Jenny - Clean

THE FLEMING-FOWLER DEBACLE – ‘SURELY THEY CAN’T BE SERIOUS’!

THE response to the replacement of Josh Fleming with David Fowler as race-caller for all Brisbane racing on SKY has been quite incredible.

To suggest that the racing and punting public have been angered by the shock decision would be an understatement. Here’s but one example from a long-time follower of Queensland racing in COL ELLIOT:

JUST my two bob's worth on the potential axing of Josh Fleming: In the immortal words of Leslie Nielsen's character Rumack in the movie Flying High – ‘Surely you can't be serious! "

Josh Fleming is Queensland racing. I was at the Birdsville races when Josh kicked off his career and, full credit to him. He has never forgotten where he came from. His connection with many of the jockeys and trainers is more than just part of his business. It's his life and he lives and breathes it. This is the true Queenslander spirit that must be protected, not discarded.

There is no time like the present for the Brisbane Racing Club (or Racing Queensland) to abandon playing politics and rewarding arse-licking. When was the last time they made a decision that the industry participants wholeheartedly agreed with and rejoiced? Beats me!

Seems they always find a way to do the opposite of the obvious. As you know I'm a Queenslander residing in Melbourne and when I read about Mick Goodie getting the 'fixer' job for Eagle Farm, I spat a mouthful of coffee over my laptop. Not sure Murwillumbah will suit him because if he shifts the rail out 18 metres they'll be finishing right through the betting ring. The lesson we've all learnt is if you are on the nose in your State, head to Queensland where they welcome you with open arms. Just make sure the taste buds on your tongue are dead.’ 

THE Brisbane Racing Club has reportedly created the Fleming demotion by insisting that Fowler become the No 1 caller for meetings at Eagle Farm and Doomben under the new broadcast agreement with SKY.

WHY?

With its back to the wall after the disgraceful treatment that major Queensland racing has received at the expense of Sydney and the provincial Saturday meetings in NSW, SKY copped one for the team but unfortunately at the expense of one the most popular and best callers who has been relegated to the reserves bench.

Fleming is said to be ‘devastated’ but has accepted the decision and will become the regular caller at the Gold Coast and other near Brisbane clubs one assumes when Fowler does not want to privilege them with his broadcast presence.

The reshuffle to accommodate ‘Feathers’ and his mates at the BRC has seen arguably a better quality caller than Fowler in Terry Spargo, back home after stints in Hong Kong and Dubai, relegated to a few casual meetings each week at the trots and dogs. Most also regard Terry as a better caller than Fowler.

READERS CLAIM THIS A BATTLE BETWEEN A SHY BUSH BOY & A POLITICAL PEDDLING BACKSTABBER THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RACE-CALLING 

ONE long-time caller – we won’t give away his identity or whether he has retired or not – described the situation as a sordid state of affairs with plenty of back-stabbing and under-mining behind the scenes for some months.

Since LGHR broke the news about Fowler and Fleming there has been mounting anger – from racegoers, to punters and even stakeholders. The support for Fleming is incredible. Of the dozens of emails that this website has received there has been only one in support of Fowler – a colleague from SKY in Sydney who wanted to remain anonymous.

Here are a couple of examples of what the racing public thinks of the ‘hatchet’ job the BRC has done on one of the good blokes in racing, not that it will worry them:

“CAN someone explain how Josh Fleming got the job when Alan Thomas retired and David Fowler didn’t but all of a sudden the situation has been reversed – not by SKY who made the original appointment but at the behest apparently of the BRC?”

“FOWLER has enjoyed his day in the spotlight and should move on to South Australia where one could argue the only friends he has in this industry reside – apart from a handful of BRC Directors and their lackeys.”

“WHEN did you have to play politics to be the best race-caller – it could only happen in Queensland? When Josh is at home with his wife and family, Fowler is said to be enjoying a drink or three, rubbing shoulders with people who can improve his lot in life, playing the pokies, or at the trots where his chairmanship doubles the crowd. Their private lives are poles apart but does that make them better callers.”

THE main question being asked is why SKY Channel did not make an announcement about the changes as part of their new contract with the BRC – surely it’s not commercial in confidence?

Perhaps the answer is that SKY did not feel it was their decision and that the changes should have been explained (that being the key word) by the BRC. Some are suggesting that Josh, a shy, bush boy who doesn’t play racing politics just didn’t fit the same mould that Fowler does with the No 1 club, whatever that may be.

As no-one seems to have the balls to make a Media Statement and explain the hatchet job on Josh Fleming, we’ve written a tongue-in-cheek one for them. Sadly, the mainstream media turf scribes are again playing politics it seems and don’t want to rock the BRC boat.

Here’s our Media Release (in case their regular writer is too busy running between the jockeys room and bookies ring) to pump one out (just joking as we are below. It’s just a pity the whole thing isn’t a bad joke:

OUR TONGUE-IN-CHEEK MEDIA RELEASE – TRY TO LAUGH BOYS & NOT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY – IT’S NOT AS THOUGH THE SECOND WAVE HAS STRUCK

‘IN keeping with a proud tradition that has been handed down for decades since the Queensland Turf Club ran racing, the one and only qualification for being the Turf Editor at The Courier-Mail or No 1 race-caller for SKY is an ability to kiss arses.

