GIVE CURRIE HIS LAWYER – STOP THE DELAYS – GET ON WITH THE INQUIRY

A SUPREME Court decision today decided whether QRIC Stewards can insist that legal representation is not permitted under the Rules of Racing has reverted the decision to the discretion of the Stewards.

The Court found that the Rules do not prohibit Toowoomba Trainer Ben Currie from requesting legal representation which is at the discretion of the Stewards.

Mr Currie is yet to face a resumed Steward’s inquiry into 28 alleged rule breaches Stewards issued on 4 July 2018 and four alleged illegal substance breaches issued on 28 November and 14 December 2018.

 

QCAT CLEARS BEN CURRIE TO TRAIN UNTIL AFTER INTERNAL REVIEW

FOLLOWING a Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) hearing today, Toowoomba Trainer Ben Currie has been granted a stay of proceedings until five days after the handing down of an Internal Review in relation to seven alleged breaches of the rules of racing.

The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) has 20 business days from the date of the original decision to provide the findings of an internal review.

Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation the Commission will make no further comment at this stage.

 

SHOULD TRAINERS REFUSE TO RACE AGAINST CURRIE STABLE HORSES?

A regular reader has posed an interesting question:

IF rival trainers are so incensed by the alleged ‘milking’ of the appeals system in Queensland under the guise of ‘natural justice’ should they refuse to race against horses from the Ben Currie stable until the situation is corrected?

The least said about the current drawn out saga the better. The appallingly slow appeals system in the north is the laughing stock of the industry nationwide and it’s time someone – like the Racing Minister – applied a ‘jigger’ to it.

Chris Roots, writing for Fairfax Media, summed up the situation perfectly:

The Queensland system of racing justice is flawed if Toowoomba trainer Ben Currie hasn’t faced a stewards’ inquiry on 28 charges from April last year.

The trainer has been making a living off the industry for more than 10 months, while making every attempt to avoid answering charges. His case is still the subject of a Supreme Court challenge later in the month (this Friday).

In the meantime, every other trainer has to question whether they are on an even playing field when racing against Currie-trained horses.

Currie had another seven charges, including instructing the use of an electric device - a jigger - added to his rap sheet on Friday. Asked to a show cause hearing on Monday, Currie’s lawyer wanted two weeks to prepare.

It has become a joke. The Darren Weir case was dealt within two weeks in Victoria, which gives some indication as to how slow the wheels of justice turn in Queensland.

Currie cannot train in NSW because of the serious nature of charges, a ruling which was made last year.

Even Queensland’s leading race club, the BRC, took the unprecedented step of banning Currie from attending Doomben when QRIC allowed his horses to run last Saturday.

 The majority of trainers applauded the decision. If the Racing Minister, the Government, or officialdom, won’t move to expedite the Currie matter perhaps it is time stakeholders took matters into their own hands like they successful managed to do a few months back on the issue of prizemoney.

 

FEELINGS RUNNING HIGH AMONG TRAINING COLLEAGUES OF CURRIE

FEELINGS are running high among trainers in particular in the wake of the Currie stable saga and the situation is on the verge of getting out of hand.

Even high profile barrister Jim Murdoch has been on the receiving end of some unacceptable and unwarranted ‘hate mail’ sent to social media outlets, like letsgohorseracing. We aren’t prepared to run these but will provide an explanation.

Basically, some colleagues are struggling to come to terms with the ‘two hats’ that Murdoch wears – one as a ‘gun for hire’ barrister with a reputation of finding loopholes in the racing legal system in Queensland that has seen his successful strike rate soar on appeals. He is also a licensed trainer, more of the hobby variety, who has trained his share of winners and is passionate about this other racing outlet in his busy life.

Some refuse to accept how a training colleague can defend Ben Currie when they want to see the young trainer on the sideline. They see Jim as ‘aiding’ the enemy.

Before becoming publisher of LGHR, I spent a short stint working for Bob Gibbs when he was Racing Minister and can remember his insistence (at the time when the QTC was being stripped of principal club powers) that Jim Murdoch head up the new control body to run racing in Queensland. Sadly, for the industry, Jim was far too much in demand as a lawyer back then and although I believe racing wouldn’t be in the ‘deep crap’ it is today had he been at the helm, that was never going to happen.

North Queensland lawyer Barry Taylor was another who should never have been lost to the administration of racing in Queensland and he, too, recognises the flaws of the current appeals system and believes with Government intervention it could be rectified quickly.

Perhaps with the help of ‘legal guns’ like Murdoch and Taylor, the Racing Minister in conjunction with Racing Queensland, can do something to add some respectability and change to the current system before it is too late.

Stewards also need to get their finger on the pulse of a situation that is at boiling point involving anger among some top trainers. We have received several reports of a verbal altercation between a leading trainer and Currie stable staff at Doomben on Saturday which stewards apparently were aware of but after making some inquiries decided not to act upon officially.

A lot of innocent people are being dragged into the battleground. Even Peter Moody is undeservedly copping some bad vibes from the anti-Currie forces because of his long-time friendship with Ben’s father, Mark, who is appealing a lengthy disqualification.

When a story surfaced on social media that Brett Cavanough might be moving north to take over the Currie stable and horses the rumour mill went into overdrive that Moody was playing a role behind the scenes, which is nothing short of farcical. Sure there is a connection from way back when and the Moody horses were being pre-trained or broken in by Cavanough – a long-time friend – but if the champion trainer wanted to make a comeback it would have happened when Darren Weir fell on his sword recently.

It would be a retrograde step for Moody to train out of a bush base like Toowoomba – not that he has ever forgotten his roots or would feel out of place there – but if there is a comeback from the big fella it deserves to be where he belongs in the big smoke.

As for Toowoomba well the presence of the Currie stable – and their achievements – may have put it back on the racing map but in some cases for all the wrong reasons.

Questions were asked whether they followed the Brisbane Racing Club lead and banned Ben Currie from attending the track last Saturday for the Clifford Park twilights where he had several runners but surprisingly failed to win a race.

Sadly the racing public and the punters are hot under the collar too about the Currie situation. Here is what some of them had to say, courtesy of popular website punters.com.au:

‘I don’t even want to back anything in a race Ben Currie has any horse listed...

Toowoomba has been a track for fools for years...’

‘For an owner I am upset to be running in the same races as his horses.’

‘As a punter how are you supposed to have any confidence each meet/race that Currie runs his horses in. Mr Markou R7 Doomben on Saturday gets up just like MM Country Cup? W.t.f., double figure odds again.’

‘Queensland is a different county where many believe punters don’t get a fair go.’

‘How many times will two top jockeys in Queensland miss the kick on short priced favorites this week?

‘Shame the authorities seem to be frightened to do something. Love Queensland racing but this needs to be addressed, i.e. issues that are constantly in the media. Show some kahunas and stop this circus.’

‘When was the last retrospective inquiry in Brisbane, 1977?’

 

PUNTERS ANGRY AS GET ON SAYS SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR 

GUN tipster DAVID GATELY appears to have been sacked from the popular racing.com preview show GET ON and the punters are far from happy about it.

His legion of fans wants to know why and is entitled to an explanation from the show’s producers.

Gately has admitted on Twitter that he has been excluded from the show this year but does not say why. If he was punted because his tips were too successful for the liking of the sponsors (two corporate bookies), as has been alleged, then that has to be the ultimate insult. Get On should be using every resource to help punters beat the bookies.

There’s also a touch of hypocrisy in the decision to exclude Gately when it seems his replacement is Brent Zerafa. Back in September 2015, Zerafa was sacked by Sky Channel following an inquiry by Racing NSW stewards into text exchanges between he and harness racing identity John Camilleri.

Zerafa, who worked for the now defunct racing network TVN at the time of the texts, was found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the image of racing. Zerafa was not tipping on the day of the texts but alerting TVN viewers to the ‘best from the yard’.

Stewards alleged he received a text from Camilleri an hour before a race featuring two horses trained by Sam Kavanagh. Camilleri advised Zerafa that he had been helping Kavanagh and that ‘Zerafa should back the trainer’s second-string runner, Palazzo Pubblico’.

Zerafa admitted at an inquiry to investing $200 on the horse at $6 — top odds was twice that — and stewards alleged inferred in a text to Camilleri that he had ‘thrown off’ viewers by not including Palazzo Pubblico in his top three picks from the yard.

A couple of years down the track and Zerafa has been reinvented as a ‘gun tipster’ with racing.com who – if you read some of the comments on social media – are far more forgiving of his ‘sins of the past’ than what the punters are.

