RACING VICTORIA CEO TO RETIRE AFTER SPRING CARNIVAL
RACING Victoria chief executive Bernard Saundry will stand down after the 2016 spring carnival after four years in the hot seat at an organisation that has experienced dramatic change and plenty of controversy during his time at the helm.
PATRICK BARTLEY & MICHAEL LYNCH report for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Saundry's departure brings to an end the tenure of the latest in a long line of racing administrators who have spent the bulk of their careers in racing or related industries.
Saundry, 54, and RVL will part ways in December. On Thursday the administrator was still coming to terms with the decision to leave an organisation he has been a part of for 14 years. He joined racing's peak Victorian body after a stint as chief executive of the Western Bulldogs.
"I have made the decision that now is an appropriate time for change both for the organisation and for my family," Saundry said.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working within the Victorian thoroughbred racing industry and believe that the time is now right for a new chief executive to lead the implementation of our next strategic plan, with Victorian racing in a strong position for the future.
"There remain a number of key projects around infrastructure, wagering, governance and integrity that I'm keen to progress to ensure that the industry is best placed to realise its future growth strategies. As such, it will remain business as usual for myself and Racing Victoria throughout the remainder of 2016."
Saundry replaced Rob Hines as CEO, although he was never regarded as the heir apparent – another administrator, Paul Bittar, was being groomed for the position.
However, Bittar suddenly fell from grace with the hierarchy at RVL – he subsequently left and took up a position running the British Horseracing Authority for three years – and Saundry succeeded Hines in 2012.
It was always going to be a difficult job with the ever-changing wagering landscape, corporate bookmakers and metropolitan clubs wanting to argue the point on so many issues.
Under his watch Saundry has transformed the finances of Racing Victoria and worked tirelessly to bridge the gulf between the three metropolitan clubs – the Moonee Valley Racing Club, the Victoria Racing Club and the Melbourne Racing Club – and Racing Victoria.
The chief executive was well liked by other administrators with his ability to negotiate complex and intricate problems.
Andrew Demetriou and a number of talented chief executives will be looked at during the next few months.
Saundry started his working career at Moonee Valley under one of Australia's most powerful and innovative racing bureaucrats, Ian McEwen.
McEwen was an administrator that was always worried that racing was falling behind other sports. He impressed on Saundry that racing must continue to reinvent itself, make it appealing and a day at the races an enjoyable experience.
While Saundry and current RV chairman David Moodie had different styles, they appeared to complement each other.
"No one could ever question Bernard's commitment and dedication to the task and his desire to see Victorian racing grow and prosper for the benefit of all. His contribution will always be valued," Moodie said.
"We are pleased that Bernard will continue in his position until the end of the year to assist in the transition to our next chief executive and the start of another chapter in the history of Racing Victoria."
CHRIS WALLER CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN SO BRING ON THE CLOWNS
TREVOR ANDERSON of BRISBANE sent this email which echoes the sentiments of how many punters felt about the Fred Best Classic at Doomben last Saturday:
‘THE Chris Waller circus moved from Sydney to Brisbane on Saturday and one could argue that the stewards were the ringmasters while the punters were made clowns of.
The Fred Best Classic degenerated into a joke in the eyes of many when the Waller-trained favorite Sir Bacchus flopped badly while his stablemate, Counterattack, was able to land a massive plunge after sitting wide without cover for the entire trip.
Even if stewards had intended questioning Waller over the below par performance of Sir Bacchus – considered a Stradbroke hope beforehand – he had already fled the scene. SKY Channel explained that they could not interview the champion trainer post-race as he had left for the airport for a flight home.
That aside stewards then dumbfounded punters by announcing in their report on the race that they had given Waller approval for blood tests to be taken from Sir Bacchus on Friday which begs the question why was that not made public. When it involved the favorite for a Group 3 on a major carnival day surely it was important enough.
To plagiarize the thoughts of Phil Purser on his excellent website, justracing, on Monday:
“I must say I was ‘amazed’ to read in Saturday night’s stewards’ report for the Doomben meeting that Race 8 favorite Sir Bacchus must have been causing his trainer, Chris Waller, some concerns the day before the race. Yet the pre-race silence on the matter, from all quarters, was deafening.
“It’s history now that Sir Bacchus went like a crippled soldier crab, never getting out of reverse gear after settling back in the pack, clocking in 11th when going for five wins from his last six starts, whilest his stablemate Counterattack was backed as if unbeatable (for $7 to $4.4).”
