By Hans Ebert
Australia was all a Twitter yesterday about the very sudden, but not unexpected, split between trainer John O’Shea and his tough task masters at Godolphin that includes constantly coming up against a Plumtree.
According to one report, the trainer has suddenly lost his “enthusiasm” for the sport.
As Sydney-based racing writer Chris Roots has categorically stated, John O’Shea was not fired. He’s no doubt correct, as the severance pay would be enormous. And despite all these repetitious reports about them throwing money to attract Joao Moreira, Godolphin are notorious tightwads and a brand in decline.
Perhaps that malaise hanging over horse racing written about here recently, and how the sport desperately needs something new to take it to the bigger world of sports entertainment and rid itself of this “gambling only” albatross has affected John O’Shea?
Burn out is happening more and more in horse racing along with mediocre talent given executive roles in the racing industry, because very few who can make a difference wish to be part of the sport in its current incarnation. They don’t see where it’s going. Can you? They see what’s not happening and want nothing to do with the losers in horse racing. And if you don’t like what you see, who wants to be part of a ragtag group of intellectual midgets and Nowhere Men?
Strangely enough, the news about the departure of John O’Shea had been making the rounds in Hong Kong all this week with word being that Godolphin were in talks with Peter Moody, Tony McEvoy, Charlie Appleby and James Cummings as replacements. James Cummings was even named on Facebook as the replacement before the tweet from racing reporter Andrew Bensley that something might be up. James Cummings? But isn’t he very much tied up as Racing Manager for his wife Monica’s family owned Gooree Park Stud farm?
As for Moody, perhaps all that recent lamenting about “the lack of vibes in Melbourne”, and campaigning furiously for Racing NSW supremo Peter V’landys to also run the “rudderless” RVL, was all part of a plan bigger than the former trainer even scaling Mount Everest?
John O’Shea will no doubt get a nice golden handshake despite what seems to have been an acrimonious split with the trainer not bothering to show up at Hawkesbury yesterday to saddle up any of the Godolphin runners. Rumours that he could be heading to Hong Kong are surprising, to put it mildly.
Funny how things like news about O’Shea turn into one long chain reaction of massive interest to anyone associated with horse racing in the land Down Under with everyone wishing to have some sort of say. Perhaps this has to do with having racing all year around. Perhaps this has to do with Australia’s horse racing culture…
In Hong Kong, if this happened to a trainer, the talk will be as small as a dim sum. It’s like big-spending owner Pan Sutong moving all his horses from the stable of Richard Gibson to that of Tony Cruz. Or the recent news that former trainer Sean Woods is suing the HKJC for “unfair dismissal”. If there has been any reaction to this case by “mere commoners”, it’s been a “Diiiiuuuu. Lap sap trainer.” Loosely translated, it means, “Who cares? He was rubbish.”
If race goers in Hong Kong don’t have a vested financial interest in something, they can’t be bothered. They leave it up to those in charge of taking care of business: the HKJC.
Then again, with Australia’s current dysfunctional and divisive horse racing industry with leaders who can’t lead, gimmicky one trick pony “initiatives”, bully boy tactics that are allowed to carry on like one boring reality series and with one of the main racing clubs sending out search parties to track down a CEO, and them returning with not even some wampum beads, one supposes it just asks for everything to become one free for all.
Closer to home, today at Sha Tin, it’s all about the running of the Audemars Piguet QE11 Cup- eight runners with the main chances being Hong Kong’s Werther and Japan’s Neorealism. The unknown quantity is the enigmatic Pakistan Star, who still can’t seem to shake off that label of being “an Internet sensation” and the puzzling term, “hype horse.”
It seems like years since the horse’s spectacular debut win with everything having plateaued out since. So could everyone just give this work in progress the time to find its legs and learn how to race? Video might have killed the radio star, but continuous hype and scrutiny, plus great expectations is not helping the image of Pakistan Star with naysayers already rubbishing a purchase whose potential is still to be realised.
If horse racing had less talk and more action from those who can really lead, and not racing clubs hiring serial tweeters who make the sport look childish and irrelevant, it might actually have a fighting chance of survival.