GRAHAM KLIESE CLAWS HIS WAY BACK IN THE WAKE OF ADVERSITY

A NORTH QUEENSLAND reader has asked the whereabouts or latest news on the top jockey Graham Kliese and has told LGHR of how the popular hoop was a victim of the recent Townsville floods then copped an unwarranted and unbelievable back-hander from QRIC. Here is the email that we received:

FOR years this highly skilled and popular rider has been the unchallenged leader of his profession in the north, has won multiple championships and every major race on every track in a riding reign that has netted in excess of 2,000 winners.

More importantly, he is known never to have been “mixed up in any funny business”. Ask any punter in the north for a translation or an interpretation of this phenomenon that they say has marred the reputation of racing in Queensland over the years.

But back to Kliese – he was severely injured in a race fall at Cairns in January 2018. It was an horrific fall and still threatens to keep him out of the saddle forever.

But he continues the fight to recover – and has not given up hope of a return to the saddle – thought more surgery is required in the coming weeks.

“I reckon I might still make it” was his latest call.

But Kleise’s dramas have not been confined to the track. He lost his house, car and most of his prized belongings in the dreaded February floods.

And then this!

He was told by QRIC recently that because he had not had more than 15 rides at a race meeting in Queensland in the past 12 months his professional license would be downgraded  to a status that would allow him to ride only in barrier trials.

Incensed, smoke coming of his ears, he was quickly on the phone to QRIC.

“Don’t you know I have been on Workcover for all these months,” he asked a person whose qualifications to be dealing with such a matter has to be questioned.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “You haven’t ridden and your license has been withdrawn.”

And you wonder why QRIC is under the gun. Someone should just pull the trigger. I will let you know if and when Graham Kliese gets a much needed apology.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: QRIC has the right of unedited reply should they wish to take that up with LGHR.

 

HAVE QLD TRAINERS GIVEN OFFICIALDOM A CURRIE ULTIMATUM?

HAS racing reached the stage in Queensland where a delegation of trainers met with officialdom and threatened to withdraw their nominations if Ben Currie is allowed to continue racing under stays of proceedings?

Did their unprecedented ultimatum result in the State’s leading trainer being hit with a ‘show cause’ notice from Racing Queensland asking why it should not invoke a rule that would effectively see the nomination of his horses refused?

This – like most other issues involving the Currie stable – would be challenged in court or at QCAT level. But, one could argue, this time there is a difference. AR55(1) states a Principal Racing Authority may decline to receive or after receiving reject any nomination in their absolute discretion and without giving reason for doing so.

Currie has been given until 2pm on Friday to provide a response. We at LGHR are laymen but repeat the question being asked by others in racing. Does this mean that the courts cannot rule ‘restriction of trade’ because Racing Queensland has the ‘power’ under this rule to make a decision that cannot be overturned by the courts.

Currie is facing close to 40 charges imposed by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission and plans to plead not guilty – having maintained his innocence from the outset.

According to The Courier-Mail the RQ ‘show cause’ claimed that Currie’s “ongoing participation in racing is eroding public confidence in the racing industry in Queensland”.

The notice said RQ “makes no judgment in relation to the allegations made in the charges”, but noted the circumstances that gave rise to the laying of the charges, the number of charges laid, the serious nature of the charges and the long standing nature of them, Currie’s position as a leading trainer in Queensland and the fact he is not permitted to nominate horses in New South Wales.

The RQ letter is in stark contrast to a ruling made by QCAT Member Steven Holzberger last week granting Ben Currie a stay on the suspension of his license issued by QRIC in February. Member Holzberger said Currie’s ongoing participation did not undermine the integrity of the sport.

This has again angered opponents of QCAT’s involvement in the decision making process of serious charges against licensees in Queensland despite a general consensus that everyone has the right to that magic wand, ‘natural justice’. They want QCAT replaced by a body where those calling the shots are not only ‘experts’ on the law but ‘experts on the three codes of racing’.

The whole situation – with drawn out appeals and continuing stays of proceedings – has got awfully messy and embarrassing for racing in Queensland with the Government, the Racing Minister and the control body all being dragged into what is a political mess. Many who have followed racing in the Sunshine State for years believe it was pretty well summed up by The Courier-Mail’s Nathan Exelby in his column The Verdict with an item: ‘Flawed Integrity System Fails to Pass the Test.’

Exelby hit the nail on the head in one sentence: ‘The integrity system Queensland racing is operating under is an unmitigated disaster.’

Strangely enough, one suspects that Ben Currie agrees although his lawyers have milked the system for all it is worth. More than anyone he must want the charges against him heard to lift this cloud over his stable and enable him to get on with what his fans say he does best – training winners – without the silent whispers every time he does.

 

HERE’S one of the few emails we have received on the Currie situation that our lawyers allowed us to run. It came from a regular who writes under the name of ‘Safari Mick’:

‘WITHOUT seeking to comment on the charges against trainer Ben Currie resulting from the 2018 Weetwood Day exercise, could QRIC explain why the four outstanding swab cases first announced in late 2018 have not proceeded?

