LGHR TAKE ON LNP LEADERSHIP SPILL - THERE CAN BE NO WINNER!
IT'S unlike us to buy into the political crap fight of the day but the LNP seems determined to remain in Opposition. If Lawrence Springborg and Tim Mander are the best they have to offer as alternative Premier then Labor's minority hold on Government faces no threat. What's second prize if Lawrence the Three Time Loser and Tim the Hand Clapper are the best the 'goat riders' can throw up. From a racing perspective, Springborg only shows his face when there is a controversy and he can try and gain some political mileage; Mander inherited an offsider role in the Shadow Sport portfolio which included racing at one stage - what a joke if he's political beliefs condemn gambling. And if you add Tim Nicholls to the equation it becomes even more disastrous. Racing stakeholders saw what a political football failure he made of the industry as Treasurer. We would still be waiting for the new track at Eagle Farm if he was still calling the racing tune to 'furlong in front' Dicko and his 'bobbsy twin' who was running RQ at the time. The LNP should bite the bullet - make John Paul Langbroek their leader and with all due respects to Jann Stuckey, who is doing a fine job in difficult circumstances as Shadow Racing Minister, give the portfolio back to Ray Stevens, the man it belonged to before Tim the Toolman reportedly robbed him of it in spite after losing a previous party-room leadership battle. Let's face it, tomorrow's spill is nothing more than a bitter attempt to get even by Jeff the Goose Seeney - racing remembers him as well with some not so fond memories - all talk, no balls. Don't be surprised if by a process of elmination - who's the worst possible dill we can get to lead the LNP - Laurie lines up to be a four time loser and the Opposition is condemned to the scrapheap for another term by a Labor Government that has shown they are just as ineffective in charge of the good ship RQ Titanic as the morons that preceded them. Worse still could we see Mander and Seeney become independents joining a couple of former colleagues, like little Billy, and adding even more woes to Laurie's political nightmare? Whatever happens if the Loser survives it won't be a happy ship despite what the propoganda that a supposed united front will no doubt suggest.
MELBOURNE RACING CLUB BOWS TO PRESSURE AND DUMPS VOTE
JUST a week after one of the most controversial "special meetings" staged in Victorian racing, the Melbourne Racing Club has given in to mounting pressure and declared last Thursday's vote for extended terms for office bearers null and void.
PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that after a week of unprecedented unrest and outcry by members of the MRC, as well as concerns by racing executives and former premier Jeff Kennett, the club which is the home of Australia's second-most important horse race, the Caulfield Cup, will meet again at a date to be determined.
At last week's meeting, Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons, vice-chairman Peter Le Grand and treasurer Dominic Romanelli sought to extend their terms of office from six to 12 years.
On Wednesday, the MRC announced: "Despite the independent approval of the motion by election and voting specialists, Corpvote, the MRC has opted not to seek the approval of the Minister for Racing of the club rule change, as is required under the Racing Act, the effect of which is that the motion approved by members on April 28 does not stand.
"Alternatively, the club will conduct a repeat of the vote in a commitment to high standard of governance and to quell any perception around the integrity around the original vote.
"The vote will take place in a time to be determined," a spokesman said.
Racing minister Martin Pakula said shortly after the MRC decision: "I think the MRC has made the correct decision and I'm pleased that common sense has prevailed."
Hundreds of MRC members also maintain it was a just decision.
"This is a great outcome for the vast majority of members who didn't get the opportunity to vote on this motion," said member Pat O'Kane.
"Transparency, not only for the Melbourne Racing Club but also the wider racing industry, is vitally important for its sustainability.
"Our boards should face the same scrutiny as publicly listed companies, given the vast amount of funds they control."
The controversy bubbled to the surface late last week when a number of members questioned why only a select group of members were sent emails containing how-to-vote information and the capacity to register their vote by mail.
It said the meeting was reduced to farce after claims, and counter claims from the floor.
Other members claimed they had repeatedly questioned the committee about the selective process of the postal votes but were ignored.
On Wednesday morning, Fairfax Media was told that members groups were mounting a challenge and preparing a web page for all disgruntled members wishing to make comment.
The club's decision on Wednesday comes as a relief for thousand of voters who claimed they were not told about the meeting at any point.
The MRC also said in its statement: "We want to demonstrate that our governance standards are unconditional and that our integrity cannot be questioned. In order to achieve that we have decided to run the vote again at a time to be determined.
"We encourage all of our members to participate in that process once again and, in doing so, apologise to all members who voted in favour of the amendment originally, who have been disenfranchised by our decision to repeat the process."