Now we find David Gately, who certainly has no such skeletons in his closet, dumped by racing.com which needs to urgently provide an explanation to the punting public for their decision. If it was because of a conflict of interest with his own ‘tipping’ service or the workload involved with his commitments to Best Bets one might understand but that has not been suggested (and let’s face it Deane Lester tips on RSN under similar circumstances without any problems). Questions are also being asked whether Gately’s  exclusion from Get On also applies to the RSN radio network where he was going head-to-head with Lester (which was great for the punters) but appears to have been replaced overnight by some ‘tipster’ that don’t rate with the punters.   

Gately supporters have been quick to express their anger and disappointment with racing.com on social media.

One suggested: “It’s like the ultimate achievement. Racing.com has banned him because they are affiliated with bookies who he has sent broke.”

That might be drawing a long bow but the racing.com link with two major bookmaking entities (who apparently have regular seats on the Get On panel because they sponsor the show) does not sit comfortably with many in racing who see the corporates as nothing more than parasites on the industry in this country and question why officialdom of racing in Victoria does not ensure that the TAB which provides the bulk of prizemoney revenue is not only absent from the show but also should be the sole bookmaker presenting prices and advice.

Fans of Gately have questioned the lack of support from his colleagues on Get On. Host Shane Richardson has reportedly stated on Twitter that it’s out of their control.

Some punters are so angry they refuse to watch the show now. “What’s the point of Get On without Gator. He was on there before all these current Muppets. Racing.com has lost the bloody plot,” one said.

And here are a few more protests: “Hey Gator, Get On is not Get On without you.”

“Can’t believe the Get On situation – the only reason it was so popular was all down to you mate. It’s like Pearl Jam without E Vedder. Just not on!”

“Gately is the best by the length of the straight. Richo is too much of a joke on the show and although he does know racing he clearly annoys the panel. I don’t mind Hutchi and it is clear there is respect between him and Gator. But Gator can’t cop Richo.

“Gator won't be back on. That show needs a complete revamp. How that bald-headed goose hosts everything is beyond me.”

“Gator is a gun tipster he'll be back on that show no problems. He finished about $35,000 up last year with his tips. Not too shabby. They were stirring him up about it last year on one of the shows and he came out with one of the best comebacks...….‘Well I haven't been to an ATM this year’ lol.

 

THE PROBLEM CONTINUES WITH A LACK OF JOCKEYS IN QLD BUSH

GREG BLANCHARD of NUDGEE continues his fight to right the problem with a lack of jockeys at bush meetings:

‘LAST year I highlighted the really big problem at non-TAB meetings where horses are being scratched due to no available riders.

On February 11 at Cairns TAB meeting Resadowska was scratched from Race 9 – no rider available.

Then on February 14 at Rockhampton TAB  meeting Beyoncneigh was scratched from Race 4.

There were two Racing Queensland gentleman at the big Emerald meeting last Saturday and then at an awards function which I believe was a great night and I applaud all involved who celebrate and support bush racing.

RQ has done good things in the battle of the bush etc but the lack of jockeys needs attention. As previously stated Asia is a market to be tapped!

 

 

 

 

BEN CURRIE SUSPENDED ‘IN INTERESTS OF INTEGRITY & REPUTATION’ OF RACING

TOOWOOMBA Thoroughbred Trainer Ben Currie has had his trainer’s licence suspended after he failed to satisfy Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) Stewards that he be allowed to continue to train horses in Queensland.

Mr Currie’s suspension will take effect immediately until the hearing of the seven charges issued to him on Friday 15 February.

Stewards made their decision in the interests of the integrity and reputation of the sport as it is paramount.

Stewards have ruled that all horses trained, owned, part owned or leased by Mr Currie shall not participate in any official race or trial, and shall not be allowed to nominate for any race or trial.

Mr Currie has been provided with 10 days to provide for the welfare of the horses in his care while suitable arrangements can be made for these horses to be transferred subject to the approval of the Chief Stipendiary Steward.

 

 

BEN CURRIE BANNED FROM EAGLE FARM & DOOMBEN BY THE BRC

RIVAL trainers incensed by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission decision to allow horses from the Ben Currie stable to race this weekend have applauded the Brisbane Racing Club for banning the young trainer from entering Doomben and Eagle Farm racetracks.

The damning decisions comes as the embattled trainer faces fresh charges, with QRIC confirming that Currie has been issued with seven more alleged breaches of the rules of racing as part of the ongoing investigation into his stable, including alleged use of a jigger on his horses.

The statement reads: “The Brisbane Racing Club has advised trainer Ben Currie that he is banned from entering Eagle Farm and Doomben racetracks until further notice. 

“Mr Currie was told that the BRC had used its powers under the Liqour Act to impose a venue ban on him. The ban does not prevent Mr Currie's horses from racing at Doomben tomorrow (Saturday). 

“The BRC Board made the decision following an announcement today (Friday) by stewards from the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission that Mr Currie was facing seven new charges of alleged breaches of racing rules including allegations of animal cruelty.”

The statement concluded: “Integrity is paramount to the success of Queensland's racing industry. That integrity is at risk while the charges against Mr Currie are unfinalized.

“The BRC is not pre-judging the charges against Mr Currie. They are a matter for QRIC."

 

 

SEVEN MORE ALLEGED BREACHES AGAINST CURRIE – ONE ‘JIGGER’ RELATED – WILL QRIC FOLLOW THE LEAD OF VICTORIA IN WEIR CASE?

TOOWOOMBA trainer Ben Currie has been issued with seven more alleged breaches of the rules of racing as part of the ongoing investigation into Currie Racing.

It will be alleged that serious animal welfare breaches have occurred including the alleged use of a jigger on two occasions, unauthorised shockwave treatments, failure to report bleeding horses to Stewards and race-day treatment breaches in contravention of the rules of racing.

Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett said the investigation that commenced on 7 April last year was always going to be long and protracted and these new allegations stemmed from items seized as part of the ongoing Currie Racing case.

“The very serious nature of the animal welfare allegations that have surfaced as a result of this investigation have left us with no choice but to act now in the interests of the Queensland racing industry,” Mr Barnett said.

“Mr Currie has been called to a Steward’s Inquiry on Monday 18 February at 10am to show cause why he should not be suspended.

“Consideration was given to whether horses trained by Mr Currie that are nominated to run this weekend should be allowed to compete.

“We have balanced the impact on owners, connections and jockeys, the need to protect the image of the Queensland Racing Industry, and legal considerations in arriving at the decision to allow nominated horses to compete this weekend.

“However this position will be reviewed after Monday’s Steward’s Inquiry.

“Also, none of Mr Currie’s horses nominated to race this weekend are the subject of these latest alleged breaches of the rules which are historic in nature.

Mr Barnett said today’s allegations were in addition to the 28 alleged rule breaches Stewards issued to Mr Currie on 4 July 2018 and four alleged illegal substance breaches issued on 28 November and 14 December 2018.

“Mr Currie has continued to train horses in Queensland on a QCAT stay of proceedings.

“QRIC Steward’s Inquiries into the earlier matters are currently delayed until the outcome of a Supreme Court hearing next Friday, 22 February.

“The Currie Racing investigation has not concluded and further alleged breaches of the rules of racing are likely,” Mr Barnett said.

The latest allegations to come to light occurred between January 2016 and April 2017.

In contravention of AR175(n) Stewards will allege Mr Currie instructed the use of an electric or electronic apparatus (jigger) to deliver an electric shock in an act of cruelty on ‘Cordon Rouge’ prior to racing at Gatton on 30 July 2016.

Stewards will also allege that between 1 March 2016 and 7 March 2016 in breach of AR175(n) Mr Currie allegedly used an electric or electronic apparatus (jigger) on a horse that has been designed to deliver an electric shock.

In contravention of AR64H Stewards allege Mr Currie permitted ‘Dog Days Are Over’ to race at the Sunshine Coast on 16 April 2017 when it had been subjected to shockwave therapy during the seven clear day period before race day.

In a breach of AR53A it will be alleged that Mr Currie failed to notify Stewards when ‘Deep Down’ bled on 31 May 2016 and was then raced by another trainer until June 2017.

It is also alleged in a further breach of AR53A that Mr Currie failed to notify Stewards when ‘Rock Spark’ bled on 6 April 2017, the horse which was sold shortly after the incident continued to race under another trainer.

Stewards will also allege that in a breach of AR175(a) that Mr Currie allegedly made dishonest statements in not disclosing to potential purchasers that Rock Spark bled at Gatton on 6 April 2017.