Is there some form of legal direction/intervention (must have missed it if there is) which prevents this occurring?

Each of the four matters surely stand alone with its own facts and circumstances?

From memory some of the matters would refer to race meetings occurring over 12 months ago.

Why is it so difficult for QRIC to prosecute swab matters in a timely manner, as occurs elsewhere?

And in the meantime owners are denied additional prizemoney to which they'll eventually be entitled!

The QRIC system might be broke but ‘those responsible’ can rectify these matters themselves.

And people such as Aquis wouldn't feel obliged to protest!’

 

THE SHORTAGE OF BUSH JOCKEYS CONTINUES TO DEVELOP INTO FARCE

REGULAR contributor GREG BLANCHARD of NUDGEE again weighs into the debate on the SHORTAGE of BUSH JOCKEYS:

‘TO use a line from the Peter Finch movie Network "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take in anymore’.

We have again had horses scratched from meetings due to no riders being available – seven at Mt Isa on Saturday. It’s an on-going problem.

I will continue to advocate for RQ to look at getting Asian jockeys here to fill the gaps.

A few years back we had the Hong Kong apprentices. We lost them to South Australia and what an asset they are.

Over the years I've been promised about getting Korean apprentices here like the ones Sue Grylls and Brett Bellamy had and like the two Korean apprentices Craig Smith some years back at Roma.

There is a three-month visiting apprentice licence but others in the past have been able to stay longer, like Shenny Chan and Geoffrey Leung from Hong Kong.

It’s not just Korea. I'm sure there are countries around Asia who would fill gaps and gain experience by sending apprentices here.

Michael Zarb is Chief Steward in Busan, Korea. Why not make contact with him or another Aussie Fin Powrie who just started in Malaysia. What about the Korean horse schools we used to get through RQ that were lost a few years ago. I know last year they were here spending time between an equestrian centre on the Gold Coast and a stud in south-east Queensland.

I’m a passionate advocate for overseas students, jockeys etc and the bush. I have no vested interest and for a bloke nearly 60 I think the situation is pretty sad. I seem to be the only one pushing this barrow though. 

 

HORSE RACING ON GOOD FRIDAY – WE CAN DO WITHOUT IT!

HAS our greed for gambling got to the stage where we need racing on Good Friday?

Just because it has proved a supposed success in Western Australia and Tasmania doesn’t mean the eastern States should follow suit.

The punters are often forgotten but this is about the participants and they deserve a race-free day to spend with their families.

Training horses is a seven-day-a-week business but that doesn’t mean those involved have to go the races 364 days of the year as well.

As Matt Stewart wrote in his popular column ‘Unbridled’:

‘FEW other professions drag people from their families and sap the life out of them like Australian racing. Gaps that may once have appeared on the day, on the calendar, are now plugged with a day and night race-athon that feeds racing’s bursting coffers while running its participants ragged.

Good Friday has long moved on from a day of religious significance. It is now a day that allows us to step away from work treadmills that would keep thundering along night and day if they could. It’s a day that reminds us that our lives have balance – or should have.

Racing justifies plugging night and day holes by a blinkered rationale – it makes money. More people are betting. It must be good.

This is the mindset that has some racing officials now pondering Good Friday not as a day of rest and reflection but as a gap to be filled; “justified” by passing on a few bucks to the needy.

By saddling up on Good Friday, racing would be sending a message that it is addicted to itself and cannot stop. The message to participants would be that the industry and its endless appetite are more important than you, just once, finding time for happy snaps and bunny ears.’


RACING QUEENSLAND IN STATE OF CHAOS AS CURRIE RISKS BALI BELLY AT MATE’S WEDDING

INTERSTATE media is having a field day as racing in Queensland remains a laughing stock in the eyes of the nation with the Ben Currie saga degenerating into an absolute farce.

Here’s how RSN Racing Editor, MATT STEWART, one of the most respected turf commentators, reported on the latest events under the headline: QUEENSLAND STATE OF CHAOS:   

AS Queensland racing officials desperately search for a rule that might allow them to ban trainer Ben Currie, the calamity of the Currie saga grows.

A “rare” rule might be used to refuse Currie entries immediately, with more to come on that today.

Currie was originally hit with 31 charges last May relating to alleged illegal raceday treatments and a further seven charges were issued in February, including alleged use of a “jigger.” Then followed five swab irregularities, then two more jigger charges.

Due to Queensland’s multi-tiered penalty and appeals system, Currie has ben able to train on as charges and angst mount.

Gazillionaire Chinese-owned, Queensland-based racing and breeding syndicate Aquis announced earlier this week that it would not race horses in Queensland until the Currie/integrity/legal process saga is sorted out.

David Hayes, who races top filly Fundamentalist with Aquis, has also banned itself from the Queensland winter racing carnival, citing concerns over an uneven playing field.

