LIES, LIES AND MORE DAMNED LIES
Australian racing’s thick skin- as thick as a rhinoceros hide, and, often, as thick as a brick- has become part of its DNA and culture over recent years with scandal after scandal threatening without success to inflict a mortal blow to its impenetrable persona. But as National Geographic and Animal Planet African wildlife documentaries have captured graphically, even the hide of a rhino can, on rare occasions, be penetrated by the king of the jungle – the Lion.
Arguably, Australian racing is perilously close to its tipping point as the relentless daily, weekly and monthly assault on what is left of its dubious integrity starts to bite really hard and Government intervention an inevitable formality.
The Stewards’ Cobalt inquiries in both NSW and Victoria have been as astonishing in evidence, denials and retractions and recants as they have been bizarre, humorous in a Monty Pythonesque way. and, ultimately, a waste of time and purpose. Even porpoise. The evidence has taken Australian racing to places that it has never been to before- like its own dank armpit. If this wasn’t bad enough, the statement by Racing Queensland that it had “conceded” the appeals of three harness trainers charged and found guilty of cobalt charges, because some bureaucratic imbecile had failed to check if the testing laboratory for the second sample was accredited by Racing Queensland as required under the Rules of Racing, is absolutely appalling in its ineptitude. It completely vindicates the decision by the State Government to dismantle the Governing Body. If the financial black hole was insufficient to pull the trigger, then this latest cockup is a “thank you, ball boys, thank you umpires” moment for Racing Queensland.
That said, the three and a half long days of evidence in the Racing NSW cobalt investigations into “Singing” Sam Kavanagh, (Dr) Tom Brennan and their menagerie of very questionable racing identities, should surprise no one.
Are we not all immune to hearing about lies, lies and more damned lies, lies, lies? No one is shocked or astonished or anything anymore with evidence, disclosure, denials, retractions or anything that comes out of the mouths of any of the parties under investigation and facing charges.
Let’s face it, is there any credibility in the evidence that is being offered, or in those that have taken the stand- and even many asking the “tough questions”?
Was it any surprise that John Camilleri, described in harness racing circles as the “ghost”, and according to both News Corp and Fairfax media as a “self confessed liar”, would throw the Melbourne Cup under the proverbial bus?
Under questioning by Ray Murrihy about a text message that he sent saying “I know a horse that won a Melbourne Cup on cobalt and EPO”, Camilleri claimed it was “just a gee up” and not true, and neither were the multiple text messages which he had sent to various people indicating he had been doping horses. Get the picture? Camilleri explained his bizarre behaviour with the throwaway line that “racing thrives on rumours”.
He’s right, racing does thrive on rumours, but, perhaps, he should be reminded of the smart arse passenger who, when searched by airport security, told the security officer that the drugs weren’t actually on his person, but they were carefully packaged in his luggage. Of course, they weren’t, but it landed him in a whole lotta trouble.
The “Melbourne Cup doping” rumour has been doing the rounds for a while, and has been given plenty of oxygen recently as the web of intrigue and deception connecting the dots between some of the cast of the cobalt scandal has intensified. In fact, the spotlight has also been switched back on about a very recent Melbourne Cup- and not necessarily on the winner or placegetters. As expected, the Racing Victoria stewards did not take long to deny the allegations along with assurances that all Melbourne Cup winners tested since 2009 for EPO had all returned negative swabs. Since the cobalt threshold rule was introduced in April 2014, the winner of last year’s race, Protectionist, had also returned a clear sample to cobalt.
Obviously, prior to the running of the 2014 Cup, there was no threshold for cobalt and which is why previous Cup winners would not have been tested for cobalt. And it is in this context that Camilleri’s mischievous and inflammatory text message, subsequently denied by the self-confessed liar- and dickhead- must be taken.
The bottom line is that racing has been and will always be a fertile environment for rumour and innuendo, for lies and deceit. It has this engrained capacity to self-destruct and trash its image and reputation. It has been that way since its inception. And in recent times, this “disease” has spread to just about every other sport.
Racing has always had a unusual, strange, and, in some ways, unique relationship with the community. Rogues, conmen and women, cheats, criminals – just about anyone associated with the dark side of society- has always been a part of racing, mixing it with kings, queens, aristocrats, professional and successful “cleanskins” across every socio-economic layer of society. The dark side has co-existed for forever and a day with the “cleanskins”, and this is one of the reasons why the seamy side of racing has attracted an almost ghoulish interest in the community.
But the “dream run” that racing has enjoyed is fast coming to an end. Racing’s “nine lives” have been used up. Corruption of all sorts across all sports has inflicted permanent damage to sport per se. The community’s tolerance levels towards the agents of corruption and the cheats in the sports which they love is approaching zero levels.
For racing, it puts a whole new perspective on how it manages itself and how serious it is in both protecting and restoring its integrity. Community attitudes are changing- and fast. The appetite for zero tolerance, harsh and extreme mandatory penalties including incarceration and even “life sentences” expelling offenders from the sport is growing.
The lies, lies and more damned lies – the likes of which have never been experienced in racing- can only hasten the imposition of a zero tolerance integrity regime.
Sadly, racing’s key stakeholders – trainers and jockeys- still don’t get it. Will they ever?
