By Keyzer Soze
RACING – AMBUSHED FROM WITHIN
Politics, as we have witnessed repeatedly in Australia in recent times is a blood sport, distinguished by a series of ugly, and often deadly, public ambushes, double crosses and assassinations. Dignity, ethics, respect and honesty are increasingly exorcised from the vocabulary of politics.
Strange bedfellows they might be, but racing and politics have much more in common than might be imagined – particularly in the way both operate.
Tragically, the wonderfully timeless strength of racing – its majestic thoroughbred heroes and heroines, its amazing horsemen and women- are consigned to roles played by slaves and serfs, ambushed by the self-serving agendas of a rag bag of administrators, stakeholders and social media trolls, cheered on vociferously by a vocal minority of the racing media pack.
Last week, in an editorial in The Australian, Patrick Smith exposed the relentless campaign to ambush Victorian racing and its governing body Racing Victoria using as an obvious pretext the enforcement of a new rule of racing prohibiting race day medication – be it a legitimate therapeutic, or in last week’s instance, a anti-inflammatory type poultice. The elephant in the room was and has always and will always be COBALT.
From what started as an attempt, amateurish as it might have been, to mount a cogent argument in favour of permitting non-performance enhancing medications on race day, swiftly degenerated into a febrile rant about cobalt, victimizations, growing balls, et al.
Picking up on Patrick Smith’s theme, Fairfax Media’s Patrick Bartley in last Saturday’s Age not only exposed the circus that the cobalt saga had morphed into, and Peter Moody’s starring role as Krusty The Clown, but laid the blame fair and square on “an unrelenting media cheer squad”.
He’s a brave man is Patrick Bartley, having the courage to call out members of his own profession and expose their disingenuous behaviour over this whole disgraceful cobalt saga.
“For those outside the inner sanctum of the racing industry who are perplexed at the mileage the Peter Moody saga has gained this week or, for that matter, the past few months, the answer is simple: an unrelenting media cheer squad. Even those removed from the sport can see from his poor-taste rants that Moody is slowly unravelling. Whichever way he manoeuvres, the question remains: how did Lidari arrive at Flemington with double the threshold levels of cobalt in its system? But the media cheer squad continues to skirt around the clear realities of the case”. Spot on Patrick.
Singling out Racing.com and RSN’s Shane “I’ve known you a long time. Pete” Anderson, Bartley pulled no punches. Referring to Anderson as “a “former AFL clerk and racing tipster”, (OUCH, ShaneO!), he detailed two interviews which Anderson conducted with Moody on his radio show on the Dead People’s station the day before Memsie Stakes day, and the most recent, on that fateful day last week at Pakenham on Racing.com.
On the Dead People’s station’s twenty minuter, Bartley opined: ”Anderson, the day before Memsie Stakes day, had given Moody 20 minutes of air time to tell his sad-and-sorry story. The only challenging question from Anderson was “Do you mind if we go for a commercial break? During this interview, Moody challenged the industry to “pull the splinter out of your arse and join me or not”. Ooooh, what massive Ramboesque balls, you have, Mandingo Moody.
Classy stuff from a bloke who is imploring the Australian racing community to rise up in protest against his “victimization”. If grace under pressure is character defining, then it’s hard to see how such behaviour can have anything but a negative impact on the image or perception of someone who, not so long ago, was riding the crest of a wave of popularity, thanks to Black Caviar.
Bartley’s well written editorial raises questions and visits territory that his fellow members of the racing media have not had the courage to enter- a strong, independent media, which refuses to compromise its integrity for the sake of distorted and biased reporting; which is not beholden to any sector of the sport it is covering; which is independent and not fawning over-grown groupies; which is not dependent for employment by the sport as its employer. This is what the racing media in Australia so desperately lacks: Balls- even tiny ones.
It would be interesting to compare Anderson’s interviews of Moody with how the AFL, NRL and Cricket media would handle such a subject and situation. It would be unimaginable for not one, but two 20 minute interviews, if you could call them such, to be conducted without any hard, legitimate, difficult and highly relevant and necessary questions to be asked of a central, high profile and visible individual, embroiled in arguably one of the biggest scandals to hit racing, if not any sport in Australia. It is hard not to question the credibility of any reporter or interviewer in such circumstances.
