FORMER INTERNATIONAL JOCKEY GEOFF LANE DIES ON GOLD COAST

THE racing community in Australia and Hong Kong has been saddened by the sudden death of former international jockey Geoff Lane.

Melbourne-born Lane, 80, spent his retirement years on the Gold Coast where he remained actively involved as a steward for Racing Queensland and hosted Ambassador Travel tours back to his old stamping ground of Hong Kong for International Day.

Lane, who was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2013, started his apprenticeship with trainer Tommy Woodcock at Mentone in 1953. He was five times champion apprentice and in 1959-60, the year he completed his indentures, he won the senior Melbourne jockeys’ premiership.

In a brief career, the length of which was seriously curtailed by weight problems, Lane was associated with many fine horses, riding more than 400 winners as an apprentice and capturing some 76 feature races.

His big race wins included three Victoria Derbies, three VRC Oaks and three VRC St Legers, the AJC Oaks, the Caulfield Guineas, three Caulfield Stakes, two Toorak Handicaps, the Futurity Stakes, four Memsie Stakes and four St George Stakes, two Sandown Cups and a Williamstown Cup, four Alister Clark Stakes, two William Reid Stakes and the W.S. Cox Plate. Outstanding horses with which he was associated included Lord, which he rode to 17 wins, and Dhaulagiri, which he rode to 13 wins, headline by the 1961 W.S.Cox Plate, and to placings in the Melbourne, Caulfield, Sydney and Brisbane Cups.

Rising weight and constant dieting caused Lane to announce his retirement in 1964 at the age of 25. Three years later he made a successful comeback, but weight problems again forced his retirement in 1971.

He then moved to Hong Kong where a higher weight scale allowed him to continue riding with much success during the next decade. On retirement, he took up an administrative position with the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and later became a successful trainer.

 

WILL THE ‘BANTAM’ TEST HIS TALENTS IN HONKERS OR HEAD TO A SAFE HAVEN AT THE ‘RED HOTS’?

THE rumour mill went into over-drive with the confirmation that Hong Kong’s No 1 race caller Brett Davis is returning to Australia to fill the vacant roll in Adelaide.

Could Queensland’s David Fowler soon be calling Hong Kong home when TABCORP puts the knife through its unprofitable UBET arm, especially RADIO TAB?

An overnight emailer posed this question: ‘Rather than prove he can compete on the international stage, which he certainly has the calling talent to do, those close to the action say ‘the Bantam’ will ride on the coat-tails of his mates in harness racing for a secure role through to retirement with the Albion Park Club of which he is chairman. It’s a pity because Honkers would suit him down to the ground – there are no bookies, just the tote and I’m unsure whether HKJC staff is allowed to bet’.

The HKJC has already started the search for a new No 1 caller – a role in Queensland that Fowler no longer enjoys with SKY’S Josh Fleming now the favorite among punters and race-goers.

Davis, who has been the HKJC’s top man since 2015, is taking up the position as lead caller in his hometown of Adelaide, packing his bags after December’s Hong Kong International Races.

The SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST reports that it is not a move he has taken lightly – giving up a role coveted around the globe is something he wrestled with – the whole process taking “about three months”.

“It was a very difficult decision but ultimately it was about my family’s future,” Davis said. “The number one thing in my mind was do I want to leave? Am I ready to leave? What’s the best for my family? What’s the best for my future?

“I obviously had to consider the Hong Kong Jockey Club as well, because they’ve been extremely good to me over a lot of years. There was a lot to think about. I’m not 35 anymore, I’m 46 now so you get to the point where you are thinking about what you really want to do.

“From a living perspective, there’s no place like Australia and there’s no place like home. I’m a very tight-knit family man and I weighed all of that up and decided to take the opportunity.”

The move completes a remarkable career arc for Davis, who was originally a specialist greyhound caller in Adelaide. From there he has had stints in Tasmania (three years) and Singapore (two years), before spending the past 14 years in Hong Kong, his voice being heard by racing fans around the world.

“I was a plumber by trade for eight or 10 years initially, I got out of that and then chased the dream of being a caller,” he said. “Standing behind a backhoe and digging trenches wasn’t ideal at the time, so I decided to chase something I was passionate about.”

 

FORGET THE ‘PUB WITH NO BEER’ THIS WAS THE CLUB WITH NO BEER’

CAIRNS AMATEURS organizers were forced to do a ‘last-minute’ pub crawl after the meeting on Friday to source more booze ahead of the bumper crowd at Saturday’s Cup meeting.

Carnival president Ross Moller admitted the club had run out of beer close to closing time on Friday which he described as ‘perfect timing’. It wouldn’t have happened a week earlier in Birdsville.

Moller said attendances had increased on last year and punters were so thirsty organizers were forced to do the 11th hour pub crawl. The biggest trackside party of the year in the North set a new standard for Cairns Amateurs with the best Saturday attendance in a decade.

“I think we had 11,000 people through the gate yesterday (Saturday), which is bigger than expected,” Moller told the CAIRNS POST. “It’s a vote of confidence (and) in the last 10 years I would say that is it the biggest crowd we have had.”

 

SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THESE BRAVE BOYS BEHIND THE BARRIERS

PETER JAMES, a regular contributor from NORTH QUEENSLAND, sent this comment on an unfortunate event that occurred during the Amateurs:

‘WHILE ‘Uncle Tom’ was enjoying his $360 000 day out at Cairns Amateurs on Saturday – good luck to Mr Hedley – it wasn't much fun for one long-time barrier attendant.

When the horses were being loaded for Race 2 the horse in the outside alley had a mind to play up. It got rid of the jockey and decided not to wait for the gates to open. It decided to just go under the gate but ended up cast.

One brave barrier attendant – a big fella – raced around the front to try to help the horse and got steam-rolled and kicked in the head for his trouble. 

These attendants are too often ‘out of sight - out of mind’, and they dive in without hesitation when the shit hits the fan, putting themselves on the line to get the jockeys to safety and to ensure some expensive horse flesh gets to go around again next week.

They are a close-knit crew that do the northern circuit together and if you want to fight one of them – then be prepared to fight the lot.

One of the barrier boys asked when his injured colleague started working at the barriers, quipped: ‘About 30 kilos ago’. I'm sure big Pete will get a chuckle out of that - when Tweetie stops flying round his head. It has to be close to 35 years now.

Good on these men for the sterling job they do.’ 

 

 

 

CALLOW NOT MAKING THE WEIGHT IN AMATEUR CUP A GOOD THING?

THIS Friday and Saturday the racing spotlight in Queensland will be on Cairns for a carnival that for years has been immensely popular. But sadly – the Far North Amateurs as it is known – doesn’t shine so brightly this year.

The cloud of controversy that hung over the recent Cairns Cup result continues to waft over Cannon Park (aka Hedley Homestead), so named after the north’s leviathan Cairns-based owner, Tom Hedley.

His increasingly-dominant influence in North Queensland racing has been likened to that enjoyed by Lloyd Williams in Victoria.

Many involved in the racing game up north are far from happy with events surrounding the Cairns Cup when the favourite – the heavily-backed (and aptly named) Unbiased was scratched at the barrier in sensational circumstances moments before starting time – because the jockey, visiting Victorian Noel Callow insisted the horse was lame.

Punters were left aghast to see Callow himself unsaddle the horse after what seemed a cursory examination. And then the field was “OFF”.

Connections of Unbiased were totally appalled – and still are. Trainer Jared Wehlow, for years a regular at the Amateurs, has boycotted the event this year and is still waiting for an acceptable reason why his horse was withdrawn. He wants to know why Racing Queensland never sought a ‘thorough veterinary examination’.

It wasn’t a good look on national racing TV – rumours abound – and continue.

The damage perhaps has been reflected with the horse numbers at this year’s two-day FNQ Amateur Carnival.

But that’s not all!

Hedley had six runners in the Cairns Cup and his most favoured The Harrovian won.

That horse also won the Townsville Cup and consequently lines up for a $150,000 bonus, in addition to the $100,000 Amateur Cup prizemoney.

He will be a short-priced favourite with Hardern (owned by Hedley and partners but trained in Townsville by Michael Gearney) considered the main danger.

According to racetrack scuttlebutt, Hedley told Geaney during the week that he wanted Callow to ride Hardern which apparently didn’t go over too well.

