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RACING Australia will look for a senior administrator with "significant racing knowledge and experience" to take over from departing chief executive Peter McGauran, who will not renew his contract when it ends in December.

CHRIS ROOTS reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that McGauran, a former minister in the Howard Government, has spent four-and-a-half years at the head of Racing Australia as it underwent a name change and took control of the Stud Book and other commercial roles. He has already accepted another corporate role but will see out his contract.

Racing Australia chairman John Messara said the process for replacing McGauran would be discussed at the September board meeting.

"We will be getting a recruitment company involved in the search for a replacement," Messara said. "Given the nature of the position, I think a feel for the industry and knowledge of racing is essential.

"It is something we will discuss at board level and get the process started, so there can a smooth transition when Peter leaves."

The front runners for the position would be Bernard Saundry, who will step down as Racing Victoria chief executive in December, and Paul Bittar, who is a former British Horseracing Authority chief executive.



LETSGOHORSERACING promised to continue pursuing the serious allegations made by disgraced trainer Sam Kavanagh to a VCAT hearing in Melbourne that successful stables in Queensland were using Cobalt.

We raised the question being asked by many in the industry as to why the new, all-powerful Queensland Racing Integrity Commission had not demanded that Kavanagh identify those trainers he was referring to.

Whilst there has been no ‘official’ response from Commissioner Ross Barnett we have it on good authority that QRIC did not ‘sit on their hands’ on this issue waiting for Kavanagh to volunteer information.

We are reliably informed that an approach was made by QRIC to Kavanagh who refused to co-operate despite the fact that he told the VCAT hearing of appeals by his father, Mark and trainer Danny O’Brien, that cobalt had been successfully used by stables in Queensland and South Australia.

At the time Kavanagh jnr, who is serving a lengthy disqualification for cobalt-related offences, said he was not prepared to name the trainers in front of the media which gave the impression that he would do so privately.

There are those who believe that such was the seriousness of the allegations that in the interests of racing integrity in Queensland and South Australia, VCAT should have required Kavanagh to name the trainers he was referring to behind closed doors or be held in contempt.

Sadly, that did not occur. One wonders, however, would it have been the case had Kavanagh made the same allegations about Victorian trainers.

What has come as a surprise to many trainers in Queensland is the lack of support on this issue they have received from the local mainstream racing media. Some suggest that is because a high profile turf writer was close to and once had an interest in a horse trained in a Kavanagh stable. Surely that cannot be correct. We all know there would never be a conflict of interest involving our leading turf writers.  

That aside, surely QRIC has the powers to convene a special inquiry, subpoena Sam Kavanagh and if he refuses to elaborate on his claims at least make that public to the racing industry.

Sources have told letsgohorseracing that Kavanagh jnr is reluctant to ‘name names’ because he has received anonymous threats since speaking out at the hearings in Victoria. If that is the case then surely a joint operation between Commissioner Barnett and his highly respected counterpart in Victoria, Sal Perna, could see the intervention of police to look at telephone, text or internet records to determine where these threats came from and who would benefit most from this information not being made public.

As it now stands every successful trainer in Queensland during the period referred to by Kavanagh jnr has a ‘cobalt cloud’ hanging over him or her. This needs to be addressed.

The question being asked by many who have followed this saga is: Why would Sam Kavanagh make up such a serious allegation? He really has nothing to gain with his training career as good as over.

That then opens the door to a more serious situation – the reality that the rumor mill is right and there has been widespread use of performance enhancing substances by some stables who are terrified that they will be well and truly put under the microscope if ‘exposed’ by Kavanagh behind closed doors to the Commission.

Letsgohorseracing believes that QRIC – whilst admitting they are new to the racing investigation scene – would have to be living under a rock if investigators were unaware of those stables being mentioned in dispatches. Surely they are being briefed by people who do know about the allegations that have done the rounds for far too long in the north.



VICTORIA Police are making a new bid to ban controversial jockey Danny Nikolic from race tracks.

AAP reports that itt comes after the Supreme Court ruled in June that bans against the Caulfield Cup-winning jockey were unlawful because he was not given details of the adverse allegations against him.

Lawyers for Victoria Police appeared before the Court of Appeal on Monday seeking leave to appeal that ruling.

The court was closed twice during the hearing with media told to leave so discussions between the legal parties could be held in secret.

Nikolic was first disqualified from racing for two years after being found guilty of threatening chief steward Terry Bailey at a Seymour race meeting in 2012.

He incurred a further penalty for offensive conduct towards another steward outside a VCAT hearing room during an appeal against the two-year ban.