Hayes may have campaigned dual Australian Cup winner Harlem and a handful of others in Queensland.

“We have a situation where there is a strong likelihood a trainer has broken the rules and we still have him being able to enter and race horses,” Hayes said.

“Until they get this cleaned up, and the legal issue that allows it, we’re happy to stay away.”

Both the president and vice president of the Queensland branch of the Australian Trainers Association yesterday stood down because of the Currie situation.

Chris Munce, the president, said he wanted to concentrate on his team of horses without being weighed down or compromised by the Currie drama and his vice-president, Jim Murdoch, followed suit because he found himself in an ethical bind – he is also Ben Currie’s barrister.

Queensland ATA secretary Cameron Partington joined Racing Pulse this morning and insisted Queensland racing “isn’t all doom and gloom” but “there were some very serious integrity issues.”

He said the appeal process, via the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was problematic and long-winded.

He said a group of trainers would meet with the Queensland racing minister on Thursday to explore more expedient ways to prosecute cheats.

Currie, meanwhile, is in Bali where he is best man at a mate’s wedding.

 

                      RACING VICTORIA RELEASES RACE DATES FOR 2019-20

RACING Victoria (RV) has today released its 2019-20 Race Dates following extensive consultation with Racing Clubs and industry stakeholders.

The 12-month schedule of meetings will see Victoria host 558 race meetings over 351 days – one more race meeting than the 2018-19 season due to 2020 being a leap year.

The 558 race meetings are split as follows – 115 metropolitan, 390 country TAB, 20 country non-TAB and 33 picnic meetings. Victoria programmed 557 in the 2018-19 season which is 17 less meetings than a decade ago.

In response to industry feedback, the 2019-20 Race Dates contains four additional midweek metropolitan meetings throughout September and October 2019, to be held at country venues.

These meetings will be held at Bendigo (11 September and 9 October), Cranbourne (18 September) and Ballarat (2 October) and carry minimum prizemoney of $50,000 per race, up from $26,000 per race last spring.

To ensure continuity of midweek metropolitan racing in spring, Sandown have also been allocated an additional meeting on Wednesday, 4 September 2019.

Other changes or decisions of note in the 2019-20 Race Dates include:

  • The All-Star Mile – The second edition of the world’s richest mile race will take place at Caulfield Racecourse on Saturday, 14 March 2020 – retaining its position as a signature race in the Festival of Racing, one week after Super Saturday at Flemington;
     
  • Race-free Mondays and double-header Wednesdays - Based on the strong overall wagering numbers over the past two years, race-free Mondays and double-header Wednesdays will continue from December 2019 to March 2020;
     
  • Night and twilight racing – A total of 56 night meetings and 20 twilight meetings, equating to 13.6% of total meetings, have been programmed in 2019-20 – the same as the current season. Included within are new twilight meetings at Flemington on Sunday, 9 February 2020 and Wednesday, 4 March 2020;
     
  • Country Cups - As a result of the Sunday twilight meeting at Flemington, the Colac Cup will be run one week later than 2019 on Sunday, 16 February 2020. The Yarra Valley Cup meeting has been moved from its traditional Sunday afternoon timeslot in March to the Friday before Christmas, being 20 December 2019, at the request of the Club;
     
  • Synthetic Racing - The synthetic racing season will conclude two weeks earlier than last year on Tuesday, 10 September 2019, providing trainers more turf options leading into the Spring Racing Carnival. As a result, the number of meetings conducted on synthetic has reduced from 37 to 35 of which 18 will be held at Racing.com Park and 17 at Ballarat;
     
  • Ballarat – An increase in the number of meetings programmed at Ballarat from 30 to 36 as a result of the synthetic track being fully operational and the turf track being able to conduct meetings in January and February; and
     
  • Geelong – Geelong has been allocated 25 turf meetings, up from 21 in the current racing season, following the conclusion of synthetic racing at the venue in September 2018.

RV General Manager – International and Racing Operations, Paul Bloodworth, said, “With strong wagering, participation and engagement results and the consolidation and success of night and twilight racing we have not sought to make wholesale changes to the Race Dates in 2019-20.

“We are pleased to offer additional metropolitan midweek meetings at country venues in early spring to provide trainers with more lucrative options to prepare their horses for key races during the Spring Racing Carnival.

“After the successful running of the original The All-Star Mile, we are also pleased to confirm the meeting will retain its timeslot and be run on Saturday, 14 March in 2020. We believe the race fits nicely within the Victorian and national racing calendar at this time and provides a terrific platform to showcase the world’s richest mile race which will now move to Caulfield.

“The continuation of race-free Mondays and double-header Wednesdays is another positive for the industry following strong wagering results. The Wednesday twilight meetings saw a turnover increase of 19.7% compared to the previous season, reaffirming that punters prefer a product held at times that they can engage with it.

“On behalf of RV, I would like to thank our key stakeholders and Race Clubs who engaged in the consultation process and helped deliver a set of Race Dates that are in the best overall interests of the industry.”

