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QRIC – ‘THE ENVY OF OTHER STATES’ - STUMBLES FROM ONE CRISIS TO ANOTHER

By TERRY BUTTS of the NQ REGISTER

WHAT about QRIC (the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission)?

It stumbles from one crisis to another and one really wonders how it can survive after this latest cobalt swab fiasco.

To say QRIC, this Government’s contribution to the industry, is an abject failure would be the understatement of the year.

And that’s in spite of (Racing Minister) Grace Grace’s recent assertion in Parliament that QRIC was the envy of every other racing body in the country.

She really can’t be that far from the pulse. Or is she?

In September last year stewards inquired into the Gollan-trained Amexed that returned a positive at Ipswich on June 18 (2016) to Prednisone and Prednisolone.

On June18 (this year)  stewards inquired into the presence of Cobalt in urine samples taken from the Ricky Vale trained Prince Dan at Mackay in March last year,  Reset Our World at Rockhampton in March (2016), Shepiktus at Rockhampton in March (2016) and Dexamethasone was detected in a urine sample taken from Prince Dan at Rockhampton in February (2016).

The findings and penalties for both trainers were confirmed at internal review and both appealed their decisions at QCAT. Now QRIC has sensationally discontinued “all cases by consent.”

Ricky Vale was back at the track with his horses on Saturday morning.

“The decision to discontinue these historical matters is not a reflection of the honesty, dedication and professionalism of the QRIC staff involved including the stewards, veterinarians and Racing Science Centre analysts. All staff have acted in good faith and with integrity,” said QRIC chief Ross Barnett.

Really?

How embarrassing.

Integrity needs the complete confidence of every licensee. It needs a leader with a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of all facets of racing.

One would think a high ranking stipendiary steward would fit the bill. Surely one of our own much sought after home grown stipes could be induced to return from senior positions overseas.

After all, racing is not just a game of cops and robbers.

But there is more. Six months ago Mackay trainer Buddha Cochrane was outed for 12 months on a cruelty charge. From a distance of 321 meters he was allegedly seen by a QRIC steward hitting a horse around the head at the Ooralea swimming pool. He appealed and the penalty was reduced by QCAT to six months – of which he has now served five.

Last Friday he was to appear in Mackay Magistrate’s Court on a cruelty charged laid by QRIC police – but the case was thrown out because there was no evidence. No-one from QRIC police or the stewards turned up.

It is the second time in 12 months a magistrate has thrown out a QRIC complaint of cruelty. The other was in Rockhampton, involving a former trainer and track rider who won his case but has elected to just walk away from racing.

But the Mackay matter might not yet be over. The trainer is said to be considering compensation for his loss of income.

QRIC charged him with cruelty (with no veterinary inspection of the horse, mind you) and gave him 12 months. Then it failed to provide evidence when the matter went to court.

What do you think?

 

SWAB DEBACLE CONTINUES - MORE EMBARRASSMENT FOR QLD RACING

HEADS should roll over the farce involving the testing of positive swabs in Queensland racing.

Rockhampton trainer Ricky Vale has escaped a 12 month disqualification when four cobalt charges against him were withdrawn.

Leading trainer Tony Gollan has had an $8,000 fine overturned and Amexed has been reinstated as the winner of the $100,000 Provincial Cup run at Ipswich in June 2016.

This embarrassment for racing in Queensland has happened because the A and B samples of swabs were tested at the one facility – the Racing Science Centre.

 “This departure from normal process occurred on the basis of legal advice sought, accepted and implemented before the Commission commenced which we now accept was misinterpreted,” Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett told Nathan Exelby of The Courier-mail.

 “I am aware that there may be a third case subject to a similar outcome in the coming weeks,” Barnett said.

“Changes to testing procedures which came into effect with the implementation of the Racing Integrity Act 2016 on 1 July 2016 now ensures complete clarity over the correct procedures to be followed and all testing since that date has strictly complied with these procedures.”

So, it seems, the powers-that-be are forced, on a legal technicality, to put this farce down to ‘just one of those things’. Surely, someone was responsible for this debacle and should pay the price!

 

TWICE AS MANY ‘PARTY’ IN BRISBANE THAN WILL WATCH WINX IN SYDNEY

THERE’S nothing quite like a huge crowd at the track for anyone who follows or loves horse racing.

But for the traditionalists it’s a bit hard to swallow when they aren’t there to have a bet.

Most of the 16,000 who packed Doomben for Mekka Wednesday were there to ‘party’ or hoping on a little horizontal therapy after the last if they were still capable.

One would hope their massive presence at the Exhibition Holiday meeting in Brisbane did more than just improve the profits of the Brisbane Racing Club through alcohol sales. Chairman Neville Bell boasted how there were 12,000 tickets presold - bouquets to his crew for their once-a-year marketing coup.

Watching the horses race is a novelty for some but one wonders how many of these young racegoers actually had a bet and just how much the turnover improved on a normal midweek Wednesday of racing at Doomben.

Of course the Exhibition meeting doesn't come within cooee of what it once was. Remember the days of the big Maiden etc. Then again nothing is what it seems or once was in racing in Queensland.

It’s amazing how much racecourse attendances have gone downhill in Australia since the arrival of SKY but such is life. It’s easier to get 16,000 to party in the brilliant Winter sunshine at a racetrack in Brisbane than it will arguably be to get half as many to turn out to Randwick in Sydney on Saturday to see our greatest star of the turf Winx make her return to the track.

Times have changed – except in Melbourne in the Spring – where it seems the big crowds still want to witness first-hand the major Cups and the Cox Plate but the question remains there too – how many less would be in attendance if it wasn’t for the big party in the car parks, on the lawns and in the marquees?

