By Hans Ebert
“Hans, after the last race on Friday night, a drunken punter got stuck into Dwayne Dunn telling him that he slaughtered Miss Gunpowder in the race. Dwayne went over to punter and the abuse continued. One of the RV stewards walked past and simply ignored what was going on. My concern is the members bar at MV is so close to the walkway where the jocks head onto and off the track, some nights the abuse is horrendous. It’s only a matter of time before a jockey is hurt by a punter who wants to vent and use physical violence rather than words.”
One friend describes it as being “dark”. Another calls it “toxic”. All I can say is, Thank gawd for Winx, because without her, the racing fraternity in Victoria that calls Melbourne home seem to be living in Gotham City with the blinkers on. And even bigger thanks to Winx for winning what was the seventeenth race on that disgraceful Moonee Valley race track for a race with the rich history of the Cox Plate. Let’s not even imagine the fallout if she had lost because of the wear and tear of the track. Would heads have rolled? Doubt it. Like misery, incompetence loves company, Batman, and the weak and lost look after their own.
My parents lived in Camberwell for over thirty years and as their only son had to do my duty by visiting them regularly and take the usual Sunday afternoon tram ride, go to their favourite Chinese restaurant and then be coerced into having dinner with someone my father would describe as “a very good young singer who can be the next Norah Jones”. Heading a major music company at the time, I knew what to expect: Being handed a CD of recordings by a “young singer” usually pushing fifty and performing at one of the hotels.
It was boring in Camberwell, but bearable. This was the time when there was also a very different Melbourne. The hills were alive with the sounds of excitement. Spring Carnival time meant flying in from Hong Kong and frequenting Fidel’s, JJ’s, having our suites at Crown and partying like it was 1999 before attending Melbourne Cup Day, also backing runners in every other race meeting taking place around Australia, and returning to Fidel’s after dinner at a particularly good seafood restaurant at Crown to continue the party. Win, lose or draw, it was party time. Perhaps not being bogged down by rants from keyboard warriors and “social media” often creating a very anti social world kept everything, including horse racing and Melbourne, more real in an unreal era.
Thinking back to those days, and despite us from Hong Kong always paying for a Big Night Out- those we have met recently from Melbourne always, always, always, seem to be suffering from arthritis of the hand when needing to reach for their wallets- it was fun- really good Wolf Of Wall Street fun where we’d meet up with jockeys, owners, trainers, smart racing executives from Australia and overseas, and new lady friends from that other Gotham City. It was all a bit like Springtime For Hitler in Germany mixed with a good acid trip. There were huge wins, bigger losses, but it was all part of the times and having access to big entertainment allowances. Tomorrow was always another day.
Of course, the world’s longest cocktail party never lasted. The Wolf Of Wall Street was tamed, and one grew up. Even Peter Pan ages. Fast forward to Melbourne today…
Less than a year ago while visiting the city and meeting a few close friends in horse racing who will always be friends, this circle was expanded by others in racing. These included executives from various racing clubs in Victoria along with one character who was always hanging out with them. He had no problems telling this total stranger to him and in front of senior racing executives about his “mail” from a certain senior jockey who’s still riding today. This hanger on was described as being a brilliant financier. Right. Google is a wonderful thing in checking out people’s past out as is timing your intake of glasses of red with plenty of H2O. Let the information flow with the Cabernet Sauvignon while you listen and absorb. Loose lips sink ships and all that…
Here was a group that didn’t make me feel comfortable. I didn’t enjoy the company of most of them and very few of the executives showed any people skills or leadership qualities. It was one big self-interest group. There was also that sign flashing above their heads saying “USERS”. It let out a silent scream as the day for night continued until it was Über time and the floor show had deteriorated into a legless embarrassment. By then, so much had been revealed about “family secrets” so openly discussed that there was the feeling of entering another dimension. This wasn’t fun. It was revealing, but it wasn’t fun. It was also unprofessional and conduct unbecoming.
Teflon men being put into suits and given the job of running any industry is never a good idea. Nothing sticks. Mediocrity and incompetence being rewarded and promoted is also not a good look. Even Young Einstein can spot the fakers from the wannabe movers and shakers until all one hears is the sound of one hand clapping.
Hong Kong and the HKJC are hardly perfect, and some questionable hires have slipped through the net and others try to please everyone to survive, but above all this there’s always been a competitive drive. A steely determination to succeed. Nothing is taken for granted. Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it’s strong leadership where fools are not suffered gladly and bully boy tactics from any direction are not tolerated.
Let’s cut it right here and say that there’s a huge amount of bullshit being floated all over the place when it comes to the Victoria old boys racing club. It’s not even smart bullshit. If the least bit streetwise, one instinctively knows those who can and those who pretend they can. It’s why Australian racing’s answer to Donald Trump has always been able to hoodwink, bulldoze his way through and play so many in racing in Victoria on a dime- weak executives given the task of leading racing in Victoria out of the quagmire in which it finds itself today. And this is someone who’s hardly a global player when it comes to the horse racing industry. He’s just a divisive character with a history for subterfuge.
On the sidelines, meanwhile, is the peanut gallery- the media rabble, the media whores, the wannabe society queens, the wannabe big noting horse owners, ideas being floated around with no strategy, and even worse, no financial backing, those well known legends in their own lunchtime and with everyone looking for another free lunch and pretending to be who and what they’re not and never will be.
Once all this is sniffed out, it’s not long before this small racing universe loses whatever gloss it might have had and people peek under the covers and discover other untruths. When there’s only distrust, and rabid politics and gremlins leading an industry, there’s that trickle down effect to those described as “racing fans”.
Many are, most are not. For the latter group, horse racing is their One Big Day Out for the year and they become a Beastie Boys track. They’re not there for the racing. Somewhere between races four and five, they lose all sense of reality and sensibility. Have fun, but don’t embarrass yourself, people. But when those leading horse racing is often a long running episode of Men Behaving Badly, what else can one expect?
Seeing all this unfold over the last two weeks in Melbourne, the odds of returning for the Race That Stops A Nation are less than zero. Who needs it? Who needs to worry that going to the races might lead to an unpleasant incident? After the incidents of the last week, especially to jockey Craig Williams, many do worry. Full house signs are one-off hits. Is anyone looking at sustained successes? Doubt it. It’s knee jerk reaction stuff along with an often blinkered racing media.
Again, thank goodness for Winx winning Race 17 at Moonee Valley. But just like one monkey don’t stop no show, one horse, no matter how magnificent, is going to right all the wrongs affecting racing in Victoria- and many parts of New South Wales. The latter is just never mentioned. The racing media there know better.
As for the few good men and women in horse racing for the love of the animals and with their hearts in the right place, think they have a chance? After all, we all know what they say about a fish and from where it stinks, right?
#DwayneDunn #horseracing #MissGunpowder #Winx #MooneeValley #CoxPlate #HKJC