No doubt it is the owner’s privelege (if he or she pays the bills) to nominate a jockey of their choice at any time.

But to add a little more intrigue to the story Callow couldn’t make the weight for Hardern, so Nathan Day, who actually rode him in the Cairns Cup last start, will retain the ride – after Justin Stanley was rumoured during the week as his replacement.

Interesting, because the other main chance in the race is Stanley’s regular mount Astoria (trained by Janel Ryan) which will now have the services of Chris Whiteley.

And a big improvement might not surprise!

 

WERE KATHY & CHARLIE JUST EXCHANGING ‘SWEET-NOTHINGS’ ON RACE DAYS?

JUST what was jockey Kathy O’Hara talking to her partner Charlie Duckworth, the Racing Manager for the powerful Chris Waller stable, during the seemingly-endless list of calls she made from the Jockeys’ Room at Sydney tracks?

O’Hara, one of the glamour girls of the riding ranks in NSW, was left in a state of shock when stewards rubbed her out for the entire Spring Carnival, costing her the Caulfield and Melbourne Cup rides on Grey Lion.

The racing rumor mill – as it so often is – has been in over-drive since stewards suspended O’Hara for three months on Tuesday after she pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the use of her mobile phone in the jockeys’ room on race days.

Despite being strictly forbidden, stewards found that O’Hara had used her phone 65 times in the jockeys’ room over the past 12 months — with almost half of those calls to her high-flying racing identity boyfriend.

An inquiry was opened when O’Hara’s phone was found in the jockeys' room at Kembla Grange on August 8 with Racing NSW stewards forensically imaging its use over the past 12 months. They found ‘nothing outside race days that would arise to any concern’ on the phone apart from the fact that she had continually used it from the track. Jockeys are not allowed to use their phones during meetings where they are riding.

Stewards had mapped her phone usage against days where she was riding for the 12-month period in question and found 65 times when she had used the phone for text messages or phone calls from the track.

The majority were to her partner Duckworth, who holds a foreman’s licence at the Waller stable. Of the messages and calls, 29 were made to Duckworth, who pleaded guilty to being a party to O’Hara’s offence and was fined $2,000.

If the calls weren’t of a ‘racing nature’, suspicious punters find it hard to imagine that Kathy and Charlie could have whispered sweet nothing’s to one-another on so many occasions when they should have been focusing on their business at the time – which was horse racing.

 

VRC ‘PULLS A SWIFTY’ WITH BLOCKBUSTER CUP DAY ENTERTAINMENT

THE Victoria Racing Club is thrilled to announce 10-time GRAMMY Award-winning, record-breaking global superstar Taylor Swift will perform at the Lexus Melbourne Cup Day on Tuesday 5 November, 2019.

The American singer-songwriter will sing two of her latest hits in the Mounting Yard ahead of ‘the race that stops a nation’.

It will be Taylor’s only public appearance in Australia following the release of her critically-acclaimed smash seventh studio album Lover.

Lover is Australia’s highest selling album for 2019 and achieved the highest week one sales in Australia since the release of Taylor’s previous album Reputation in 2017.

Lover delivered the year’s biggest first-week US sales in just one day and has generated over 1 billion streams in Australia alone.

VRC Chief Executive Officer Neil Wilson said the Club was thrilled to welcome Taylor Swift to Flemington for Cup Day.

“Lexus Melbourne Cup Day is the most celebrated day on Australia’s major event calendar and with a reach of a billion people globally, it’s only fitting the VRC welcomes the world’s most celebrated star for the event,” Wilson said.

“To think you can come to Flemington and watch not only the race that stops a nation but see one of the world’s biggest, if not the biggest, entertainer perform for the cost of a general admission ticket is phenomenal. We look forward to welcoming Taylor Swift to our wonderful event in just under 54 days.”

 

 

 

SORRY MR HARVEY, THE CUP WILL ALWAYS BE NO 1 IN THE EYES OF THE AUSSIE RACING PUBLIC!

‘GENIAL’ Gerry Harvey has declared the Melbourne Cup has been relegated to second behind The Everest in terms of excitement levels and fan engagement in Australian racing.

His critics are surprised that the billionaire owner-breeder didn’t suggest the Magic Millions was now No 1 – even if this private enterprise race day is regarded by many in racing as a major beneficiary of cash hand-outs from the Government and racing officialdom in Queensland.

Harvey is entitled to his opinion and believes that the Melbourne Cup is now for ‘overseas horses at a distance’ whereas the $14 million The Everest is a race where ‘everyone knows the names of the horses’.

Regardless, The Everest will never be 'the race that stops the nation' when even those who don't punt regularly tune in, have a flutter and take a few minutes out of their lives to watch a horse race.

“It (The Everest) has got more excitement now than the Melbourne Cup – the Melbourne Cup to my way of thinking has slipped into second place,” Harvey told SKY Racing. “You’ve got people talking about The Everest and not about the Melbourne Cup – that tells you something. We know the names of all the horses in The Everest. How many names do we know in the Melbourne Cup?

“The Melbourne Cup is tradition - but it’s not tradition either because they have scrubbed all the Australian and New Zealand horses and now it’s all overseas horses. That’s not a criticism – it’s just saying it’s a different game now to what it was before.”

Ironically, Harvey owns the Magic Millions Company which sold the 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking but has been pushed aside as imported horses have continued to dominate the big two-miler.

Of the nine Cup winners since, only one, the rank outsider Prince Of Penzance in 2015, was bred in the Southern Hemisphere as imports continue to monopolise our biggest and most popular race – regardless of what Harvey thinks or how much absurd prizemoney Racing NSW wastes on The Everest.

 

HOW MUCH IS THE GOVERNMENT & RQ CONTRIBUTING TO LATEST MM BLOCKBUSTER FEATURE?

ONCE again the Magic Millions has been catapulted into controversy with what should have been the good news announcement that the Gold Coast primary Saturday fixture a week before the Magic Millions has been boosted to a $1.5 million super day.

This involves a new race for three and four-year-olds, to be known as ‘The Wave’ and the popular decision to divide the two-year-old which has produced four of the past five MM Classic winners which will be worth $125,000 each.  

The early January meeting will also include three races exclusive to Magic Millions horses, the $250,000 MM Country Cup, which switches from MM day; the MM Rising Stars for three and four-year-olds, with a $250,000 purse for each of the sexes.

The controversy aspect building as a result of the ‘exclusive story’ – or should that read propaganda briefing – by Nathan Exelby, Racing Editor of The Courier-Mail – did not include how much of the additional prizemoney was being contributed by Racing Queensland or the Queensland Government. The last time this sort of information was requested by some sections of the racing media actually prepared to question how much one of the country’s richest men and his bloodstock company are being ‘helped’, they were told it was ‘commercial in confidence’ – so much for transparency in racing.

The other argument that continues to raise its ugly head is that all prizemoney paid for the major metropolitan meeting every Saturday in Queensland should be available to every owner – not just those who are cashed up enough to buy horses at the Magic Millions Sales.

In an effort to thwart this criticism Magic Millions has introduced wildcards into the race day but in the eyes of the critics it is too little too late. A meeting at Ipswich on the same day as the MM big two-day event is not enough. The answer is to make the Millions a night racing event when lights are installed at the Gold Coast and have a secondary meeting for metropolitan prizemoney run at a Brisbane track or the Sunshine Coast.

The Wave is a $250,000 race to be run at weight-for-age over 1800m, which carries a wildcard to the $1 million MM Trophy (2200m) the following week. It brings the total number of wildcard races for MM Day to six – two up on last year – with another added to the Eagle Farm meeting on December 28 which secures entry into the $1m MM QTIS race for eligible horses.

 

BIRDSVILLE CUP FOR THE BATTLERS ONE WEEK – CAIRNS AMATEURS FOR THE TOFFS THE NEXT 

Rockhampton-trained Mr Attitude and local star The Harrovian are eligible for the rich Northern Crowns Bonus during the two days of the Far North Queensland Amateurs Carnival in Cairns on Friday and Saturday.

Any horse that wins three of the five nominated features across the Northern Queensland Winter Racing Carnival can share in up to $350,000 of bonuses.

If one of the three races won includes the FNQ Amateurs Cup and Open Sprint, which The Harrovian and Mr Attitude will do if they can win this weekend, the bonus grows to $200,000 and $150,000 respectively.