The only other requirement has been to ‘Spin Doctor’ the performance of the QTC (now BRC), the Government of the day (provided it isn’t Labor); and bow and scrape to Racing Queensland (as long as the Board and its CEO is at the beck and call of the No 1 Club).

History shows that those in the racing media who have done the right thing by the then QTC and now BRC are justly rewarded for their efforts. Just look at Bart Sinclair (now a consultant working at the club) – he is the greatest Turf Editor that Queensland has seen (don’t believe the crap that awful man Peter Bredhauer parroted to an interstate racing conference about him. Order of Australia recipient Bart is just too fine a gentleman to have worried about taking that grub on). And now we are privileged to have two amazing turf media identities following in Bart’s footsteps. It’s a privilege to reward (throw a lifeline) to David for his years of service (sucking up) to our club. And Nathan Exelby (what a talent & did you know his dad worked closely with that great man Sir Joh). Nathan’s turn will come too when Rupert closes down either the Turf Department or the entire Courier-Mail (which is probably sooner rather than later).   

But back to the reason we needed to replace Fleming with Fowler. Let’s face it race-calling is no longer the art form it once was. Punters have to be dumber than we think if they can’t watch the action on TV. They just rely on SKY to provide the coverage, the results and the dividends. Who cares if the caller gets it right?

SKY has promised us better pre and post-race coverage as part of our new broadcast deal (despite spitting in our faces so many times before). We need the right people in the right places to promote what’s happening at the club and the good work the directors are doing behind-the-scenes. On that score David is certainly the man for the job.

We do have a ‘get out of jail-free card’ though just in case the BRC heads in the same direction as the club he chairs down at Albion Park where even free admission can’t entice crowds back to the track which, fortunately, is a major advantage for galloping venues like ours. (Here’s hoping that awful Archie Butterfly can’t count when it comes to incorrect stories he has written about our finances and incurred debts which are aimed at ensuring a successful club for future generations).  

Joe Fleming (sorry that’s Josh) seems a fine young bloke. But we don’t really know much about him, do we? It’s not as though he joins his mates on the committee and looks at the day’s proceedings through the end of a champagne glass like David does on a regular basis after the last – offering his sycophantic advice on the wonderful job they are doing.

Let’s face it Joe (we mean Josh) comes from some back of Bourke place in the outback where we are told he enjoys the dirt and bulldust over a stubby with the bush racing crew that would never fit into our pristine surrounds in the Fine Cotton Room down at the Farm.

As it is we have to bring teams of cleaners in after that bloody Ekka week – not only to hose some of the ferals out that have fallen into the lake or down holes on the track on race day but to get the cow shit off the carpets in the Committee Room left by some of the ‘invited’ Ekka guests.

That’s the one downside of the goat-rooters (sorry riders) winning the next election. We would again have to rub shoulders with them on big days but it’s probably worth the effort when millions just come floating through the door (largely via our mates in the Libs) every time someone farts at headquarters.   

In any case, back to the reason for this Media Release. We couldn’t have the likes of young Fleming hosting functions like some of his predecessors did so well. Let’s face it ‘Feathers’ is a modern day Alan Jones - an eloquent speaker, man of the world (how many race-callers celebrate the Gay Mardi Gras?) and he knows how to mix with everyone from pimps and prostitutes to priests and ‘quality’ race club members like we have here at the BRC (or used to have before we failed to refund fees for the time they spent without racing during this awful pandemic).

Josh/Joe or whatever his name is doesn’t put enough pizazz and colour into his race calls – sure he gets the finishes right more times than ‘Feathers’ but apart from signing-off with ‘and another wonderful day’s racing’ he has never found the opportunity to promote the club’s projects or talk of the hard work being done and doesn’t find ways to reject criticism of any kind directed at the BRC or the Eagle Farm track problems for which we have copped so much unwarranted criticism. Just take a look at the great carnival meeting we have coming up on Saturday and say a prayer for us that the track won’t be like a concrete jungle

That’s the difference between ‘Feathers’ and Fleming and that’s why we insisted that Fowler become the No 1 caller. It’s not as though Joe, sorry Josh, will be forgotten forever. We will still need him to fill-in when David returns to Adelaide on a regular basis for a booty call (sorry to visit his love-ones); or when he is too hung-over to call after a big night at the trots or on the pokies; or when he heads to the Cairns Amateurs or elsewhere on one of his many junkets; or when his harness commitments overlap.

Hang on – by the time we allow for all of those absences – we might as well have kept Joe, sorry Josh, on the job that he will eventually end up with anyway. After all he has 20 or 30 years on David

.

 

BEN CURRIE PENALTY REDUCED TO 12 MONTHS WHICH IS VIRTUALLY TIME SERVED - IS THIS JUST THE BEGINNING?

THE Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) delivered its judgement today on three prohibited substance penalties against Ben Currie.

Mr Currie was found guilty by the QRIC Stewards after he presented three horses Shakira, Dreamscope and Eight Over to race at Toowoomba in 2018 – 2019. 

The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) argued that Mr Currie should be disqualified for the three offences. However, QCAT ruled it is the decision of the Tribunal that:

1. The penalty imposed with respect to Shakira be set aside and no penalty be imposed.

2. The penalty imposed with respect to Dreamscope of six months disqualification be set aside in lieu thereof the applicant be fined $5,000.