In an alleged breach of AR178E(1) Mr Currie allegedly caused the administration of boost paste to ‘Honey Toast’ on the day it raced in the Sunshine Coast Cup on 31 January 2016.

Due to the ongoing nature of the Currie Racing investigation the Commission will make no further comment at this stage.

 

‘DENIAL OF NATURAL JUSTICE’ MEANS DIDDLY SQUAT TO MOST PUNTERS

THE ‘Court of Public Opinion’ is arguably the harshest judge in racing.

‘Denial of Natural Justice’ means diddly squat to the majority of punters who are only interested in transparency in racing combined with a level playing field.

The events of recent times will forever tarnish the reputation of Darren Weir. Sadly, most will remember him more as a ‘cheat’ than a ‘champion trainer’.

Peter Gleeson, writing in THE SUNDAYMAIL, suggests Victorian Racing Minister Martin Pakula and Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson ‘should go on the comedy circuit’ for maintaining there is nothing untoward about the industry in their State.

The series of scandals that have occurred has provided the opportunity for Racing NSW to kick Victoria while it is down. That won’t make one iota of difference to Melbourne continuing to make Sydney look second rate when it comes to carnival popularity.

On the positive side at least Victoria has been on the front foot in ‘weeding out the crooks’. The question that needs to be asked is: Do punters have the same confidence betting in some of the other States?

APPEALS SYSTEM IN QUEENSLAND ‘A STANDING JOKE’

THE latest Queensland Racing Minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, has addressed an issue that many of his predecessors and Governments of both political persuasions in the past have failed to.

Something needs to be done urgently about an Appeals Process that is not only a standing joke but is being mocked by the southern States.

It is no longer acceptable for the presumption to exist among participants and the racing public that a trainer or jockey in Queensland can do something wrong in the knowledge that a stay of proceedings will enable them to continue to participate while their case is dragged out by smart lawyers.

It’s taken a while but the Murdoch Media has started to listen to the public and participants protesting flaws in the system and their outspokenness on the issue is not only welcome but long overdue. So is the promise of Racing Minister Hinchliffe to rectify the problem. Rather than criticise him, we should be bagging an endless list of predecessors who not only did nothing about the current anomaly but some even contributed to it.

Racing participants have welcomed questions being raised by NATHAN EXELBY and PETER GLEESON (columnists in THE COURIER-MAIL & THE SUNDAY MAIL) about the ‘elephant in the room’ that is bugging many owners and trainers in racing in Queensland – the long-running and drawn out case involving leading trainer Ben Currie and his father, Mark.

GLEESO wrote: In Queensland the role of the regulator, the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, is being questioned by participants after the Ben Currie affair. Currie, a Toowoomba trainer, has been charged with multiple doping offences but continues to train – and the winners keep coming, including a 100-1 shot on Magic Millions day. Currie’s legal team have sought a judicial review from the Supreme Court, meaning stewards can’t deal with his charges. But his on-going presence in the industry is the talk of the track.

EXELBY had this to say: The highest-profile case in Queensland is that of Ben Currie and his father Mark, emanating from an investigation into Currie’s Toowoomba stables on April 7.

The highest-profile case in Queensland is that of Ben Currie and his father Mark, emanating from an investigation into Currie’s Toowoomba stables on April 7.

Mark Currie was found guilty by stewards and disqualified for two years in May.

He was granted a stay soon after. His appeal to QCAT has been scheduled for May 16 and 17.

Ben Currie, who is seeking a Supreme Court judicial review, which means his cases are yet to be heard by stewards, is facing 28 charges and an additional inquiry into four swab irregularities, two of which relate to horses that have raced while he was training on a stay of proceedings.

Currie was stood down by stewards in June under AR50 that his nominations or acceptances would not be received, but was granted an immediate stay by QCAT.

EXELBY perfectly expressed the views of many participants when he wrote how:

QUEENSLAND is seen as the State where a licensee can do something wrong and continue to train on a stay of proceedings while the appeal takes an eternity to be heard. This can create a perception that a trainer or jockey does as they like in Queensland and can continue to play on.

STAKEHOLDERS, punters and the racing public in general agree that integrity in Queensland racing is being severely undermined by the current system.

ALMOST 40 cases remain unresolved as lawyers milk the flawed appeals system and apply for stays of proceedings from their clients which are rubber stamped immediately without any consideration of the merits of the case. 

Exelby was spot on when he also wrote:

EVEN if Racing Minister Sterling Hinchliffe makes moves to change, it will take some time to enact and perhaps it’s time other sectors of the industry took some affirmative action on the issue rather than the constant whingeing.

IT’S been too easy to point at QRIC and wait for something to happen. There are clauses in the Australian Rule Book in which control bodies and race clubs can exercise power to protect the image being projected, but everyone seems happy to sit on their hands as Rome burns.

POSITIVE APPROACH BY MINISTER HAS BEEN WELCOMED

ON a positive at least STERLING HINCLIFFE has conceded there is a problem and is looking at ways to rectify it. How many Racing Ministers and Governments before his simply ignored the situation and if they weren’t responsible for making it worse, did nothing about it while the rest of the racing nation simply made a mockery of the system in the north?

As one contributor wrote to LGHR: ‘What happened to racing justice in Queensland? Forget about presumption of innocence, one could argue the current appeals system is stacked in favour of the crooks. It reminds me of the days when Hinze was Minister and the licensees used to joke: ‘Don’t worry about the Rules of Racing. It’s the Rules of Russ that count these days’.

One has to question whether all the recommendations of the MacSporran Inquiry into Greyhound Live Baiting have worked.

Regardless of its critics, the establishment of QRIC (the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission) and a Racing Police Crime Squad were needed.

But the scrapping of the Racing Disciplinary Board and the introduction of an Internal Review then a hearing by QCAT hasn’t worked largely because some of those hearing appeals at QCAT – with all due respects – know very little about the Rules of Racing. There are reports of one QCAT Board member asking in a harness appeal: ‘What is that little chariot behind the horse?’ Enough said.

The Queensland Government should follow the lead of Victoria and appoint a unit (both linked to the Federal and State Police and Stewards) with special investigative powers, which saw the breakthrough in the Darren Weir case. They should also follow the Victorian lead in Appeals which sees them heard before Judges or former Judges who know racing with the stewards asked to present their case and those charged are allowed to have lawyers present to defend them.

 

RV TO DECIDE WHETHER WEIR CAN STILL WIN TRAINERS’ PREMIERSHIP

RACING Victoria will discuss whether disqualified trainer Darren Weir will be eligible to win this year's Victorian trainers’ premiership after he was banned from the sport for four years last week for possessing ‘jiggers’.

FAIRFAX MEDIA reports that Weir had trained 93 winners since the start of the racing season in August and was heading for his sixth consecutive premiership in 2019 before his stables were raided last month.

With six months remaining, Weir holds a lead of 58 wins over the second placed David Hayes-Tom Dabernig stable, which has trained 35 winners so far this season.

Racing Victoria chairman Brian Kruger told racing.com on Monday night that the issue will be discussed at their Board meeting to determine whether Weir could be named the winner if he retains his current lead.

“It is absolutely an issue that we will consider. There is no precedent,” Kruger said.

A police investigation into the Weir stable remains ongoing with police preparing a brief of evidence for the office of public prosecutions to consider while the stewards have been clear that their investigation remains open despite the Weir disqualification.

Kruger said the industry will undertake a broad review of integrity matters investigating best practice in a number of sports and racing jurisdictions.

The review will include examination of whether the size of stables and the number of trainers in Victoria (there are about 800 licensed trainers in Victoria) impacts upon integrity in racing.

 

DID THE ANIMAL LIBBERS GO MISSING IN ACTION DURING NQ FLOODS?

DID that outspoken and politically influential Animal Liberation lobby go ‘missing in action’ during the North Queensland floods?

That’s the opinion of some in the racing and greyhound industries who have been under their microscope in recent years.

Live-baiting continues to haunt dog racing; the gallops are squarely in their sights after the Darren Weir ‘jigger’ discoveries; jumps racing, use of whips – you name it, the animal liberationists are always out in force on those issues.

Rarely does a major race or jumps meeting occur without at least a small, vocal group there with their placards protesting animal cruelty. They arguably have too much influence on our politicians and decision-makers in the three racing codes.

Yet as hundreds of thousands of animals died as a result of the floods in north and north western Queensland they were allegedly nowhere to be seen. Racing industry emailers to LGHR want to know: Where were the Animal Liberationists when they were most needed?