 

IS SOMETHING ON THE BUGLE ABOUT TOWNSVILLE TENDER PROCESS?

By TERRY BUTTS of the NQ REGISTER

RACING Queensland has awarded the tender for Townsville track remediation to local company, Maccas Sports Turf, after what RQ described as ‘a competitive and open tendering process.’

Yes, well....

Cluden track was closed after the Townsville Cup on July 29 for remediation and a scope of work was put out to tender. Three submissions were received by the end of the tendering process on Friday the 4th of August, in a statement (dated August 8 but released on August 10).

“A number of factors were considered in awarding the successful tender including the cost of the work and the ability of the contractor to undertake the work in a timely yet effective manner.”

The statement continued: “TTC Chairman Malcolm Petrofski thanked his staff for the hard work that has gone into keeping the track in good racing condition for the winter carnival.”

The statement also referred to a contracting company (unnamed) that undertook work on the track before the tenders had closed, that just happened to spark the ire of another contractor – as reported here last week.

RQ CEO Dr Eliot Forbes said there was a “miscommunication by a Racing Queensland staff member” during this period which is now under review.

If you happen to be intrigued by that comment- you are certainly not alone.

He added: “Some work took place that was originally intended to be part of the broader scope of remediation. When that was discovered work was stopped and the tender re-scoped to take account of the work already undertaken. The integrity of the tender process was not impacted by this miscommunication and the tender was awarded in strict accordance with policies and procedures.

“Sand and chemicals were also ordered by RQ as part of that miscommunication and delivered to the club. The TTC played no role in the sourcing of that material or the work that began on the surface. The sand, while deemed acceptable for other purposes at the site, will not be used for the track surface as it doesn’t meet RQ’s stringent standards.”

Well that’s their story but there is another version of events.

When and how did Dr Forbes first hear that the sand delivered on track last Monday was unsuitable?

And what was his immediate reaction?

 

WHERE ARE THESE STAKEHOLDERS WHO RECKON GRACE IS GREAT?

THE suggestion that stakeholders are telling Grace Grace she is ‘one of the best Racing Ministers they have seen’ must have Russ Hinze rolling in his grave.

Poor Grace doesn’t even come within cooee of former Ministerial colleague Bob Gibbs and arguably Ray Stevens, the LNP Member whose question she was answering in Parliament, has forgotten more about racing than she will ever learn.

Without taking Grace out of context we should report that she did add one of the best Racing Ministers ‘in recent times’ but let’s not delve too deeply into what she has had to compete with apart from, of course, the biggest embarrassment of all ‘Furlong in Front’ Steve Dickson.

The story goes that a former Labor Racing Minister contacted Grace recently and suggested that she should endorse the appointment of Darling Downs racing identity, Neville Stewart, as a consultant to try and get the industry in Queensland back on track.

Stewart, who has friends and enemies on both sides of politics, was largely responsible for the introduction of twilight racing during his many years as the helm of racing in Toowoomba where stakeholders say things have gone downhill since his days as Chairman.

It seems that a consultant to a major race club – who the Minister is under the misapprehension is the ‘ants pants’ when it comes to all things racing in Queensland – told her not to have a bar of Stewart and sadly his appointment was placed in the ‘too hard’ basket. One would have thought the Racing Minister wasn’t that big a dill that she would listen to someone who has done nothing but bag Labor’s handling of racing in this State for three decades not to mention has plenty of skeletons in his own backyard and should be the last to throw stones at Stewart. Then again perhaps he is one of those telling the Minister that she is one of the best Racing Ministers Queensland has seen. Amen!

Here is the debate as reported in Hansard from State Parliament last week between the Member of Mermaid Beach Ray Stevens and the Racing Minister Grace Grace:

RAY STEVENS (LNP – Mermaid Beach):

‘I wish to comment on the Racing Minister’s failure at the Estimates Committee hearing to explain why her oversight of Racing Queensland has seen the debacle that is the Eagle Farm track, which has cost the racing industry millions of dollars.

The Minister failed miserably to explain that away. She tried to hide the fact that it is her Department, under her watch, that oversaw that disaster. Two people lost their lives on that project. This has nothing to do with the Brisbane Racing Club or Chairman Neville Bell. This is all about the Minister’s Department and her failure to properly oversee racing. She has put in her watchdog, Mr Ross Barnett, who spent millions of dollars on the terrible problems that we had in the greyhound racing industry. They spent a truckload of money —millions of dollars —of thoroughbred racing industry money and have now put the steward who was in charge of policing the dogs in charge of the whole shooting match for racing in Queensland. He is still there today. He is on leave. He has not been officially appointed. I take it that he is still being paid.

It shows how incompetent the Racing Minister is when it comes to looking after racing in this State, which will go down further if the Labor Government stays in power and this Minister stays in charge of racing, which is one of the most important industries in the State.’

HON. GRACE GRACE (Minister for Racing):

‘I can tell the Member for Mermaid Beach that that is not what racing industry participants say to me. They reckon that I am probably one of the best Racing Ministers they have seen in recent times.

I can tell the House that we are delivering in spades. No matter how much spin the Member for Mermaid Beach puts on it, the reality tells a different story, because that track was laid when the LNP was in Government. Dale Monteith’s report clearly states that Government funding cutbacks to the program was one of the major reasons they had to compromise. It started with the grass, the sand and the maintenance, when we were not even in government. The Member should not come in here and put the blame for the Eagle Farm track on me as Minister. Members should read that report, which is available publicly. What it says is the complete opposite of what the Member for Mermaid Beach said. I will stake my reputation on getting that track back on track, the way that Labor does things, that is, sensibly, through listening and by getting in the experts. By the end of it, we will have a first-class Eagle Farm track because we will deliver on expert advice, rather than on cutbacks and shambolic ad hoc arrangements such as were put in place by the previous LNP Government.’