ON two simmering fronts, ­Australia’s racing authorities are at war with those who serve them — and breeders are ­tangled up in both battles.

MATT STEWART reports for the HERALD SUN that trainers, owners and a band of freelance photographers are at war with an industry ­deter­min­ed to impose rules that are supposed to rationalise but are only creating angst.

The breeders are refusing a Racing Australia demand to bind them to the rules of racing.

They argue that as primary producers, the rules of the racetrack are not relevant to them and claim to be unrepresented in the application and policing of the rules.

If a breeder does not agree to be bound by racing’s rules within 60 days of a foal being born, that foal will never be ­allowed to grace the racetrack.

Stewards are rarely seen on stud farms, but can now seize phones and computers and punish behaviour from breeders — essentially farmers — they deem “unseemly”.

Racing Australia argues that if breeders behave themselves, the rule book won’t bother them.

The paperwork alone has breeders upset. Various forms, from foal births to relocation of horses from one property to another, must be signed and submitted within days or that foal will never be allowed to race.

The breeders argue they are already bound by protocols that ensure good practices.

They are prepared to go to court to stop the racing industry barging in on their farms.

It remains to be seen if a group of freelance photographers will take Racing Victoria to court, but their livelihoods are on the line, so who knows?

A dozen of the state’s most ­respected photographers are about to be kicked off the track.

In a bid to protect its intellectual property and eliminate what it claims have been “systemic breaches’’ of terms and conditions, RV has booted the freelancers and created its own photography hub.

Major news outlets such as the Herald Sun will continue to be allowed to send photographers to the track, but magazines such as Racetrack, which uses many freelancers, will not be granted accreditation.

The freelancers argue they reap a pittance from taking race photos, saying the benefit to racing of their talents surely outweighed the small financial advantage RV might get from shutting them down.

Breeders and trainers have joined the freelancers in what has become a bitter feud. A meeting on Friday bet­ween the union, freelancers and RV authorities — which resulted in a six-day deadline for the freelancers to restate their case — was repor­tedly fiery.

The freelancers argue their briefs are often in stark contrast to the race-day brief of a newspaper or RV’s new photography department.

Bronwen Healy and Bruno Cannatelli, perennial racetrack snappers, say they will now go broke because nurturing trusted relationships in racing and breeding circles has been their life for decades.

LETSGOHORSERING invites you to comment on this in the WEDNESDAY WHINGE



AN unnamed, unraced gelding is central to a possible return to the saddle for Michelle Payne that may yet lead to a second Melbourne Cup ride on Prince Of Penzance.

MATT STEWART reports for the HERALD SUN that Payne said on Thursday she had “never been more undecided in my life’’ as she ponders whether to continue her riding career but said a couple of unraced four-year-olds she hoped to train — and ride — might prove an irresistible magnet back to the track.

Payne has the two geldings in work at Ballarat as racing officials consider her application to train and ride under new rules.

The first horse “is definitely no star” and is likely to make its racetrack debut within three weeks. Payne said the prospect of riding it was “pushing me on”.

“The feeling of having prepared and done all the work with a horse and also riding it in a race would be so rewarding,” she said.

Payne said she had not given up hope of partnering Prince Of Penzance in a second Melbourne Cup, despite being replaced, probably by Harry Coffey, when the horse begins its campaign at Caulfield on Saturday week.

“If I’m fit, I’ve been back riding track work for seven weeks, I’d love to be back on him. Of course I would,’’ Payne said. “I know I can do it but I also respect the owners’ right to choose (the rider).’’

In an exclusive interview with the Herald Sun Payne revealed:

SHEstill had the passion to ride, saying “I love riding, I feel good riding, I love the competition.’’

SHE regretted sending an angry tweet after thinking she had been dumped from Prince Of Penzance, citing exhaustion.

THEdesire to one day be a mother is a key factor in considering retirement.

HERhorror fall in a race at Mildura in May “was the best thing that ever happened’’ because she was struggling to cope with the demands of fame.

Payne said she regretted tweeting her anger and displeasure when informed over a week ago that she would not be riding Prince Of Penzance in the Memsie Stakes.

The tweet, which she quickly deleted, read: “Not anymore I’m done, why work your arse off for people who don’t appreciate what you do and write you off anyway #moretolife.’’

Of the tweet, Payne said: “I wasn’t thinking straight. I texted (managing owner) John Richards and Darren Weir and apologised. It didn’t express how I really felt.

“I would also like to apologise to all of the other part-owners of Prince who didn’t actually know anything about it. We experienced the greatest high in racing, I’d rather focus on that then the negativity of any decision to use another rider.”