Why were they not dogging politicians visiting flood areas with their placards protesting the deaths of cattle and sheep that were being shown on our TV screens nightly?

The cattle industry is on its knees. We watched the poor beasts that did survive the floods struggling to stand up, others lying there waiting to die or be shot in flooded paddocks, all because they have no food.

Where were the animal liberationists putting pressure on State and Federal Governments, protesting the snails’ pace at which they were moving to avoid a catastrophe that could send thousands of grazing families to the wall not to mention the long term effect it will have on one of our biggest industries?

What about the thousands of kangaroos, emus and bush wildlife that survived the worst floods in a lifetime only to die without food or help as the cold winds that followed cut through their struggling bodies?

One would have thought an Animal Liberation Movement monitoring the situation would have been front and centre doing their best to help or protest as they seem to do at the drop of a hat when it involves horse racing or greyhound racing.

Despite all the good work they do – and you have to praise the true animal lover for that – one still has to ask what the real motives of some in this group are.

It poses the question whether there is enough political mileage and publicity for some of them in this mission impossible created by the floods where they could inevitably have earned some Brownie Points with those of us who simply regard many would-be Animal Libbers as little more than the ‘true-hugging looney left’.

 

NEWITT SUBJECT OF BETTING INVESTIGATION

GROUP 1 winning jockey Craig Newitt will front Racing Victoria stewards in coming weeks as part of a wide-ranging investigation into betting activity.

FAIRFAX MEDIA reports that Racing Victoria is conducting the investigation in conjunction with Tasmanian Racing officials. However, details as to the exact nature of the inquiry remain unclear.

“Racing Victoria stewards and the Tasmanian Office of Racing Integrity have been conducting a joint betting investigation over recent months. That investigation is ongoing and thus we won’t be commenting on the subject of our inquiries at this time.”

Newitt, who has ridden in Tasmania since 2017, confirmed to RSN in Melbourne on Tuesday that stewards had asked him to appear before them.

“There’s not much I can say. I’m not too worried about it,” Newitt told RSN.

 

   

 

WHAT OTHER CHANGES WILL FLOW FROM POLICE INQUIRY INTO WEIR?

THE Darren Weir case has shone a harsh spotlight on Racing Victoria, the mountain of negative publicity far greater than that which accompanied the cobalt cases and even the Aquanita horse doping scandal.

MICHAEL LYNCH reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that many questions remain to be answered.

Why was the 11-hour hearing at which Weir agree to a four-year disqualification held in camera, with no media allowed to hear the evidence?

There was criticism in some quarters at the fact that several high-profile horses from the Forest Lodge stables were immediately transferred to other yards and allowed to take their chances in big races at Caulfield on the weekend.

What other charges, if any, may flow from the ongoing police inquiry?

And what sort of damage does this do the brand of Racing Victoria, which is in danger of becoming synonymous with controversy and scandal?

Racing Minister Martin Pakula believes the sport’s governing body is to be congratulated in dealing with the Weir case quickly, but concedes that there are serious questions to be asked about the culture of racing, at least in some quarters of the industry.

''I think that's probably undeniable (that there is a culture problem),'' Pakula told Melbourne sports and racing station RSN's The Verdict program on Monday.

''I think the only way that you deal with that is by demonstrating as often as you need to and as rigorously as you can that the integrity department will pursue breaches without fear or favour.''

That pursuit should come, Pakula said, ''regardless of how big a name someone might be and show that if they do the wrong thing there is a very high likelihood they will be caught and that the consequences will be severe.

''Other than people self-regulating you have got to demonstrate that there are significant consequences for bad behaviour.''

The minister, who also held the portfolio in the last Andrews Government, would not get into a debate about the need for greater transparency.

''I suppose I would need to take soundings on the question of whether in-camera hearings (were appropriate)  ... clearly there were significant legal issues afoot and the fact that there is still an ongoing police investigation played a role in that.

''Police don't share with me, nor do I think they really share with anyone, the conduct of their investigation.

''I, like everyone who loves racing, is waiting for the outcome with a degree of concern ... until we hear from Victoria Police.''

 

QRIC HOTLINE TO ASSIST FLOOD AFFECTED RACING PARTICIPANTS

THE Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) is reaching out to provide support for racing participants hit by north Queensland flooding.

Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett said the flood had severely affected many industry participants and their animals.

“The Commission is reaching out to people who may be finding it difficult to care for their racing animals at this time,” he said.

The potential issues are the safety of animals affected by the flood, owners and trainers gaining access their animals, treating injured animals and caring for their basic needs including food, clean water and housing.

“Mr Barnett said Commission staff had become aware that some displaced or isolated racing industry participants were concerned for the welfare of their animals who, in a variety of circumstances, had been affected by the flood event.

“Animal welfare is of paramount importance and we want to ensure that we can support people who may need it at this time.

“Please contact the Commission on 0447 657 233 so we can provide appropriate support.

“We can provide industry participants with contacts with local veterinarian in the event that animals have been injured, or provide information about local agencies that may be able to assist until normality is restored.

“While the damage to racing infrastructure is still being assessed it may be many weeks before racing in north Queensland, in particular around the Townsville district is back to normal.

“We want to know if licensees are having any issues that might affect the long term welfare of their animals, before any potential animal welfare issues arise.”

Contact the Commission on 0447 657 233 between 6am and 6pm for any flood related racing animal welfare concerns.

 

THE ‘POSITIVES’ & ‘NEGATIVES’ OF RACING’S LATEST SCANDAL

LGHR has received many email contributions and comments from readers on the DARREN WEIR investigation and those allegedly involved in it, the majority of which we are not prepared to publish despite his decision to accept a four-year ban.

WEIR might by Australian Racing’s Most Wanted in the eyes of many of those who follow the sport closely and even those who don’t. Some might say he put his hand up, declaring the buck stopped with him, to save others involved with his stable.

Whatever, he accepted his fate with dignity and in a strange way won the respect of many in racing who despise the un-Australian attacks from some of his colleagues, who jumped at the chance to sink the slipper while he was down at the same time hoping to ‘poach’ some of the stars of his stable. Time will tell if they are as squeaky clean as the image that is being portrayed.

Rather than join the ‘sink the boot brigade’ LGHR has decided to provide a platform for the racing and punting public to HAVE THEIR SAY on the ramifications (positives and negatives) to flow from the demise of Darren Weir.

 

SADLY there are far more NEGATIVES than POSITIVES:

THE POSITIVES

DARREN WEIR saving the industry from another prolonged bout of bad publicity by deciding not to contest the charges against him and accepting an inevitable four-year disqualification which some say will forever end his career as a leading trainer. These charges involve the ‘jiggers’ found during raids on his stables and charges of conduct prejudicial to the image, interests or welfare of racing.

RACING VICTORIA has shown in recent years that no matter how high profile an identity or industry stakeholder might be, if an investigation or raid is warranted it will happen. Some allege that does not occur to the same degree in other States regardless of the damage it might do to the image of the sport. (We received a number of complaints regarding the system in Queensland which we are not prepared to publish for legal reasons).

ANIMAL CRUELTY and the increasing political effectiveness of that lobby have been further highlighted by the alleged discovery of ‘jiggers’ in the raids on the stables of WEIR and McLEAN. This follows the ‘win of sorts’ that movement enjoyed at the expense of the greyhound industry during the live-baiting revelations.

THERE was no ‘pussy-footing’ around and dragging out for weeks or even months – amid legal argument about due process – when Racing Victoria within days slapped a SHOW CAUSE notice on WEIR and McLEAN. There are examples of how this has not happened in other States for various legal reasons. Interestingly, the first Show Cause came from NSW with many south of the border suggesting it was just another opportunity for that State to sink the boot into Victorian racing.

THE undertaking that any charges laid by stewards will be finalized as quickly as possible because of the cloud hanging over the future of one of the biggest stables in the land not to mention the jobs of hundreds of people who work there. Weir has assisted this process by deciding not to contest charges. This has already seen the transfer of horses and steps put in place for his stables to be transferred to other trainers which should enable some job placements for those soon to be out of work.     

 

THE NEGATIVES

DESPITE the incredible claim by one Victorian trainer, who disgustingly did not want to be identified, that most stables in the land use jiggers, it is the issue of animal cruelty – in the current climate – that cost Weir most in the court of public opinion. As MICHAEL LYNCH reported for FAIRFAX MEDIA: ‘While it is only zealots who would call for the whole sport to be outlawed, the wider community dislike racehorses being put through unnecessarily cruel treatment to encourage them to go quicker to get results which will benefit their human owners’.