 

GRAHAM QUIRK – THE ANSWER TO RACING QUEENSLAND’S WOES?

RACING Queensland needs a new leader – someone that can haul the industry from the quicksand and win back respect instead of watching it degenerate into a bigger laughing stock interstate.

That man is Graham Quirk, whose shock resignation as Lord Mayor of Brisbane has presented the State Government, the Racing Minister and the Queensland racing industry with a perfect opportunity.

Quirk might be on the opposite side of the fence to the Labor Government but ask anyone who has watched the industry disintegrate over the years and they will blame it on politics.

What many people, including long-time fans of the contribution Councillor Quirk made to the city of Brisbane as Lord Mayor don’t know, is that he is a great fan of the gallops and greyhound racing.

Pioneer lady jockey Pam O’Neill remembers seeing him as a youngster working around stables in Hendra after school. There are stories of him being actively involved at an early age in the greyhounds. When time permitted in his busy Council schedule he loved nothing more than a day at the races and was a regular on the country circuit with the father of world boxing champion Jeff Horn, a close relative. Graham is an auctioneer and has conducted sales for the Breeders in Toowoomba to keep his licence active. He has an ownership interest in racehorses. And his biggest fan, his sister, Trish, has worked on race days (mostly on the gate) at Eagle Farm and Doomben for more years than she can remember.

Anyone who doubts Quirk could take the politics out of the equation if it came to what was in the best interests of the three codes of racing needs only to hark back to the protest meeting in Brisbane some years back when several politicians and industry heavyweights were invited to weigh into the debate about the parlous state of the industry in Queensland.

While then Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg was determined to turn the protest meeting into a political vendetta and blame racings woes on the Labor Government, Quirk did not mention politics once, focussing more on what could be done to correct and address the problems confronting such an important sport.

After a succession of high profile racing and business identities have tried and failed – with racing in Queensland now a bigger joke than it has ever been in the eyes of the nation – there will never be a better opportunity to encourage a better credentialed and popular identity to right the ship.

Come on Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe – you are winning a multitude of fans with your stance on a number of contentious issues since taking over the portfolio – it’s time to convince your Labor colleagues to bite the political bullet and send an SOS to Graham Quirk to save Racing Queensland.

You can bet London to a Brick On you will have the full support of the Opposition not to mention the racing industry in general.

 

CRASH, BANG, WALLOP – THIS AIN’T FAKE NEWS GINGERBREAD MAN!

LONG before becoming publisher of LETSGOHORSERACING, in the days when the DAILY SUN was born, Robert Craddock and I worked together covering harness racing.

‘Crash’ was always destined to reach the top of the mountain in sports writing – largely as one of the best to cover his beloved cricket on an international basis for News Ltd. But he never lost his love for the gallops and especially the trots.

Unlike yours truly, Robert was reluctant to criticise unless absolutely necessary. Such is the respect that he has achieved over many years not only as a great sports-writer but also as a radio and television commentator that when Craddock does criticise these days, readers tend to listen and agree with his opinion.

Such has been the case with his outspokenness on the saga involving young trainer Ben Currie. ‘Crash’ has been quick to highlight that what he writes ‘makes no assertion Currie is guilty of any charges’.

Nor do we at LGHR but agree with the Craddock comment that ‘the fact Currie is allowed to stay front and centre in the Queensland racing industry while he has so many charges against him has turned the Queensland industry into a nationwide subject of derision, especially after Melbourne trainer Darren Weir was recently stood down within days of jigger charges against him being laid.’

What a sad state of affairs we have with the industry – from participants to officials – divided on the Currie issue. He has been ‘banned’ from attending Eagle Farm and Doomben but not so race days at other TAB tracks, in particular his home venue of Clifford Park.

The situation hit rock bottom when the Queensland Carnival began in Toowoomba last Saturday with confirmation the Racing Minister would not present the trophy to Currie if he won one of the major races. It’s almost unprecedented in racing in this country.

As Craddock wrote:

If you were a politician would you want to be seen sharing a smile with Currie on the nightly news?

Currie is facing a staggering 37 charges by stewards on a range of alleged offences, including race-day treatments and use of a jigger, plus four more for swab abnormalities.

The instant the Minister and Currie got photographed together that shot would become a defining image of a saga that has become too big and complex for the local industry to handle.

You don’t reckon the opposition might bring that photo to the next show and tell session in parliament?

But secondly, and, more importantly, the trophy boycott will recognise that Currie — and his horses — should simply not be allowed to be there.

At risk of being accused of plagiarising almost the entire story ‘Crash’ wrote – it’s too good not to reproduce - Hinchliffe deserves some credit for his boycott — but he cannot be painted as a hero because the system he presides over has allowed Currie to be there in the first place.

The system has let down the sport.

