JIM MUNRO, a popular harness racing identity whose thoughts on all three codes are highly respected, sent this interesting email concerning the recent Estimates Hearing on Racing:

‘DURING the Queensland Government Estimates Committee hearing on racing held last week John Paul Langbroek from the LNP Opposition asked several questions of Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, who was assisted by other officials.

One question asked of Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner, Ross Barnett, was how many charges had been made by QRIC and how many prosecutions have been successful.

In his reply the Commissioner explained that QRIC had processed over 1600 charges across three codes and while the Racing Crime Squad does not answer to him 45 persons had been charged with 89 offences by the squad.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Barnett neglected to inform Mr Langbroek  how many of those prosecutions had been successful and unfortunately for us who are paying for this process Mr Langbroek didn't press for a reply to his question on the number of successful prosecutions.

The answer is ONE.

While there have been several QRIC Media Releases on prosecutions for alleged match-fixing in harness racing there are only three of those harness racing prosecutions which have been reported as finalized and only Barton Cockburn resulted in a conviction for which he was fined $5,000. QRIC also disqualified him for life.

Both Dayle March and Leonard Cain were found not guilty of match fixing and it appears probable in the absence of any media reports that other persons named as being arrested and charged have not had the charges determined.



THE sectional times fiasco surrounding the win by Sabkhat at Doomben on Saturday has highlighted yet another anomaly for racing in Queensland.

In recent months we have received numerous WHINGES from punters highlighting their inability to access free sectionals for TAB meetings as occurs in the southern States.

As one wrote recently: ‘Why can’t I get sectional times on the Racing Queensland website similar to what happens interstate for races in NSW, Victoria and South Australia?’

And another contributor commented: ‘Sectionals are a great punting tool but to acquire them for TAB races in Queensland it seems I have to pay one of the private providers who want to charge an arm and a leg and then add their arguably useless ratings as part of the package.’

LGHR sought an answer to this discrepancy from Racing Queensland and was told the delay in the Eagle Farm redevelopment was to blame – that sectionals times would be available free of charge to punters when racing returned to the new-look headquarters.

We pointed out that whilst this would be a welcome and overdue innovation there was a need for a ‘sectionals’ service at all TAB tracks similar to what has been available to punters interstate for some time.

The RQ answer: ‘Hopefully the introduction of the sectionals system from Eagle Farm will progressively flow on to other tracks but that will take some time.’

It simply isn’t good enough at a time when punters are walking away from betting on racing in Queensland – fortunately not in the same droves as they are from the ‘red hots’ – unless you listen to propaganda from one media identity who misuses his access to the air waves of Racing Radio in what most in the industry regard as a major conflict of interest.

Nathan Exelby reported in The Courier-Mail on Monday that there was an amendment made to the official sectional time of Sabkhat’s blistering Doomben win that made more sense of the way the race panned out.

On course, the semaphore board showed an official time of 1min 18.28sec and sectional of 35.51sec. At that time, according to data provided by Daniel O’Sullivan of BetSmart, Sabkhat’s first 750m of 42.77sec would have been the fifth fastest run over the Doomben 1350m this decade.

However, the official times recorded after the race amended the sectional to 34.28sec, which put Sabkhat’s first 750m at a less frantic 44sec. The 44sec ranks him at 105 out of the 626 races run over the trip at Doomben since 2010.

The Sabkhat mistake was just another ‘bump’ in the road. That aside it’s time that RQ provided punters with a time-frame when they will be able to access ‘free sectionals’ similar to what happens interstate. This dragging of the chain has gone on for far too long but is par for the course in Queensland racing.



WE promise not to mention how badly the 'red hots' are traveling at Albion Park and risk a few more hand bags being thrown across the room but the Whinge lit up with more anger when the cost of the on-going Eagle Farm redevelopment disaster was revealed at the State Government Estimates hearings.