The Harrovian looks most likely on the back of his wins in the Cairns and Townsville Cups while Mr Attitude has been out of form since winning the Cleveland Bay Handicap in Townsville and Mackay Newmarket.

THOUSANDS of visitors annually converge on Far North Queensland in early September for the annual Cairns Amateurs, which is much more than a horse racing carnival – in fact it offers something for everyone.

Those making the trip from all parts of the country are not simply there for two days of horse racing. This is one of the biggest social events on the thoroughbred calendar and it offers an added bonus of being able to enjoy some of the most popular tourist attractions in Australia.

The Far North Queensland Amateurs have grown from a small country race meeting in 1959, designed to bring the city and country together, to a carnival that now attracts national media, betting and television coverage. It’s a carnival where the horses often take a backseat role to the personalities, politicians and celebrities who want to be seen there.

Economic surveys undertaken over a decade indicate that the Cairns Amateurs generate in excess of $15 million in direct spending over the four days of social and racing activities. Over 10,000 attend the Friday meeting and this number doubles a day later for the Saturday fixture. Up to 5,000 of these are estimated to attend from interstate and overseas.

No doubt the usual group of racing media hangers-on will jump aboard the gravy trainer to Cairns for the annual suck-up at the Amateurs. Apart from the punters’ pal and Queensland’s best race-caller Josh Fleming, where are they when Birdsville comes around. Just imagine some of those ruffling their feathers and roughing it in a sleeping bag overnight for the Melbourne Cup of the outback.    

 

 

HERE’S HOPING KILCOY ISN’T GROOMING COMMITTEEMEN FOR RQ BOARD ROLES

THERE is no more passionate, politically-connected or hard working race club chairman in Queensland than Con Searle.

Con has achieved miracles for the Kilcoy club which continues to host one of the most popular near Brisbane TAB meetings in south-east Queensland.

It's annual general meeting time at Kilcoy next Tuesday and Con is standing for re-election and it would be a bigger upset than Winx getting beaten if he wasn’t re-elected.

Interestingly he has chosen a star-studded line-up to stand on his ticket for committee positions.

In a circular to members Con writes: I will be nominating the following persons for the 2019-2020 committee: Office Bearers, Conway Searle President, Barry Coulter AO Vice President, David Cohen Secretary, Jennifer Searle Treasurer. Committee, Kevin Dixon, Bart Sinclair, Paul Dolan, Arthur Gray, Nicola Sellwood, John Spillane, Alana Searle, Sally Jones.

Some of his committee choices provoked this response from a cynic on the Downs:

‘Just when we thought we had seen the last of Kevin Dixon after his terms at Racing Queensland and on the Toowoomba Turf Club he does another Nelly Melba. And here’s hoping of the media guys ‘Dogs’ gets the nod. We’d hate to see another break the land speed record between the jockeys’ room and the bookies ring from one of his colleagues. One would hope with the connections old Con has in the LNP he isn’t grooming some of these boys for a spot on the RQ Board after the next election. Graham Quirk is doing just fine without their ‘help’.’

 

PAT DUFF – ANOTHER SUGGESTED INDUCTEE INTO RQ HALL OF FAME

THE response to our story seeking Hall of Fame induction for racing website pioneer Phil Purser has been quite incredible.

Perhaps Racing Queensland – rather than just rely on a panel which some believe look after their mates – should invite the public to nominate recipients of the honor.

We were pleased to hear from former champion jockey Michael Pelling who put forward another overdue Hall of Fame inductee in veteran trainer Pat Duff who he had a very successful link with for decades.

“Pat is getting on in years now and I believe that the Racing Queensland should honour him for his lifelong contribution to the sport before he dies,” Mike said.

“We all go to the funerals and say the nice words about people. For someone who has been so valuable to racing and a good friend to so many people, Pat Duff deserves some recognition.”

 

LATER START FOR NEW-LOOK OAKS DAY DURING SPRING CARNIVAL

THE Victoria Racing Club (VRC) has announced the evolution of Kennedy Oaks Day which will see the program of the third day of Australia’s premier racing event enhanced to include a fabulous front lawn luncheon, a later start to the race card and a spectacular entertainment lineup.

Gates open at 11am with the first race to be run at 1:50pm and shorter gaps between races designed to amplify the electric atmosphere that accompanies Cup Week celebrations at Flemington.

Kennedy Oaks Day becomes the most unique raceday in Australia with an uninterrupted luncheon period where guests can connect with friends and colleagues, enjoying a range of entertainment across the course before tuning into the racing action at 1:50pm, with the nine-race card set to conclude at 6:25pm.

To top and tail a spectacular day of racing with entertainment, the popular general admission precinct The Park will host a double-header of headline acts on centre stage from the early evening.

Australian indie royalty The Jungle Giants are set to deliver a sensational set before the #1 ARIA chart topping artist Dean Lewis takes to the stage, fresh off the back of his North American tour. The Sydney singer-songwriter is best known for multi-platinum hits, Waves, Be Alright and 7 Minutes.

Traditionally known as Ladies Day, Kennedy Oaks Day features the final of the iconic Myer Fashions on the Field National Competition and the running of the $1 million Group 1 Kennedy Oaks (2500m), to be run at the revised time of 5:50pm.

VRC Chief Executive Officer Neil Wilson said the Club is excited to deliver a reimagined program for Kennedy Oaks Day as part of its long-term strategic plan for the Melbourne Cup Carnival.

“As the custodians of Australia’s premier racing event it is incumbent on the VRC to look at new ways to innovate and redefine the experience for all on course and this is just one of many exciting changes for the 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival,” Mr Wilson said.

“Kennedy Oaks Day is immensely popular every year and the Club believes providing a dedicated lunch period and a later start to the race program is the logical step forward to further enhance the success of the day while broadening the appeal to a new audience.

“Those who want to enjoy the day in full can make the most of Flemington’s acclaimed dining venues during the lunch period, or take up their place on the front lawn before the racing action begins at 1:50pm.

“The updated program of events will also make it easier for those with work commitments to take a half-day or finish work and get to the track to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and first-class racing that the VRC’s Melbourne Cup Carnival is known for.”

Outside of the feature race, Kennedy Oaks Day also includes the running of the $500,000 Melbourne Cup Carnival Country Final (1600m), restricted to trainers and horses located in country Victoria. 

Kennedy Oaks Day is the fourth most attended day on the Australian racing calendar, and forms part of the biggest week in racing alongside the VRC’s AAMI Victoria Derby Day, Lexus Melbourne Cup Day and Seppelt Wines Stakes Day. 

The 2019 Melbourne Cup Carnival begins with AAMI Victoria Derby Day on Saturday 2 November, followed by Lexus Melbourne Cup Day on Tuesday 5 November, Kennedy Oaks Day on Thursday 7 November and Seppelt Wines Stakes Day on Saturday 9 November.

 

CLUB ANGER GROWING OVER BETFAIR PARASITING ON HK RACING

IT will be interesting to see what steps the Hong Kong Jockey Club take next in their war with Australian-based Betfair.

Betfair thumbed its nose at a HKJC demand to stop trading on the organisation’s product during Sunday’s Sha Tin meeting.

“It is apparent to us that Betfair’s conduct confirms that it intends to ‘free ride’ on Hong Kong racing by exploiting the club’s racing product in the absence of any commercial or integrity agreement with the club,” HKJC secretary Philana Poon told the South China Morning Post.

“We consider such conduct can be fairly described as cavalier, unconscionable and in reckless disregard for the economic value of a premium international racing product. It is plainly inconsistent with Betfair’s apparent focus on integrity and transparency, and good corporate citizenship.”

Betfair traded on all 10 races at Sha Tin on Sunday, matching more than $470,000 in bets, which was a rise of more than 10 percent on the previous Sunday’s opening fixture of the Hong Kong season.

 

KIWIS BLEATING AFTER SELLING EVERYTHING THAT WASN’T TIED DOWN

THE bleating by top trainer Murray Baker painting a bleak picture of racing in his homeland of New Zealand didn’t win much sympathy from racing followers on this side of the Ditch.

In response to Baker describing Kiwi racing as ‘stagnant’ and its decreasing prizemoney as ‘just ridiculous’, Aussie contributors to Have Your Say at LGHR, had this to say:

‘The owners and trainers in New Zealand can only blame themselves. They sold everything to Asia that wasn’t tied down.’