RIVAL trainers, one in particular, won few friends with their decision to sink the verbal slipper into WEIR while he was down, especially when their stables are benefiting from the hurdle he has hit by inheriting top horses.  

THOSE who follow and support racing in Victoria – and others from around the country – have been quick to criticize Racing NSW supremo PETER V’LANDYS over his comments on the Weir situation. They say that V’landys should focus on his own backyard which has been far from squeaky clean in the past not to mention struggles to make ground on Victoria despite the injection of millions in stakes and the presence of one the world’s racing superstars in Winx. No-one is suggesting anything untoward, but the domination of the Chris Waller stable in Sydney does not sit comfortably with many, especially the punters who find it near impossible to assess the form in races where he has multiple runners and on many occasions upsets are on the cards.  

WITH an estimated 600 horses on his books Weir employed a large number of staff and was more than a cottage industry in Ballarat, where his business has provided lucrative employment for farriers, vets, feed merchants, horse chiropractors and many more in the racing industry. Reports have suggested the racing industry generates close to $50 million of annual revenue in Ballarat, and the Weir yard, with 150-odd staff, generates around $20 million of that.

THE investigation has cast a cloud over the soon-the-be-released movie ‘Ride Like A Girl’ that was certain to be a block-buster success based on the historic Melbourne Cup success of Michael Payne on the Weir outsider, Prince of Penzance in 2015. No-one is suggesting that the horse won on anything but its merits on the day but how does the movie now portray the trainer?

 

‘USE OF JIGGERS IN RACING AS COMMON PLACE AS LIVE BAITING’?

HERE are a couple of emails that we received on the WEIR issue and were prepared to run:

‘THE use of ‘jiggers’ in horse racing traces back to the days when live baiting was common place in greyhound racing.

Some might challenge that statement but ask any of the old-times who were closely associated with the training of gallopers, pacers or dogs and they will concede that is correct.

Veteran and respected Sydney racing journalist MAX PRESNELL wrote recently for FAIRFAX MEDIA:

IN a bygone era trainers needed an edge to win on a given day and electricians, with a more scientific bent than sparkies, were in greater demand than chemists who could produce a go-fast potion.

However, neither the modern day trainer nor jockey would risk their lucrative business for an aid that only assists some horses.

Jockeys aren’t as desperate, and there’s too much surveillance. Once the saddles could be wired to shock, but mainly jockeys carried a hand jigger, portable and easily disposable.

SOME of us go back far enough to recall an incident in Townsville in the late 60s or early 70s when stewards pounced as the horses were in the barriers for a North Queensland Cup. We watched from the grandstand overlooking the mile start as riders tossed ‘jiggers’ over their shoulders. Unfortunately one young jockey could not get it unstrapped from his arm and was caught with a ‘jigger’ in his possession. He got a long stretch that ended his career. Ironically, the three horses that filled the placings in the Townsville Cup one run earlier finished together at the tail of the field when the NQ Cup was eventually run. Perhaps the drop back to the mile just didn’t suit them.’

 

WILL BRUCE CLARK NOW WRITE A SEQUEL TO THE 'WEIRY’ STORY?

‘MY mates and I would like to know if BRUCE CLARK, author of The Rise and Rise of Darren Weir, will write a sequel, The Demise and Demise of Darren Weir, now that things have turned belly-up for his good mate.

A promo of the book describes Clark as: ‘A well-known journalist and commentator who has captured the essence of the knockabout horseman in this enthralling and entertaining authorized biography of the man they call Weiry.

Clark delves into what makes Weir tick – his humble beginnings, his progression through the ranks of Victoria's trainers, his unique and controversial training methods and uncovers the system and network that allows Weir to plot the careers of so many outstanding horses in a military-like fashion.’
  

In the wake of what has happened to Weir in more recent times might we suggest there is an even better story to be told of how a trainer enjoying such success and wealth could shoot himself in the foot and see his super successful career in ruins overnight?

 

MAHER EPITOMIZES HOW A ‘GUN’ TRAINER CAN BOUNCE BACK

‘A touch of irony that was overlooked the same weekend that Darren Weir went missing in action at Caulfield races was the new success story of Australian racing – Ciaron Maher.

Maher has rebounded from the career setback to his training career (albeit nowhere near as serious as Weir) when he spent a considerable stint on the sidelines after being found guilty of knowingly concealing the ownership of one of his stable stars.

Saturday was one of his most successful race days since he returned with a winning treble at Caulfield, including the feature with Bon Amis (and what a ride by Linda Meech). The Maher-Eustace stable, the new stars of Australian racing, was also successful at Rosehill after opening a new stable in Sydney recently.

Some of the top gallopers from the Weir stable have already been transferred to Maher who has been embraced by the racing public as the new pin-up boy of Australian training.

The rumor mill is also in over-drive that Peter Moody, who quit training during the cobalt crisis in Victoria, could return to training and even take over one of the Weir stables.’

Now that would be a positive outcome for racing in Australia and especially Victoria. Bring it on!

        

 

UNBRIDLED COLUMN by MATT STEWART – courtesy of RADIO RSN

THERE is no more passionate supporter of racing in Victoria than controversial commentator MATT STEWART now the Racing Editor of RSN.

When Stewart publicly concedes there is a problem of this magnitude it is ‘shit city’ for racing in the pacesetter state. We are confident Matty won’t mind us reproducing his take on the situation in the Wake of the Weir saga entitled ‘WAKE UP RACING – YOU’RE IN CRISIS’, courtesy of RSN.

RACING Authorities clutch to a position on racing skulduggery that is not believed outside the bubble.

Authorities have trotted out the same line for five years; vigilant policing protects public confidence by weeding out racing’s few remaining bag eggs. They’d say racing is no different than any other sport or business; some inevitable rascals but an honest mob, overall.

The truth is that most racing people are honorable. It’s also true that few outside the bubble believe it.

On the ABC’s Offsiders program yesterday, four non-racing sport and social commentators cut to the chase; horse racing is in crisis and the last five years of turmoil proves it. There is no counter-spin. By any measure, it’s fact.

The cobalt stings were perceived by the outside world as more evidence of bad racing culture but portrayed by racing authorities as the result of good policing. Harsh penalties – before successful appeals – would mean a new line in the sand, a cultural shift.

Then came Aquanita; the doping of horses right under the noses of stewards for 10 years. A neat race-day gotcha finally caught the crooks. Authorities clutched to the standard line – we didn’t get lucky, we got serious – but the outside world rolled its eyes at sport’s great serial offender.

Now Darren Weir. Charges are yet to be answered and a police investigation is on-going so it’s unfair to be pre-emptive. But our biggest trainer, the one with the best story, the fairytale the outside world embraced, is about to be put out of business because a tool of his trade appears to be crude devices used to illicit an electric shock.

The trucks have already rolled in, the horses and their owners are leaving. Staff are in limbo and in tears. The ripple effect of an almost certain major disruption to Weir’s career – more will be known today – will be devastating.

Racing people are shocked, not as much that Weir has been seemingly chased down, but because the fallout is so huge.

There has been no shock outside the bubble. The eyes have rolled again. The industry leaders have again approached the microphone to ease concerns and the volume is on mute.

Racing is in crisis, drifting away. On Offsiders, they recommended a government inquiry into racing to work out what’s gone wrong with a sport that was once less trashed – and why.

Our biggest race-clubs are losing major sponsors that had proudly aligned themselves to racing for decades. These sponsors are a barometer to public acceptance.

Racing may well be evolving from one era to the next. The desperate actions of many trainers many years ago – jacking them up, running them dead, tubing them – are less frequent now. Prizemoney is up, so is diligent stewarding.

The culture to push your luck may well be changing but the repeated scandals of the last five years suggest it’s not a smooth transition.

There are too many trainers in Victoria, too many scrambling for a piece of the pie. Prizemoney hikes and celebrated increases in wagering turnover barely trickle to those who most need it. Many of the 900 trainers are going broke and don’t know how to run a business.

The bigger stables aren’t necessarily less desperate than the smaller ones. They’re just desperate for different reasons.

Darren Weir’s stable had grown at an incredible, even alarming, rate in the last decade. Did the business model grow with it? More than one leading owner had sat Weir down and warned him he was getting too big, too quick and that things were getting out of hand.

Most believed the stable would have become more profitable had it cut his numbers almost in half; chop off the tail and focus on the top and middle. House most of them under one roof instead of scattered all over the state. Keep it tight and controlled.