Again we relied on that eager racing media beaver from The Courier-Mail, Nathan Exelby, for the latest inside information on everything good and bad involving the Brisbane Racing Club. He’s so busy providing the news, it is little wonder that Racin’ Nathan is struggling to find winners on one of his myriad of outlets from print to radio and now coming off the bench to join that endless list of struggling tipsters at SKY.

Back to the state of play at Eagle Farm and Exelby reports that the Estimates hearings were told $2.8 million had been spent on the ‘renovation’ since July last year with a budget allocation of $3.7 million for the entire project.

As he rightly wrote: “It’s a long way from the ‘$1 million to $1.5 million’ originally speculated when the rebuild was announced last year.”

When questioned at the Hearings by Opposition Shadow John Paul Langbroek, our latest ‘on the ball and well informed’ Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe would not be drawn on a return date for racing at the Farm – largely because he, like everyone else involved in the project – hasn’t got a clue.

“I will not be making the mistake of predicting now when it will be available,” Hinchliffe told the Estimates hearings. “My measure, as it was back then and will continue to be, is having confidence in the participants in the industry and seeing the track successfully remediated and tested by participants.

“That is the only measure there will ever be. I am not going to be making predictions about a date now. What we need for the success of this new track at Eagle Farm is for it to be proven and demonstrated to be sustainable and reliable.”

As one contributor commented on the issue to the WHINGE:

‘Doesn’t Hinchliffe just ooze confidence? But at least he’s not declaring Queensland racing will finish a ‘furlong in front’ like that other predecessor ‘dickhead’ from the LNP. The people of Longman showed at the weekend they have about as much confidence in the team from the ‘goat riders’ as what the racing industry has. They haven’t forgotten the contribution made by Laurence the Loser and Tim the Toolman to this Eagle Farm embarrassment during their days at the helm not that Labor have done much better.’

Or as another emailer wrote: ‘It seems they can successfully build high rise units and shopping centres at Eagle Farm but the one thing they can’t get right and the most important of all is the track. BRC chairman Neville Bell says the shopping complex part of the multi-million dollar development of the Eagle Farm and Doomben racing precincts would prove a wonderful asset and income stream for the members. It’s a pity they don’t have a track capable of racing on at the Farm and don’t seem to know when they will.’



WHILE all the mainstream media focus remains on The Everest – despite its absurd abuse of stakes money – racing in Sydney has degenerated to such a degree that Chris Waller looks set to have a race at Randwick on Saturday exclusively for his own horses.

Adam Pengilly reports for Fairfax Media that Racing NSW was forced to scramble on Monday to find suitable rivals for Sydney's all-conquering Waller, who provided 11 of the 12 nominations for a restricted 2400m race on Saturday.

But the lone ranger who was set to take on the Waller army, Hawkesbury-based Jamie Thomsen, was leaning towards whisking his mare Praise Songs to a Kembla Grange race he had nominated her for on the same day.

Pengilly reports that Waller boasting upwards of half the field in off-season middle distance events is nothing new to Sydney racing, but it appears even he could break new ground with a cast of classy stayers who all share the same home.

Like it or not, there are no provisions in the Australian rules of racing for an event to be cancelled if one trainer boasts the entire field. What makes it worse from a punting perspective is that history has shown a second string almost certainly upstages the stable favourite when Waller has multiple runners in races in Sydney.  





VEGA MAGIC stole the spotlight with a stunning return to racing in the Bletchingly Stakes at Caulfield and quickly snared a berth in Sydney’s over-hyped The Everest.

It seems all roads are headed to the multi-million dollar Sydney feature for anyone with a star sprinter but there is a strong argument that the same field could be achieved for less than half the absurd amount of prizemoney at stake.

Vega Magic raced in blinkers retaining his unbeaten Caulfield record with jockey Damien Oliver claiming had the horse not refused to settle he could have easily doubled his winning margin.

Team Hayes plans to remove the blinkers for Vega Magic’s next start in the Memsie but strangely will return them for The Everest, a race he was unlucky not to win last year.