‘Baker can blame what has happened in New Zealand on stakeholder greed within his own industry. All they wanted to do with anything that showed potential was sell it for big money to Asian buyers.’

‘How many of his fellow top trainers, headed by Chris Waller, abandoned racing in their home country and why would you blame them? It shows why we hardly see a Kiwi in the Melbourne Cup these days, let alone a competitive one’.

The legendary trainer told RADIO RSN in MELBOURNE: “Some (stake levels) are half what they were 20 years ago. We are falling on hard times … everyone’s scratching their heads. It generates a lot of money, racing, but they haven’t worried about the people at the coalface.”

Baker described prizemoney as the most important factor in racing and said there was frustration in New Zealand that passionate backlash from participants in Queensland and South Australia had resulted in some positive impact while New Zealand remained in strife.

He blamed an increasing number of New Zealand trainers selling stock as a means of survival.

 

MATTY A MEDIA VOICE CRYING IN WILDERNESS BUT MANY AGREE WITH HIM

REGARDLESS of his training prowess and the deeds of his magical mare Winx, there are plenty of rival colleagues and punters, in particular, who wish that Chris Waller had stayed in New Zealand.

Surprisingly, an outspoken member of the racing media in Australia, was actually prepared to say what many followers of the Sport of Kings are saying about Waller.

Matt Stewart had the courage to question on radio in Melbourne at the weekend whether a limit should be placed on the number of horses that Waller had in training. He emphasiZed that his comments should in no way be read as a criticism of the champion trainer’s ability but more so whether it was a flaw in the system that needed changing.

Many in racing agree with him but if he didn’t accept with bulk numbers at times there would be insufficient to run some races on a Saturday in Sydney or the fields for some features would be an embarrassment.

What irks punters and form assessors is that the Waller horses are often hard to follow and when he has multiple runners it is more the norm than the exception that a second string will upstage a more favored stable runner.

Asked his thoughts on what Stewart had suggested about restricting the numbers of big stables, former champion trainer Peter Moody disagreed but was quick to add that multiple runners in races was just as big a headache for the trainer.

 

 

NEW COLUMNIST UNSER FRITZ HAS HIS SAY ON ALL THINGS RACING

UNSER FRITZ, a keen follower of racing especially in Queensland, is quickly becoming a regular contributor to HAVE YOUR SAY at LETSGOHORSERACING. He’s out-done himself this week to such a degree that we might have to make him a regular columnist. Here is his take on all things race:

 

Phil Purser:

IT’S that time of the year again when the annual Racing Awards Nights are held and the Horse of the Year and Hall of Fame inductees are announced.

Well I’ve got a suggestion that no doubt will fall on deaf ears considering some of those who make the choices but Phil Purser deserves to be in the Racing Queensland Hall of Fame.

Phil single-handedly pioneered racing websites long before many others, like letsgohorseracing, followed his lead. Sadly he retired and justracing is no longer the popular website it once was.

His contribution to all three codes of racing – not to mention his support for any charitable cause or individual in racing who fell on hard times – was second to none. Phil led the way.

Instead of rewarding some racing media identity for ‘sucking up’ to officialdom instead of protecting the interests of punters, Phil Purser deserves Hall of Fame induction but sadly it just won’t happen.

Editor’s Note:

I couldn’t agree more that Phil Purser is a deserving recipient of Hall of Fame induction in Queensland.

Your email Unzer brought back bad memories for me of the Stradboke meeting when Phil, with all the proper media accreditations, was thrown out of the enclosure while simply doing his job. It was pay-back for something he had written that upset some high-flyer.

That was the same day when that crook Peter Foster and his entourage were in there parading in front of officials and stewards on the pretext of being the owners of one of the leading chances in the big race.

And on the subject of who has the right to be in the parade rings pre-race we recently received this email:

‘As a member of a syndicate that raced a horse during the recent Winter Carnival I was most upset when some of us were not allowed into the saddling paddock to hear what was said to the jockey as our horse prepared for a big race.  

‘I was even more angry when it was pointed out to me recently how some people pretending to be media identities are there every Saturday without actually doing any work. They just happen to be associated with high profile media people.

‘Now I have no problem with these people getting into the racetrack free but they have far less right than owners who are being denied admission to this restricted area. It was pointed out to me recently how one of these gentlemen parades behind the winners being interviewed by SKY Channel as though he just wants to be seen.

‘It’s time that the powers-that-be stepped in and corrected this unfair anomaly. And if it is claimed that these people are actually working in some way for the media then have them justify that. They certainly don’t write stories and none of them appear to be carrying cameras or tape recorders.’        

 

David Hayes

HONG Kong can have him! Hayes snr has been a huge disappointment to many since moving his main stable operations to Euroa. His strike rate is appalling given the facilities available to him there, at Flemington and in Pakenham, and given the cost of the whole shebang, and the high quality of the stock he receives. The whole Hayes/Hayes/Dabernig thing can only be classed as a debacle and one would assume will only get worse when the elder statesman of the triumvirate returns to Honkers.

 

The state of Queensland Racing

WHAT does it say about the state of racing in Queensland when Sydney trainer Gary Portelli tells the world that his trundler Picaro, which won the first at the Farm on Saturday, would have started at 100-1 in a similar class race at Randwick? How sad an indictment on the Queensland industry is that? The reaction that it provoked – Sunday Mail Racing Editor Nathan Exelby spinning it into a positive for Queensland race programming – is even sadder.

 

Hot-shot turf scribe Nathan Exelby

SPEAKING of Nathan Exelby, why does The Sunday-Mail continue to run a circa 2000's photo of their Racing Editor on the banner of his weekly "The Verdict" column? Surely he hasn't aged that badly (or grown that much) over the past decade or more.

WHAT about Nathan's knock on Avilius in Monday’s Courier-Mail? Is he kidding? The high-class eight-time Group and Listed winner of the Ranvet and Tancred sat wide into a cyclonic headwind against its normal pattern of sit, ping racing on a leader biased track, and somehow still managed to run second. It was a run for the ages, yet Mr Exelby declares it a worry. I think he's the worry, and a worry who will be wearing lots of egg on his face as the Spring goes on.

THIS one beats them all. Our man at The Courier-Mail flies in the face of the accepted wisdom of every quarter-smart plus handicapper in Australian racing history and declares that the 3kg claim that Testashadow should have had in Race 8 at headquarters, but didn't, wouldn't have made the difference between winning or losing by a length in the race. I guess all the great punters of the past and present, from Eric Conolly to George 'Hollywood' Edser (or Bill Waterhouse, whichever you prefer) on to Zjelko and co were all mugs believing that a kilogram equated to a length and a half, or thereabouts. No wonder they all lost so much money.

RACING Queensland are full of bright new ideas lately (none of them concerning a new dog or trot track), so here's another one. How about we run with Nathan Exelby's idea that weights don't matter and abandon the current handicapping system altogether? All good lessons began in the past, and back before Carbine's day, long before it, they used to run all races at catch weights. Why not do it again? It won't alter the results of any races (at least according to the Exelby theorem), but it will prolong the careers of countless jockeys, and put an end to the physical ravages wrought by wasting. And on the subject of night racing, instead of having four tracks (Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Doomben) in the south-east, spare a thought for the north of the state where the weather is perfect for such an event.  

A Slap in the Face

I hate to harp on about Exelby but how must Taylor Williams and Adam Spinks feel about his comment that given the options available between swapping an apprentice for an apprentice on Testashadow, or replacing Nick Keal with senior rider Robbie Fradd, the Stewards made the common sense call ignoring the pair of claimers who didn't have rides in the race? Not very good I'd imagine, and rightly so! Poor form Nathan or was it a square up for that recent Twitter faux pas about the stipes?

And on the subject of Fradd, Michael Cahill made his ride on Ocean Ruler when favorite and 7th at Ipswich look second rate when it landed a plunge at the Sunshine Coast on Sunday. The Stewards’ Report from Ipswich on the day said Ocean Ruler began awkwardly and that a veterinary examination failed to reveal any abnormalities. No mention of a retrospective look at the run after what some might call a form reversal on Sunday.   