An obvious move from officials, and one unlikely to be missed by an independent inquiry, would be to prevent such haphazard growth again; make a rule that prevents trainers having horses trained all over the place. Cap them without imposing a cap. Weir had hundreds of horses trained by a handful of pre-trainers. “I’ve never seen an era of so much outsourcing,” said one trainer. “Why not make a rule where the horses who are racing must be trained from the one site?”

Weir’s loyalty to the bushies who helped get him started meant he kept training their country class horses. Besides, transporting truckloads of them to far-flung tracks was part of a business model that wasn’t about restraint. The slow horses were profitable.

Once racing gets around to acknowledging its crisis, the rekindling can begin. The public will respect racing more for acknowledging it has lost its confidence and pledging to win it back than denying it.

There is something about the nature of horse training that makes it difficult for trainers to adapt to evolving social standards.

They work the opposite hours to the rest of us. They mix with the outside world via their owners but not often; race-day, trackwork, that’s about it. They are surrounded by similar insiders and mostly consider critics of racing as politically correct do-gooders.

I have a handful of friends who are trainers. They are interesting and engaging people but some simply do not grasp or care what the world thinks.

They get hints but they brush them off. The backlash to Racing NSW’s bid for a slot race barrier draw to be plastered over the sails of the Opera House was one of those hints.

The petitions and protests were a reaction to Alan Jones’ bullying but also because there was an overwhelming view that racing had no place being draped over the Opera House.

Racing should welcome an independent inquiry because racing has proved incapable of introspection. It misreads messages. It keeps belting out “wagering is up” press releases as good news to an outside world that views gambling as a social disease.

Time for someone outside the bubble to reach for the microscope.

 

IS RACING’S BIGGEST WINNER ABOUT TO BECOME ITS BIGGEST LOSER?

WHEN the mighty fall, they come crashing down - and so often leave a trail of damage and devastation in their wake.

IN an OBJECTIVE OPINION PIECE for FARIFAX MEDIA, MICHAEL LYNCH reports that Darren Weir has yet to be officially suspended, even though his horses were prohibited from running at Moonee Valley or Caulfield on Friday and Saturday.

Nor has he yet been subjected to criminal charges, even though he was sensationally arrested and questioned by police last week.

Final judgment must be reserved until due process is complete following the show cause notice he was issued on Friday afternoon.

But it seems inevitable that he will face a punitive sanction after jiggers were found, along with an unregistered firearm and cocaine, during the raids.

His refusal to answer questions from the stewards, while not necessarily damning in its own right, will still create an image of a man with something to hide.

It would appear that the walls are closing in on Weir and his close confidant and ally Jarrod McLean, and that whatever occurs from here on in, the reputation of a man who had been hailed as an equine genius - and by some as the greatest trainer the sport had ever seen - has been trashed probably beyond repair.

It is the issue of animal cruelty (through jiggers, which are electrical devices used to shock the horse and stimulate greater effort) that, in the current climate, will cost him the most in the court of public opinion.

Racing is acutely sensitive to allegations of animal cruelty.

The animal welfare lobby has become stronger with each passing year and its voice is increasingly having an impact.

While it is only zealots who would call for the whole sport to be outlawed, the wider communitydislike racehorses being put through unnecessarily cruel treatment to encourage them to go quicker to get results which will benefit their human owners.

A phrase that crops up a lot now, wasn't heard a decade ago, is racing's social licence; it's why the debate about whip use has become so animated and why there are outpourings when a death of a horse occurs in a race.

The outcry over the demise of The Cliffsofmoher in last year's Melbourne Cup illustrates that point better than anything else: it is perhaps this, as much as his domination of the training ranks, that has driven so many of Weir's colleagues to condemn him so quickly over the past few days.

Weir was not yet in the same class as the revered greats of the Australian turf - Bart Cummings, Tommy Smith and Colin Hayes - but it seemed as if he was on his way to joining the pantheon of legendary trainers.

In just over a decade, the country bloke from the Mallee, who built a racing empire from nothing, was the dominant figure not just in Victoria but throughout Australia.

The 48-year-old, renowned as a horse whisperer and perhaps as the best equine judge of his time, built up a huge stable and an even bigger reputation.

Weir trained just not more horses than anyone - he had between 500 and 600 on his books, mainly split between stables at Warrnambool and his home base of Ballarat - but he also had a property at Maldon while several horses were agisted or in pre-training at barns and stable yards of other trainers across the state.

He trained more winners than anyone else too, smashing records season by season, an ever-increasing tally.

Success came not just on the big days at Flemington, Caulfield and Moonee Valley where group 1 glory was becoming routine, but in small events at country venues normally the preserve of hobby trainers and small-time operators.

Weir employed large numbers of staff and was more than a cottage industry in Ballarat, where his business provided lucrative employment for farriers, vets, feed merchants, horse chiropractors and many more in the racing industry. Reports have suggested the racing industry generated $59 million of annual revenue in Ballarat, and the Weir yard, with 150 odd staff, generated around $20 million of that.

Jockeys of the calibre of Mark Zahra, Damian Lane, John Allen and champion apprentice Ben Allen regularly scooped up handsome percentages after steering home another Weir winner in a big money race on the grand stage. They, and Dean Yendall, apprentice Ethan Hawke and the injured Brad Rawiller, were the riders most regularly used by the stable and therefore the ones whose earnings would be boosted most by Weir's stream of winners.

Now all is at risk as the net tightens around the man who orchestrated it all.

Already leading owners have begun removing horse's from Weir's stables; group 1 winners like Amphitrite have gone to David Hayes while promising two-year-old Yes Yes Yes has been shifted interstate to Chris Waller, along with flying sprinter Nature Strip. Group 1 winners Extra Brut (VRC Derby) and Land of Plenty (Toorak Handicap) have gone to the Ciaron Maher/David Eustace stable at Caulfield while Robert Hickmott has received McLean's only group 1 winner Trap For Fools.

The Weir sensation casts a pall over everything.

On social media, people have asked - and I have received more than one phone call myself - whether everything was above board about Michelle Payne's historic Melbourne Cup win on Weir's outsider Prince of Penzance in 2015, even though there was no suggestion that the horse won on anything but merit on the day. Racing Victoria CEO Giles Thompson said last week that the 2015 Cup victory is not part of the investigation.

Other trainers have questioned the validity of his records, suggesting that all of his winners must come under suspicion as a result.

Weir's industrial scale of operations made him the biggest winner on the track: now he might be about to become the biggest loser.

 

MAX PRESNELL OPINION PIECE ON ‘JIGGERS’ COURTESY OF FAIRFAX MEDIA

THE word jigger is reverberating around the Darren Weir controversy and the racing industry is the loser as it will take three years to be finalised in the civil courts, according to John Schreck, the turf lawman who prosecuted the Fine Cotton ring-in and Jockey Tapes scandal.

"I hope I’m wrong," the former chief stipe declared on News Radio’s Hoof On The Till, concerned about the length of time it will linger.

On the subject of the "Show Cause" notice issued to Weir by Racing New South Wales, Schreck maintains the Australian Jockey Club, controllers in his time, would have just refused the nomination of the trainer’s horses if the situation demanded without prolonging the situation. AJC justice was quick and decisive.

Schreck stressed that no civil charge had been issued against Weir but Racing Victoria on Friday took strong action against him after police raids to his stables earlier this week in which illegal items were seized including what has been described as a “conductive energy device”, or laser, but previously known in the industry as a “jigger”, “battery”, “buzzer”, “harp” and in the US a “joint”.

As a tool for racehorse trainers the battery goes back further than the electric torch and is just another highly illegal means used by man to make a horse go faster.

I spent a chapter on the subject in Good Losers Die Broke, promoted as a life of tales from the track, but figured the battery had just about gone flat.

In a bygone era trainers needed an edge to win on a given day and electricians, with a more scientific bent than sparkies, were in greater demand than chemists who could produce a go-fast potion.

However neither the modern day trainer nor jockey would risk their lucrative business for an aid that only assists some horses.

Jockeys aren’t as desperate, and there’s too much surveillance. Once the saddles could be wired to shock, but mainly jockeys carried a hand jigger, portable and easily disposable.

"A horse is not a particularly intelligent animal but has a remarkable memory and is extremely quick to associate pain with anything that normally accompanies that pain," my research discovered. "Thus the Vic’s Vapour Rub method, also applied to clear nasal passages in gallops, was used in conjunction with a jigger to enhance enthusiasm."

Later in a race the horse would get a sniff of the rub, triggering the impulse that a lightning strike was coming. These days officials will pick up the scent quicker than the horse. However, different techniques can be applied.