THE sensational win by VEGA MAGIC tended to overshadow the one-act affair that another star, NATURE STRIP, made of the Lightning Stakes in South Australia.

It was billed as a match race with Magic Millions winning filly Sunlight but despite missing the start Nature Strip raced straight past her for the easiest of wins.

Nature Strip is still a contender for The Everest but questions have been raised as to whether his performance was stunning on Saturday or made look better but the disappointing return of Sunlight.




IT was Groundhog Day for Sydney punters on Saturday when ‘champion’ trainer Chris Waller again put them to the sword.

While the mainstream racing media continued their love affair with ‘crying Chris’ highlighting his staggering success rate no mention was made of stable form reversals and second string runners beating home favourites.

Saturday was no exception. The rot set in for Sydney punters in the second at Rosehill when Huanshan ($12 to $8) was successful while the heavily backed stablemate The Macallan ($4 to $3.2) could do no better than fourth.

Worse was to come in the Winter Challenge when Mister Sea Wolf ($13 to $9.5) turned in a typical Waller form reversal while the stablemate that the ‘experts’ all declared in Invizabeel tired to finish fifth after easing from $3.3 to $3.7.

Mister Sea Wolf had failed at four starts since finishing 3rd in the Doncaster Prelude in March. He was however a luckless fifth in the Octagonal but then got too far back when sixth in the Civic Stakes to stablemate Liapari (a dismal 14th to him on Saturday).

Once again the form of some of the Waller horses is impossible to follow but punters are just expected to grin and bare it. The improvement by Mister Sea Wolf didn’t even rate a mention in the Stewards’ Report.



PUNTERS also got burned at Caulfield when a second string for top trainer Darren Weir in ZEDINATOR won the race in which heavily-backed stablemate MOUNT KILCOY finished a dismal 11th.

Weir told racing.com after the race that despite their being excuses for the Mount Kilcoy failure he was not at all confident Zedinator would go near winning when he spoke with connections prior to the race.

Stewards reported that Mount Kilcoy, backed into odds-on, pulled up with a slow recovery and was lame in the near foreleg.




PERHAPS it’s just that time of the season but the favorites seem to be performing badly in Brisbane right now.

Only two of the nine were successful at Doomben last Saturday – SPURCRAFT which fell in at $1.8 and SABKHAT, $3 to $2.7, and never going to get beaten.

From a punting perspective there were more disappointments than success stories. These were spearheaded by the well backed Bluebrook, Makes You Think and Helfuchi.

There were some successful plonks at good odds at Doomben though. Big odds were bet about firmers Brilliant Jet, Archer’s Paradox and Arena Salon. The latter was a bit hard to find for some despite recent placings at Rockhampton and Beaudesert.



PUNTERS have caught on to a theory that horses from the David Van Dyke stable that drift in the betting rarely get the money.

One emailer pointed out to the WHINGE that another good example was the Sunshine Coast on Sunday when Golden Sheaf failed in the first.

Chasing a hat-trick of wins, Golden Sheaf was very easy in the market after opening at a short quote and ended up running last.

Stewards reported that a veterinary examination revealed Golden Sheaf to be lame in the near foreleg. Punters weren’t entirely happy with their lack of action on the failure.

One wrote: ‘With all due respects the ride of Hellyer on Golden Sheaf deserved some questions to be asked. He seemed to show no concern when the horse was running last early and despite making a short-lived burst on straightening it was never in a winning position. From a punters’ viewpoint stewards, the ride deserved to be questioned.’



IT seems one of the surprise surviving stewards of the 'Dr Dolittle' era hasn't taken kindly to some criticism from contributors to the WHINGE. 

Hope he's reading because here we go again:

COMMISERATIONS to trainer KRYSTAL JOHNSTON and connections of the good money-spinner CRAIGLEA DEKEN which broke down in the Cleveland Bay Handicap in Townsville on Saturday.