CLUB CHAIRMAN HAMS IT UP WITH GAI AFTER BRIERLY STEEPLE WIN
RACING'S First Lady, Gai Waterhouse, was in the mood to celebrate after winning the Brierly Steeple with Valediction on the opening day of the Warrnambool Carnival on Tuesday. That horse is now fancied to complete the big double and take out the Grand Annual on Thursday. Gai was photographed drapping the rug that decorated Valediction after the win around the Chairman of the Warrnambool Racing Club Des Roberts after the presentation ceremony.
PUNTERS CONVINCED WALLER ‘DOES AS HE LIKES’ IN RACING IN NSW
BILLY COX of MELBOURNE writes:
‘AFTER watching the last race on Hawkesbury Cup Day I am firmly convinced that top trainer Chris Waller arguably does as he likes in racing in NSW.
Once again he crapped in the face of the punting public around the country and there seems little that stewards can do about it.
The difference this time was that it provided ammunition to those critics of Ray Murrihy and his panel who insist racing in the Sydney area is far from a level playing field.
Some of the form reversals from the big stables have been monumental and little seems to be done about them. Questions are asked but these are usually put down to some lame excuse from the trainer concerned which seems to satisfy the stewards but leaves the majority of punters – big and small – completely dumbfounded.
The situation on Saturday involving a plunge win by a second string runner from the Chris Waller stable was – as one of the Sky Channel ‘experts’ explained – ‘far from a good look for racing’.
Only the day before Waller had been telling anyone who cared to ask or listen that his best for the day at Hawkesbury was Trafalgar – the favorite for the last – which he nominated as the stable’s top Queensland Derby hope.
Yes, out of all the runners he had on the day throughout the country, this was his best.
A day later and the stablemate – former Kiwi Mackintosh now owned by long-time friends and clients of Waller – lands a plunge and leads throughout to win the race after the stable had advised stewards it would be ridden quietly.
Mackintosh, which opened at double figure odds with some Fixed Odds operators, firmed late when the big money arrived to run $4.40 and even deposed stablemate Trafalgar from favoritism. That horse, after drifting from $3 to $5.5, never looked a winning chance and dropped out to finish 9th, far from boosting its Queensland Derby prospects. Then again never under-estimate the ability of Waller to improve them 100 yards in the space of a couple of weeks and don't expect any retrospective activity from the boys in the stewards' room in Queensland.
Now it takes a bit for SKY ‘hosts’ to criticize – in fact they rarely say anything bad about what happens on the track. But Ron Dufficy and Greg Radley could not contain themselves after Mackintosh showed a ton of fight to hold off all challenges.
‘Were we not told that horse would be ridden quietly,” Radley asked? “Yes that was the Twitter that went out. It’s not a good look for racing when that happens,” Dufficy replied.
Waller was immediately challenged about the change of tactics in the post-race interview and was quickly on the defensive foot. Sometimes things change, he explained. It was obvious they had to go to Plan B. You can’t lock things in stone. Pity it involved a plunge horse though.
Jockey Avdulla only wanted to praise the great Waller training effort – knowing he had a horse under him that could outstay them. Asked about why he didn’t ride the horse quietly, well, rather than be caught out on a limb he had no alternative but to press forward. What a genius he was unlike Hugh Bowman on another Waller favorite to flop recently when he decided just to sit deep because going forward might have expended too much energy. There’s an excuse for every occasion from this mob.
And usually these are accepted by the stewards. Such was the case on Saturday when the reversal of tactics saw the plunge on Mackintosh succeed. The official Stewards’ Report read:
Mackintosh – to be ridden quieter; led. When questioned regarding the gelding leading, when trainer, Mr C Waller, had notified Stewards that the intention was to ride Mackintosh in a mid-field position, rider B Avdulla confirmed that he had been asked to ride the horse in a mid-field position, but from his wide draw, after initially attempting to take a position behind Dream Lane, when that runner did not continue forward, he was then caught wide and with no opportunity to obtain cover, he allowed Mackintosh to stride forward and lead where it travelled comfortably.
That was it apparently – sum total of the inquiry. Might I suggest if that’s the best the stewards can do it’s time that Racing NSW looked for a new panel? What a disgrace.
Perhaps other questions were asked but from the limited information I have to go on this is not a good enough explanation from a punters point of view. Many of us took the advice of the ‘champion trainer’ and had our hard earned on the stablemate Trafalgar only to watch it blow like a gale in the betting.