There are what you might call innocent victims of the Currie saga. Write something critical of him and his supporters will take you to task as LGHR has discovered. Support his cause like Archie Butterfly has in his blog and there are those who will label you a ‘nut case’. Work for the media and fail to ask him some tough questions after he wins a race, as has been the case with SKY and you will lose credibility, a la Bernadette Cooper; worse still try to wear two hats as a lawyer and a trainer with a passion for horse racing like Jim Murdoch and websites like ours will be inundated with ‘hate mail’ about you.  

Sadly, it seems, there is no middle ground in the Currie case.

Ben is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but we, at LGHR, are sickened by the system that allows him to continue to train and has done so for the past year. As ‘Crash’ declared: ‘Some call this justice. I’m calling it an utter embarrassment.’

How many regular Weetwood racegoers refused to attend on Saturday because of the Currie situation? Don’t under-estimate the numbers! 

The last word on this subject again goes to ‘Crash’: ‘I have a mate who said he would refuse to watch the Weetwood because of the Currie saga, claiming “Queensland racing can get stuffed.” I told him I thought it already was.’

 

MORE INQUIRIES, APPEALS & STAYS AS THE BEN CURRIE SAGA CONTINUES

QUEENSLAND Racing Integrity Commission Stewards have today (Friday) advised legal representatives for Toowoomba Trainer Ben Currie that a further prohibited substance has been detected in a sample taken from a horse he trains.

Stewards will allege Mr Currie brought the thoroughbred Eight Over to race on 2 February 2019 at Toowoomba with prohibited substances in its system. A sample from the horse was tested after winning race 3 on that day.

It is intended that the Stewards' Inquiry for this matter will be heard along with four inquiries relating to positive samples taken from Shakira, Wicked Trilogy, Karaharga and Dreamscope in 2018.

The date for the inquiry is yet to be determined.

 

 

JOHN PAUL LANGBROEK BLASTS 'PERFORMANCE & PROPAGANDA' OF QRIC

LNP Shadow Racing Minister John Paul Langbroek has blasted the performance of the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission in State Parliament accusing the body of using propaganda to support a success rate that doesn’t exist.

Here is what he had to say, according to the official Hansard report:      

Mr LANGBROEK (Surfers Paradise—LNP) (7.12 pm): I rise to speak about the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission as the LNP shadow minister for racing.

We support integrity in racing. However, we believe that racing's integrity is being compromised by QRIC and the Labor Party to the detriment of the three racing codes and also to Queensland citizens, and all this with a budget last year of $26.4 million.

Queensland racing is big business. From the 2018-19 annual report, there were 42,000 participants, 21,000-plus owners, 130 race clubs, 119 racecourses, 12,000-plus races run, 103,000 starters and an economic contribution of $1.2 billion per annum.

Despite working in tandem with the CCC, Racing Queensland, the Queensland Racing Crime Squad, Crime Stoppers, phone intercepts and a conga line of internal and external solicitors, as well as through the use of coercive hearings and search warrants, QRIC cannot get it right.

Do not be fooled by QRIC's propaganda about how many people have been charged because most charges by QRIC do not stick. QCAT resolved 21 cases in 2017-18. QRIC won five at QCAT—five out of 21.

The public face for the Labor Party's Racing Integrity Commission holds press conferences and publishes media releases about charges QRIC makes, but it seems that that is all they are—charges, dropped before or at prime facie level or even at trial.

Today I must profile harness racing and the tawdry way that QRIC has mishandled matters of integrity within that industry just about every step of the way over almost the last two years. People have been tossed out of harness racing when they were charged. Their names were blackened, their lives tipped upside down, their relationships tested, their income streams and livelihoods ripped from them time and time again based on what we know now were flimsy, vexatious charges but charges anyway—more ticks and flicks for QRIC.

Think of the lives affected because of QRIC's inability to perform. I want to look at some of the cases such as 19-year-old Leonard Cain charged with match fixing—really, race fixing. The charges were beaten in court, but the charges alone prevented this young man from driving in the USA. Dayl March—another race-fixing charge and another charge beaten in court. Mathew Neilson—race fixing, charges dropped. There is a common thread here. Then there was Shane Graham, fraud charges dropped, and Vicki Rasmussen, fraud charges dropped. All of these licensees had their names published on QRIC's website at the time of these charges, but their dismissal of charges had never been denoted on that site. So much for QRIC's statement of fairness and transparency. There is another significant case that I intend to return to in a future speech.

The facts remain that the three racing codes need an integrity body, but it has to be just, reasonable and responsible and charge wrongdoers only when evidence points to that and provide integrity to those whose reputations are sullied on social media and elsewhere.

The LNP will deliver that when in Government. We will become known as Queensland's racing party. You bet it will!

 

PUNTERS FIND IT IMPOSSIBLE TO FOLLOW FORM IN QLD STAYING RACES

ANGRY punters have had a gutful and all but given up on trying to back the winners of middle distance races at major TAB meetings in south-east Queensland.