Stewards reported: CRAIGLEA DEKEN – Faltered near the 500m and was retired from the race near the 200m. A post-race veterinary examination revealed the gelding to have severely injured its off front leg and as a result was euthanized on humane grounds.

Craiglea Deken raced 65 times for 16 wins and 21 placings, amassing over $310,000 in Stakes. The five-year-old was 10 times at the Townsville track and deserved, we are told, a more fitting demise.

Some of the stories emanating from how he suffered during the final minutes of his life (not to mention injuries suffered by a strapper trying to help out) was not surprisingly omitted from the Stewards' Report.

We are told it greatly distressed those close to the horse especially the trainer and jockey. If the message hasn't got across to their man in the north - it's the era of QRIC and a time to be a bit more transparent.   





THERE’S a world of difference between “Dr Nick” and Cameron Crockett, the linchpins in the Sharpe Hussler plunge at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday.

“Dr Nick” is a punter in the Zelkjo Ranogajec category, some say bigger, which I doubt as even Kerry Packer didn’t invest as many millions, amounting to billions, over such a long period.

And Cameron Crockett, son of Max Crockett, a breaker who has probably educated more horses than anyone in Australian turf history, tuned Sharpe Hussler, difficult to place in the bush, to a peak performance.

Surprisingly, on Saturday morning, came a call from my mate of over a half century, Max Crockett, in a voice toned to crackling sandpaper: “Maxwell … How do you tip a 50/1 chance?”

He was calling from an Orange hospital, where he is down with emphysema, but raised a cheer when Sharpe Hussler produced a breathtaking finish to score in the Hong Kong Sprint.

Sharpe Hussler was backed from $51 to $15 in a strong betting event. On paper, the opening quote didn’t look flash about the Mudgee-trained rising seven-year-old.

Yet the gelding’s credentials attracted the attention of “Dr Nick”, whose strength has stemmed from his anonymity. Rarely does one who bets so big stay off the radar for so long.

What is he a doctor of? Winning, as far as I can ascertain.

A rails bookmaker at Rosehill was close to comatose after Sharpe Hussler and could only gasp: ‘‘Dr Nick.”

Before Zeljko, most of the big punters had nicknames, even Packer (the Big Fella). Previously, The Fireman (Eddie Birchley) ,the Hong Kong Tiger (Frank Duval) and the Filipino Fireball (Filipe Ysmael) had their bursts in betting rings.

Of course, the horse-playing landscape has changed since coups were launched at the races and the ground trembled with thousands launched. Now it is done with a trigger finger on the mobile phone or computer.

Zelkjo is prepared to play a figures game, get a percentage win on a huge outlay, hardly the action of Hollywood George Edser, who luxuriated in the gambling aspects of finding a winner.

But the excitement of huge money going on added to the racecourse experience, the sense of occasion and while Sharpe Hussler was hardly a return to the times when Hong Kong Tiger was on the snarl, it produced a spark of the good, old days.

As I said, “Dr Nick” is shrouded in secrecy. Turning to the internet for some guidance, I was presented with, amongst other pictures, an unbearded Peter V’Landys, Racing NSW’s strong man.

After the Sharpe Hussler triumph and a short stint in front of the television cameras, Cameron Crockett was on the move.

“I’ve got to get to me horse,” he panted, also being the strapper. It was vintage Crockett. The horse comes first.

But how did he turn Sharpe Hussler around? “He’s a hard horse to place in the bush because of his benchmark rating and I even suggested to the owners it could be better for him to return to Queensland,” he explained.

“However, they wanted to leave him and, having his second preparation with me, I’ve learned a bit about older horses and also about travelling them over the mountain.

“I bring a pony with him and arrived at Rosehill on Friday. The way he walked to the track on Saturday I knew he would go as well as he could and that’s what I told the owners.”

The trainer doesn’t bet, nor does his father – with one exception.

“When we were breaking the [record-priced] yearlings for Tommy [Smith] and Neville [Begg], we would go behind the tote building [where trainers could see] and race for schooners,” Max Crockett recalled yesterday.

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