 

‘EXPLANATION ACCEPTED’ SIGN ON STANDBY AT ANOTHER NSW INQUIRY

RACING NSW stewards inspected Tim Clark’s phone after they were highly critical of his ride on Washington Heights at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

BRAD DAVIDSON reports for the SYDNEY TELEGRAPH that stewards adjourned the matter to look at other aspects of the race but not before grilling Clark for 20 minutes and asking to view his phone where he discussed race tactics briefly with his manager, John Walter.

Stewards criticised Clark’s decision not to take the run to the outside of eventual winner Kingsguard early in the straight as Clark opted to instead stay on the fence and follow the luckless Tom Melbourne.

Racing NSW investigator Nathan Hayward viewed Clark’s phone and found two messages between Clark and his manager discussing the race in question.

“Mr Walter messaged saying, ‘I hope they go hard in Washington’s race’, and Mr Clark replied, ‘Washington will be in front of three or so (horses)’,” Hayward said.

Clark conceded there was a run to the outside of Kingsguard early in the straight but he said taking that option would have put him on the back of a struggling horse and he felt he could have still been blocked for a run if he had taken that option.

“It was a 50-50 decision and I banked on knowing what horses were around me,” Clark said.

“I could see Tom Melbourne travelling strongly and I was happy to bank on getting on the back of that horse considering he trialled so well and was well fancied.”

Tom Melbourne was held up until the last 50m-100m before finishing second but stewards agreed rider Blake Shinn had no other option but to wait for the run to finally open. Washington Heights finished a luckless fourth.

 

 

POMS TARGET OUR PIN-UP GIRL OVER MEDIA CONFERENCE WALK-OUT

FRIENDS of Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne have sprung to the rider's defence over claims she has stormed out of a media conference to promote the Dubai Duty Free Cup at Ascot in England on Saturday.

PATRICK BARTLEY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Payne was flown to England to compete in a series between teams of women's and men's jockeys, and as part of the promotion, a media conference featuring the Australian jockey was organised.

The Racing Post reported the jockey swore at an Ascot official after she was asked to stay at the event longer, having complained of feeling unwell.

But a friend told Fairfax Media: "She told us that she'd picked up a bug on arriving in London, the same bug that her brother-in-law, another Melbourne Cup-winning jockey, Kieran McEvoy, had also caught on his arrival in England.

"Michelle tried to fight it, but it was one of those complaints that was everywhere and it really knocked her around.

"She told officials at the press conference that she was unwell, but she doesn't know if they understood. She's back in bed trying to get over it, but it looks doubtful if she can make the races on Saturday."

Payne has also told friends and family that she did not swear at an official on her way out of the media conference.

Ascot organisers reportedly declined to comment.

Earlier Payne fulfilled part of her obligations by posing for photos with other riders and gave some interviews before departing.

Payne has not had an easy time in racing since her successful ride on Prince of Penzance made her the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup, in 2015.

In May 2016 she had a serious fall at Mildura after the horse she was riding collapsed and was stood on by a rival horse. The former Ballarat schoolgirl suffered a torn pancreas and remained out of racing for six months.

On the cusp of last year's Melbourne Cup it was made clear to Payne that if Prince Of Penzance was to make last year's Melbourne Cup she would not be aboard him.

Some time after, Payne and Australia's most successful horse trainer Darren Weir parted company with Weir saying "there's no 'I' in team".

Payne, in June, was suspended for riding for a month after pleading guilty to taking an appetite suppressant, Phenetermine. 

 

 

BRC MOVES TO QUELL ANGER FROM TRAINERS OVER STABLE RENTAL

BEHIND-the-scenes reports suggest the Brisbane Racing Club has been putting out fires on another front to quell a major row with trainers over stable rental at the new Eagle Farm redevelopment.

Letsgohorseracing has been contacted by a high profile trainer who says that the delight expressed by trainers moving into the world class stabling complex quickly turned to dismay when the rental bills arrived.

“It was thousands of dollars a month more than some of us were paying before. It came as a bolt from the blue. Even the best trainers would be facing bankruptcy if they continued to pay that sort of stable rental,” the trainer claimed.

A hastily convened meeting between a deputation of trainers and BRC officials was held in the last week and problems were temporarily resolved when the rental bills were cut. It seems the added costs were largely for waste management which under the previous agreement the trainers say they were not faced with.

Rather than have another major and embarrassing controversy erupt publicly the BRC was keen to have the matter resolved with as little publicity as possible – which is always possible when they have the mainstream racing media on side.

Trainers are still simmering beneath the surface, waiting to see if this is only a band-aid cure leading up to the committee elections. Some have blamed the problem on a ‘heavy handed’ approach adopted by a club official in attempting to coerce them into signing long-term stabling contracts at Eagle Farm.

The LGHR contact told us: “One high profile trainer even kicked this bloke into gear when he told him if he didn’t sign the contract he wouldn’t have any stabling. The crazy part about it is the official doing the contracting of stabling is only a consultant to the club and many are asking why he should be retained when a full-time operator in the job he does was recently appointed and should be capable of doing it alone. How can they afford two blokes doing the same job when the hand is out for RQ to pay for the Eagle Farm repairs?”

Trainers tell of the consultant throwing his toys out of the cot when the Monteith Report into the problems associated with the Eagle Farm track and ordered by the State Government and Racing Queensland, was handed down. “It’s a load of rubbish and the bloke didn’t even seek the opinion of the BRC on it,” he allegedly told one group of trainers.