In a series of emails to the WHINGE in recent weeks they have called for tougher stewards’ action amid claims that the form of horses from the powerful Chris Waller stable is becoming increasingly hard to follow.

Their anger reached boiling point at the Sunshine Coast on Sunday when Cormack beat drifting favourite and desperately unlucky stablemate Wu Gok.

For legal reasons we won’t publish comments received from punters concerning Jeff Lloyd’s ride on Wu Gok but hasten to add that stewards, under the chairmanship of James Williamson, did ask some questions but essentially accepted explanations provided.

Their report, which failed to impress many punters, read:

WU GOK: Jumped awkwardly, lost ground. Held up from the 600m until approaching the 300m and then laid in under pressure in the home straight, causing the rider to stop riding and straighten over the concluding stages. Jockey Lloyd reported connections had indicated to him in light of this they would now experiment with the addition of a bubble cheeker to the horse’s gear. 

Punters in Sydney have become accustomed to Waller winners beating their more fancied stablemates and on most occasions this attracts little mention from stewards. With so many horses in training and multiple runners in races this is bound to happen but it doesn’t sit comfortably with those trying to assess the form.

The mainstream media choose largely to ignore it rather than risk getting Waller off-side. He has so many high profile horses that they need him for regular news, especially when he has a horse like Winx racing.

Without suggesting anything untoward – we leave integrity up to the Stewards – here is what has punters scratching their heads form-wise about the middle distance races in south-east Queensland in recent times where there seems to have been a merry-go-round of Waller horses dominating.

Over the past six weeks we have seen Follow Suit beat Vaucluse Bay; then Vaucluse Bay beat Estikhraab and Follow Suit (5th); Wu Gok beat Vaucluse Bay & Follow Suit; Borazon beat Tactee and Cormack beat Wu Gok.

Waller continues to despatch his second rate stayers from Sydney to Queensland where they have discovered a stable goldmine. There seems to be a different winner each time they step out.

This is what one Brisbane punter had to say: “If you are keen to bet in the staying races at the major TAB tracks in south-east Queensland you are plain crazy. Don’t follow the form, follow the money. As far as the Waller stable is concerned it seems every child wins a prize.”

 

THE GOOD, THE SAD & THE UGLY NEWS FROM THE PAST WEEK

MARTY BACK IN HIS RIGHTFUL ROLE SERVING THE RACING INDUSTRY

IT was GOOD to see that former VRC executive general manager of racing Martin Talty has not been lost to the industry and will soon take up a new role as the chief executive of the Australian Jockeys' Association.

In announcing the appointment, AJA chairman Des O’Keeffe said Talty, who was also the former Dubai Racing Club International Racing Manager, will bring a range of skills into the role.

“Martin Talty’s application stood out amongst the 80 received,” O’Keeffe said. “The board was unanimous that a stellar 30-year career in world racing, including executive roles with the Emirates Racing Authority, the Dubai Racing Club, and most recently with the Victoria Racing Club, identified Martin as the perfect fit for this important role.

“The bonus for us is Martin also brings high level experience and skill in media, communication, negotiation and administration.”

Talty was a former high profile racing scribe with Fairfax Media in Sydney.

 

SAD LOSS OF MICK BURLES – A TRUE CHARACTER OF OZ RACING

IT was SAD to hear of the passing of one of Australian racing’s much loved characters of the recent era in Tasmanian Mick Burles, trainer of the crowd favourite, The Cleaner.

Rather than us try to describe the life and times of Burles we have reproduced a wonderful obituary written by one of the best scribes in the business, Matt Stewart, Racing Editor of RSN, which we are sure he won’t mind. So here goes:   

WHEN the iron grip of the racing superpowers is temporarily loosened, racing benefits because wonderful stories and characters are revealed.

If the dominators always dominated then we’d never have got to know Vic Rail or Joe Janiak.

Or Mick Burles.

I spent a day and a half with Burles in Longford in 2015 as his “goose-arsed” horse, The Cleaner, was being prepared for a second crack at the Cox Plate.

Burles died from emphysema (this week) at the age of 70.

He’d spent his last few months in a retirement home but when I visited in October 2015, Burles resided in a shipping container next to his stables across the road from Longford racecourse, Australia’s oldest.

The “donga” wreaked of stale cigarettes. Burles had told me he had his first ciggie on the Port Arthur jetty when he was five, about two years after his old man bolted, leaving Burles’ mum stranded with 14 kids.

Most of them had crippled lungs their entire lungs and only two – one being Mick – smoked. Two died from lung complications as infants.

Mick’s donga was spartan. A few horse prints on the steel walls – The Cleaner winning here and there – a Johnny Cash-style black suit on a hook, complete with a powder blue tie to match The Cleaner’s livery, and an oxygen bottle.

For a bloke who’d never had good lungs and made them worse with every ciggie, Burles had lived an extraordinarily full life.