 

Tabcorp

DOES anyone remember the Tatts Group promising to relocate their headquarters to Queensland when it successfully bid for a renewed monopoly TAB license a few years ago? It's gone with the wind, just like the 200 Queensland jobs with the now merged company Tabcorp are about to go. What a great idea it was for Racing Queensland under Eliot Forbes and the Albion Park Harness Racing Club’s CEO Damian Raedler to support the merger. Forbes was simply misguided, but the question is was Raedler guided?

 

Cobalt

WHAT is this new 'truism' that cobalt is not performance enhancing? Of course it is, just like all blood doping agents, stimulates the production of unnaturally large numbers of red blood cells, which in turn increases the ability of the equine (and human) body to produce oxygen, thus enabling the horse who has been 'cobalted' to run at top speed for longer. Sure there are major questions about the testing regime, but don’t be fooled for a second that cobalt doesn't improve a horse's performance, for you'd be a fool.

 

Drug Testing of Jockeys

IF the QRIC are fair dinkum about dope testing jockeys why would they knock off at 7pm when a couple of riders fail to wee? There is no suggestion that any jockey who failed to urinate by 7pm on Saturday did so for any reason other than dehydration, but in a virtual world if they had taken cocaine on a Friday night it might not have been out of their system 24 hours later, but it certainly would have 36 hours after the event. And why don't the QRIC have the capacity to take blood samples from jockeys? They do for horses, what's the problem, particularly if the riders assent?

 

SURELY THERE WASN’T A PLAN TO RIDE NATURE STRIP WITH A ‘SIT’

SOME ‘informed’ experts in the racing media have questioned whether there was a plan to ride Nature Strip with a ‘sit’ in Saturday’s Concorde Stakes that misfired badly.

There has been some chatter that if Nature Strip is to develop into a star of Everest standard he would need to settle better in his races.

James McDonald couldn’t hold the horse in behind the pace after he began awkwardly in the Concorde and was forced to let him stride three wide when he got onto heels at the 600m. Nature Strip was beaten on straightening.

Saturday certainly wasn’t the day to experiment with changes to Nature Strip’s regular racing style. The track was playing savagely to the on-pacers and the bold front-runner was drawn to lead.

Chris Waller is too good a trainer to choose those conditions to change his normal tactics with Nature Strip and in any case there was no notification as required to stewards or, if there was, the punters weren’t told about it which just wouldn’t happen.

The stewards’ report read:

Nature Strip began awkwardly, over-raced in the early stages and refused to settle. Near the 600m became awkward on the heels of Zoustyle and was then shifted out whereby the gelding raced three wide without cover for the remaindero f the event and continued to overrace making the home turn.  

Little wonder the punters are tearing their hair out. Last campaign Nature Strip had four starts for two wins and the only time he didn’t lead was when he drew off the track and sat wide when a game fourth in the Doomben 10,000.

Regarded by some good judges as the best sprinter in the land up to 1100m, he walked in with the Rubiton in fast time when fresh last preparation and broke the Valley 1000m track record fresh before that.

Adding insult to injury his ‘piggish’ behaviour on Saturday also put pay to Victorian star Sunlight. That mare’s performance was explained in the Stewards’ Report:

Sunlight: Rider Luke Currie stated that his intention was to be forward but when Nature Strip held its position one-off whilst over-racing Sunlight was caught wide and for this reason he restrained to take up a position midfield with cover behind Nature Strip. He stated that Sunlight made the home turn awkwardly and then in the straight took some time to balance up but near the 300m he felt the mare's run had ended and, in his opinion, would derive a fitness benefit from the performance. A post-race veterinary examination revealed the mare to be 1/5th lame in the off foreleg. Co-trainer Tony McEvoy advised given the position of Sunlight, in that it raced further back than anticipated, he was satisfied with its performance. McEvoy was advised that a veterinary clearance would be required prior to Sunlight barrier trailing or racing again.

Some might suggest Nature Strip should have been also been required to trial before racing again considering his manners in the Concorde.   

 

EVEN PUNTERS COULD FACE PRISON UNDER CONTROVERSIAL NEW RACING NSW INTEGRITY LAWS

ANY person who fails to appear in front of a new racing tribunal faces up to six months imprisonment and hefty fines under proposed changes to NSW's racing legislation sparked by the controversial More Joyous affair.

Punters, former licensed people and other people not bound by the rules of racing could soon risk jail time and monetary penalties up to $11,000 for refusing to attend special inquiries under Supreme Court orders.

CHRIS ROOTS & ADAM PENGILLY report for FAIRFAX MEDIA that it is part of plans tabled in the Racing Legislation Amendment Bill which, if passed, would allow the state's racing regulators to wield more power than ever before.

Controversial punter Eddie Hayson and former jockey Allan Robinson initially failed to attend and then comply with a stewards inquiry into the All Aged Stakes flop of More Joyous in 2013, which involved a bitter spat between Gai Waterhouse, her then bookmaking son Tom and owner John Singleton. Eventually, however, the pair attended the inquiry.

A reworked Thoroughbred Racing Act would give Racing NSW the power to escalate any hearing to a special inquiry if it poses a threat to horse racing, exposing racing's underbelly to integrity checks not previously in place.

That will then allow the governing body to apply to the Supreme Court to impose a range of measures on those being investigated, including compelling them to attend special inquiries and handing over mobile phones for forensic imaging.

Harness Racing NSW will also be granted jurisdiction to apply to the Supreme Court for the compulsion powers.

It is the most ominous sign the two racing regulators will now expand their breadth of reach in inquiries to people outside of traditional licensees, a power which could be soon enshrined in law.

Previously the maximum fine for not attending an inquiry was just $550.

High-profile bettor Steve Fletcher is currently wrangling with Racing NSW in the Supreme Court over a previous request for him to hand over his telephone in the inquiry into ex-Tabcorp trading manager Sally Snow, who was warned off by stewards after an investigation into betting activities.

Snow quit her role at wagering giant Tabcorp earlier this year after Racing NSW launched probe into the licensing of a syndication business run by her husband Nathan and professional punter John Kelton.

She has to date refused to co-operate with the investigation.

The Racing Legislation Amendment Bill is the result of recommendations from Racing Appeals Tribunal head David Armati, who is appointed by the NSW government.

And it could now see a range of people fronting stewards who previously could defy any instruction to appear.

“It’s a further safeguard for every day punters and the integrity of harness racing,” Harness Racing NSW chief executive John Dumesny said. “It will allow us in exceptional circumstances to get phones of people who sit outside the rules of harness racing.”

Other changes to the Racing Legislation Amendment Bill will also provide Racing NSW with an explicit power to make rules in relation to horse racing and grant the Commissioner of Police the chance to exclude a person from a racetrack if it is in the public interest.

 

 

QUEENSLAND HAS A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY WITH NIGHT RACING  

THE old adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ doesn’t seem to apply to racing in Victoria.

Why change the Cox Plate to a night meeting when it is working just fine as it is? Why change Oaks day to a shorter twilight program when it attracts crowds bigger than Sydney would dream of any day of the year?

Once again we will be labelled dinosaurs and reminded that the conservative approach overall isn’t working in attracting younger people back to the track and that days like The Everest, Oaks and Mecca achieve that goal.

But it just makes no sense despite the strong move to night and twilight racing – especially with the unpredictable climate in Melbourne. Don’t they already have enough night meetings at the Valley, Cranbourne and Pakenham?

Different story in Queensland where officialdom is looking at the Magic Millions meeting moving to a night fixture when lights are installed at the Gold Coast.

January can be extremely hot and the conditions at some Millions meetings in the past has been unacceptable for horse welfare not to mention unbearable for the punters and race-goers.

Of course the decision to move the Millions to a night fixture has more to do with ‘Genial Gerry’ wanting another stand-alone Saturday meeting for his private enterprise company during the Winter Carnival.

The only way of doing this without offending the Brisbane Racing Club or affecting their carnival dates – that are set in stone and should not be changed – is to give the Gold Coast a night meeting mid-year.

Doomben has a twilight experiment early next year and wants lights as well. That would mean night and twilight racing venues at Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Doomben.

Toowoomba pioneered twilight racing on a Saturday. Why change that? With restrictions on some starting points at the new Clifford Park track it isn’t up to Sunday racing in the opinion of many punters.

Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast are the obvious venues to coincide with Friday night meetings at Moonee Valley, Canterbury and Cranbourne.