The $40 million stabling development at Eagle Farm – described as among the best in the world, comprises 430 new stables, each 4m by 4m in size with compressed bamboo fronts and fully insulated roofing. Every trainer in the complex has an office, tack room, feed room, walker, sand roll and viewing platform for trackwork.

Unfortunately these trainers living in paradise – and apparently being asked to pay a high price for the privilege – still aren’t sure when the problem-riddled Eagle Farm race track will be ready to race on. As Brisbane’s Lord Mayor, Graham Quirk, commented: ‘It’s like having a pub with no beer’.

 

 

CRITICISM OF STEWARDING OF HARNESS RACING & A QRIC RESPONSE

A prominent QUEENSLAND HARNESS RACING IDENTITY sent this email, asking for obvious reasons that he remain anonymous – and we managed to provide a response from the QUEENSLAND RACING INTEGRITY COMMISSION for which we are most thankful.

Here is the WHINGE followed by the reply from QRIC Commissioner ROSS BARNETT:

‘HARNESS racing in Queensland is officially up shit creek without a paddle.

If the story doing the rounds this week is true, which I believe it to be, then Ross Barnett, the head of QRIC, has failed in bringing discipline and strong integrity back into harness racing. .

I’m hearing that Acting Harness Chief Steward, Reid Sanders, has thrown in the towel, declaring harness racing in Queensland is broken beyond repair and it cannot be fixed with the current people it has in place. He leaves his post in a few days’ time.

The short time Reid was here he made a big difference and his leadership and harness knowledge was in the opinion of many making a big difference, be it only for a short time. He asked a lot more questions in a few weeks then others in the same role did in years. 

If Reid Sanders does walk away it will spell the end for many harness people they will sell up and walk away, as the appointment of persons to take over from him are very limited, good stewards are very thin on the ground in Queensland and it would be a massive failure to re-appoint a recently reassigned senior steward the chief role.  

Race inquiries have been very strained at some meetings where the push of the ‘bully boys’ get together and over-ride any steward who has a different opinion to theirs with regards to inquiries on race nights, and the penalty applied. It appears some stewards are still playing favorites instead of doing their job.    

Remembering that all the race fixing happened under the old stewards who never found, never saw, never acted on anything that was shown or presented to them, either on the track race nights or by other means. It’s very hard to understand how those old stewards are still there in positions of racing stewards or integrity.

So how can anyone have confidence knowing that one of these ‘blind Freddies’ could take the reins and be the chief of harness racing? Punters have walked away declaring harness racing a no-go zone, and who could blame them as integrity in harness racing is still at an all-time low?

Go back to a letter on this website some 18 June 2016, where it mentioned there was rumour of a steward reportedly tipping off stables. This information was found true and correct, and that steward quit when he was found out tipping off stables by the task force and Ross Barnett who investigated. I ask how can senior stewards still be employed at Racing Queensland when this and other allegations of boat races was presented to them, and dismissed?

When will RQ show some of these old stewards the door? They had two years to act on advice and ignored it all, and hire fresh faces to be trained under a top steward like Reid Sanders. These new persons should have strong harness knowledge and some harness background. There’s no point hiring ex-policeman to integrity if they have no knowledge of harness racing. This only adds to and expands the problem associated with inexperienced stewards.

Racing Queensland still has a big shield of secrecy and is very good at hiding or to put it another way sweeping things under the carpet in regards to anything swab related, be it the mentioning a positive or the outcome of any inquiries.

There’s no mention of irregularities or swab inquiries at all on any RQ site or harness pages like other states do. There’s no mention of completed swab inquiries, or the fact some open inquiries dating back well over two years to early 2015 still have not been completed. There’s no mention of on-going arsenic swabs from a leading stable from February 2016, yet its widely talked about that some of these trainers have been let off for reasons that will remain unknown but others have served 18 months disqualification.

Ross Barnett come out strong saying he will be open and transparent with everything, saying he will change what’s failed, saying he will deliver new stewards, new integrity people, saying they will hire the right people to turn things around, saying he will bring change and integrity. This has not happened and it’s the same old same old, day after day, in regards to inquiries and in regards to integrity issues.

There’s no confidence in QRIC, especially when there has been no change in regards to the old stewards who were all there well before the boat racing scandal broke and are all still there. As it stands it seems that QRIC has failed to deliver anything of substance and still hide and keep very quiet on everything.   

Racing Queensland needs to open the cheque book and do what it takes to keep Reid Sanders here. If it means pushing a few out the door, then do it, or better still dump QRIC and give some of that budget to hire a top steward,  Harness racing is in desperate need of leadership and integrity. It needs a set of balls and a backbone before it can actually move forward and progress. 

On a side note, can someone in RQ give the handicapper a nudge and wake him up. The race fields for Friday and Saturdays Albion Park meetings are still not out due to two heats being run late on Tuesday’s card. There’s still no reason why all the other race fields for these meetings couldn’t have been released.’ 

AND here is the prompt response from QUEENSLAND RACING INDUSTRY COMMISSIONER ROSS BARNETT:

‘ACTING Chief Harness Steward Reid Sanders was temporarily appointed to the role in June for one month from 15 July 2017. The length of Mr Sanders’ appointment was always going to be determined by his other commitments and no other reason. Those commitments have required him to leave QRIC at the end of this week. 

I would like to thank Reid for taking up this short term role and I wish him well.

The role of Chief Harness Steward is currently vacant and a recruitment process is currently underway.

As a mark of the importance of this role, QRIC is advertising it internationally. It is critically important the best person is appointed for this role to ensure the credibility of harness racing in Queensland. 

The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission takes the integrity of all racing in Queensland very seriously and the recent arrests for race fixing is evidence that investigations as a result of complaints have taken place and will continue.