I thought we might have read something more about this in the newspapers but no, the turf scribes don’t seem to want to offend Waller. They need to deal with him on a daily basis and it wouldn’t be wise to have his stable off-side.
QUESTIONS THAT THE PUNTERS WANTED ANSWERS TO
WHAT the punters want to know is this:
Did Chris Waller even appear at the inquiry and if so was he asked any questions about the change of tactics or the plunge on Mackintosh despite the fact that his jockey was questioned?
Did stewards ask any questions about the apparently disappointing performance of Trafalgar? No doubt Waller would have said the horse was looking for further and the race wasn’t run to suit (courtesy of the pace set by his stablemate, of course)?
Did the panel consider asking anything about why the favorite drifted alarmingly and ran accordingly or seek proof of betting to support Waller’s belief that Trafalgar was his best bet of the day. Did they look at Betfair to see if Trafalgar was laid while Mackintosh was obviously backed for a bundle?
It is little wonder that punters no longer have any confidence to bet in racing in Sydney or wherever the NSW Saturday meeting is (heaven forbid we don’t have too many more like this debacle at Hawkesbury). It’s the same every week with the horses from the major stables – who have driven the smaller ones out of Sydney racing – form reversals and in the Waller case with multiple runners the percentage of favorites that get beaten must be extremely high.
Perhaps Racing NSW should offer the job to Terry Bailey from Victoria when Mr Murrihy eventually retires – a decision that is long overdue. If he is reluctant to go, perhaps it is time that he was pushed.’
MELBOURNE RACING CLUB BOARD UNDER FIRE OVER 'VOTE RIGGING'
THE board of the Melbourne Racing Club was again under pressure to explain how only 1.5 per cent of its membership voted in last Thursday's controversial special meeting at Caulfield racecourse to give office bearers a further six-year term
PATRICK BARTLEY reports in THE AGE that of the membership of 14,000-plus, only a little more than 200 voting members carried the motion to extend the terms in office and, of that figure, many were postal votes lodged by friends and family of board members.
While outraged members began to form groups to challenge the club, a spokesman for the MRC said there would not be another vote on the issue despite the small number of votes.
A spokesman for the MRC, Jake Norton, said he and his club doubted that the state's ruling body, Racing Victoria, had jurisdiction over the club, despite being asked for a please explain after last Thursday's meeting, which was described by members as a "farce".
He said the club had been in constant communication with Racing Minister Martin Pakula.
But Fairfax Media understand RVL has the power to register all clubs in Victoria each year.
As well, a core of members is in talks with a constitutional lawyer in a bid to find a way to have last Thursday's decision overturned.
Other members on Monday lodged letters of complaint to not only the minister but Premier Daniel Andrews and all federal members within the Caulfield district.
"We will have this changed," one member said. "It cannot possibly go on. We have 200 members voting on the most important issue the club has faced since the new century.
"And we know now that thousands and thousands of members were not contacted. That's, of course, unless you were a friend or a family member of a board member. It's outrageous and the ill feeling within the membership is growing by the day."
It takes 150 signatures of Melbourne Racing Club members to spill the board, a figure that will easily be gathered by the end of the week, according to those members against the move.
Racing Victoria officials confirmed they had received an explanation from the Melbourne Racing Club after last Thursday night. "We will be examining the report over the next few days but at the moment we won't be commenting," a spokesman said.
Other members have been outraged because they never knew of the meeting. A doctor from the Mornington Peninsula said: "We have been manipulated. We were told that we've got to get onto the website and look up an obscure page to find the most important piece of legislation the club's ever voted on.
"They have flouted their position of trust and what an outrage – just over 200 votes and the matter swept away.
"If Martin Pakula and the government here can't do anything, my friends and I will go federally. Many prime ministers have been members of this club and it's now reduced to a boys' club."
Other questions have been raised over how the executive wages bill has jumped from $2 million to $4 million and why a race club needs 50 per cent ownership in a bakery in Collingwood.
CHAMPION trainer Darren Weir has had group 1 and feature race winners from Brisbane to Adelaide, climaxing last November when Prince of Penzance scored an upset win in the biggest race of all, the Melbourne Cup.
MICHAEL LYNCH reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Weir regularly shares the stage with the bluebloods at Flemington and Randwick, but the man from the bush is never more at ease than when shooting the breeze and enjoying the atmosphere at a country race meeting.
So it is hardly surprising that Victoria's three-day Warrnambool festival (photograph above courtesy of Country Racing Victoria) should be at the top of his list of favourite meetings.
