By Keyser Soze
WHIPPING UP A FRENZY- WHEN THE HORSE HAS BOLTED.
Racing Australia’s predictable rejection of the eleventh hour changes to the whips rules proposed by the Jockeys Association surprised nobody. With the support of all State Governing Bodies, it places Racing Australia in a strong position and leaves the Jockeys Association and their head kicker Des O’Keefe like the proverbial shags on a rock.
If the Jockeys Association, the jockeys themselves and their tacticians are silly enough to resort to strike action, or any other such acts of gross stupidity, it will erode whatever public or racing industry sympathy they might have left. In any industry, how one plays the sympathy card is all about timing, when all the ducks are in a row and one goes back to reading The Art Of War. It cannot be overdue knee jerk reaction. That just results in arthritis.
As outlined in last week’s post, the whips issue is lost. It was lost a decade or more ago when Racing Australia’s predecessor, the Australian Racing Board, did what is expected of racing administrations and governing bodies and opted for a prolonged siesta rather than get off their arses, and proactively reach out into the hearts and minds of a community which has been bombarded by cleverly crafted spin overflow
It’s worth again asking the Jockeys Association the awkward question: why did they choose not to demonstrate leadership and play their own significant role in proactively using all forms of the media to articulate their defence of the use of whips in racing? Belatedly- very belatedly- they trotted out Brad Rawiller in an interview with, of all people, Shane O, the Joan Of Arc of Oz horse racing, on the dead people’s radio station in Melbourne – RSN. Good smart stuff, isn’t it? Preaching to the converted on a radio station whose audience resembles Bill Shorten’s popularity figures in the polls? Sheesh.
The inescapable conclusion among many in the racing community is that the Jockeys Association has handled this whole issue extremely poorly. Particularly, their duplicity in trying to finger Racing Australia’s consultation process as the trigger for their faux militancy on the issue. True, they’ve made plenty of noise, but it’s so much like union and protest rallies – plenty of noise, but very little substance in the slogans and language.
And for those who still need convincing on the whole issue of the whips and community perceptions, they simply need to study the riding styles of the elite riders in the world today – in Europe, the UK, and closer to home, in Hong Kong. Dettori, Soumillon, Peslier, Spencer, the recently retired Richard Hughes, Guyon, Moreira, Mosse, Whyte, Zac Purton and Damien Oliver. These are riders who rely on their skills of horsemanship for their collective successes as elite jockeys, and not on the “instrument of pain”.
RIP RED CADEAUX
It was one racing’s saddest stories of 2015 – the euthanizing of the people’s favourite Red Cadeaux- after he succumbed to injuries sustained during his fifth attempt to to win the world’s holy grail of staying racing – the Melbourne Cup.
Red Cadeaux was arguably one of the bravest horses of the modern near in world racing. He had competed successfully all over the world during his illustrious career on the turf. He had earned more frequent flyer points than any of the world’s travel junkies. His brave and narrow misses in several Melbourne Cups was the driving factor behind the connections’ obsessive desire to win the race that had eluded this champion racehorse.
Ultimately, Red Cadeaux went to the well just one time too many. For a rising ten year old with so many miles in his legs, running him in the 2015 Cup was a bridge too far. Sure, many will say he was as sound as a bell, and they probably have veterinary opinion on their side. But racing is not just about the opinion of veterinarians, its about compassion for the horse and risk minimization.
On that note, we just hope that the connections of champion Australian steeplechaser Bashboy decide to retire the rising 13 year old. The thought of him jumping steeplechases in 2016 as he attempts to break the many records he holds is a risk not worth taking.
Murmurings from NSW continue about some of the backroom negotiations during the State Government’s tax parity deal for NSW racing. Rumours keep surfacing about one particular heavyweight in NSW racing being in the doghouse with the NSW State Government over a raft of issues including his role in taking the blowtorch to the Government over tax parity, and some indiscretions which are still the subject of Chinese whispers. Could he be persuaded to step into another sport having “done so much for NSW racing”- and leave as a hero with an honorific next to his name? Many in NSW live in hope- as they have done so for a very long time.
From Melbourne comes news of a VRC Board elections with three candidates nominating for four positions on the Committee and three Committeemen standing for re-election. A glimmer of hope for the ageing Board is the emergence of a smart business man with impeccable connections and a racing pedigree in John Kennedy.
Here’s a candidate to bring generational change to a Board which, over the past couple of years, has struggled under the leadership of Mr Michael Burn, and his mangled handling of their vacant Chief Executive position- a position that has, like the Bates Motel in the movie “Psycho”- remained with the vacant sign for over a year despite the hiring of two expensive head hunting organizations. Both failed to deliver the right candidate- a bizarre and less than professional way to run Australia’s best racing club. It’s all a tad, well, Duh. And stupid.
Here is a question for the Jockeys Association.
What changes to horse welfare have you led the way?
In case no one is sure of the answer it is zero. The words dragged kicking and screaming into modern society come to mind. I still recall the interview on TVN of Greg Hall senior being so proud of belting his winning ride that he said I even gave it a few after the post for good luck. Not one person challenged him on it.
The same sort of question could also be asked of the breeders, i.e. the stallion owners. Do they, have they, will they contribute to horse welfare ? I don’t know, so I am here to be educated. Thank you. Norm Snowden.