3. The penalty imposed with respect to Eight Over of a disqualification for a period of 12 months is confirmed.

4. The penalty of disqualification to commence is from the 15 July 2019.

 

ANGRY RESPONSE TO EXECUTION OF THE CAREER OF A GOOD BLOKE

ARCHIE BUTTERFLY’S comment on the FLEMING-FOWLER controversy:

If the findings of the LGHR research by Lucky Lingard are true – and we have no reason to doubt that they are not – then the career execution of Josh Fleming will be one of the most despicable acts seen in Queensland racing for a long, long time.

Josh is a very popular member of the racing fraternity, who is universally liked and respected. He is very good caller, and will only get better with age, whereas Fowler is only competent at best. His limited repertoire of catch phrases long ago wore thin with punters, and his chronic refusal to have a crack in photos is a universal annoyance to punters, particularly those listening to his calls on the radio without any vision.

I find it astounding that such a low move as replacing Fleming is even being contemplated, and his mooted replacement by a man who’s had his chance and couldn’t make simply defies belief.

Let’s just hope that common sense prevails, and wiser heads intervene to prevent this injustice to Josh Fleming from happening.

 

‘QUEENSLAND RACING CAN’T BE SERIOUS ON FLEMING ISSUE’

GARY the ‘Yakapari Kid’ GORRIE was quick to buy into the hatchet job done on JOSH FLEMING:

‘THE LGHR story on the future demise of Josh Fleming shows just how serious QLD Racing is in trying to elevate the sport to its former glory.

When I started going to the races we had no SKY Channel to watch, just the broadcasts of those famous callers Ken Howard [London to a brick in the photo], Bert Bryant [pulling like a Collins Street Dentist) and my favourite when Mel Schumacher made his comeback and got beat in the Victorian Derby: "Mel is so unlucky. If it was raining film stars he would end up with Lassie".

Keith Noud, Larry Pratt, I even met Alan Thomas when he was a school boy and he told me back then he was going to be a racecaller. I lived in flat next door to his family in Young Street, Milton, when I was going to Uni. I watched Russel Leonard debut in Mackay as a 15-year-old. I even called the races at Saltbush Park once myself!

There were those vivid descriptions and Three-Way Turf Talk on Saturday mornings that gave racing the excitement and had racegoers all over Australia hooked.

But, and a BIG BUT, we have one of the best callers in Josh Fleming. We should be extending his contract, locking him in before he gets stolen like everything else good that we produce in QLD to another racing area.

Fleming and Fowler is like comparing Phar lap with Fine Cotton [a Champion to a Ring in].

I rarely bet in Brisbane, even in Winter the races are too hot but I enjoy the Fleming calls when I do.

Now on the QT I could not agree more with Blowfly’s story on Amanda Warry. Let’s hope she appeals any fine or suspension so we can appeal the decision to QCAT and ensure the stewards get away with such a trifling issue. I thought live kills were banned in QLD Racing after the dog inquiry. Sadly, it looks to me this was a steward wanting to have a kill after being so frustrated at the scheme being so abused.

I am a little concerned Blowfly has been so on the money with this and many other stories I am off to the doctors and will get a second opinion. Maybe my mind is gone cannot. I cannot believe I how much agree with the "Fly" these days.’

 

SUPPORT FOR FEATHERS BUT IT COMES FROM A FRIEND AT SKY

AND this one from a contributor who asked to remain anonymous:

‘YOU must be tone deaf if you think Fleming is a Saturday class caller, let alone the best in QLD.

Whether he's been hard done by or not is of no consequence, he isn't up to it. 

The past two Winter carnivals have shown him up to be a provincial class caller. 

He is accurate yes, but he provides no flair or pizazz. He creates no atmosphere and does not contribute to the energy of a big occasion. 

You've got it in for Fowler which is your prerogative, but politics plays no part in my opinion that he has a lap on the other bloke as a caller.’ 

EDITOR’S NOTE: We will abide by your wishes ‘Abraham’ and ensure you hide behind a cloak of anonymity or feathers. But on checking your email address and background we were surprised to find that you work for SKY Channel so when you suggest that politics plays no part in your opinion, that’s a load of BS. As for the suggestion that I must be tone deaf, well at least I’m not dumb too. And finally you’re declaration that ‘I’ve got it in for Fowler’. He was once a friend and colleague but like most who made the mistake of supportingDavid when he was starting out he sees fit to kick them in the guts when they are of no use to him.

 

MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER OF LETSGOHORSERACING ON THE FOWLER-FLEMING ISSUE

BY all means forward your thoughts for publication whether you support DAVID FOWLER or JOSH FLEMING or feel that the latter has been ‘knifed in the back’ or deserved to be relegated back to country calling.

BUT we are not prepared to run ‘whinges’ that relate to ‘Feather’s’ alleged sexual preferences or concerning what appears to be an endless list of bookmakers OR associates that he has supposedly got off-side because of his apparent poor punting ability over the years.  

 

WILL FOWLER SOON TAKEOVER AS NO 1 RACECALLER IN BRISBANE WITH FLEMING STOOD ASIDE AS PART OF SKY DEAL WITH THE BRC?

LETSGOHORSERACING has been reliably informed that Josh Fleming will be replaced by David Fowler as the No 1 race-caller at Eagle Farm and Doomben as part of the new SKY deal with the Brisbane Racing Club.