Why not move Corbould Park to twilight fixtures when Hong Kong is racing to take advantage of co-mingling of pools (sadly the only odd-man out there at present is UBET).

Where Doomben then fits into the night racing program remains to be seen – but one suspects there will be some opposition from the local residents and it would need to be signed off on by the Brisbane Airport Corporation (where there was a hurdle in the past).

 

HONG KONG JOCKEY CLUB INSTRUCTS BETFAIR TO CEASE & DESIST

IN a scathing letter, the Hong Kong Jockey Club has told Australian betting exchange Betfair to cease and desist from offering Hong Kong markets, accusing them of being ‘reckless, cavalier and unconscionable’ while compromising integrity.

The five-page letter to Betfair chief executive Tim Moore-Barton slams the betting giant, saying they have ‘no approval, authority or permission’ to offer Hong Kong markets on their exchange.

TRENTON AKERS reports for the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST that in a public broadside to Betfair’s parent company, Crown Resorts, the Jockey Club raises recent public allegations of money laundering and links to drug traffickers and organised crime, saying they pose a significant risk to the integrity of Hong Kong racing.

“Of particular note, on 8 August 2019, the New South Wales Government’s Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority (L&G Authority) announced an inquiry into a proposed sale of shares in Crown Resorts,” club secretary Philana Poon said.

“Such an inquiry into your holding company’s operations within the highly regulated casino industry manifestly raises concerns over the adequacy of corporate governance measures adopted throughout the Crown Resorts group.

“Betfair’s approach of commencing operating on Hong Kong racing without having secured any authority from the club to do this has done nothing to alleviate those concerns.”

The Jockey Club has also expressed its concerns with the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Racing Commission, which licences Betfair in Australia.\ Betfair held just over A$420,000 (HK$2,218,900) on Sunday’s season opening meeting, however Jockey Club chief executive Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges has continually emphasised it is not the loss of turnover that concerns him, but the hit to integrity that exchange betting offers.

The Jockey Club go on to accuse Betfair of taking a “free ride”, with the company paying no product fees to bet on Hong Kong.

“It is apparent to us that Betfair’s conduct confirms that it intends to ‘free ride’ on Hong Kong racing by exploiting the club’s racing product in the absence of any commercial or integrity agreement with the club,” Poon said.

 

CONTROVERSY CONTINUES TO RIDE SHOTGUN WITH CHIEF STIPE

CONTROVERSY rode shotgun with the appointment of Peter Chadwick to replace Allan Reardon as the QRIC Chief Steward.

Sadly that cloud over Chadwick hasn’t really lifted since his return to Australia from Singapore.

Events of the past week haven’t helped his cause with punters failing to accept what they describe as a ‘lame’ excuse for the Chadwick panel failing to inquire into the massive form reversal win at Eagle Farm last Saturday of Makdanife.

His suggestion that a drop in class was a legitimate excuse for Makdanife improving over 10 lengths in the space of a week doesn’t sit well with punters. One wrote: ‘If the rise to a Benchmark 85 was so herculean why did the horse run favorite?’

Form analysts can fathom, if the Chris Waller stable was questioned as Chadwick alluded in his response to criticism, why this was not published in the official Stewards’ Report where they saw fit to mention an inquiry into the performance of a $101 shot in the same race.’

Rather that drag this out and run almost a dozen ‘kicks in the guts’ that Peter Chadwick received in our Have Your Say basked, we will run just the one, which sums up the feelings of most:

‘Racing needs to be transparent. When stewards start to look like apologists for the poor performance or form reversals of horses from leading stables like that of Chris Waller it isn’t a good look. Lift your game Mr Chadwick or the punters will continue to call for your quick exit.’      

 

MELBOURNE CUP OF THE OUTBACK READY TO ROLL THIS WEEK 

THEY call it the ‘Melbourne Cup of the Outback’ but a visit to the annual Birdsville Cup meeting is an experience that no horse racing enthusiast will forget.

Perched on the edge of the Simpson Desert, Birdsville is home to 120 residents but once a year – this Friday and Saturday in fact – that number swells to more than 6,000.

Thousands of racegoers drive, bus and fly in from all over the country (some even from overseas) to witness the Holy Grail of Bush Racing – the running of the Birdsville Cup (PHOTO above, courtesy of PETER WALLIS).

They set up camp, party, punt and drink unbelievable amounts of beer. Hundreds take advantage of the nearby tourist attractions and even venture as far as Lake Eyre.

These days there isn’t a lot of accommodation in the township – a hotel-motel and caravan park meaning that on race week most rely on tent city and riverside campsites.

There is plenty of live entertainment apart from the races. A regular visitor for the Cup carnival is Fred Brophy and his Boxing Troupe. The last boxing tent showman in the country, Fred has become a legend at events around the outback.

Since the first race meet, this iconic day at the track has grown more than 4,000 percent to what you see today. The carnival now includes a 13-race program and boasts prize money of $200,000.

The focus for the future is improving the facilities both trackside and in town, while still keeping the quintessential Birdsville Races atmosphere alive. The race continues to be a major event for the local community and raises funds for much-needed club facilities and proudly supports the Royal Flying Doctor Service Queensland section.   

Seventeen year-old indigenous model and cancer survivor Venessa Harris is the official Ambassador for the 2019 Birdsville Races. An aspiring Aboriginal model whose family share a storied history with the Birdsville Races, Harris returns as the face of the iconic Outback carnival, following her inaugural role as Ambassador for the event in 2018.

Group 1 winning Adelaide trainer David Jolly will have a starter this year’s Birdsville Cup which he describes as a ‘lifelong bucket list experience’.

For the first time in his career, Jolly and his team will make the 2,400 kilometre return trek to compete in the carnival’s headline Cup with five year-old gelding Fulton Street and jockey Terry Treichel.

Treichel knows the Birdsville track and is hoping to go one better than his runner-up Cup finish on Boggoms last year.

 

 

CHIEF STEWARD EXPLAINS LACK OF ACTION ON FORM REVERSAL

QRIC Chief Thoroughbred Steward, Peter Chadwick, has responded to an opportunity from LETSGOHORSERACING to answer widespread racing media and punter criticism of panel’s handling of the apparent form reversal win of the Chris Waller-trained Makdanife’s win at Eagle Farm last Saturday.

This is what Mr Chadwick had to say:

AT Makdanife’s last four starts in NSW, prior to it starting in Queensland, it has performed well in lower Bench Mark races:

14 August: Warwick Farm BenchMark 70 Finished : 2nd  (beaten 1 length)

27 July: Rosehill, BenchMark 78, Finished 4th (beaten 5.7 lengths)

17 July: Warwick Farm, BenchMark 70 Finished 3rd (beaten 1.2 lengths)

3 July: Canterbury, BenchMark 74 Finished: 3rd (beaten 1.2 lengths)

At Makdanife’s first start in Queensland on 24 August, 2019, at the Gold Coast Metro meeting it did perform below market expectations when beaten by 10.1 lengths however it should be noted that it was also in a much higher Bench Mark race (BenchMark 85) than its earlier runs.

At its last race on Saturday 31 August at Eagle Farm when it won by 0.2 lengths the race was a BenchMark 75.

The horse’s performance on Saturday was consistent with its form in races of a similar BenchMark at its recent starts and was not entirely unexpected.

It should also be noted that the Brisbane Racing Club racebook comment for Makdanife was “Down in grade here so don’t dismiss”.

The Chris Waller stable said when questioned that whilst Makdanife’s form was consistent in the BenchMark class it may have also benefited from not having to travel and being in Queensland for more than a week.”

EDITOR’S COMMENT: We appreciate the explanation from Peter Chadwick and whilst not wanting to debate the issue forever we feel it necessary to ask one question that would be on the lips of most punters and form assessors: “If the Waller stable was questioned why then was their excuse not published in the official Stewards' Report.? After all it did contain a report on an inquiry into the failure of a $101 shot in the same race.”

 

‘IF CHIEF STIPE DOESN’T LIFT HIS GAME IT’S TIME FOR HIM TO GO’

UNSER FRITZ, who describes himself as an every-day punter who has given up on betting in Queensland, sent this interesting email:

‘I read with interest your story about the marked turnaround in form by the heavily backed Waller runner Makdanife at Eagle Farm on Saturday, and the subsequent failure of what is presumably Queensland Racing's leading stewards’ panel to ask any questions of the connections about the seemingly inexplicable improvement by the horse in the space of a week.