Since the commencement of the QRIC I have taken decisive action against harness stewards where serious misconduct has been proven following complaints from participants in the industry.

QRIC stewards are currently dealing with a backlog of inquiries, for all codes of racing some of which concern the prohibited substance arsenic.

The delay in holding the inquiries has been due to the returns of scientific testing.

Some of the inquiries were held last week and the results have been posted on the QRIC website and there are more to be held in the coming weeks.’ 

 

TTC BOSS RETURNS FIRE OVER TERRY BUTTS'  COLUMN ITEM

MALCOLM PETROFSKI, President of the TOWNSVILLE TURF CLUB, has responded to the 'Silks & Saddles' column item written by TERRY BUTTS this week:

'I find it interesting that Terry Butts (pictured right) has again written a story with out checking the facts or even attempting to verify his comments. Each time I reply to a story by Terry it has a common denominator. He had not checked the facts.

Every Sunday I take Terry's call and offer the facts on various topics, every time he does not call it is always followed by a story slanted more towards fiction than truth.

He obviously missed the great success of the recent carnival in Townsville as it did not rate a mention, maybe not that important, again another peaceful Sunday with no call from Terry. I felt sure that he would want to announce the great success of his home carnival and the turn around story but again no call. I did check my missed calls  as I was sure he would want the scoop on the success, but no, no missed calls.

The local racing community must look across at Terry during morning track work and ask what has he done to assist his local race community. Could he use his position to advance the local racing story and attract patrons, owners and new people to the industry, possibly. The issue is that this would require positive factual reporting.

In past years I am sure there have been numerous items he could have investigated locally and reported upon but for some reason they have missed Terry's eagle investigative eye? Only Terry could let's us know how he missed those stories.

On a positive note the new committee has now engaged more than ever with staff, trainers and sponsors with a very positive turn around. We are buying the correct equipment to maintain the track correctly so that we do not have a repeat of the recent reduced track usage. The track condition did not happen overnight.

As usual if anyone wants to know the facts they just need to ask and I am happy to give the good and the bad.

I have some spare time on Sunday afternoons now as we only have good news stories now and they probably are not that interesting to Terry.

Malcolm Petrofski

President, Townsville Turf Club

BUTTS RETURNS FIRE TO PETROSKY CRITICISM OF HIS COLUMN

TERRY BUTTS has replied to the above comments by the TOWNSVILLE TURF CLUB president:

‘MALCOLM is entitled to his say and I welcome any constructive comments on anything that appears under my name. In fact I insisted Malcolm’s comments be published.

Firstly, I am not the publicity officer for the TTC. Secondly, I do not ring the Chairman EVERY Sunday as he claims but I must say he is always obliging when I do make contact.

Though he doesn’t specify, the Chairman is obviously somewhat incensed by the mention in this week’s column of the tender process for the Cluden track renovation.

He surely knows that the information presented in the column is not fantasy. He must have been well aware of everything that went on between RQ and a Sydney-based tenderer, Green Options, whose gang and gear had actually arrived on course four days before the closing  of tenders which was last Friday.

Malcolm must have known that 500 tonnes of sand – albeit the WRONG grade – was delivered on track last Monday with 13 tonnes of fertilizer with the name Petrofsky stamped on the bags.

When challenged by another local-based tenderer about the early arrival of Green Options, Malcolm allegedly dismissed it as an RQ matter. Since then (and since Malcolm’s letter) the successful tender has been named.

Ironically, the Townsville-based contractor who caused the ruckus was the winner – much to the delight of many and begins the task of renovating a track next week – a track by the way that six months ago was rated by  its maker, Evergreen, as the best in the State.

What went wrong? Ask Malcolm he has all the answers. Sometimes!

 

 

CLOUD OF CONTROVERSY HANGS OVER NEW TOWNSVILLE TRACK

IN the wake of the on-going controversy that has engulfed the redevelopment of Eagle Farm, TERRY BUTTS reports in his ‘SILKS & SADDLES’ column that a cloud also hangs over the upgrade of the Cluden track in Townsville.

Butts writes:

TO many a cloud still hangs over the Eagle Farm track with more questions than answers.

The same in Townsville that also has a $6 million Evergreen track that has deteriorated significantly in the past six months and is about to undergo renovation – again to be funded by Racing Queensland, which obviously accepts some blame for its deterioration in the past six months.

The track is currently closed and there is some doubt when it will re-open although the club still maintains a September re-opening.

In February this year, in its detailed inspection report on Cluden, Evergreen stated: ”The track presents a very good surface for racing – probably one of the best – if not the best in the State”.

AND another thing.

Tenders for the renovation of Cluden closed last Friday. Apparently six companies applied.

Yet one Sydney-based contractor, with a lot of gear turned up the previous Monday. So did 500 tonnes of sand plus 13 tonnes of fertiliser.

There is much more to this story.

Even a suggestion of CCC involvement – but first we must wait for the successful tender to be announced – hopefully this week.

Meanwhile, I can report there has been some fiery exchanges behind the scenes –some at high Government level – and a blame game between TTC and RQ as to how and why the Sydney contractor just happened to turn up on Monday, all dressed up and ready to go.

Watch this space.

 

ANOTHER QUESTIONABLE WASTE OF MONEY BY RACING QUEENSLAND

A MELBOURNE-based company IER, that describes itself as a boutique business consultancy specialising in research, strategy development and performance measurement in the sport and entertainment industry, is currently conducting a survey of Queensland country racing.

It is easy to understand the reason – but why the extreme cost of employing an outside agency for yet another costly survey?

Surely Racing Queensland with all its minions could conduct an in-house survey that would come up with the answers.

