Jenny - Clean


THE farcical situation confronting racing over the use of whips courtesy of the fruit loop – that should read animal liberation – lobby has intensified after the Melbourne Cup in which the jockeys of the three place-getters breached the ridiculous rules.

Veteran journalist Max Presnell asked a very much tongue-in-cheek question of Heather Neil, the CEO of RSPCA Australia, on the popular ABC radio show, Hoof On The Till.

“Are horse-drawn carriages in Melbourne kept under the same surveillance as races?” asked Presnell who later wrote in a column for Fairfax Media that these ‘cart horses look too good to be mistreated and I don’t query their handlers, but get disgruntled at suggestions of cruelty by racing men.’

Sadly – as Presnell conceded – the political clout of the animal activists has now reached the stage in this country where public, if not punter, opinion is storming towards more reform, where jockeys will be permitted to carry a whip but not use it during a race.

Ms Neil, described by Presnell, as the ‘charming if blinkered CEO of RSPCA Australia’, has responded with delight to the reaction of South African racing officials to public pressure on the issue.  

Thus, a whip-free race over seven furlongs at Turfontein was run recently, with a series expected to follow. South African officials figure the trials will determine if whip-free racing is feasible and in what capacity.

Presnell reported that it had coincided with Christophe Soumillon giving Thunder Snow a real shellacking in the Breeders Cup at Churchill Downs. Stewards in the United States turned a blind eye to Soumillon’s 16 clouts on Thunder Snow, but critics in Britain reckon that had he cut loose in a similar fashion there, particularly with the ‘rapid-fire style’, the penalty would have been severe.

Jamie Stier, now integrity playmaker for Racing Victoria, was involved in the creation of the British rules, which allow for action against any ride in which a jockey uses a whip more than seven times.

Soumillon’s 16 cracks of the whip would normally lead to a 19-day ban, plus more time if it was found he had hit with excessive force.

While Stier, speaking on Hoof On The Till was critical of the Australian rule, which has a basically a seven-strike limit until the 100 metres and few restrictions thereafter, Mark Van Gestel, the strong-arm behind New South Wales racing law enforcement, asked: “What’s the answer?”

Van Gestel stresses the stewards have the power of ‘discretion’, as do jockeys who can lose count with a big prize at the end of major races.

Presnell emphasizes that modern padded whips have hardly the power of a fly swatter. But the court of public opinion worldwide has become whip-shy and can no longer be ignored.

Ms Neil maintains punters would cop a no-strike edict sweet but Presnell says none that he spoke to at Rosehill last Saturday agreed. Alas it was an aged demographic, being hard to find anyone under 50 in the betting ring.



THERE was a message for Racing NSW and its head honcho Peter V’landys when the VRC Sprint Classic was run on the final day of the Flemington Cup carnival.

All the prizemoney in the world doesn’t guarantee the best field.

An arguably better field lined up for the Sprint Classic at Flemington for a mere $1 million in stakes compared to that which raced for an absurd $13 million in The Everest last October.

No doubt connections of Redzel, winner of The Everest for the second time, would disagree with the above sentiments. The Team Snowden galloper collected a cool $6 million for his last big win at Randwick and a paltry $25,000 for finishing fifth on Saturday.

In contrast, Santa Ana Lane, which some would argue is a better sprinter than Redzel (winners can laugh and losers can please themselves), failed to handle the Randwick bog finishing 6th in The Everest (collecting $350,000) but on Saturday made the Sydneysider look second rate in his VRC Sprint win on a dry track which netted $600,000 for his connections.

Redzel is a terrific horse and a winner of 10 races on good ground but seems to relish the heavy tracks these days. Santa Ana Lane is now a triple Group 1 winner for the Anthony Freedman stable.

Take nothing away from the ride of Mark Zahra but spare a thought for Ben Melham, sidelined by a whip suspension in the Derby that cost him the mount, because he remained loyal to a booking for Whoshot Thebarman in the Melbourne Cup.

Another point that shouldn’t be lost on the crew in Sydney who seem hellbent on tearing down the success story that is the Melbourne Spring Carnival, there were just over 40,000 at Randwick to see Redzel win The Everest. And that followed a mountain of publicity including the controversial Opera House sails fiasco.

There were over 67,000 at Flemington for the last day of the Cup carnival on Saturday taking the overall carnival attendance to more than 300,000 despite the dismal weather that greeted Cup day.

It just goes to show that you can throw all the money you like at events like The Championships and The Everest when it comes to drawcards the Melbourne Spring beats whatever Sydney tries to counter with year in, year out and will continue to do so.