An almost identical form reversal by a well backed horse occurred at the Dalby TAB meeting on the same day, when a nag named Droplet - which had been beaten 6.5 lengths over the same course and distance two starts back, and then plodded in among the tail-enders 8.8 lengths from the winner on the sand at Royal Gympie at its most recent outing - suddenly sparked into life and ran like Phar Lap sitting three wide the trip and winning on its ear.

At least in that case the Chair of the stewards’ panel, Emily Barron, called Droplet's trainer Matt Kropp in for a please explain, and if it turned out that Kropp's explanation ended up being little more than piffle and nonsense, well at least Steward Barron tried, which is more than you can say about the non-effort of the State's Chief Steward in the Makdanife matter.

Trainers can swerve and spin and tell us fairy tales as much as they like, but the simple fact is that horses, like humans, don't grow a leg in a week, so the only inference to be drawn from these two well-backed winners improving 10 lengths in a week (Makdanife) or a fortnight (Droplet) is that something (explainable or otherwise) has occurred that none of us mug punters are privy to, and that's just a crying shame for our grand sport and the confidence in it of the average folk who invest their hard earned on it in the expectation that the QRIC crew will keep it clean.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Waller stable told The Sunday Mail it may have been the trip from Sydney that caused Makdanife to perform so poorly and Matt Kropp claimed Droplet’s form before a spell had been quite strong and that he felt her 1st-up run was adequate considering the fitness benefit taken and blamed resentment to the sand kick-back for her flop at Gympie).  

Regardless, many punters believe something's rotten in the state of Queensland Racing right now, and has been been for far too long. If Peter Chadwick can't fix it, or is unwilling to try to at least, then perhaps it's time that the Commissioner started looking elsewhere for a right hand man, because it seems that strange things in racing up here are like the hydra; you can cut off the head by getting rid of presumed villains like Ben Currie, but nothing changes except that for every head that gets severed a dozen more pop up.

I'm not saying that either Chris Waller or Matt Kropp are crook - they and their hitherto slow horses probably just got lucky on the day - but I am saying that the reluctance of the Queensland Stewards to stamp down on these wholesale form reversals is just not good enough, especially when the horses that do the Bradbury or Lazarus are backed as if there is no tomorrow. 

Something's gotta give.

It's up to QRIC to determine exactly what.

 

HORN HAS NOTHING MORE TO PROVE & CAN BOW OUT A CHAMPION

GLENN Rushton, the trainer of champion boxer Jeff Horn, would have won a few more friends had he taken a leaf out of jockey Luke Currie’s book on Saturday.

Only a few hours before Horn was battered into submission in his bout with Michael Zerafa in Bendigo, the family’s beloved mare Bettyrae Ruby broke down and was eased out of her race at Caulfield.

Currie did his best to ensure Bettyrae escaped life-threatening injury and be saved for a stud career. Rushton allowed Horn to cop far more punishment that he deserved before it was family who threw in the towel.

Horn’s father Jeff snr came to his corner as he was being pummeled in Round 9 and ordered Rushton and Horn’s brother Ben, his corner man, to stop the fight. Ben immediately jumped up on to the ring apron and threw a rolled-up T-shirt in to signal surrender.

Rushton came in for deserved heavy criticism from all-time great Jeff Fenech for allowing the beating to go on for too long, especially after Horn had been dropped for the second time in the fight in round nine and seemed out on his feet.

“The corner should never have allowed him to take that much punishment,’’ Fenech said. “I thought it was disgraceful.”

So did a lot of others.

Rushton said he was in two minds over what to do. “I think the world of Jeff Horn, I think of him like a son and it’s tough to see him get hit.”

To make matters worse Rushton then questioned whether Horn really had the hunger to fight on and said ‘pizzas and Coke’’ had to be eliminated from his diet if he wanted to continue boxing. Isn't he as the trainer responsible to see that doesn't happen.

Horn has proven a handy ‘meal-ticket’ for Rushton and has earned more than $5 million since signing to fight and score an upset win over Manny Pacquiao.

A measure of the man and his family could be seen on Sunday as he and wife Jo and their children took their Virgin economy (not business class as he could well afford) seats for the flight home from Melbourne.

They were contemplating that maybe enough is enough – and it is. On Saturday night Horn showed little resemblance to the relentless terrier who two years ago outmuscled Pacquiao, one of the greatest fighters in history, on one of the great days in Australian sport.

Jeff can walk away from competitive boxing with his head held high. His name will forever be etched in the history books, he was gracious in defeat, he has nothing to prove, he has to think of his health and his family.

Most of all he will always be a legend in the eyes of a legion of young and old boxing fans in this country and the greatest of those – his grandfather – although no longer with us would be the proudest of them all.

 

ARE THE NSW PUNTERS THE BIGGEST BUNCH OF MUGS IN THE LAND?

IS it any wonder that ‘Odds & Evens’ has proved a hit with NSW punters when they are prepared to back a despised outsider with no hope to win the San Domenico Stakes at Rosehill on Saturday?

Some might say it could only happen in Sydney. How Royal Popcorn, a five-start Maiden was allowed to start in a Group 3 classic for three-year-olds remains a mystery. They say you have to dream in racing but this fellow had finished no closer than fifth on debut at Nowra and at his latest start was beaten 17 lengths in a Mouriya Maiden.

They bet $301 – he started $101 – and on the NSW TAB well over $3,000 was invested on Royal Popcorn confronting them with a payout of over $1 million if the rest of the field fell over the he did a Bradbury.

Why would punters want to back Royal Popcorn when he had no chance? Probably because of the all the publicity his inclusion in the field created. It’s just like The Everest – give it wall to wall coverage and you are ensured of record turnover – not to mention the absurd prizemoney they race for.

 

JAMES CUMMINGS UP THERE WITH CHRIS WALLER WHEN IT COMES TO TIPPING

WE all know what a terrible judge champion trainer Chris Waller is when it comes to tipping his horses.

Punters are used to second string stablemates that have been backed beating the more fancied runners from the Waller stable. It has to happen when you have so many in work but is the stable that bad when it comes to assessing winners?

There was anger again among punters when Makdanife turned in a massive form reversal to win at Eagle Farm on Saturday one week after he ran a distant last at the Gold Coast. Who knows whether the anger was targeted at the late move for Makdanife or the fact that stipes didn’t bother to ask a single question about the improvement?

Now to another top trainer and the media’s pin-up boy James Cummings was asked to declare his best anywhere on Saturday. ‘Jimmy’ steered punters into Roosevelt in the six-horse last race at Rosehill on Saturday. It never looked like winning and ran fourth to the favorite God of Thunder.

Fortunately Cummings didn’t tell them to back the long odds-on Bivouac which was made look second rate by Exceedance in the San Domenico.

It was just another odds-on disaster for punters in Sydney which is becoming a regular Saturday occurrence.  

 

 

TRUMPETING PLANS TO MAKE RACING THE NO 1 SPORT IN QLD HAS TO BE A BAD JOKE!

RQ CEO Brendan Parnell was on racing radio today trumpeting plans to make racing in Queensland ‘the number one sporting industry in the Sunshine State.’

The reaction of most was akin to their feelings when former Racing Minister Steve Dickson declared Queensland would finish ‘a furlong in front of the major southern states’ under his then LNP Government.

It never hurts to plan big for the future but most who have followed racing in Queensland since Parnell was in short pants would suggest ‘he has to be dreaming’.

His comment on radio that: ‘We (racing) are not far behind rugby league crowd-wise in Queensland’ must have been researched by an out of whack abacus.

The biggest crowds attracted to major horse racing events in Queensland are in the range of 20,000 if they’re lucky – and that occurs once a year for Stradbroke Day, Mecca ‘Ferals’ Day Out, Ipswich Cup day and Magic Millions.

Average crowds at the Brisbane Broncos home games are in the range of 40,000 and that occurs regularly. The Brisbane Lions this season have attracted average crowds of close to 30,000 for home games. Even the North Queensland Cowboys, who are headed to a new complex next season, attract well over 20,000 for a home game against the Broncos.