To the punting public the decision will come as a surprise with Fleming the golden boy of the race-calling ranks on the rise since taking over at SKY from the retiring Alan Thomas in December 2015.

But those who know the politics of racing in Queensland will not be shocked that Fowler, rumored to be facing an uncertain future with Radio TAB, would be thrown a lifeline by Queensland’s No 1 club, the BRC.

Fleming, who grew up in the Queensland outback, doesn’t get involved in the politics of racing – just does a wonderful job as a caller and those who follow racing in Queensland regard him as undisputedly the No 1 broadcaster of the sport.

Fowler, on the other hand, who many would agree knows where his bread is buttered, has been a loyal supporter of the BRC and can claim some high profile directors and officials as his friends. Insiders claim he has campaigned strongly behind the scenes for the job. LGHR has no knowledge of that.

Fleming, who we are reliably informed will cop this setback on the chin, will continue to be employed by SKY in to call race meetings outside of Brisbane in south-east Queensland. Those close to him say he would be the last to even contemplate that he has been ‘knifed in the back’ as some are suggesting.

He has been calling country and provincial race meetings in NSW for SKY Racing since 2003 after winning the John Tapp Scholarship and is an extremely popular young family man.

At the time of his appointment to replace Alan Thomas, Fleming said: “It's a dream come true to be given this role. I'm a Queensland boy and can't wait to start in late December. I called Stradbroke’s when I was practising to be a race caller. This is incredible.

“Alan Thomas has not only been a mentor but a close friend. To replace him as SKY’S number one Queensland caller is very special.”

Fowler, who gained national publicity when he was but a boy calling races standing on a butter-box at the Mingela Picnics in North Queensland, has reached the top of his profession but many believe – now edging closer to retirement – his best days are well and truly behind him.

Insiders question whether there was some influence in the decision to provide Fowler with an extension to his working life as a broadcaster which was looking pretty shaky with major redundancies on the way at Radio 4TAB. We will let you be the judge whether ‘the Bantam’s’ friendship with RQ CEO Brendan Parnell (formerly a boss at SKY) played a part.

Perhaps it was a reward for his backing of the sale of Albion Park (where he is Club Chairman despite the once-proud harness club going downhill faster than an out-of-control roller-coaster both financially and crowd-wide). This sale, which was supported by RQ and the Government, led to a reported major fall-out between Fowler and harness king Kevin Seymour.   

For the time being Fleming’s dream may have become a nightmare – largely because he doesn’t have the political pull in an industry where good blokes run last. But it will only be temporary – times change, so do committees and their lackeys (there are plenty of those at the BRC who are mates of Fowler).

Hopefully the ‘suck up and survive’ mentality that has permeated the racing media in Queensland will one day be exterminated. But we won't be holding our breath for that to happen.

EDITOR'S NOTE: LGHR would welcome an explanation from the BRC, RQ or SKY concerning what on the surface appears to be disgraceful treatment of the best race-caller in Queensland. We also welcome readers to submit their thoughts on this controversial issue.  

     

 

CQ CHIEF STEWARD JOSH ADAMS GETS TOUGH – ON A POOR ANIMAL RESCUE VOLUNTEER – AND HE COULDN’T GET THAT RIGHT

By ARCHIE BUTTERFLY

THIS is an extract from the Stewards’ Report at Mackay on Tuesday.

It’s wrong from the get go.

The Clerk of the Scales at Mackay was not a person named Ms A. WARE.

It was a woman named Amanda WARRY.

Central Queensland Chief Steward Josh Adams should know this, for he has been working with Amanda at Mackay race meetings for some time now. Every second Stewards’ Report though he gets her name wrong, which says a lot about his attention to detail and respect for his staff, doesn’t it?

His decision to stand Amanda Warry down from duties yesterday does too.

Amanda had a couple of bucks on her mate’s horse which was running at the meeting, and I mean literally a couple of dollars, no more than 10.

The bet wasn’t placed on-course.

It couldn’t have been, because there was no on-course tote and no bookies.

It was a TAB ticket, and she had it in her pocket.

Amanda Warry is not a crook.

She is a genuine salt of the earth animal lover who works part-time a couple of days a month as the Clerk of the Scales at Ooralea Racecourse, and spends the rest of her time volunteering as the Adoption Co-ordinator at the local Mackay Animal Rescue Shelter.

In other words, the exact type of person we want in racing. Someone deeply committed to animal welfare, and her local community, and a person prepared to put in her own time for nothing just to make the world a better place.

And for a bet worth a couple of lousy bucks Josh Adams does this to her.

 

There are jockeys pulling up horses every meeting in Central Queensland.

It’s well known in punting circles that a cartel of southern riders are running their own race-fixing ring, flying in and out of CQ racecourses on hit and run missions to line their own pockets, at the expense of honest racing participants and innocent punters.

There are huge questions over the swabbing procedures at certain CQ race meetings, with rumours flying around that in the absence of a stand-alone swab official at these meetings, some of the swabs are being switched.

Jockeys are belting the living hell out of horses with whips, and some are even smashing them over the head and neck, causing them clearly visible pain.

What does Chief Steward Josh Adams do about all of this?

Nothing.

Nil, zip, nada.