Once again it has been left to the websites like justracing and letsgohorseracing to protect the interests of the punters. All we got from the mainstream media after punters were again made look like fools by the Waller stable were more alibis for the champion trainer.
Regardless of whether he suggested Counterattack would be hard to beat on the eve of the Fred Best, there was not the slightest concern expressed by Waller about the condition of the pre-race favorite Sir Bacchus. Why then did he need to have blood tests taken so close to the race? The ones that should have been asking that question were the stewards and if integrity has been stepped up by this top copper who now leads the charge – as we keep being told – then why weren’t the punters kept informed and not treated like mushrooms?
To make matters worse the stewards’ panel overseeing the race – apart from not interviewing Waller nor jockey Hugh Bowman about the pathetic performance of Sir Bacchus – did not even bother having the horse swabbed. And that panel included Daniel Aurisch (as chairman) along with the Harry Hopman (not playing captain of the racing world in Queensland, Allan Reardon) and the man favored to take his job (Martin Knibbs).
Come on guys punters deserved better than this poor display from you. This is what we have come to expect over recent months in Sydney where the Waller juggernaut has rolled on with stable second strings continuing to salute after being heavily backed while favorites before poorly. Questions are asked – on occasions – but from a punters’ perspective the answers provided are far from acceptable.’
RV REJECTS PERSONAL PREJUICES CLAIM IN STEWARDS' DECISIONS
RACING Victoria has rejected statements by training and jockey authorities questioning stewards’ record in separating personal prejudices when exercising their professional duties.
Australian Jockeys’ Association chairman Ross Inglis in Monday’s Herald Sun said “personalities can come into it’’ when stewards consider penalties.
The Herald Sun reports that Trainers’ Association chief Andrew Nicholl said “those responsible for managing the process must be seen as absolutely impartial in carrying out their duties”.
RV said in a statement it “categorically rejects the assertions and implications which arise from the comments made by the Australian Trainers’ Association and Australian Jockeys’ Association”.
The Herald Sun reported the statements in the context of the Bittar report recommending a new three-code integrity body.
“Whether a governing body should oversee both the commercial and integrity functions is a vexing issue that this review has considered,” Paul Bittar wrote in making the case for a new body.
“At the same time there has been a range of issues in Victorian racing that, rightly or wrongly, have resulted in a loss of public confidence in the integrity services functions and systems overseeing the sport. These factors led the minister to seek to have the review undertaken.”
The Racing Victoria statement did not address this finding on public confidence in integrity matters.
“The stewards act in good faith to protect the integrity of racing and a level playing field for all participants,” RV said.
“The stewards do so without fear or favor. Any suggestion to the contrary is without foundation.”
MRC MEMBERS OUTRAGED AS FOURSOME ENJOY COSTLY JUNKET TO JAPAN
MELBOURNE Racing Club members are outraged after it was revealed their club paid tens of thousands of dollars for flights and accommodation for board members and employees to fly into Japan this weekend.
PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIAthat Chairman Mike Symons, committee member Matthew Cain, club chief executive Brodie Arnhold and club employee Josh Rodder all flew to Japan to be part of the race meeting at Kyoto, with the MRC footing the bill.
On Saturday the Kyoto Australian Raceday was staged with representatives from all three metropolitan clubs in Melbourne in attendance.
However, MRC members have become upset with the cost of the trip considering other clubs have been "so frugal."
"Why is it that these people are able to jet around the world on club members' money? It doesn't happen in private enterprise and we've probably seen 300 membership subscriptions squandered by a weekend away," one member, who did not want to be identified, said.
"Why would so many from the club need to be trackside when other clubs weren't as extravagant? And after all if they're looking for horses for the Caulfield Cup we've already got a very good talent scout doing that already."
The Melbourne Racing Club stage a reciprocal race for the Japan Racing Association as do Flemington and Moonee Valley. Each club have a race called the JRA Stakes and that's reciprocated in Japan.
A spokesman for the MRC confirmed that the club were paying for the trips for all four but added it was for business and to build relationships with the Japan Racing Association.
However, the VRC (Flemington) only sent one representative, as did Moonee Valley.
Racing Victoria chairman David Moodie was interstate and could not be contacted for comment on Sunday night.
The MRC is preparing to stage another election to decide whether they will allow the chairman, vice chairman and treasurer a further six years on the board after the first meeting was disallowed when a large portion of members were not advised of the meeting.
A little more than 200 members voted out of the 13,000-strong membership.
It's understood one member is preparing to take signatures to spill the board. The names of 150 members are required to trigger that process.