So racing has got a long way to go to catch up with football even if it contributes far more to Government coffers through betting turnover and boasts more than 40,000 participants. RQ boasts that the racing industry contributes more than $1.2 billion in economic contribution to the State’s economy each year with over 40 per cent directly benefiting regional economies.

RQ has a strategic plan targeting: Five iconic race events, four new world-class facilities; $300 million in revenue; $250 million in payments to participants and one million attendances and participants per year.

The latter equates to 20,000 (in crowds and participants) at the three codes of racing at all the meetings across the state for every meeting of the year. That’s achievable but to compare it with what rugby league and Aussie Rules get during the season and it is infinitesimal and those sports do it on a fortnightly basis for only part of the year.

Parnell said RQ’s updated plans were centred on increasing returns to participants and enhancing amenities across the State. This includes night racing at the Gold Coast and possibly the same at Doomben subject to consultation with the community and airport.

Whilst greyhound racing has earned new infrastructure with increasing turnover and renewed popularity in the wake of the live-baiting controversy, some at the gallops are arguing that the same cannot be said for harness racing.

Regardless of that harness racing deserves better than what is being served up at Albion Park at present.

 

‘RIDE LIKE A GIRL’ BUT RISK PAYING THE ULTIMATE PRICE IN RACING

TWO female jockeys killed in the space of 36 hours and immediately the rising toll of women who choose to risk their lives in the saddle on a daily basis is under the microscope.

No sooner had the tight-knit racing community in Victoria digested the death of Mikaela Claridge in a freak track-work fall than news broke that Melanie Tyndall had been killed in a race fall in Darwin.

Mikaela was a recently married 22-year-old apprentice jockey and Melanie was a member of the Northern Territory police service but continued to pursue her passion for riding in races.

Almost 900 jockeys have died in race falls in Australia but since they were allowed to ride against the men, the number of female victims has risen alarmingly.

As ANDREW RULE reports for the HERALD-SUN:

“THE rise and rise of female jockeys is probably the industry’s best ‘feel-good’ story of the last quarter century, highlighted by Michele Payne’s 2015 Melbourne Cup win, to be immortalised this month when the film Ride Like A Girl hits the big screen. Let’s hope the film is as wonderful as it was to be at Flemington that day to see Michele Payne make history on Prince Of Penzance in one of racing’s golden moments.

“The bad news is that season after season, female jockeys are killed and seriously injured at a far higher rate than their male counterparts.

“It will take smarter people than this one to do the numbers, but when the subject came up after a spate of fatal falls in 2014, the statistics were brutal: a string of female riders had been killed or crippled over the previous two years, during which time no male riders were killed at all.

If that’s a statistical aberration, it is taking a long time to correct itself. At that point, approximately one in seven of Australian jockeys were female and yet half the most recent 12 racetrack deaths were women. And the rate of serious brain and spinal injuries reflected that same disproportion.

Every year there are more women jockeys. As more and more female apprentices have hit the saddle, they represent a bigger proportion of all jockeys. But although males still outnumber females roughly four to one, about half the jockeys killed are female. There was a decade when the female death rate was even worse than that.”

The fact remains that the top women riders in Australia can compete against the best of the men anywhere. The likes of Linda Meech, Jamie Kah, Kathy O’Hara, Nikita Beriman, Melbourne Cup winning Michelle Payne and the recently retired Claire Lindop to name but a few.

There are dozens of others who figure in the winner’s circle throughout the land every week of the year and no doubt more will be enticed into this dangerous profession after watching the soon-to-be released Payne movie: Ride Like A Girl.

From the days when Pam O’Neill and Linda Jones pioneered the role of women jockeys in racing they have continued to struggle for recognition. Despite their success the top-liners like Meech and Kah still struggle to attract big books of rides on the feature Saturdays – yet both are premiership winners who have shown they have the talents to compete on an equal footing with the best of the men.

As recently as the 1990s, female riders were regarded sceptically by punters and, privately, by some trainers and jockeys. Form guides back then had asterisks beside riders’ names to ‘warn’ punters of jockeys’ gender.

These days, no sane punter would care if the prefix “Ms” was in front of names like Kah, Meech, Beriman and the up-and-comers knocking at the door. To watch Meech judge a finish or Kah ride out a “swooper” like some latter-day Jim Johnson is as good as racing gets.

But that doesn’t alter the lopsided death and injury toll among female riders. That’s not a criticism. It’s a statistical fact the industry needs to face. One reason it doesn’t, perhaps, is that no one wants to be seen to be guilty of the surly old-fashioned chauvinism that is, in fact, now almost extinct.

 

DRIVING THE ‘KNIFE’ INTO THE PUNTERS WITHOUT ANY PROTECTION FROM THE STIPES 

THE decision by stewards not to question the form reversal win by Makdanife at Eagle Farm on Saturday not only bewildered punters but also angered them.

They were entitled to feel this way after Makdanife, a well backed $3.1 favorite, finished a 10 length last at the Gold Coast a week earlier when the riding tactics of Michael Cahill were queried.

Seven days down the track Mackdanife blew to $8.5 in a race at Eagle Farm where his stablemate was well tried early from $8 to $3.5. Then in a surprise late move Makdanife firmed from $8.5 to $5.5 and sprinted home strongly for ninth on the turn to win.

Punters have had a gutful of watching lesser-fancied stablemates trained by Chris Waller salute in Sydney and Brisbane on a regular basis with stewards simply accepting explanations for which there seems to be an endless list.

What irked punters and form analysts in particular was the lack of action from Eagle Farm stewards who didn’t even bother to ask a question of the Waller stable after this massive form reversal on Saturday.

Even the crew from SKY Channel who are reluctant to utter a controversial word were obviously gob-smacked by the Makdanife improvement. But not the stipes – not a word in the Stewards’ Report – and this is not good enough Peter Chadwick.

Surely your panel wasn’t too busy questioning the poor performance of Coronation Glade which ran last in the same race. For God’s sake – it was a $151 chance and not expected to do any better.  

When the RQ Chairman of Stewards was in charge at the Gold Coast a week earlier their report on the mule-like performance of Makdanife read:

‘When questioned regarding the riding tactics Jockey M. Cahill stated that the gelding had disappointed and may have been unsuited by the slow tempo in the race and was left flat-footed when the field sprinted from the 600m. Thereafter MAKDANIFE failed to run on when placed under pressure. A post-race veterinary examination failed to reveal any abnormalities. Stable foreman P. Shailer reported at this stage the stable will review the current campaign of the gelding and if anything comes to light in the coming days will advise Stewards accordingly.’

Well we didn’t hear anything from the stewards, so obviously the stable had nothing to report but Makdanife improved a furlong and someone didn’t forget to back the horse which is just another reason punters don’t want to bet in races where Waller has multiple runners.

It was left to Nathan Exelby of The Sunday Mail to do the stewards’ job and ask the stable for a reason on behalf of the punters. Their excuse: Perhaps it was the midweek travel from Sydney to the Gold Coast (which is the norm).

In the days when thousands actually attended the races such a form reversal would have provoked a rowdy demonstration and there most certainly would have been a stewards’ inquiry and some tough questions asked of the stable.

Punters are hoping that Peter Chadwick, who came to Brisbane with international experience, isn’t falling into the habits of some of his predecessors who saw their Day at the Races as simply a social occasion rather than a need to do the job of ensuring ‘policing of the product’ and ‘transparency’ which is largely the reason many punters no longer have the confidence to bet in Brisbane.

Surely, as some suggest, Waller isn’t a protected species. One punter even sent us an email asking if Ben Currie and not Chris Waller trained Makdanife would no action have been taken? We at letsgohorseracing don’t believe that to be the case for one moment despite the profile Waller will forever enjoy courtesy of ‘Winx, Winx, nudge, nudge’.

If Peter Chadwick or QRIC would like to explain why they didn’t inquire into the form reversal on Saturday we at LGHR and a legion of punters would love to know why. Perhaps it’s time some of these Waller horses that can’t run consistently were barred for a month and required to trial until they can.

We know that will never happen in Sydney but here’s a chance for Brisbane to lead the way.

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RIDING FOR THE DISABLED ASSOC is an international, not for profit organization that provides horse riding & associated activities for people with all types of disabilities. Over 140 RDA groups operate throughout Australia.

For more information or to locate the nearest centre to you, please visit their website at: www.rdaq.org.au.

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