But he grabs an honest casual employee of the club who works on the scales, stands her down and publicly stains her name by publishing it and the details of what he has done in the official Stewards’ Report.

It’s a disgrace.

Well I’ve got some bad news for Adams.

He’s ballsed the whole thing up.

Is anyone surprised?

Although he hasn’t actually detailed the rule under which he purported to stand Amanda Warry down, this is it.

Now there are three things you need to understand.

NUMBER ONE is that if a person acting in an official capacity as a Clerk of the Scales has a pecuniary interest on the result of a race, then the person is not permitted to act in that position IN RELATION TO THAT RACE.

The rule does not say an official should be removed from their duties for the entire meeting, like Amanda Warry was. It simply says that they cannot act in relation to the race in which they have a pecuniary interest.

That is point one.

NUMBER TWO is the issue of having a pecuniary interest in a race.

What does it mean?

The term pecuniary interest is not defined in the Rules of Racing.

It is however defined in many pieces of various Australian legislation and this is the definition:

The term pecuniary interest is defined as an interest that a person has in a matter because of a reasonable likelihood or expectation of appreciable financial gain or loss to the person.

So, for a person to have a pecuniary interest there must be a likelihood or expectation that they will make appreciable financial gain (or loss).

A five or 10 dollar bet on a race certainly won’t result in an appreciable – significant or important – loss to the person who placed it, or to anyone else.

And how does a small flutter equate to the likelihood or expectation of appreciable gain?

It doesn’t, and it can’t.

I have said it before, and I will restate my position – the Chief Steward in Central Queensland does not understand the rules.

NUMBER THREE is that there is no rule of racing, law, policy or anything else that prohibits a Clerk of the Scales from having a bet.

Nothing!

The only prohibition on a Scales Clerk having a flutter is when their punt is of such magnitude that it creates a likelihood of appreciable gain or loss, as discussed above.

Let’s then go back to the legislative definitions of pecuniary interest, and have a look at what is not one.

A person does not have a pecuniary interest in the matter of the interest is so remote or insignificant that it could not reasonably have been regarded as likely to influence any decision the person might have in relation to the matter. 

Does the regional Chief Steward truly believe – or expect anyone else to believe – that a nickel and dime bet that a long-serving race club official placed on their friend’s horse in a race creates an interest so direct and significant that it would be likely to influence that person’s decision in relation to the race?

Let’s personalise it.

Does Josh Adams really think that the sweet volunteer animal welfare co-ordinator Amanda Warry – who for years has worked a couple of half days a month at the Mackay Races, so that she can earn some money to fund her saving abandoned animals lives – would hook the weights and/or scales just so that she could collect 20 or 30 dollars max on a bet?

Is this bloke serious?

That’s a stupid question, isn’t it?

Actions speak louder than words.

Inactions do too.

Josh Adams’ ones scream.

This is my advice to the Chief.

Give this poor, fine woman a break mate, and go and find the people who are actually doing the wrong thing.

Just don’t look in a mirror.

 

 

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD RACING WRITERS GONE?

By JOHN LINGARD, publisher of LGHR

MATT STEWART, the former hard-hitting mainstream turf scribe now working as Racing Editor for RSN in MELBOURNE, posted an article headlined by an interesting question this week:

‘WHERE HAVE ALL THE RACING WRITERS GONE’?

It followed the redundancies issued to Brendan Cormick, a long-time Racing Writer with The Australian and senior Melbourne Herald-Sun turf journalist Michael Manley.

You can read Matt’s story further down in this report but first LGHR publisher John Lingard, one-time Racing Editor of the Brisbane Sun who also worked in the Turf and Harness Departments of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Sun Herald, The Courier-Mail, Brisbane Telegraph and Townsville Bulletin wants to add his two bob’s worth.

After working alongside what I believe were some of the best and most respected turf scribes in the land I think Matt Stewart’s column should have been headlined:

WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD RACING WRITERS GONE?

There are several answers to that: Sadly legends Les Carlyon and Bert Lillye are no longer with us; many big names are dead or have retired; some have been forced to take redundancies and other moved on to greener pastures.

There has been only one great survivor – Max Presnell – since Kenny Callander bowed out in protest at political interference from racing heavies who disgustingly denied him the right to offer constructive criticism in his columns.

My involvement in the ‘big smoke’ started as a ‘nobody’ overseeing the Form Guide at The Courier-Mail, then as a harness and gallops writer for the Brisbane Telegraph and Daily Sun where, like a lot of others, I was made redundant when Rupert Murdoch shut the newspaper down to give him a monopoly after purchasing The Courier-Mail.

During my decades covering the gallops and trots times changed and sadly in the end I learned one thing the hard way. You have to suck up to survive and that means turning a blind eye to corrupt politicians, high profile industry officials and all the ‘tricks’ that continue to occur on the track.

Working for Turf Editors like Jim Anderson, Keith Noud, Max Presnell and Craig Young was a privilege. Never did they try to influence what I wrote or back stab (undermine) me with management if I disagreed with them.

There are a couple of notable absentees from my list of ‘good racing writers’ and ‘turf editors’. No point me naming them because most who follow racing closely know who they are. As my dearly departed darling mum told me on a regular basis ‘You say it best when you say nothing at all’.

But sadly, this suck up and survive mentality spread through the ranks of the younger brigade of turf scribes coming through who soon recognized to succeed they needed to adopt that philosophy.     