In a letter to a select group of  owners, Glen Hardy a partner of EIR and formerly employed in a management role at Mooney Valley Racing Club and marketing manager of Racing SA, states he has been appointed by RQ  to undertake “a size and scope study of the racing industry in Queensland.

“The study will provide the industry with an evidence-based assessment of the economic and social importance of the three codes of racing in Queensland.”

Really it is a very basic five minute survey about the average cost of racing a racehorse. Respondents are asked to declare the cost of keeping a horse for 12 months noting the usual costs for training fees, trackwork, farrier, spelling, pre training, insurance, veterinary etc.

One North Queensland owner completed the questionnaire and declared a cost of $64,000 for one country trained horse.

Reckon that might be a bit over the top. It would require the horse to win at least eight races a year to break even (TAB meetings excluded), and not many do. Most certainly don’t.

But it might indicate the state of the game and that very few people are in it for the money. And more owners are getting out of the game than coming in.

 

IS WALLER WORTH THAT MUCH MORE THAN THE BEST LOCALS?

ON that subject there was an interesting letter from Chris Waller to his owners last week.

Apart from boasting about being the top metropolitan trainer for the seventh year, and passing the $26 million mark for prizemoney during the year, Waller says “it is inevitable Queensland will raise prizemoney in the very near future”.

The champion trainer obviously knows more than most but talks about his new Gold Coast stable that will give him three bases (Melbourne and Sydney) and says it will mean interstate travelling costs will be abolished. Good for him!

He also announced his Queensland daily training rates – just $117 plus GST.

In Melbourne he charges $123 a day and Sydney $127.

“The Queensland rate is introduced based on the cost of our services being of the highest standard, including a high staffing ratio and that our horses will be competing in Saturday class and Group racing.”

Top coast trainer Toby Edmonds by the way charges $85 per day and there is nothing wrong with his strike rate.

 
EAGLE FARM RETURN TO RACING NEXT APRIL AS THE EMBARRASSMENT ROLLS ON 
AN independent report into the Eagle Farm track surface has recommended a remediation plan, which targets a return to racing in April 2018.
 
Racing Queensland (RQ) CEO Dr Eliot Forbes said he was pleased that the report provided a definitive solution to address the performance issues with the track.
 
“This report has taken into account all the circumstances and feedback on the track design, construction and maintenance. I would like to thank Mr Monteith for his diligent work and all stakeholders who have provided information for the review.”
 
Racing Queensland appointed former Victoria Racing Club CEO Dale Monteith to conduct the review, after a direction from Racing Minister Grace Grace to Racing Queensland to take all necessary steps to ensure Eagle Farm is returned to a fit state for racing.
 
Mr Monteith’s 31-page report identifies several factors that contributed to the track’s performance including:
 
  • The sand chosen
  • The grass chosen
  • Maintenance programs during and after track construction
  • Weather events at critical maintenance times
  • The racing program in the first 12 months
  • The budget available for the project
 
The Monteith Report recommends a major refurbishment of the track including the total removal of the existing grass and thatch layer and re-blending the profile to include angular sand types to improve stability.
 
It also recommended laying couch grass and a graduated return to a racing for the first year of racing and thereafter, depending upon track performance.
 
“Both Mr Monteith and Sports Turf Consultants agree on the remediation recommendations, however we took the extra step of commissioning soil scientist Dr Mick Battam to conduct a peer review. That second review has concurred with the recommendations and I am pleased to say we now have an in-principle agreement with the Brisbane Racing Club to implement a robust and enduring solution,” said Dr Forbes.
 
BRC Chairman Neville Bell said: “We welcome the review of the track. We look forward to working with Racing Queensland to ensure Eagle Farm is ready for the 2018 Brisbane Racing Carnival. Over more than a century, Eagle Farm has proven to be very popular with punters and we want to ensure that history stretches over many more years.”
 
Mr Monteith assessed the track design, construction and maintenance of Eagle Farm. Testing identified that the track was built to the design specification and that the parties agreed to practical completion in May 2016, with racing resuming in June 2016.
 
While the sand profile met USGA standards and was successfully used at a number of tracks around Australia, the report concluded an angular sand profile (or sandy loam) and couch grass may have assisted in stabilising the surface.
 
Responsibility for maintenance of the track was transferred from contractor Evergreen to the Brisbane Racing Club in August 2015 after budget revisions reduced the Evergreen maintenance period from 12 months to 3 months.
 
A combination of factors between January and April this year, including an extreme weather event during a heavy race schedule, the treatment of a nematode infestation and the application of organic fertilisers to the surface, contributed to the build-up of an unhealthy organic layer that retarded grass growth and ultimately turf performance.
 
Racing Queensland deemed the track unfit for racing after the Kingsford-Smith Cup on 27 May 2017 and subsequent events were transferred to Doomben.
 
As part of the review and on the advice of Mr Monteith, Racing Queensland commissioned a comprehensive testing regime of the surface by Sports Turf Consultants and their recommendations are included in the Monteith report.
 
Racing Queensland and the Brisbane Racing Club have agreed in-principle on the scope of works for remediation. Racing Queensland will project manage the works and intends to finance the project via the Racing Infrastructure Fund.
 
The total cost will be known once the scope is finalised and work tenders are returned.
 
Racing Queensland has already re-modelled the 2017/18 Summer Carnival to accommodate Eagle Farm’s unavailability and will begin discussions with relevant clubs immediately.  Among the carnival changes is the movement of three Brisbane Racing Club metropolitan race meetings from Eagle Farm to Doomben, including the key Bernborough Stakes meeting on 30 December 2017.
 
The Brisbane Racing Club and Racing Queensland are reviewing the club’s full race dates schedule to factor in Eagle Farm’s outage leading up to the 2018 Queensland Winter Racing Carnival.