During a workout, particularly on race morning, the rider would roar and shout while applying a jigger charge. The sound effects would be emulated in the race but without the shock. Still, the horse kicked into top gear figuring it was going to come. Obviously when used excessively horses became immune.

Perhaps the most sensational battery case centred on Smashing Blonde, during a Rosehill track session in 1969 when a saddle was discovered that could be activated by remote control.

"By using components and encasing them, in plastic it would have been possible to secret both a radio receiver and the batteries around the tree of the saddle in such a way they would have been detected only by X-ray," an electronic engineer related how he declined to produce a remote controlled saddle for $10,000 and get a 25 percent investment in a $100,000 coup on the chosen target.

Of course it was a great enticement for punters when "hit with the jigger this morning", delivered from the corner of the mouth, was mentioned regarding the prospects of a horse. Some won, more got beaten.

"My first contact with jiggers, harps or batteries was in the late 1930s," came from a letter in my files. "All apprentices were given a hand jigger at track work and told to give a horse a prod down the neck in the straight. It was about the size of matchbox with an elastic band to twist between your fingers, it had a retractable contact when pressed against the horse’s neck.

"The success rate of jiggers was greatly exaggerated. A lot of horses didn’t cop it…"

 

 
PUNTERS PROTEST OVER LACK OF TRIAL FORM FROM TOOWOOMBA 

PUNTERS are starting to protest at the situation in Toowoomba where there is a lack of sufficient disclosed form from the trials.

Downs locals say a problem involving distances forced RQ stewards to abandon public trials on a regular basis some years ago. Why then does that not occur at other tracks in south-east Queensland?

This resulted in unofficial jump-outs and trials being introduced where the public has no idea of the identity of horses competing or the results and it means that any class of horse could be competing against each other.

With Toowoomba now the home of the most successful stable in the State – that of young trainer Ben Currie – it is even more important that trial results are made official.

Complaints continue to be made with calls for Racing Queensland and stewards to correct the situation (especially with some nice plunges being landed in recent months on horses coming out of unofficial trials and jump-outs at Clifford Park) but until recently there was very little action at the station.

When previews are done for the print media a newcomer trained in Toowoomba, especially a two-year-old, will simply read in the form-guide ‘no official trials’.

The same occurs when the broadcast medium previews horses from the Downs. There were at least three winners over the long weekend where the SKY presenter was forced to simply say: ‘We don’t know anything about this horse because there are no official trials listed’.

In this day and age this is not good enough. Transparency in racing is at the forefront in every racing jurisdiction in the land. Trials results are available at every other TAB track in Queensland. Why should Toowoomba be any different?

There is a glimmer of hope with four official trials recently run at Clifford Park and a high profile RQ official assuring a prominent punter that ‘things will soon change’.

That’s a start but until all runners in trials and jump-outs at Toowoomba are identified punters will have another reason to declare they have no confidence to bet on racing in Queensland.

IN an interesting HOOFNOTE to this, one of those who emailed concerns about official trials in Toowoomba pointed out how the Tony Gollan-stable trialed close to 30 horses at Doomben this week. His comment: ‘We knew how everyone performed. There are some stables that don’t even have 30 horses in total in work. The leading trainer in Brisbane is obviously flying and has no shortage of clients’.

 

SKYE’S THE LIMIT AS BOGENHUBER DOES A KAMIKAZE ON NOZI

TWO of the most popular jockeys on the Downs have been involved in an nasty altercation following a race which led to stewards taking action.

The Stewards’ Report for the meeting at Warwick last Friday reads:

FOLLOWING a complaint lodged by jockey Nozi Tomizawa, Stewards inquired into an incident which occurred in the scales area following the running of Race 3.

After taking evidence from a number of riders, including Nozi Tomizawa and Skye Bogenhuber, jockey Bogenhuber was found guilty of a charge under AR. 175(z) in that she engaged in conduct which vilified Nozi Tomizawa by directing comments to him in relation to his national or ethnic origin.

Bogenhuber’s licence to ride in races was suspended for a period of two weeks, to commence at midnight on 2 February 2019, and expire at midnight on Saturday 16 February 2019. In addition, Bogenhuber was fined $2,000 to be wholly suspended for a period of 12 months on the condition she does not breach this or a similar rule in that time.

Those who witnessed the war of words say it stemmed from a racetrack incident but flowed over into the saddling enclosure and that perhaps Skye had suggested Nozi might gallop off back to the Home of the Rising Sun (allegedly with a few expletives added).

 

HONKERS STEWARDS FIRE MORE THAN A SHOT ACROSS BOWMAN BOW

ON the subject of STEWARDS’ REPORTS you won’t see any more comprehensive than those of the panel at the Hong Kong Jockey Club where former Queenslanders Kim Kelly and Steve Railton steer the ship.

Some of their counterparts in Australia could take a leaf out of the Hong Kong book – and those include a couple of the more high profile panels as well.

Star Sydney jockey Hugh Bowman fell foul of the Sha Tin Stewards on Sunday after his win on promising galloper Furore in the Hong Kong Classic Mile.

They also fired a shot at the Bowman ride which suggested consideration was given to a more serious charge than careless riding but mitigating circumstances involving other horses save him.

Here’s the Stewards Report on that incident which is an interesting read:

H Bowman (FURORE) pleaded guilty to a charge of careless riding [Rule 100(1)] in that near the 350m he permitted his mount to shift out when not clear of GOLD WIN, resulting in that horse being checked when crowded for room and in turn shifting out, resulting in EASY GO EASY WIN being taken out onto CHARITY GO which in turn shifted out and made contact with PACKING WARRIOR which became badly unbalanced and shifted out abruptly, causing DARK DREAM to be badly hampered and in turn taken out across the rightful running of HARMONY VICTORY which was checked. After the race, the Veterinary Officer reported that DARK DREAM had sustained wounds to the inside of both hocks.

The Stewards informed H Bowman that in electing not to issue a charge of more significance than careless riding, they were of the opinion that the consequences of the incident were exacerbated by the extra movement of horses which were hampered to varying degrees.

In the circumstances, the Stewards believed the appropriate penalty was for H Bowman’s licence to ride in races to be suspended for a period to commence on Wednesday, 30 January 2019 and to expire on Friday, 8 February 2019 on which day he may resume race riding (three Hong Kong race days). In addition, H Bowman was fined $HK75,000.

 

QUEENSLAND CONTINUES TO LAG BEHIND ON HOLIDAY RACE VENUES

WE received a couple of emails – these are regular at holiday time – about the programming of long weekend racing in south-east Queensland.

The general theme suggested that once again it wasn’t a good look when the major Queensland meeting for the public holiday on Monday was outside of Brisbane.

Here’s what one keen racegoer and punter, JIM MANLEY of SUNSHINE COAST, had to say:

‘THEY just don’t seem to be able to get it right at Racing Queensland.

Firstly, there should have been a meeting to coincide with the Australia Day Stakes night fixture at the Valley last Friday. I understand Toowoomba was to race but there is another problem with the track there and the meeting was transferred to Warwick that afternoon. They better get Clifford Park right as the Cup and Weetwood meeting isn’t that far away. I believe it shouldn’t be a stand-alone Saturday and that the Thursday ‘Show Holiday’ Weetwood was far more popular but that’s another story.

Secondly, would it not have been more popular for punters had Sunshine Coast raced Friday night and then on Sunday instead of (or in addition to Kilcoy which has a traditional Australia Day meeting)? The reason the Sunny Coast raced on Saturday as the main Queensland meeting was because of a feature race but did it have to be run that particular Saturday.

Then on Monday we had Beaudesert and with all due respects that venue and Kilcoy are an embarrassment to Queensland racing on SKY and should only be secondary meeetings on Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays. I am told the Beaudesert track is far too hard at present and that several horses pulled up sore prompting calls for Racing Queensland to take some action. Why Doomben did not race on Monday instead of last Wednesday (when Beaudesert would have slotted in) remains another mystery.

The story goes that the major clubs don’t want to race on days when they have to pay more than normal wages to staff. Well RQ should either negotiate a special all-year round pay arrangement with unions or simply instruct them to do so. After some of the taxpayers’ money that has been wasted on tracks and infrastructure at some of these venues it’s a bit rich whining over paying a few extra bucks to the battlers who have to work on weekends or public holidays.

Come on RQ, how about getting someone to program races that knows what the racing public and the punter want instead of simply pandering to race club officials?’