That created a lack of respect over the years for those high profile racing writers who preferred to cover up and ignore the misdemeanours of questionable officials, politicians and industry stakeholders rather than protect the interests of the punting public and racegoers. One or two even engaged in corrupt practices of their own which for some strange reason was ignored by those responsible for the integrity of the sport.

It probably explains why in a couple of States in particular respect for what these guys wrote or the confidence to bet on the product hit rock bottom and most of those responsible for running the show politically and administratively became a laughing stock in the eyes of the rest of the country. And, in Queensland, harness racing is even worse than the gallops where they can’t even get people to attend most weeks by throwing the gates open and offering free admission.

King Rupert could create all the monopolies he liked but eventually his newspaper empire was destined to crumble and we are seeing the first major signs of that right now. Hundreds more are being thrown on the redundancy scrap heap as some of his no longer profitable rags are closed down while the life-spans of those left are limited as Murdoch moves closer to the more cost-effective on-line coverage which you have to subscribe to.

Much has changed in Brisbane since the days when there were three newspapers and each had Racing Departments with a staff of a half dozen or more under the Editorship of household names like Jim Anderson, Keith Noud and Bart Sinclair. Those were exciting times when there was no SKY Channel coverage.

Today the Turf Departments of the major newspapers have only one or two writers. Nathan Exelby is the Jack of All Trades at the Brisbane Courier-Mail from Turf Editor to shit-kicker. It’s almost an insult echoing his name in the same breath as some of his predecessors and even their First Lieutenants like Peter Cameron, John Curtis, Rod Gallegos and Larry Pratt.

Sadly, the uncertain future for those wanting to write racing exclusively saw many promising young journalists move on to greener media pastures – Robert ‘Crash’ Craddock in the major success storyu. The likes of Ben Dorries and Brad Davidson respectively joined popular website Racenet and SKY Racing and are but two other examples.            

Another blow for racing coverage came with the news that AAP will no longer continue in its current format. If our information is correct racing will be the big loser. The shame of that in Queensland is the loss of veteran turf journalist and historian Mark Oberhardt. But for in-house politics ‘Obe’ should have been appointed Racing Editor of The Courier-Mail long ago. Instead he was consigned to covering the courts. AAP snapped up his talents and his stories have since scooped the pool in Queensland but alas ‘Obe’ is a victim of the closure of that news service as we know it. Memo Brendan Parnell: Appoint Oberhardt to service your RQ website with stories. It will improve the quality immensely.

One plus to the AAP changes has been the decision by the previous owners to retain the Form Guides most of which are subsidised by TABs or Corporate Bookies, which suggests Rupert will still have a finger in the pie (financial pot of gold). That means the retention of one of the best form analysts in the land in Steve Rodgers.

Sadly, a few days after the demise of AAP was announced, Sydney-based Caryl Williamson, the first female Racing Editor in the land, died suddenly. Despite being at the age where she could have retired, Caryl loved her job so much that those close to her say she could not handle the thought of her beloved AAP not covering racing any more.

And finally it would be remiss of me not to mention the racing websites and those who pioneered them. Phil Purser, through his multiple JustRacing banners, was arguably the first and deserves Hall of Fame status for his deeds. He might have semi-retired but still leads the fight for the whips to be banned in racing financing a number of posters beside major highways in southern Queensland. Racenet, now owned by Murdoch, is a fantastic and extreme popular website. It is a stablemate of punters.com.

In my latter years of turf journalism the establishment of letsgohorseracing kept me sane. I’ve been labelled bitter, a dinosaur and unable to see anything positive in the gallops and harness industries in Queensland. I wear criticism like that as a badge of honour, especially when I know where it’s coming from – the corrupt side of horse racing and turf journalism.

Sorry guys but LGHR has become even more popular since we linked with ARCHIE BUTTERFLY – we might not always agree on things but what we write and our opinions complement each other and continue to prove a real winner. What’s more we’re here to stay so suck it up!  

AND, as promised at the outset, here is the MATT STEWART story, courtesy of RSN, from a more MELBOURNE perspective:

BACK in the day, between the Sun, Sporting Globe and Herald racing departments, we could have fielded a football team.

We’d have been terrible, given most of us smoked and drank too much – chief culprit, the Phoenix Hotel across the road – but we had the numbers.

It is remarkable and downright sad to now see what’s happened to the racing writer ranks as the traditional media has taken to itself with a machete in a bid to stay alive.

You wonder what impact the near-extinction of the “traditional” racing media might have on horse racing and its ability to reach beyond its own backyard. Stories require authors and objectivity was always easier when the media was mostly independent of the “industry” it wrote about.

Racing writers would face-off with sports editors over the merits of stories that fought for space with footy and cricket yarns in newspapers that included racing as part of its community narrative.

But where have all the racing writers gone?

Brendan Cormick, chief racing writer for The Australian for many years and a particularly astute colour writer, has been caught in the latest News Limited redundancy round, as has senior Herald Sun tipster and reporter Michael Manley.

This leaves Leo Schlink, a talented multi-sports journo, left to juggle racing with a number of other sporting balls in the air. Many media outlets have stripped racing coverage down to beat reporters.

About 12 years ago the Herald Sun had about 10 racing writers.