The MRC received much criticism from rank and file members who not only believe the election was unfair, but are now maintaining that for such contentious legislation as six year terms a two thirds majority vote must apply.
The two thirds majority continues to be a sticking point among those against the six year term.
While nearly all clubs throughout Australasia have a two third majority in their constitution the MRC claim that they have not had a two third majority in the 114 year history of the club.
NEW VICTORIAN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT TO POLICE THREE CODES
THE State Government has accepted in principle a recommendation to establish a new Victorian Racing Integrity Unit which would police the three racing codes — thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds.
DARYL TIMMS reports for the HERALD SUN that a recommendation has also be made to restructure racing’s appeals and disciplinary system which would stop trainers and jockeys lodging appeals and gaining a stay of proceedings through the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
It’s understood racing participants would need to seek Supreme Court action if they were aggrieved by penalties handed down by their racing disciplinary board, which in the case of Racing Victoria, is the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.
The recommendations have been made by Paul Bittar who was commissioned by the Government in June last year to review the integrity function of Racing Victoria, Harness Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria. The review was later expanded to explore the current framework of the racing appeals and disciplinary system.
Racing Minister Martin Pakula said the purpose of the review was to consult with the industry and develop a set of recommendations to:
ENHANCE collaboration between the codes;
PROVIDE greater transparency of integrity service functions and to;
CONSIDER the separation of integrity functions from commercial operations.
Following extensive consultation with the industry, Bittar has recommended the establishment of a new Victorian Racing Integrity Unit (VRIU) to deliver integrity services for the three codes of racing.
In Bittar’s report, he identifies a two-year time frame for the implementation of his key recommendation — the Victorian Racing Integrity Unit.
Currently each code has its own integrity unit and stewards.
The Government will now commence discussions with the racing codes, Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Boards and Integrity Councils to start the process of implementing Bittar’s recommendations.
Pakula welcomed the recommendations.
“This is about giving Victorian racing an integrity model that provides rigorous and impartial oversight of the three codes.,” he said
“I thank Mr Bittar for his work in conducting the review and each of the controlling bodies for their co-operation and support, and I look forward to seeing the key recommendations implemented within the next two years.”
Racing Victoria Chairman David Moodie acknowledged receipt of the Bittar Review and said his board welcomed the opportunity to discuss it with the Government.
“Having just received the report, Management and the Board will take its time to digest the information within and the recommendations made and consider the implications for thoroughbred racing in Victoria,” Moodie said.
“We support the principle of collaboration between the three racing codes and believe that our expertise and processes will be invaluable in helping to inform future discussions with Government, HRV and GRV.
“We also believe in continual development and strengthening of our integrity programs and resources, as maintaining the integrity of Victorian thoroughbred racing is at the core of our existence.”
CIARON MAHER STABLE RAID AFTER REPORTS OF MOODY'S PRESENCE
RACING Victoria stewards inspected the Caulfield stables of Ciaron Maher after reports that suspended trainer Peter Moody had been in the trainer's area at trackwork and present at his former stables.
PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Maher has taken over part of Moody's stables when the Black Caviar trainer retired after being suspended for six months, with another six months suspended, for cobalt doping of horse Lidari.
But RVL had been contacted by some trainers claiming that he had been attending trackwork and purchasing yearlings.
Racing Victoria's Integrity Department said two stewards attended Maher's Caulfield stables and held a thorough examination of the barns and also monitored the feeding arrangements in place for the horses.
Last month, all of the stables, tack rooms and adjoining rooms were inspected with investigators confirming that the stables had changed in appearance since Moody vacated the stables and retired from racing.
On that day of the inspection, Sarah Moody, wife of Peter, tweeted: "Stewards probed maher stables this morning looking for clues PGM still training there, not everyone lies & deceives, so pleased to be out!". Stewards then held interviews, firstly with stable staff of Maher's and then questioned at length employees who were formerly part of Moody's business.
Wade Hadley, one of the investigators, said the feeding arrangements and the look of the Maher stable were different.
Stewards then interviewed Maher who gave an assurance that he was the designated trainer and not Moody.
Some of the horses in Maher's new stable are part-owned by Moody's wife Sarah, who is a registered thoroughbred owner.
Registered owners are bound by the rules of racing and in this context Sarah Moody has been summoned by stewards to attend an inquiry into social media posts which might be perceived prejudicial to the image of racing.
Sarah Moody's tweets were aimed at Terry Bailey and made reference to Melbourne's gangland underbelly.