He was part-Aborigine and claimed to be a descendent of Truganini, the last of the true-blood Tasmanians, and was born on the Port Arthur Peninsula, becoming a “rat-bag” kid where the school teacher made him shear sheep and plough paddocks to get him out of her classroom.

He later worked at a pulp mill and joined the army at age 20 where Sam Kekovich “whacked me and I was out like a light” in an army versus VFL game. Burles became a footy ‘lifer”, playing a (believed to be) Tassie record of 494 games, retiring at age 44 to coach the Penguin seniors.

He farmed and drove trucks and learned how to train racehorses, settling in Longford, that town of legends and ghosts, about 20 years ago.

His wife Lyn died from emphysema about 15 years ago and Burles needed a companion, so he paid $10,000 for The Cleaner at a Tassie yearling sale. “I knew his mother. She was tough,” he told me in 2015.

So The Cleaner lived in a paddock just outside the donga (“I can open my window and talk to him”) and became one of the best Tasmanian-trained horses of all-time, winning just about everything over there and winning two Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes en route to two brave unplaced runs in the Cox Plate.

Mick and The Cleaner would cross Bass Strait often in high seas. He would depart Longford for Devonport to a heroes’ farewell, with the streets lined with fans and tickertape. The mountain men rode into town one year, to form a guard of honour.

The Cleaner’s owners weren’t Sheikhs or billionaire breeders but golf partners. The syndicate was formed on the first tee at “Royal” Longford. One of them, a pump salesman with a stringy beard, said he’d go in the goose-arsed yearling only if he sold a pump the next day, which he did.

Burles was an astute trainer. He once cleaned out an SP bookie at Longford’s Queen’s Arms Hotel – nicknamed the “Swinging Arms” because of regular bar brawls that dated back to the 1830s – with a string of parlay bets.

He pulled off astute little plunges and many of them involved The Cleaner, whose rise through the ranks exploded when Burles decided to fit him with a set of blinkers.

Like Vic Rail, Joe Janiak, Geoff Perry – remember him, the colourful owner of Stylish Century? – and Paul Makin, the big-punting, big-talking owner of Starcraft, Burles was a part of our lives for as long as his horse was newsworthy.

Burles was a genuine battler, not a manufactured one.

Les Carlyon often observed that someone’s appearance reflected their life story. He said something once about Vic Rail’s face, comparing it to an aerial shot of a barren landscape.

Mick Burles had a pretty rough noggin; old and weathered, deep lines, a face that was coarse and leathery. He didn’t talk tough but he talked straight.

He wasn’t a sentimental type but he loved The Cleaner because the “Longford Lion” was his mate.

 

STEPS NEED TO BE TAKEN TO ENSURE THIS NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN 

IT was an UGLY accident – one that not a sole in harness racing saw coming – but steps need to be taken to ensure it never happens again.

LGHR joins the entire harness community praying for a successful recovery for Lara Whitaker, the tiny daughter of reinsman Gary and mum Joedy and brother to Josh, who were the innocent victims of a freak accident at the Redcliffe Paceway.

Both children were injured when the arm of the mobile barrier failed to retract and struck them at the start of the fourth race at Redcliffe on Sunday night. Their father was also struck but suffered only minor injuries.

Mother Joedy has used social media to provide an update on her children. She wrote that “Lara is in a critical but stable condition and has a long, slow recovery ahead of her and remains in ICU.” She said Josh was showing “great improvement.”

The dramatic nature of the incident saw it make national news headlines and attract television attention. The arms of the mobile failed to retract and swept through the back of the track where the Whitaker family was standing close to the outside fence, facing the other way.  

Apart from the fact that this has changed the lives of an entire harness loving family spare a thought for the mobile driver and the officials in charge of the meeting which was subsequently abandoned not to mention the crowd in attendance at Redcliffe, some of whom were reportedly heavily traumatized.

It’s not time to be playing politics but steps need to be put in place to ensure such a freak accident never happens again. Perhaps it comes down to infrastructure which has been a much discussed topic in harness racing – should the present mobile be grounded and a new one purchased immediately?

On a more positive side a GO FUND ME PAGE to assist the family’s medical costs has raised over $30,000. But let’s face it, that bill should be met by Racing Queensland.

 

AND to all of those who complain we can't complete a WHINGE without mention of the BEN CURRIE saga well there you go. What a shame another week couldn't go by without yet another delay in proceedings. Not to worry there is sure to be some finalization of this farce by the end of the century.  

 

 

 

QUESTIONS NEED TO BE ANSWERED AFTER FAMILY TRAGEDY AT PACEWAY

REDCLIFFE Paceway was the scene of a tragic family accident on the weekend when the starting gate on the mobile failed to retract striking several spectators.

Harness fans are calling for safety questions to be asked and answered amid a full inquiry by Racing Queensland on how this could happen.

A two-year-old girl is fighting for her life and in a critical condition with facial injuries.

Police said one of the gates attached to the starting vehicle did not retract and hit spectators watching on the side of the track at Redcliffe Paceway just before 7pm.