 

GOOD OPPORTUNITY FOR RQ TO GET TRAINING FACILITY RIGHT

REGULAR contributor GREG BLANCHARD of NUDGEE sent this email:

‘I read with interest the proposal for Racing Queensland’s offices to be relocated to the CBD to make way for a major education and training facility at Deagon.

I think a new training and education facility is long overdue so this is a good thing. I also understand getting internationals is part of the plan which is something I know a bit about.

Racing Queensland used to get students from a high profile Korean horseman along with Seogwipo, another Korean school on Jeju Island.

But a few years back there was a stuff-up with Visas which a group of kids unable to work because they weren’t apparently properly licensed. At the time I suggested that RQ should apologize over this mix-up but that fell on deaf ears.

Since then the Korean horseman has been visited the Rockhampton Jockey Club twice in 2017 and last year a Gold Coast Equestrian Centre and stud on the Gold Coast.

Seogwipo students were also out here last year but they have not been involved with RQ since the visa problem.

About four years ago we had Alex Shin, a Korean boy through RQ to become an apprentice early on. They asked him to go to Julia Creek as a track rider as there was none there. He did but had to pay his own air fare.

Fast forward to when he was working for trainer Tony Sears at Toowoomba and had been ticked off by RQ stewards after relevant jump-outs to be ready to ride in barrier trials and he was knocked back by the Licensing Department as they wanted a Visa to show he would be here for four years. He was a shattered kid and lost all that money he spent on training. I assisted him getting to New Zealand were there were no such problems and he became an apprentice. Is it any wonder why we lost the Korean kids?

Getting internationals is a great idea but has to be done properly. The problems involved with RQ need to be resolved. We used to have Hong Kong apprentices but lost them to South Australia but that's another story.

I also notice that there was no Advocate at the Thangool meeting last Saturday where 11 apprentices rode (Natalie Norton, Gregory Hayes, Hannah English, Thomas Doyle, Montanna Savva, Sheridan Tomlinson, Nicole Seymour, Lachlan Dodds, Emma Bell, Joshua Morrow (had only had two rides) and Tessa Townsend (riding for the frist time).

I have noticed the decline in Advocates over the last 18 months at race meetings. As I have previously mentioned Ben Saunders on the Darling Downs is the only on-going advocate at meetings.

With so many apprentices at Thangool it was a venue where the attendance of an Advocate was imperative but none was in attendance according to the Stewards’ Report. What better way for the  RQ Training Department to show for our apprentices?’

 

LET'S CELEBRATE AUSTRALIA DAY ON THE FIRST TUESDAY IN NOVEMBER

IT'S 'Groundhog Week' – and LGHR is back on one of our favorite hobby horses – declaring how much more appropriate it would be to celebrate Australia Day on the first Tuesday in November rather than the 26th of January.

Melbourne Cup and Anzac Day are the two collective days on the Australian calendar that unite our people more than any other. For many one begins with darkness and remembers great losses, the other ends in darkness trying to forget great losses.

As one writer, far more talented than we can ever hope to be, once suggested: ‘Both capture elements of the larrikinism and egalitarian impulse that are embedded deep within this nation’s unique spirit.’

All of which again raises the perennial questions: Why is Cup Day, one of our quintessential annual rituals, not a national public holiday? And, what could be more appropriate than celebrating Australia Day on the first Tuesday in November?

The wowsers and cultural wankers continue to insist that we should not tell the world how strongly we feel about a horse race. That’s bullshit! There can’t be too many events more Australian than the Melbourne Cup – so what better time to celebrate our national day?

Australia doesn't have many traditions. Attempts to get Halloween off the ground have stalled due to one too many home-owners telling little ankle-biters to ‘piss off.’ Australia's equivalent of America's Thanksgiving Day is Australia Day on January 26, commemorating the landing of the First Fleet of convicts in Botany Bay.

One could argue that there is much more emotional resonance in celebrating pioneering pilgrims who broke bread with the natives than there is in celebrating criminals that stole bread and were duly hung.

Needless to say, Australia has no tradition of putting the old ball and chain on our legs, and subsequently walking us down the street in tribute to the founding fathers. Likewise, Australia has no statues of the pioneering convicts holding up their shackled wrists in triumph!

Whilst many national days around the world involve citizens reflecting on the achievements of the ancestors that they have not personally lived up to, Australia’s national day involves citizens acting in a vastly superior way to the people that the date acknowledges.

Many believe that the 26th of January is an inappropriate date for Australia Day as it merely represents the arrival of the British to establish the penal colony of New South Wales. Others believe it insults the ‘rightful owners of our land – the indigenous population.’

They argue that it does not represent the birth of a nation. Which brings us back to our original point – when you consider that Australia’s top three heroes are a cricketer, a racehorse and a bush ranger – perhaps it is fitting the only times the nation stops as one is to commemorate our war heroes and to have a wager on the Cup.

As a celebration of free speech and freedom we'll go out on a limb and say it: For many Australia Day simply celebrates the worst aspects of our national character, where rather than being a day for thoughtful reflection on our history and our values, it’s degenerated into a half-witted contest to see how much meat you can eat and how much grog you can sink.

This isn’t a wowsers' warning against barbeques and beer. Far from it! We're keen supporters of a drink with our mates and we’ve never met a meat product we didn’t adore. But as the basis for a national holiday, getting plastered, while standing around a four-burner which is groaning under the weight of calcified chump chops and snags, seems to place us well down the order of intelligence. Sadly, for many, this is what Australia Day has become, and all it will ever be.

A piss-up, where the closest we get to a consideration of what makes us who we are is to slur that this is God’s own country, an absolute bottler of a joint, you wouldn’t be dead for quids and yeah, while you’re near the Esky, can you get me another Coldie?

Even the Federal Government’s Australia Day campaign is framed around the banal idea of cooking meat, with advertisements featuring Soviet-style imagery of buffed young Aussies proudly holding meat trays, urging us to ‘Barbeque like you have never barbequed before.’

Our concern is that many Australians are stuck at the first hurdle and can’t get their minds past the chops and the FOUREX. The two things which should be the focus of this national day – reflection on our history and values, and the importance of holding citizenship – are being shoved aside as we treat Australia Day like one big barbie.

And for every group of kids who use it as a chance to proudly and peacefully drape themselves in the flag and parade along the esplanade – indifferent to the fact that they’re demonstrating national pride with an emblem that’s sullied by another country’s ensign – there’s a few rat bags who imbue the practice with pushiness and hostility. As if failure to fly the flag or join the moronic ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,’ chant is tantamount to treason.

Certainly food for thought but for us and our mates no Australia Day would be complete without a punt – and there are plenty of opportunities whether you want to head to the track, the local pub or club, or just enjoy a barbie at home and watch them go around on the box.

There are race meetings for the traditionalists - the G2 Australia Stakes under lights at Moonee Valley; Randwick in Sydney and the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. But those looking for something different can head to the extremely popular OZ day attractions at Hanging Rock in Victoria or Kilcoy in south-east Queensland.

How much more Australian can you get than Hanging Rock Cup Day? No racecourse in the country attracts more non-race day visitors than the Rock. The scene of a book and a film (Picnic at Hanging Rock) draws tourists from throughout the world.

Racing at Hanging Rock is a tradition with some families over generations that never attend races elsewhere. They make the annual pilgrimage each year hail, rain or shine and it has become a way of life for many.

Queensland race-goers will converge on Sunday on Kilcoy for its popular annual Australia Day meeting. Famous more for its steak-burgers and pies than the flies that settle on anything that doesn’t move, Kilcoy has proved a great survivor of country racing in Queensland largely due to the efforts of a team led by popular administrator, nurseryman and bookie Con Searle.

There are no rituals that everybody undertakes on Australia Day although some of us would argue that should include a day on the punt. People will celebrate with family and friends at home, in parks, in the surf, watching and playing sport - or simply enjoying yet another public holiday.

Sadly, very few will be able to articulate anything about why we should celebrate Australia Day on January 26th, let alone move the holiday to that first Tuesday in November.

 

ON BEHALF OF LETSGOHORSERACING ENJOY A PUNT ON OUR SPECIAL DAY EVEN IF IT SHOULD BE THE FIRST TUESDAY IN NOVEMBER AND SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THOSE LESS FORTUNATE THAN YOU.

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RIDING FOR THE DISABLED ASSOC is an international, not for profit organization that provides horse riding & associated activities for people with all types of disabilities. Over 140 RDA groups operate throughout Australia.

For more information or to locate the nearest centre to you, please visit their website at: www.rdaq.org.au.

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