SILKS & SADDLES,’ the widely-read column of veteran racing writer TERRY BUTTS in the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER this week reports on the decision by top Gold Coast jockey Chris Whiteley to join the dole queue rather than pay for a costly appeal.

Butts also raises questions from the racing fraternity in North Queensland about what plans the LNP has for the industry there if it wins Government. Here is his column:

 

WHITELEY HAS DECIDED TO JOIN THE DOLE QUEUE RATHER THAN APPEAL

LEADING Gold Coast jockey Chris Whiteley has decided to join the Centrelink dole queue instead of continuing the fight against a running and handling charge that was thrown out at his First Level appeal last week.

Whiteley reckoned he got the feeling “very early in proceedings” that he was a done duck and will not pursue the matter any further.

The appeal was chaired by ex harness racing stipe Daryl Kays, assisted by bloodstock agent and racing media personality Peter Bredhauer along with a legal identity, Pamela Wilson.

Whiteley was the jockey we referred to last week, when this column claimed that a suspension of six weeks for a running and handling charge was a ridiculous penalty for such a serious charge. And that opinion hasn’t changed, nor has the penalty for that matter.

But apparently in this case it was not a willful attempt to stop the horse from winning which would and should incur a much heavier penalty. This was a case of ill-judgment. The jockey made a mistake.

For heaven’s sake!

How many jockeys make mistakes in a race? If stewards were to pin that charge on jockeys there would be no one left in the jockeys’ room on any race day, anywhere.

I remember one day Athol Mulley turned up at the Canterbury racecourse but the races were on at Warwick Farm. He missed his ride in the first but was he suspended for six weeks? Please!

Whiteley says after the opening few statements and exchanges with the panel he knew he was no chance.

“I’ll just go to Centrelink and draw the dole.

“I can’t afford the $2,000 for a barrister to represent me at QCAT, the next level of appeal.

“This has already cost me $600 (the appeal cost) and six weeks.

“Of course I am not happy. But what do you do?”

A pretty costly mistake – you might agree. Seems stewards would have preferred Whiteley to sit out three wide in the race. That was the alternative, according to him.

And here is the critical point. It is, in my mind, totally wrong that licensees be required to deposit $600 to lodge an appeal against any infringement. And it doesn’t matter where or whether is Chris Munce at Eagle Farm or Davy Jones at Julia Creek. It is still $600.

Surely it verges on a denial of natural justice. An innocent jockey, in some cases, is guilty because can’t afford the fee to prove his innocence.

If this excessive fee is designed to deter jockeys from lodging an appeal, well it has certainly worked. But nonetheless it is absolutely wrong and the so-called Integrity Department of Racing Queensland should reconsider.

We have said before there will be major change in that department under a new Government.

And you know how close that is.

 

THE NORTH WANTS TO KNOW WHAT PLANS THE LNP HAS FOR RACING

JUST WHAT will Premier Campbell do – and what changes are in store for the racing  industry, is what people, particularly in the north, are wondering.

Will Ray Stevens the ex-Richmond farmer and current Opposition spokesman for Racing be the new Minister? They certainly hope so out west, where he is perceived to have at least a good knowledge of the game and understands the obstacles that are confronting clubs and industry participants.

And what will Campbell do about the planned sale of Albion Park?

If the sale doesn’t go through – and it is at the moment tangled up in the Supreme Court processes – then there are race clubs around the state that will  likely miss out on the promises of Bob Bentley’s current Board – Townsville, Cairns and Mackay, most notably.

And the worrying aspect of the change of leadership and Government (that really has to happen) is Campbell’s seemingly close association with harness racing heavies Kevin Seymour (with an alleged ‘red hots’ wish list to the LNP for 21per cent of TAB distribution) and the new kid on the block, Fatty Palmer.

Now, that could be a little (or should I say very big) worry, for the  galloping fraternity.

 

ONE THING’S FOR SURE – RICMOND WILL GET CUP DATE RESTORED

ONE of the very first acts that Ray Stevens will perform is to reinstall Richmond’s Melbourne Cup Day date.

They reckon the much-loved and departed  Charlie Wehlow, an absolute legend out west, is not merely turning in his grave – but doing acrobatics – since news spread that his Richmond Club has lost its Melbourne Cup day date to Mt Isa.

This is a date that has been Richmond’s for as long as anyone can remember.

Charlie at various times served as the club secretary, president, handicapper, course commentator, curator and on course bookie for decades.

And as CEO of the Richmond Council declared Melbourne Cup a public holiday which the townspeople to this day still enjoy.

Of course the proviso was that everyone had to go to the races and Richmond has been renowned and envied for its immense patronage over the years on that one day of the year.

Ray Stevens was dumbstruck when I told him this week the date had been lost to Mt Isa.

“I remember going to Richmond races as a kid .It was a tradition way back then.

“I am appalled they are not having a race meeting on Cup day this year”.

Current club president Ian Eivers is just as upset.

But he said the members of the North West Racing Association took a vote and Richmond lost by just one.

“Most of the horses and the clubs these days are based around Mt Isa, so it is no surprise really.

“We were initially awarded the date by Racing Queensland, but Mt Isa challenged.

“RQ wouldn’t make a decision, instead threw it back to the Association.

“And we lost by one vote. That’s life” he said.

BUT the show will go on. Richmond will have a phantom meeting, with a bull sale in the morning. It’s not the same however, and the idea of a breakaway from Racing Queensland is being bandied about by the locals, many of whom feel “let down.’’

The switch to unregistered racing is unlikely to happen this year – but the idea is gaining momentum – and not only in Richmond, but from other clubs nearby.

Richmond has been granted a substitute date on October 22 that will coincide with the town’s popular October Moon Festival. Plans are well underway for a “Super Saturday” out west that day.

“We are hoping it will be really big,” said the somewhat disappointed president.

 

COLUMN COURTESY OF TERRY BUTTS AND THE NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, one of Australia's leading rural newspapers.

TERRY BUTTS can be contacted by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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