The newspaper that no longer has a racing department, in Australia’s sporting capital, in the 1980s had a team so heavily populated that it was relocated from the famous Flinders Street building to a spare room at the neighbouring Lindrum billiard hall.

In the following decade, the Sporting Globe had a staff of about 10 and the Herald and Sun had about five racing writers each, including specialised harness racing writers, like Neale Donnelley. The Sunday Press had its own chief racing writer, as did rival publications like the Sunday Observer.

Some extremely gifted and influential racing commentators showcased horse racing at that time, for Murdoch publications and others. They kept racing relevant.

Shane Templeton and Ray Huxley were brilliant writers and newshounds, as were Danny Power, Adrian Dunn, Tim Habel and Bernie O’Brien.

Back then, Keith Hillier was probably the most identifiable racing figure in Melbourne. If there was such a thing as a glamorous racing writer, it was Keith.

He once wrote one of the funniest stories I’d ever read about racing. Keith was in Sydney for the autumn races, which had been washed out. He wandered into a Kings Cross TAB and spent the day observing odd-bods and misfits and wrote a very funny yarn about them.

These guys accumulated great life yarns and wrote about racing that made it engaging, funny, ironic, rollicking.

But things change.

Footy grew and grew and bumped everything else off stage.

Back in the day of Jack Elliott, no one knew who the footy writers were because Jack was the biggest reporter in town at a time when racing shared the stage with footy.

Racing’s profile has been shrinking and racing departments have been shredding.

I remember a meeting at the Herald Sun about seven years ago. A group from Racing Victoria arrived to reveal its plans for an internal media platform. Quite astutely, the RV crew realised just how rapidly racing was disappearing in mainstream media and knew it had to fill an impending void.

Racing.com was created and it has done a magnificent job in showcasing horse racing and broadcasting it on free-to-air, which at least provides it with a platform beyond industry pay-per-view.

But the outside media, the one on the outside looking in, has almost disappeared.

The challenge for racing is find a way to preach beyond the converted; not easy when the messengers of the sport are so few that they’d barely fill the bench let alone a footy team.

 

RACING APPEALS ARE JUST A SCHEME – INTEGRITY’S BUT A DREAM

By ARCHIE BUTTERFLY

SO the first act of the farce is complete.

The QRIC internal reviewer ‘Captain’ Kane Ashby has upheld the Stewards’ decision to send Baylee Nothdurft out for three months for pulling up Vega One at the Sunny Coast to protect his favourable handicap in the Straddie.

I personally reckon the Captain was soft. I would have doubled or tripled the penalty myself, but such is life.

Nothdurft’s lawyers of course ducked straight down to QCAT, lodged an application for external review, applied for a stay and got it that day.

You bloody beauty.

Now the convicted horse hooker can ride on and win the premiership, just to make a bigger mockery of the appeals system than it already is.

What a joke.

The only question now is what happens when he gets a decision out of QCAT in a couple of years’ time (if they’re working quickly), and it confirms his guilt and penalty.

Weir and Currie got stripped of their training premierships.

Will Nothdurft lose his too?

He should.

But don’t hold your breath.

 

‘MONDAY I HAVE FRIDAY ON MY MIND’ – new column by GODFREY SMITH

LIZZIE JELFS – THE CLASS ACT AT FINDING LONG PRICED WINNERS

IT has been tough enough for women jockeys breaking into the big time male dominated world of racing but even tougher gaining acceptance from the punters for a female tipster.  

Lizzie Jelfs, the mounting yard expert for SKY Thoroughbred Central, is the exception and rarely a Saturday goes by when she doesn’t find a long priced winner in Sydney.

On Saturday she tipped Frankely Awesome in the McKell Cup at Rosehill which landed some big bets at double figure odds and the TAB is the first to admit that Lizzie was responsible for some of those.

They make no secret of the massive following she has built. Lizzie continues to prove you don’t need to be male to pick winners and has been quick to earn the respect of her male colleagues.

Story goes Jelfs wanted to be a jockey but was told ‘it wasn’t a good job for a girl’. She was born in England where she rode work for a jumps stable. She first came to Australia to take a job with Lindsay Park in South Australia and wound up the Hayes’ stable travelling foreperson managing their stables in Sydney.

It was David Hayes who put her name forward for a media job and the rest is history for the young mother of two. “The one thing I want to cater for in my role now is for several different groups.

“If a punter wants to back a horse I want to provide information that is going make it an educated bet, but I also want to appeal to an audience that isn’t necessarily having a bet but wants to know about the horse. I want to encourage people to embrace the sport because of the animal.”

And the thing that punters like me prefer about Lizzy is that she doesn’t just tip favorites. In fact the majority of her mounting yard mail is for those at good prices and even roughies.

 

SMART-ARSE ‘RICHO’ COPPED THE BACK-HANDER HE DESERVED

TRAINER Dean Binaisse was responsible for the ‘back-hander’ of the day at Caulfield after his heavily-backed filly Felicia saluted.

Jason Richardson, back in the host’s chair for the racing.com coverage of Saturday’s meeting in Melbourne, told his audience that the win had broken a drought for Binaisse whose last winner as back in December.

“Thanks for the rap Richo. When was the last time you tipped a winner brother,” Binaisse replied.

Touchez!

 

LET’S CALL A SPADE A SHOVEL WHEN IT COMES TO TRACK BIAS

WHY do some of the SKY & RACING.COM ‘experts’ talk down track bias and blame it on the speed factor of how races were run.