AS the new racing season dawns upon us, the Moonee Valley Racing Club is excited to unveil some exciting new initiatives and themed race meetings that will bring racing and non-racing fans to The Valley racecourse.

The Valley is the most exciting racing experience in the country. We are pleased to see that we enjoy having the second highest average attendance in Australian Racing, which is encouraging for the Club as we strive to provide everyone on course with a truly unique experience.

As the premier Night Racing venue in the country, we are aiming to take the Night Racing product to a whole new level this season, with the implementation of The Valley’s ‘Jump Time’, a new way of engaging everyone with the action, stories and highlights that are happening on and off the track. Put simply, our aim is to become the most entertaining racing show in the country.

This season will not disappoint, on top of another big William Hill Cox Plate Carnival, we’re pleased to highlight seven themed race meetings that will provide a fun social night out and many memorable moments.

William Hill Cox Plate Carnival – October 21 & October 22

The jewel in our racing calendar, the William Hill Cox Plate Carnival is shaping up to be a truly unmissable 24 hours of sporting action. As the anticipation builds towards the 96th running of the William Hill Cox Plate, we are set to witness two of the world’s best racehorses in 2015 William Hill Manikato Stakes winner Chautauqua and 2015

William Hill Cox Plate conqueror Winx attempt to defend their crowns. Those who witnessed Chautauqua and Winx last year will know how breathtaking it was and we look forward to witnessing a new field of world-class contenders try and take them on once more.

Seven Spectacular Themed Race Meetings

Further to our Carnival, The Valley will play host to a spectacular social calendar of themed race meetings throughout the season, with each event to bring with it a mixture of food, culture, entertainment, and the arts to the racetrack. Where else in Australia rivals the amphitheatre of The Valley under lights as we play host to 16 night race

meetings and the inaugural Twilight New Year’s Eve Race Day. From Group racing to exceptional live entertainment and an array of first-class dining options, we can’t wait to showcase these marquee race meetings.

• Spring Racing Launch Cox Plate Qualifier – 3 September

• AFL Grand Final Eve Moir Stakes Celebration – 30 September

• Remembrance Day – A celebration of horses in service – 11 November

• New Year’s Eve Twilight Races – 31 December

• Chinese New Year Celebration – 3 February

• St Paddy’s Irish Night – 17 March

• William Reid Stakes Season Finale – 24 March



IT seems that LETSGOHORSERACING struck a chord with our call last week for Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett to subpoena banned trainer Sam Kavanagh over his allegations that several successful Queensland trainers were using Cobalt to win races.

We have been inundated with emails and phone calls from not only industry stakeholders but followers of racing overwhelmingly supporting the need for Commissioner Barnett to act immediately on this serious issue.

Those who have contacted us are far from happy with the response from Commissioner Barnett calling on Kavanagh to come forward with the information he claims to have. They are adamant that won’t happen unless QRIC chases him.

Here is an example of the emails that we are receiving:


‘INTEGRITY Commissioner Barnett must be living under a rock if he thinks the mouth in the south Sam Kavanagh is going to voluntarily provide information on those trainers he says were using Cobalt in Queensland.

Until this matter is cleared up a cloud hangs over every Queensland trainer who enjoyed a deal of success last year. I understand Kavanagh made similar allegations concerning trainers in South Australia. If that was the case perhaps this is a matter that needs to be raised by that White Elephant, Racing Australia.

I read somewhere about all the staff that were being employed by the new Integrity Commission in Queensland and the salaries they were to be paid. Have these people been appointed and if so what are they doing? There was even a highly paid communications job. Why isn’t that person keeping us informed on what progress is being made by QRIC on issues like this Kavanagh allegation?

For that matter why doesn’t the racing media or a website like letsgohorseracing (now that Just Racing has sadly been put out to pasture) follow this up to find out just what is being done by Commissioner Barnett.

You could say it’s a matter for the stewards’ panel but they don’t seem interested in even opening inquiries into beaten favorites so what hope have we got of them investigating something like this. Many of us are still waiting to hear the outcome of a positive swab inquiry of great interest to many rival trainers. It seems to have disappeared off the radar. Here’s hoping there isn’t another loophole involved like apparently has occurred in the past.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: LETSGOHORSERACING shouldn’t have to do the job of the mainstream racing media but we give an undertaking that each week we will continue to call for a report on this from QRIC until Commissioner Barnett provides some answers to what is actually being done to chase up Sam Kavanagh for the identity of those trainers he has made these serious allegations about.



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