NO CANCELLATIONS? A WELCOME CHANGE FOR NSW RACING
Something unusual happened to NSW racing this week: No race meetings were cancelled due to weather and track conditions. The blame game has always been easy to play out on this one: It’s the fault of the weather gods. Very convenient. Throw in climate change and it’s half a convincing excuse.
The reality is that with racing in both NSW and Victoria at saturation point with race meetings on every day of the year except Christmas and Good Friday, it is just impossible for the race tracks, particularly in the country and provincial regions, to cope with the yearly schedule, even in the drier months.
The extremes of quagmire-type tracks to bitumen-like surfaces have become a regular feature of Oz racing and the problem is further exacerbated by the inexcusable neglect of racetracks and infrastructure in NSW, while Racing NSW prioritizes prize money and its pathetically childish attempts to claim bragging rights over its arch enemy across the border in Victoria.
Provincial and Country Race Clubs in NSW are frustrated and angry at the continuing failure of the regulator to fund infrastructure projects in NSW. Ditto with the regulator’s strong-arm tactics to impose its own nominees on Boards and Committees with the inevitable result of a “golden silence” from the revamped Clubs and Board structures whose loyalties are firmly hitched to the wagon of the regulator.
To add to the woes of this ‘forgotten” sector of NSW racing, unlike their counterparts in Victoria, few if any washed out meetings can be transferred to all-weather tracks.
The reason? Well NSW does not have any all-weather tracks, do they? And there’s no guessing as to where the major road block to all-weather track racing is coming from. No, its not from the trainers, or owners or jockeys or punters, nor is it from the” 50,000 participants” whose interests Racing NSW keeps reminding us they would go to war to protect.
The “50,000 participants” are continually sold a lemon with enough spin to cover the entire silk road route. They are continually treated with contempt, whereas their counterparts in Victoria are provided with not just a range of realistic options to race on during the inhospitable colder and wetter months of the year, but with certainty, through an all-weather race dates program which has been embraced by all alike. And to further add embarrassment to NSW, the Victorians have two different all-weather surfaces – Polytrack and Pro-Ride.
Victoria’s “50,000 participants” are very obviously voting with their feet in favour of all-weather track racing with race cards of nine and ten races with capacity fields a regular feature of a race day.
Hell, NSW struggles to stage a seven race card with fields of more than seven starters- regularly. And we won’t even go anywhere near seven and eight horse fields populated by three or four starters from Chris Waller’s yard.
And no, we won’t go anywhere near the state of the course proper at Randwick, Rosehill or Warwick Farm as our good mate Hughie Bowman did recently.
One prays like hell and lives in hope that Troy Grant and the Baird Government will actually have a veto power on how the tax parity funds will be allocated and spent.
AKEED MODEED: WHAT A STUD!
Hong Kong’s champion racehorse Akeed Mofeed has got his breeding career off to a flying start early in the new season with his first foal born from a Group 3 placed Testa Ross mare Gossip Girl hitting the ground at Pan Sutong’s Goldin Farm (formerly the Hayes family’s Lindsay Park in South Australia’s famous wine growing Barossa Valley).
Akeed Mofeed’s sire line is one of the “hottest” in the world today with his sire Dubawi notching success after success with each crop in Europe in some of the world’s most prestigious black type races and seriously challenging Galileo for his title as the world’s hottest and best sire.
HAYSEY AND HIS STERLING WORK
Still on the Hong Kong connection, John Moore’s former top class sprinter Sterling City is into the serious part of his preparation with David Hayes and expected to start his spring campaign in the next month or so. Hayes has targeted races down the Flemington straight course during the spring for Sterling City, and is also well advanced with the preparation of Hong Kong Derby placegetter Dibayani, who is targeting some of the major spring carnival staying features.
SHANE O LOSES HIS RAG!
It wasn’t just eyebrows which were raised reading Shane O Anderson’s over the top and almost hysterical condemnation of the decision by the Victorian Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board directing serial social media offender Daniel Schmitt for his offensive racist tweets directed towards AFL footballer Adam Goodes and offensive comments directed at racing Victoria Chief Steward Terry Bailey.
Shane O, who knows everything about everything and opines on everything- sorry, we just nodded off- took the baseball bat, sledgehammer, handbag, and anything he can lay his hands on in an all out hissy fit attack on the Board and its Chairman Terry Forrest.
Accepting the umpire’s decision is a fundamental ethic of sport, but there’s always an escape clause for those who feel aggrieved with the Board’s decision. In Victoria its called the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. And Shane O, if you feel so aggrieved and so strongly about the Board’s decision and your latest cause célèbre, why don’t you launch your own civil proceedings? You are certainly articulate enough to launch a cogent case- and imagine the PR for Brand Shane O.
The less said about Melbourne trainer Bryce “sandwichgate” Stanaway, the better. His latest rant about refusing to let the National Jockey Trust colours to be carried by his horse Crafty Cruiser, top weight and eventual winner of the last race at Moonee Valley last Saturday on National Jockey Celebration day to honour jockeys who have lost their lives on the race track took pettiness to a whole new level. His reason? Trainers did not have a Trainers Trust.
The Sandwich Man clearly did not do his homework, as we are reliably informed there is a National Trainers Trust organized by the their own Association. Feel a nomination coming along for the “Village Idiot Award”?