Moody, who Fairfax Media believes is not a registered owner, has become a paid ambassador for a corporate bookmaker.
COMMISSIONER URGED TO INVESTIGATE INTEGRITY DEPT MELTDOWN
IT’S been declared a scandal that has become the talking point of the Deagon Bunker about a Black Friday that one of the highest profile stewarding and integrity identities must be hoping and praying new Racing Queensland Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett never gets to hear about.
But the new ‘top cop’ responsible for policing industry affairs would need to be living under a rock to escape the stories doing the rounds and if these are only half right he must investigate immediately or his new multi-million dollar Integrity Unit risks losing instant credibility.
Rumors can lose nothing in the telling and letsgohorseracing has been inundated over the past few days. We have made our own inquiries and would be only too delighted to inform Commissioner Barnett in more detail of what we have been told. But there is little chance we will have to with some prominent industry personnel key to talk to the Commissioner about it, not to mention a couple of high profile and respected stewards.
According to what we have been able to learn it all started when stewards and integrity staff went to inspect their new ‘digs’ at Hamilton near the Brisbane River last Friday. When it came time to return to work at their current headquarters at Deagon one high profile member of the team and a personal assistant allegedly went missing in action.
This is where the ‘rumors’ get a shade clouded. But we can confirm that they were seen enjoying themselves at a well known Breakfast Creek watering hotel for quite some time. There is also a report that the duo returned for another look at their new office space.
If the Integrity Commissioner wishes to check out what subsequently happened perhaps he should talk to a couple of well respected and high profile stewards – one of whom was instructed to drive in to Hamilton and convey the couple back to Deagon. He has told colleagues of his disgust at what occurred.
Back at the Bunker and the PA was allegedly unable to do her job properly and was told by fellow staffers to go home. She had to call in her boyfriend who arrived on his push bike to drive her car. Her ‘friend for the day’ circled the office asking if anyone had breath mints to mask the alcohol he told them he had consumed. Lucky they don’t breath-test stewards doing their jobs like happens with jockeys before they ride.
It seems the Integrity Department is in meltdown and has been for some time. Complainants have told us a host of stories, one of some interesting footage from the cameras in the Fitness Centre at Deagon racecourse that would apparently make interesting viewing for the new Integrity Commissioner if he can locate same.
Details of many claims being made cannot be published by LGHR for legal reasons, including one of a high profile steward allegedly being sacked and reinstated over a family sponsorship deal with a prominent racing group.
With some key positions for big salaries up for grabs in the coming weeks the importance of Integrity Commissioner Barnett launching an immediate internal investigation into Black Friday at the Creek cannot be understated. He needs to have the right people in key positions or risk the new Integrity Unit becoming a laughing stock.
Some of those close to the action are however appealing to the Commissioner to conduct any inquiry himself and not to involve one of his high profile QPS colleagues seconded to the Integrity Unit in this investigation as they claim he is too close to the identity at the centre of the Black Friday allegations.
For the sake of all those involved – and we are the first to admit that some racing stories can lose nothing in the telling – the industry and its stakeholders need to be made aware that this serious situation has been addressed by the Integrity Commissioner. If he wants witnesses he needs go no further than his own backyard.
TIM THE TOOLMAN'S LATEST 'DUD' AS SHADOW RACING MINISTER
By TERRY BUTTS of the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER
TIM Nicholls, the new LNP Leader in the revolving door of politics, might ‘just be the boy’ for voters from the leafy suburbs of Brisbane – but there is little joy or celebration in the bush about his elevation.
The new Premier-elect is not known for his concerns for matters outside the south-east corner. And he is remembered as the one who supported and mentored Steve Dickson – arguably the worst Racing Minister of all time – in the ill-fated Newman Government.
Nicholls has yet again displayed his ignorance of racing matters and contempt for the industry by appointing the unexperienced Beaudesert-based greenhorn Jon Krause as the Opposition Racing Minister.
Gold Coast-based veteran Ray Stevens, who has raced horses himself for 30-odd years – and has his roots in outback Richmond – was the logical choice. Really, he was the ideal man for the post – a no-brainer.
But he was inexplicably snubbed by Nicholls (aka Billy Bunter) who has a reputation of being a bit of a bully, if not a thin-skinned one who might carry a grudge or three.
Your writer last week asked a long-time Beaudesert-based horse trainer for an opinion on Krause – his local Member, and potentially the next Racing Minister.
The trainer answered: ‘Who? Never heard of him’!
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