By Keyser Soze
CLEAR UP THE DAVID MOODIE ALLEGATIONS. PLEASE.
Can the albatross hanging around the neck of Australian racing from the spate of cobalt positives get any murkier? If the scandals in NSW, which claimed the training careers of Darren Smith and Sam Kavanagh, and led to lengthy bans on veterinarian Tom Brennan and embroiled and derailed the careers of many others across a variety of sections of the NSW and Australian racing fraternity, were not enough, then the allegations concerning the leaking of information by Racing Victoria Chairman David Moodie in last Saturday’s Herald Sun, surely has turned the murky world of Victorian racing murkier.
The allegation was contained in a story by racing journalist Daryl Timms and published in the Herald Sun newspaper last Saturday, with the headline “Spilling the Beans – Moodie leaked test results claim”. The headline and story refer to an allegation raised at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) by counsel for trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh that Moodie had told trainer Peter Moody of the positive tests returned by horses trained by Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh before the two trainers had been informed by Stewards. The stewards informed the two trainers of the positives the next morning.
According to Timms: “After being told by Moodie (David)), it is claimed Moody (Peter) phoned O’Brien to tell him of his cobalt positives”. Timms also states that: “It is believed Stewards discovered Moodie’s phone call to Moody and the subsequent calls to the Flemington trainers when they examined mobile phone records as part of their probe into the positive urine samples”.
Timms further states that the Racing Victoria Integrity Council did not recommend action against Moodie, and neither did the Board of Racing Victoria which “considered the matter and did not censure him”.
There are a host of very disturbing questions raised by these allegations which demand explanations and answers. If the Integrity Council did investigate the matter and did not recommend action be taken against the Chairman of Racing Victoria, then the reasons and circumstances surrounding both the investigation and its outcome MUST be made public. These are allegations of the most serious nature levelled against a Chairman of racing’s governing body in Victoria. More than anything, until this matter is cleared up, David Moodie’s name will be dragged through the mud. David Moodie does not need this. If the allegations are correct and there were extenuating circumstances, all well and good. But if the allegations stand and there are no extenuating circumstances, then Moodie’s position is untenable.
The Integrity of the Victorian racing industry has taken a battering since the sorry cobalt saga reared its ugly head 20 long months ago. It is a tribute to the resilience of this great sport that it has been able to function and operate under such enormous duress. Racing needs to be reminded that “big brother” is continually watching and tracking its every move. Racing does not need nor deserve its own version of “Wikileaks”. Just ask the soon to be dismantled NSW greyhound industry.
HAS NSW GOT ITS FUNDING RIGHT?
It’s the question that is being asked by many, with the dust rapidly settling down after the outbreak of hubris which immediately followed the “cash splash” thrown at a racing industry that has been suffering a mix of acute starvation, deprecation and emaciation from well over a decade of almost wilful neglect.
The victims spread across many industry sectors in NSW – Race Clubs, Owners, Trainers, Jockeys, Staff, in the metropolitan, provincial and country regions, were heard very audibly to breathe sighs of relief when Racing NSW in its completely unfamiliar role of Santa Claus delivered what, at face value, appeared to be Christmas stockings which had so overloaded the sleigh that the reindeers had to be given massive doses of cobalt and TCO 2 to get them to deliver the goodies.
Basking in the afterglow of the generosity of Racing NSW, which literally knew no bounds, the response from the long suffering “50,000” industry participants reprised Julius Caesar’s triumphant arrival at the Forum in Rome after conquering, colonizing and expanding the Roman empire.
Like any well managed event in any third world nation with an authoritarian regime, the cheer squad was well briefed and made all the appropriate rhubarb rhubarb noises. Salvation, after all, could not be allowed to go unnoticed. And nor should it.
Chris Waller described the prize money increase as a “masterstroke”. A masterstroke it was – skilful and opportunistic. The sort of strategic manoeuvuring associated with politicians. Only problem is that politicians are the least trusted and one of the most disliked professions in the community. Kris Lees described the prizemoney increases as extraordinary. He too was right. But if Lees had taken the time to think things through, he might have reflected on the decade or more of neglect.
This neglect was not just of country and provincial prizemoney, but also encompassed the antiquated infrastructure across all sectors – metropolitan, provincial and country, which has inflicted pain on just about every one of the “50,000” participants in NSW, except the elites, splurging their proceeds from good times on the Australian stock exchange and the financial and property sector. Add to this mix the global powerhouses such as Coolmore and Godolphin and the increasing number of cashed-up Chinese investors and the smaller owner and syndicates have been just about suffocated out of NSW racing.
Not surprisingly, these are the very same people who are going to be handsomely rewarded by Racing NSW’s cash splash – not the hapless survivors in the provincial and country sectors who have foolishly let their hearts rule their heads and endured the pain of the past decade or more.