In 2014 Weir achieved the ultimate success at the Bool when he drove home with the keys to a Mercedes – the prize for any trainer who sent out four winners at the meeting as well as a winner of one of the feature events.
That year Akzar's success in the Warrnambool Cup sealed the prize for the Ballarat-based handler, and he followed up 12 months later in the Cup with another import in the OTI-owned Tall Ship, who followed up a win in the Terang Cup with an easy triumph in the Bool's biggest flat race.
This year Weir is hoping to make it a hat-trick in the Cup and he has three live contenders to go to war with in the Thursday flat race feature.
English import Master Zephyr, who won the Terang Cup like Tall Ship, heads the list, which also contains soft ground specialist Falago and Master of Arts, who scored in his lead-up at Morphettville in mid- April.
Not that Weir is ignoring the other feature races, as he has four still engaged in Wednesday's Wangoom Handicap, the 1200-metre dash often referred to by country racing fans as the "Newmarket of the Bush".
They are headed by the ex-Peter Moody-trained Thermal Current, a recent listed race scorer at Mornington, along with another couple of ex-Moody sprinters in Mirage and Noela's Choice as well as three-year-old Stellar Collision, a three-time metropolitan winner from five city starts.
For many the Bool is all about the jumpers, and while the champion handler has no standout hurdlers or steeplechasers this year – certainly nothing like his former top line hurdler Gotta Take Care – Weir will still look to make his presence felt in the three maiden hurdles on Tuesday's opening card in which he will saddle runners in each race.
"I love the Warrnambool carnival. I was supporting it when I was a shit-kicker starting out," said Weir with a grin, pointing out that it is no different now he is the Premier metropolitan handler.
"I have three jumpers in the first three races and they are all in good shape so hopefully they will run well.
"I love the jumpers, they are slow horses, they are not stars that's why they are in maiden races [but] they have all been poking along heading towards this carnival to start their jumping careers and hopefully one of them will do the right thing."
Weir is a great believer that schooling horses over obstacles freshens them up and also gives a new lease of life to gallopers who may not have many prospects on the level.
"A horse like Gotta Take Care, he won a heap of races in town, a listed event, he was a great horse who won 20 races. He wouldn't have won 20 races if he didn't have jumps racing. No way in the world, it switched him on. It gave him longevity. It's great for them. We school them all the time, it gets them in such good order, it is just a good part of their training to keep them interested."
Weir, who has a satellite stable in the seaside town, will have an army of other contenders at the Bool, but is honest enough to say that only a handful will have been specifically targeted at their races.
"Master Zephyr looked more impressive in the Terang Cup than what Tall Ship did, but leading up to the race Tall Ship was more impressive than Master Zephyr," he said.
"They are probably very similar horses. He's very small, but he got down and galloped well the other day. We needed to see that. Terang and Warrnambool was always the go and he really let down well.
"The surface won't worry him. He would need to switch off, he's a bit like Tall Ship, he over travels a bit. If they are going to be good horses they need to switch off."
DAN NIKOLIC BARRED FROM COURTROOM BATTLE OVER TRACK BAN
JOCKEY Danny Nikolic has been barred from his own courtroom battle over a track ban imposed by Victoria Police.
ANGUS THOMPSON reports for the HERALD SUN that Supreme Court judge Timothy Ginnane this morning ordered the court be closed so confidential police material about the champion rider, 41, could be raised.
Nikolic, along with his solicitors, spectators and the media were excluded from hearing the bulk of the arguments.
Only his barrister, Ron Merkel, QC, a team of defence lawyers and police witnesses are now allowed to remain in court.
Mr Merkel has been allowed to view secret documents relied upon to exclude Nikolic from Victorian racetracks, but Nikolic can neither see them nor be told about their contents.
In an affidavit filed lodged earlier this year, Nikolic claims to have received a letter from Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton, accusing him of “criminal associations”.
Mr Patton allegedly says in his statement of reasons for the exclusion: “I have formed the view that you have a limited appreciation of, or ability to control, your behaviour towards others, including racing officials and participants, family members, associates and the general public. The protected information that I considered also demonstrated matters relevant to your lack of integrity, criminal associations and poor character.”
Nikolic claims he wasn’t given the opportunity to respond to the allegations, and was denied natural justice.
The case to overturn the track ban is now being fought against the Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graeme Ashton.
Lawyers for the Chief Commissioner argue they are not obliged to disclose sensitive police intelligence.
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