By Keyser Soze
“RIDE OUT” BECOMES BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN…
The Australian’s Patrick Smith called for it to be outlawed, while the “Ride Guide’s” creator (?), jockey Chris Symons, the Kim Kardashian and Perez Hilton of Australian racing, donned his now-familiar self-promotion attire and made a vain attempt to describe his blatantly commercial arrangement with corporate bookmaker Ladbrokes as a way to “bring jockeys closer to their target audience”. Bollocks. Symons’ rabid self-promotion is getting tedious. It might have been fun two years ago, but he’s no Simon Cowell. Okay?
The “Ride Guide” was described by Patrick Smith as an information service, developed by Chris Symons and managed by a sports company Unscriptd and exclusive to Ladbrokes, which allows Ladbrokes punters to click on to a jockeys silks, which triggers a video in which the rider assesses the horses’ chances in a race. It made its debut last weekend. The “brainchild” of Chris Symons? More like a brain freeze. But he’s a bit player in what is the mismanagement of racing, and where in all the diatribe spewed out, there’s zero mention of the OWNERS. You know, the owners? Those people who pay the bills would go along with THEIR horses chances being discussed? By their jockeys? And where do the trainers fit in? That Chris Symons’ flawed programming concept would go this far is mind boggling.
Symons, who is recognized in Australia as being adept at bamboozling the easily bamboozled with clichés adapted from “The Long Tail” and “The Love Guru”, has failed to reveal critical details of the arrangement with Ladbrokes. Details such as whether Ladbrokes are paying the Jockeys involved for their “cash for comments”. If they are, then clearly the jockeys are in serious breach of a fundamental rule of racing: Jockeys are not allowed to tip or bet on races. Symons, as one of the jockeys’ best known self promoters, should have known this. He must have had a Yeezy moment.
What is also puzzling is the reported response from Victoria Chief Steward Terry Bailey. “Bails”, who has a growing blacklist of integrity issues and problems to deal with under his watch- a watch that’s fast running out of time and patience and credibility-is reported as telling Fairfax Media’s Patrick Bartley that he had been aware of the “Ride Guide” concept, but not when it would be launched, and that both he and NSW Chief Steward Mark Van Gestel were informed only on the eve of Saturday’s meetings that Ladbrokes was funding the Ride Guide. Really? Seriously? Who’s actually running this show? Again, we ask, the owners were in the dark? Why? How? Guess.
Bartley further states that “Ride Guide” had its first airing without the approval either of the Racing NSW or Racing Victoria Integrity Departments. If Bailey was aware of “Ride Guide”, surely he should have knocked it on the head when it was first raised, whenever that was? From what we understand, this was four weeks ago. Asleep at the wheel again, and not listening? Again?
If Bailey was aware of “Ride Guide”, it should be presumed that he would have advised Symons of the obvious, which he articulated to Bartley – that “jockeys have broken the rules of racing if they have accepted money for appearing on Ride Guide without permission from Stewards”.
What is even more of a conundrum is Patrick Smith’s claim that, “the product (Ride Guide) was initially offered to industry platforms including Victoria’s broadcasting arm Racing.com. Racing Victoria did not progress with the preliminary offering because it would not pay for a service that is based on its own product. Nor should it. You don’t pay your neighbour if he wants to borrow your wheelbarrow”.
Smith also makes several valid and salient points about “Ride Guide” and Jockeys involvement with Ladbrokes. “As it stands now, Ride Guide must be shut down, for the very perception that a bookmaker is paying jockeys for information scars racing’s integrity. It cannot proceed either for the very reason of its exclusivity. It is absurd and unfair that jockeys are passing on paid information about their rides only to punters involved with a bookmaker. Even if that payment is at arms length through a third party, in this case Unscriptd”. So much for Chris Symons’ claim about trying to advance public engagement through jockeys. Enough of the selfies-type hype. Enough of the phoniness.
Interestingly, Ladbrokes, together with Crownbet, share an exclusive arrangement with Racing.com as its exclusive wagering partners, a controversial arrangement, which has triggered a “cold war” environment between Racing Victoria and its wagering partner Tabcorp. Surely if Racing.com chose to decline an involvement for the reasons articulated by Patrick Smith, and if Terry Bailey was aware of “Ride Guide”, then how has this ended up where it has? It has all the evidence of a “Sergeant Schutz” defence. The waters have been muddied and some have been asleep at the wheel. And this siesta has been exploited. No guessing by whom.
It appears also strange, very, very strange that Symons, who is a Committee member of the Victorian Jockeys Association, and regarded as a “poster boy” articulating much of their agenda in the media, was naïve enough to not understand the stark integrity issues which were staring “Ride Guide” and the Jockeys who have signed up to what is blatantly a “cash for comment” exercise.
It would be even more damning that those in Racing Victoria and Racing NSW, who were briefed on “Ride Guide”, a name we’ve already got tired of, did not immediately consign it to the “prohibited” list where it belongs. It certainly would have hit the bin in no time at all in Hong Kong, where this whole sorry mess has become a laughing stock as all the furious back peddling in Oz racing gets going. Again.
Australian racing has a propensity to make a total arse of itself at every opportunity which presents itself. Domestically, its brand and image is shot. As we have stated before, it is the Titanic searching for an iceberg. Its so-called leadership, administrators and participants have an addiction for gifting bad news stories to a rapacious racing media pack. Together, they are complicit in turning Integrity into a rolling wrecking ball in the most undignified way.
Good news stories in Australian racing happen intermittently. And then, only by accident. Led by a bunch of inept administrators, Australian racing continually allows its Jockeys and Trainers to put themselves above the rules of racing by tolerating the regular and flagrant flouting of these, and denigrate a sport which once was a pleasure to be a part of. Their arrogance knows no limits.
It’s a recurring theme in Australian racing, where every road of self-inflicted misery leads back to the lack of decisive, professional leadership and management. It stands out like the proverbial dogs gonads. And thanks to its dysfunctional structure and model, it tolerates and breeds mediocrity- like it’s toothless executives, flyweights like Chris Symons, and all those more concerned about feathering their own nests before the golden parachute comes flying down to take them away to their multi million dollar retirement homes.
As for “Ride Guide”, if it is not dealt with swiftly and terminally by the administrators in NSW and Victoria, then there is another compelling reason for “nuking” the governing bodies. And those compelling reasons are growing by the week.