A KEEN punter who rates Tony Brassel, Deane Lester and David Gately the three best racing media tipsters did an interesting exercise on the two big days of the Melbourne Cup carnival.

He compared the TOP 4 SELECTIONS of each of the trio and these are the results that he has provided us (which we have checked and found to be spot on):

SKY CHANNEL’S Brassel finished marginally in front after the 19 races on DERBY and CUP DAYS with 10 winners from his four selections, three of those were on-top selections.

LESTER from RADIO RSN in MELBOURNE had eight winners from his TOP 4 but did best of the trio with his on-top selections finishing with four.

GATELY from BEST BETS & RACING.COM finished with eight winners from his four selections, three of those on-top.

Looking at the exotics over the two big days and Brassel & Lester each netted two FIRST 4s, three TRIFECTAS & 5 QUINELLAS while Gately had one First 4, 2 Trifectas & 2 Quinellas.

The Melbourne Cup was an absolute nightmare for the star trio – not one of them found a solitary placegetter in their four selections.

Our contributor noted that while Gately highlighted the setback that Cross Counter had suffered and Lester conceded he was unsure, neither was as adamant as Ron Dufficy on SKY on Cup eve that the Godolphin runner had no hope.

The moral of his email was that any punter who followed the tipsters would have wound up the first two days of the carnival on the losing side of the ledger.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It should be taken into account that some of these guys do their tips days out from the meeting – Gately in particular for Best Bets is assessing the form on a Wednesday. Some of the big name tipsters in the mainstream racing print and broadcast have the advantage of tipping the previous day (some even on the day of the races) and still struggle to compete.



THIS comment piece by SYDNEY MORNING HERALD RACING EDITOR CHRIS ROOTS sums up perfectly what the MELBOURNE CUP is today:

IF you put a picture of the Melbourne Cup finish on a white background and asked anyone in racing where the race was run, they would almost certainly say somewhere in Europe.

The colours of the first five across the line are more familiar to Europe than Australia. The horses are most likely to race there than here for the majority of their careers.

The first Tuesday in November will always resound with Australians; it's our biggest sporting day, but unfortunately the two-mile race so loved no longer holds any relevance to our racing.

The once-a-year punters are now being matched by the once-a-year horses in Australia, here only for the Cup.

The custodians of the Cup, the Victoria Racing Club and Racing Victoria, will always be able to depend on tradition with the big race, but they have lost sight of what makes it great: Australian horses, trainers and jockeys.

While racing has moved forward in other places the Cup's attempts to become an international powerhouse race are becoming a retrograde step for it.

The Europeans are guaranteed a start in the race, which would be worth two years of racing at home, by the weights they are given. They are more likely to get under the handicapper’s guard making them even more competitive against our stayers, which are weighted to their best.

The VRC doesn’t pay travel subsidies, however it wines and dines the best of Europe with a lavish cocktail party during Royal Ascot. That's deemed more important than getting to carnivals around the country to support the local product.

Racing Victoria's handicapper Greg Carpenter has admitted the European three-year-olds are getting in light after consecutive victories. That will be reviewed, but he needs to look at Australian four-year-olds, which are pounded at the weights and why horses that race in Australia struggle to get into the race as they get older.



OBVIOUSLY, the answer isn’t banning the internationals. The Cup is no longer a trans-Tasman clash and nor should it be.

Without the internationals the Melbourne Cup would be a farce – just a better version of what we see in Sydney most Saturdays where a half dozen second rate Waller-trained stayers slug it out with a different result each week.

Plenty of cashed up racing identities in Australia, led by Teams Williams, are pooling their resources and buying big name European horses to contest the Cups.

The anomaly now seems to be that the European youngsters are getting in too light – a la the last two Cup winners in Rekindling and Cross Counter – and that anomaly needs to be addressed.

So does the qualification of the internationals. It seems there are so many races that aren’t up to Group 1 standard that it is easier to qualify for our biggest race overseas than it is here on Australian tracks.

But perhaps a boost to Cup day could be the addition of a 3200m race restricted solely to the locals – like a consolation for those who missed out on a start in the big two miler. They could call it the Makybe Diva after her great wins in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Rather than tinker with Oaks day – and pander to the social set rather than the poor old punter who has been loyal to Cup week for decades – the powers-that-be need to get things right with the race that stops the nation before the loony tunes decide it would be better run under lights at the MCG.

And while they are it these awards for riding and training excellence need to be looked at as well. How did James Macdonald and Team Hayes win those for the carnival just concluded? Without knowing the criteria and taking nothing away from what they did achieve, there were arguably far better performances over the four big days.

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