oz like a runaway train on steroids, will there be more SHOCKING news to come- and delivered three wide with no cover?