Should Shane Anderson not be scrutinized and held accountable for giving free rein on industry owned media assets- Racing.com and RSN- to be used so blatantly to “bag” the racing industry? He should know better. Would his previous employer, the AFL, have allowed any of its players, coaches or club officials to use its media channels to “bag” the AFL, its management or umpires? Both Shane Anderson and Peter Moody would have been hauled before AFL management or an AFL tribunal or Board and faced a rigorous please explain and “show cause”.
It is not to say that racing and its management and staff should be immune from or escape scrutiny and accountability. There are glaring examples where racing in every State has not had the blow torch applied to its belly when it should have been applied. But that is not the responsibility of a media, which racing owns, and which is charged with the responsibility of “showcasing” racing, not only to the racing community, but to non-racegoers and the community at large.
It makes a complete mockery of and undermines the fundamental principles and justification for establishing Racing.com at such a huge financial cost and commitment plus the attendant risks involved with such investments. Racing Victoria, the Board of Racing.com and its shareholder Race Clubs, the Seven Network, and the racing industry at large are entitled to, and must, demand answers- and swiftly.
It’s a bit rich for the likes of Shane Anderson, global racing’s visionary extraordinaire, to incessantly pontificate about “fan engagement” and mutter the incredibly boring and vacuous platitudes that spawn from such meaningless, well, how you say, crap. It’s no different to looking your bride-to-be and parroting the outdated “better or for worse” vows.
If Racing.com is serious about “showcasing” racing, then it needs to treat its customer base with the respect they deserve, and not drive them away by presenting such puerile drivel that only serves to denigrate racing. The social media trolls and bottom feeders are doing a fair job at thrashing the brand and image of racing. It’s a job best left to them. Not to the industry-funded media to be used and abused for the same purpose.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN NSW
There’s just a week left for NSW Racing to get it right and attract candidates of independence and without the baggage of vested self interest, for the Board of Racing NSW.
Four positions on the eight member Board are about to expire and the NSW Government has advertised for expressions of interest.
This is NSW Racing’s “second coming” time in history. There is so much at stake, NSW Racing can’t afford to not get it right. NSW racing has been on a downward spiral for the past decade. It should be as strong and as powerful as Victorian racing, but it isn’t on multiple KPI’s. The success and health of Australian racing is overwhelmingly dependent on a vibrant, successful and healthy racing industry in NSW and Victoria. A defining feature of any successful sporting governing body or club, or for that matter business enterprise, is its leadership – at a Board level and management. It’s an absolute “no Brainer”.
The next four years terms of the four successful candidates will go a very long way in determining the future of NSW Racing. The election process and the calibre of candidates must be on Racing Minister Troy Grant’s personal watch. The process must not just appear to be clean and free of any meddling or interference, it must be squeaky clean.
SAM KAVANAGH COBALT SCANDAL ENDS WITH A WHIMPER
It was one of those “whatever” moments in NSW racing earlier this week when Racing NSW Stewards delivered their penalties for the main players in the Sam Kavanagh cobalt scandal which has been front and centre of NSW racing for the past five months or so.
Sam Kavanagh’s nine year disqualification and a sliding range of disqualifications for the key players in the cast, barely raised a ripple of interest apart from the factual reporting of the penalties by the media. There was no media cheer squad for Sam and his fellow accused. No slamming of the Racing NSW Stewards, or for that matter, Racing NSW. There were no hysterical public protestations of innocence or airtime on Racing NSW media channels or Sky for ranting and raving by any of the key players. It was a Silence Of The Lambs with time for a nice bottle of Chianti, Clarisse.
They do it differently in NSW, and thank the Lord for that. Racing NSW Stewards wasted no time, unlike their Victorian counterparts in fast tracking their investigations, the laying and hearing of charges and delivering an outcome.
To its credit, Racing NSW managed and minimized the fallout from the scandal, whereas in Victoria it is oxygenated in the most undignified and tasteless way each week with the regulator merely spectating with an Alfred E Neuman What? Me? Worry? look on his sad sack face.
If some of the commentary by key players in the Victorian cobalt scandal were to be repeated in NSW, or for that matter in most other racing jurisdictions, not only would “show cause” notices have been issued but they would have been accompanied by penalties.
The outcome of the Sam Kavanagh case has demonstrated clearly that both the racing community and society has lost its appetite to dispense sympathy or mercy in such cases where the integrity of racing is in danger of being compromised.
It is a salutary lesson which should not go unnoticed, or unheeded across the border in Victoria. But will it?