It was blatantly obvious after a few races on Saturday that if you weren’t on the pace you had little hope of figuring in the finish at Caulfield.

Every winner on the nine race card, barring one (the bolter Lucifer’s Reward) travelled on the pace to the turn and the majority were in the first two.

Forget the rule that a horse must be given the best opportunity to win a race. How can this happen when the track disadvantages the backmarkers? And who pays the price for a badly prepared track? No-one, just the poor old punters!

 

ARE WE IMAINGING THAT SOMETHING’S ROTTEN IN QLD RACING?

IT seems that rarely a week passes by when there is that one race in Brisbane that leaves you with a suspicious mind and a sour taste in your mouth.

Obviously it’s the wild imagination of some punters and form students because the stewards don’t see the same pattern and just accept the same lame explanations.

I won’t do an Archie and name names but it starts with a plonk and ends with a bang when the targeted fancy never looks like getting beaten and his main danger/s seem to get lost or run into trouble.

It might not be the same stables involved but that can’t be said for those in the saddle whose skills go from the amazing one week to absurd the next.

 

ANOTHER WINNER AWAITS FOR FANS OF ‘WALLEY WORLD’

EACH week we will try and find you a future winner from the weekend racing that let’s be nice and say didn’t have the best of luck and should have finished closer.

Had I been writing this column a week earlier that would have been the Chris Waller-trained Sure Knee in the Sapphire Stakes at Doomben.

Waller brought her back in distance when James McDonald gave Sure Knee a nice warm up for the Brisbane feature coming from last to finish sixth behind stablemate True Detective at her previous start at Rosehill.

It’s another Waller starter we suggest you follow at his next start in Kaonic which finished the unluckiest of fifths (let’s call it that) in the Premier’s Cup at Doomben on Saturday behind stablemate Another Dollar. Kaonic showed that the trip, over which he was unproven, will be no problem in future.

Kaonic performed a virtual mission impossible attracting the attention of the stewards who asked Mark Du Plessis to explain his ‘asleep at the wheel’ ride – an explanation that surprise, surprise, was duly noted. Just be on this fellow next time.

 

THE DAY ‘THE CAT’ USED ONE OF HIS NINE LIVES HEADING TO RACES

LESTER GRIMMETT, one of Queensland racing’s great survivors, retires tomorrow after half a century was handicapper with Racing Queensland and the Queensland Turf Club.

As Mark Oberhardt reported for AAP, Lester was one of the last links to a golden age of Queensland racing who, in his early 70’s, was still working in the industry. Most of his colleagues had either given up on it or been shown the door.

"I grew up with a passion for the industry, and can remember going to the track as early as four years old with my mother, so to work in an industry I have always loved was a dream come true," Grimmett said.

"I've had the pleasure of handicapping the likes of Chief De Beers and Vo Rogue; I think I got Vo Rogue beat one day by allocating him what proved to be too much weight.

"I just want to be remembered as a good handicapper, someone who did the job well and got the weights right."

Affectionately known as ‘The Cat’, what those close to Grimmett would not know is that he didn’t drive a car which meant relying on a lift to the races where he worked in a number of roles in an official capacity.

One story that Obe didn’t tell in his ‘farewell piece’ on Lester was the day a steward, who shall remain nameless, gave him a lift to the Sunny Coast for the races. Not long into the trip north and Lester realized that the stipe, who unfortunately had a drug problem, was more than a shade under the influence. Perhaps it was the guide posts that were thumbing lifts but all he wanted was out but had no choice but to cling to his seat and pray for a safe arrival. When told by an Integrity Boss that he looked a little green around the gills, Lester reluctantly told what had happened. He didn’t have to be remembered as a ‘dobber’. It didn’t matter by the time ‘the good doctor’ arrived the stipe had fallen over while trying to check the brands on a runner in the first.

 

 

 

By ARCHIE BUTTERFLY

AFTER slashing and stashing millions of dollars of prize money since COVID-19 hit, Racing QLD chief Pins Parnell surely won’t grandstand by boasting about how he got RQ’s books back in the black. Will he?

ARE rumours of a reshuffle of the desks in the Stewarding Department of the QRIC correct? If these aren’t, perhaps they should be.

HOW many hundreds of BRC members, infuriated by having to pay a full year’s fees when they haven’t been allowed on the track for months, intend not to renew their membership for the coming season?

ARE the whispers that AQUIS removed one of its top-line juveniles from a certain Gold Coast stable because the stud was worried that the star colt might lose his future breeding barn lustre if its trainer was associated with horse doping practices?

WILL Baylee Nothdurft be stripped of all his wins in the three months after the Vega One ride – and indeed the premiership – if his three-month ban for his misjudged ride is confirmed down the track by QCAT?

IS one leading race club planning a mass wave of redundancies in the coming months? Are the rumours correct that the only thing holding the club back is a lack of liquid assets with which to pay the employees redundancy entitlements?

WILL the growing rumblings in club committee rooms about the delay in RQ striking a broadcast deal outside of Brisbane turn into a roar once the details of the agreement that is close to finalisation become known?

IS covering huge holes in the course proper with grass clippings really best-practice 21st century race track management?

Isn’t dirt usually always brown?

How does it get discolored?