These passionate lost souls will again be deprived and miss out on “Santa’s” largesse. And why? Because the likes of Kris Lees, Chris Waller and their fellow big name trainers will target the $30,000 minimum stakes in the provincial and $20,000 minimum stakes in the country, just as their counterparts in Victoria have done since that State raised their country minimums many years before NSW decided to do so. And who can blame them?
The difference though, as we have pointed out repeatedly, is that Victoria has a greater diversity in its owner and trainer base than NSW, and which will continue into the foreseeable future. Unlike NSW, Victoria’s strong and diverse ownership base is underwritten by a wide range of syndicates. It is not uncommon for syndicates in that state to exceed 20 owners. Often, there are syndicates within syndicates, with members owning, literally, as little as a solitary hair of a horse. So, unlike NSW, the prize money spread is understandably wider amongst Victorian owners. Not so in NSW, where an increasingly select elite of wealthy cashed up owners and breeders dominate ownership which will ensure that the prizemoney increases are delivered straight into their bank accounts.
It makes a convincing “lie” of the unadulterated spin and humbug trotted out identifying NSW as “the best place to race a horse”,and that NSW racing is still leading the he way nationally”.
Perhaps Racing NSW should be asked to explain why tracks in all sectors are of an embarrassingly sub-standard, and have been so for several decades? And why, NSW, until Tuesday’s announcement, does not have a synthetic racing surface, which over the years has cost the NSW racing industry, NSW owners, trainers, jockeys and yes, the hapless “50,000” participants millions of dollars in lost revenue and earnings through the all too familiar cancellation and abandonment of race meetings.
The pathetically small metropolitan field sizes has in recent times become NSW racing’s Achilles Heel. Small Saturday and mid-week metropolitan race fields are not only a major embarrassment, but also make a mockery of the hollow claim that NSW racing is “leading the way nationally”. Small fields, so often stifle wagering on exotic products and have a negative impact on overall wagering revenue and by extension on the returns to the NSW racing industry. Racing NSW has long claimed that pumping up prize money will provide owners with an irresistible “honeypot” to drive them into investing in racehorses, which the “spin” tells us will kill off the field size issue plaguing NSW racing.
Wrong. That wonderful teacher, which is history, shows that when prizemoney was last adjusted when metropolitan Saturday minimum stakes levels were raised to the $80,000 level, there was no spike in field sizes. If anything, they contracted and the trend southwards has continued. Hardly the type of factual evidence to inspire the Racing Minister Troy Grant and his State Government who have committed to tax parity and the prudent use of the funds from the tax break for NSW racing.
It would be impossible to find anyone in NSW racing or anywhere else in Australia or the world, for that matter, who would oppose prize money increases. A very compelling case can be mounted for indexing prize money to the cost of racing. But let’s not be disingenuous about it. Nor barrel chested. Racing does not need its own version of an “arms race” with prizemoney between two States who have been poles apart since racing began in Australia being put up as the trophy to the survivor of a war which has spanned well over a century.
Let’s just put a full stop to the dangerous pathway towards elitism which NSW racing is heading towards with a full head of steam. The Arc trial this weekend in France, as of Thursday, had a field of three starters. That’s right three starters. And there are no Black Caviar’s or Winx’s or Frankel’s to frighten the opposition. But the Arc Trial is no exception. So many of the group and Listed races in Europe struggle to attract field sizes in excess of four or five runners, and at least one of those is a pacemaker.
It would take a delusional racing person to not recognize the damage inflicted on European racing as it chose a pathway towards the elitist model. NSW racing cannot go down this path. It must become mainstream. Again, like it once was not that long ago.
Hot on the heels of the debacle which saw the second abandonment of a race meeting after just three races had been conducted at Sandown last Wednesday, comes an ominous warning that a feature race meeting at one of Victoria’s premier country race tracks- Ballarat- next week might need to be transferred. WTF, indeed when people can’t get the basics right?
The Sandown debacle was triggered by a section of the track around the home turn, which was deemed by jockeys to be unsafe with horses slipping and losing their footing. It was a replication of the problem which caused an abandonment of a previous meeting at Sandown.
Clearly, Sandown, once regarded as Victoria’s best metropolitan racing surface, has a major problem which needs to be fixed post haste. Or maybe, with the mooted sale of Sandown, the Melbourne Racing Club and Racing Victoria have other infrastructure priorities? The possible transfer of the next Ballarat race meeting should surprise no one. The last race meeting held at Ballarat featured a host of hurdle and steeplechase races, and any person watching these would have witnessed the carnage inflicted on the Ballarat race track by horses competing on what appeared to be a Heavy 13 track! And all in the good cause of jumps racing. Please.
Meanwhile, the drums are beating that one of the candidates interviewed for the Racing Victoria Chief Executive position is a racing administrator from one of the minnow States. Our many mates in that State are aghast- AGHAST- that this particular person has even cracked it for an interview for one of the prime positions in Australian racing. But by now, would anything be a surprise?