 

FORMER GODOLPHIN BOSSES FACE CHARGES OVER STRANGLES

GOLDOLPHIN’S former head trainer John O'Shea will be asked to answer a charge of giving false or misleading evidence to stewards, while Sheikh Mohammed's former Australian boss, Henry Plumptre, also faces sanctions before the resumption of the strangles inquiry later this week.

ADAM PENGILLY reports that FAIRFAX MEDIA understands the legal teams of O'Shea and Plumptre have been served notice of the charges stewards intend to bring before the pair on Friday, when the hearing into a controversial cover-up of a horse that was displaying signs of the contagious disease continues.

Apart from being charged with knowing of Plumptre's decision not to tell stewards Polemic was carrying the condition, it is believed O'Shea has been hit with a further charge of giving false information to stipes.

Plumptre, who resigned last week as the Australian head of the global breeding and racing giant after 16 years with Sheikh Mohammed's organisation, has been charged with not reporting the strangles case to stewards last year, which is required under the country's rules of racing.

O'Shea quit perhaps the most lucrative training role in Australian racing in April, which preceded months of upheaval in the northern and southern hemispheres at the most recognisable brand in world racing.

O'Shea has been allocated boxes at Randwick to resume his career as a public trainer and tendered evidence at the initial strangles inquiry, which lasted for three hours, that he did not know Polemic was showing symptoms of the condition.

He said he was only concerned with the training of healthy horses in the racing team and had nothing to do with those not in work.

Goldophin's head vet Trevor Robson gave evidence that he had told O’Shea the results of Polemic’s test and reminded him he needed to tell stewards, while maintaining it was Plumptre's decision not to inform officials.

The inquiry will cap a turbulent few months for Godolphin, which has appointed Ross Cole as its interim Australian boss and James Cummings as O'Shea's successor.

 

 

SHOULD LOCAL BOOKIES BE ALLOWED TO FIELD AT PUBTABS ON MELBOURNE CUP DAY?

DAVE BAUER, a prominent Queensland racing identity, believes local bookmakers should be allowed to field at PubTABs on Melbourne Cup Day. Here’s his contribution to the DAILY WHINGE:

‘STATE Government rushes thru legislation to allow the registered local bookie to field at Pub-TABs on Melbourne Cup Day!

Will this commonsense approach be a chance of happening? Not likely!

But it should be passed through legislation and passed now!

The reason being is that in recent years the TAB has had a history of crashing on the day due to the overloading of betting, particularly on the Melbourne Cup itself. The TAB is unlikely to crash this year, simply because they have limited themselves to the amount of bets that they can take.

You see most Pub-TABS, within the Central Queensland area at least, have only two machines in operation and will prove incapable of receiving the myriad of bets from the once a year punters who love to have their little flutter. These once a year punters, the majority of who  splash out once a year and have at least a dozen bets on the day, will from this year onwards simply walk away, and most in disgust because they couldn’t even get through the door of the pub to have their annual bit of excitement.

If the present situation is allowed to exist, then Unitab will be able to pride themselves of imposing their own form of prohibition upon themselves forever and a day. The reason that this is different is that Unitab has chosen in their wisdom to upgrade their machines by removing the old and in with the new. The old machines would allow you to bung in a dozen or more bets at once. Those betting tickets would run thru the machine, the operator would see the amount to be charged or paid out to the punter and settle accordingly.

The new machines operate thus, the punter now holds those dozen or so tickets in his hand and feeds them into the machine one by one (these new machines only allow for one at a time) and after you have done that and possibly after dropping a couple on the floor, you then press a button to show what you pay or receive. Settle with the operator and receive separately printed tickets showing your investment.

The powers to be might tell you that this is progress, doesn’t seem like progress to me. When I went to school 12 was a higher number than one, so now they have installed a machine that will take a lesser number than previously, not much sense in that.

Come back to Melbourne Cup Day, the once a year punter usually requires assistance either from patrons or staff before they place their bets. They won’t get that this year as the all year punter will be flat out getting his own bets on, let alone helping a new chum out.

Should Unitab persist with their supposed progress and maintain the new machines with their present capabilities, then Melbourne Cup Day at the Pub-TABs and elsewhere will develop into nothing less than a major shambles.

Maybe they could and should “Allow the Local Bookie to Field at Pub-TABS on Melbourne Cup Day”.’        

 

SURELY QRIC HAS BIGGER FISH TO FRY THAN ‘MUTTABURRA’

By TERRY BUTTS of the NQ REGISTER

IT was a case of a bitter sweet carnival for one of the real characters of North Queensland racing – Garry ‘Muttaburra’ Dickskon – when Townsville hosted its annual Cup carnival.

Dickson had two runners over the final two days (Thursday and Saturday). Both were ridden by Brisbane jockey Nathan Day and both won – landing well-orchestrated plunges.

But ‘Muttaburra’ may have landed in hot water with officialdom in the process. In his inimitable and well known fashion, Dickson voiced his disapproval of a visit by QRIC stewards who turned up unannounced at his stable on Friday.

Of course we all know now that the stewards, under instructions from former top Cop, QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett (who thinks he is still back at Headquarters) must now carry a camera and voice-record the conversations with licensees.

It is an expensive innovation, considered way over the top by many, including some stewards, who I am told don’t really feel comfortable with it.

Surely a change of Government will see a complete overall of racing (yet again) with QRIC the first casualty. The three codes should be made responsible for their own destiny and allow racing to get back on an even keel without having to piggy-back the trots.

The three codes under the one roof has been a total disaster and the separation of QRIC from RQ a disgraceful waste of precious funds – totally unnecessary

But back to ‘Muttaburra’.

It seems he tore into the stewards (it’s all on tape) over many issues – not only for turning up without notice. It was a rant that lasted several minutes and included reference to a time when he was ‘wrongly disqualified’ for four months some years back.

He is still seething over it – and with some justification too, according to those familiar with the case.

The rumour is that Mutta’s little outburst could have been a reason for the visit to Townsville by Chief Stipe Allan Reardon who arrived late on Friday.

Surely not – but that is a subject we are trying to ascertain (without success to date) the answer to.

It is obvious that the cheque book at QRIC has unlimited funds to spend on air fares and hotels for its officers while the majority of its licensees – especially those in the country areas – are eating the paint off their stable walls.

As for ‘Muttaburra’, everyone knows his bark is worse than the bite. He is a bushie from his dandruff to his toe nails. But he is harmless, and forever helpful to anyone and everyone.

A bloke that local racing can ill-afford to lose. Yet he is on the verge of just walking away from the only thing he knows – training racehorses.

 Surely there are bigger issues...somewhere between Mackay and Mt Garnet, perhaps.

 

THE CONTROVERSIAL APPOINTMENT THAT QRIC MADE WHEN THEY WEREN’T MAKING AN APPOINTMENT

ALBERT WILLIAMS, a regular contributor to the LGHR WHINGE, has asked for some clarification on whether or not JAMIE DART was appointed Director of Stewarding and Licensing for Queensland Racing.

AFTER reading with interest the debate at the Estimates Hearing I am confused – might I suggest like many others in racing - at the answers provided by Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett.

The highly decorated cop, seconded to be head up the new all-powerful Integrity Unit, was probed by Shadow Minister for Racing Jon Krause as to whether the suspended Jamie Dart had been appointed to the position of Director, Licensing and Stewarding.

Mr Krause asked the Commissioner at the Estimates Hearing this week: ‘Who is the current Director of Stewarding and Licensing at QRIC?’

Commissioner Barnett replied: ‘The position of Director, Licensing and Stewarding is currently vacant.’

Mr Krause: ‘Mr Barnett, that puzzles me because I understood that that was filled by Mr Jamie Dart last year.’

Commissioner Barnett: ‘That is not exactly correct. A selection process was undertaken. Mr Dart was one of the people who applied for that position. Mr Dart was not appointed formally to that position when matters came to my attention which required me to take action against Mr Dart, which involved him being suspended with pay.’

Mr Krause: ‘What you are saying is he is presently suspended with pay but he was not formally appointed to the Director of Stewarding and Licensing at QRIC despite there being reports at the time that he was?’

Commissioner Barnett: ‘That is correct. I think it is a matter of public record that Mr Dart was suspended in October last year and he remains suspended on pay at this time.’

Mr Krause: ‘He remains suspended on full pay at this point. How much has that cost QRIC?’

Commissioner Barnett: ‘I am not in a position to particularise his exact amount, but I can give you an overall figure of the number of members cumulatively who have been suspended with pay if that is of any assistance to the committee.’

Mr Krause: ‘Mr Barnett, we might let that one go through to the keeper at this point. Has QRIC been able to finalize the matter that was put in question about Mr Dart and finalize the investigation that was underway in relation to him?’

Commissioner Barnett: ‘The investigation into the allegations against Mr Dart has been a lengthy and obviously complex matter. It is very close to finalization and we are expecting to get a report from the investigating firm in the very near future. I mean potentially days.’

Mr KRAUSE: ‘It has been about nine months now by my reckoning. What has taken so long? Why has there been a delay?’

Commissioner Barnett: ‘That is correct. It has taken a long time - longer than any of us would have liked. These matters are very disconcerting for the organization and for the members concerned. We all have a desire to have them resolved as soon as possible and that is clearly our desire in this matter as well. There have been some complicating factors in this matter, some of a personal/medical nature which I do not think would be appropriate in all fairness to explain further to the committee.’

With all due respects to the Commissioner one would have thought he would have his facts right when answering questions in a forum of this importance. To suggest that Mr Dart was ‘not appointed formally’ to the highly paid integrity position is – might I argue – drawing a long bow.

Here is a QRIC Media Release from October 6 2016 which quotes Commissioner Barnett on the issue and there does appear to be plenty of ‘formality’ in this announced appointment.

It was headed: ‘APPOINTMENT – DIRECTOR OF STEWARDING AND LICENSING’ and reads:

AFTER a rigorous selection process, the new Director of Stewarding and Licensing for the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) has been appointed.

Jamie Dart - who was been acting in the role for over 12 months - was announced as the successful candidate on Wednesday.

The appointment followed a merit-based selection process by a panel including QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett, Racing Victoria Chief Steward Terry Bailey, and former Racing Integrity Advisor and head of the Greyhound Task Force Detective Superintendent Mark Ainsworth.

The position attracted a significant number of internal, local and interstate applicants.

Mr Dart has 17-years of cross-code career experience working in Brisbane, Townsville and New South Wales, across a range of positions including Deputy Chief Steward (Southern District NSW), Chief Steward North Queensland, Senior Stipendiary Steward in Brisbane and Chief Steward Greyhounds.

Commissioner Ross Barnett said that Mr Dart’s appointment was well deserved.

“There was significant interest in the position locally and interstate,” Commissioner Barnett said.

“After a thorough selection process, the panel unanimously decided to appoint Jamie Dart to the position based on his industry experience, knowledge and professionalism.

“Jamie’s expertise within the industry and his performance acting in the role for the past 12 months made him well qualified for the role. I am confident that his skills and cross-code experience within the industry will contribute to the ongoing success of the QRIC.

“I welcome Jamie to the Executive Leadership Team of the Commission, and look forward to him driving enhancements to the existing capabilities of the Commission.”

Go figure!


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