The girl was taken by ambulance to Queensland Children’s Hospital in a critical condition with face and abdominal injuries.

Queensland Ambulance Service operations supervisor James Thompson told the Brisbane Times that the scene was "fairly chaotic" when paramedics first arrived.

Two critical care paramedics, the High Acuity Response Unit and three ambulances responded to the incident.

A 39-year-old man and woman and a one-year-old boy were also taken to QCH, but their injuries were non-life-threatening.

All four victims were from Kensington Grove, in the Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane, and were believed to be a mother, father and their two children.

Redcliffe Harness Racing Club posted on Facebook on Sunday: "Our thoughts & love with those injured in the mobile incident (no names deliberately). Thanks to everyone who helped so quickly."

The Forensic Crash Unit and Workplace Health and Safety were investigating.

 

 

DUMB & DUMBER – RACING.COM LETS ‘GATOR’ ESCAPE TO SKY

PUNTERS have posed the question: HOW dumb is the Melbourne-based broadcaster Racing.com in allowing one of the best tipsters in the land to escape?

They are referring to the announcement that high profile form analyst and racing TV personality David Gately has found a new home at SKY Channel.

Racing.com has copped nothing but flak from the punting public since they dumped the tipster known to his legion of fans as ‘Gator’.

Postings have suggested that many Gately followers now refuse to watch the Thursday night preview program Get On where he was the No 1 drawcard by a mile. The following email probably best sums up how many punters now feel about that show:

Get On is Get Off without Gator. Most punters regard host Richo as a clown when it comes to tipping. ‘Laurel and Hardy’ from the corporates just make it even more farcical. ‘Hutchi’ is the only one with any tipping talent and he must feel embarrassed having to line-up with this motley crew every week. And the least said about Zerafa the better when you delve into his tipping background.’

Gately is due to join SKY next month and will contribution to their network of SKY Racing, SKY Sports Radio, RadioTAB and through SKY and TAB social media which will please the punters. Here’s hoping his link with them doesn’t mean ‘Gator’ is lost to the popular publication BEST BETS.

“I am extremely excited to be joining the Sky/TAB team,” Gately said. “I have been a fan of SKY Racing since its inception way back in 1985 and dreamt of working with the organisation, pretty much from those very early days.

“I am passionate about the educational aspect of horse racing, I am keen to pass on whatever knowledge I have, in the hope that both this, and the next generation of punters are highly ‘armed’, as I believe it greatly enriches the enjoyment levels of the punter and the viewer.”

Veteran SKY tipster and analyst Tony Brassel says he is excited about the stable acquisition. “This is a Group 1 result and he’s a Group bloke,” Brassel said. “For the past 25 years I’ve known David Gately and witnessed his impressive transition to 'The Gator’. First and foremost he’s a weight-for-age human being.”

Full marks to Brassel for the compliments, especially as Gately now looms as a serious rival to his long-time claim to fame as the No 1 SKY tipster. As for Racing.com the best they can do is make a desperate approach to RSN’s Dean Lester to fill the void. As for Get On the sooner the show gets a revamp, boots out the corporate bookie boof-heads, finds a new host and gets Hutchi some real tipping back-up talent the better.     

 

TIME TO RECOGNIZE IMPORTANT ROLE GOLD COAST PLAYS IN RQ

IT’S time the Gold Coast stopped playing second fiddle and that the important role it plays in Queensland racing was recognised by those running the show.

Gold Coast has been forced to wait while millions of dollars have been poured into what some describe as botched track redevelopments at Eagle Farm and Toowoomba.

As GCTC chairman Brett Cook told Nathan Exelby of The Courier-Mail last week – after 11 years of promises the club’s time for waiting on infrastructure needs to end so a new dawn can be unlocked on the glitter strip is long overdue.

Since the days of the late Peter Gallagher as Chairman, successive Turf Club bosses like Bill Millican, Andrew Eggleston and now Brett Cook have been duck-shoved around by various Governments and RQ Boards.

Of course in the face of criticism those bodies will highlight the advancement of Magic Millions to the richest race day in Queensland but let’s face it – without the political clout of Gerry Harvey that would not have happened.

Gold Coast is still waiting for infrastructure developments promised almost a decade ago when the hard-working, dare-to-be-different Chairman of the club, Andrew Eggleston locked horns with RQ boss Bob Bentley and his Board.

As Exelby reported in the CM: Changes to the RQ administration and bungled projects at other tracks has seen the Coast stuck in neutral. And now the situation has again taken a turn for the worse with Ipswich desperately needing to be closed and repaired while the floods have taken their toll on Cluden in Townsville.

With speculation rife that multi-million dollar work needed on Bundamba (which has become the latest embarrassment for RQ) will supersede plans for the Gold Coast, Cook has declared ‘enough is enough’ and that there can be no more delays or excuses.   

“Since that original announcement (in 2008), our club, trainers and owners have been very patient and out of industry necessity have taken a back seat,” he told the CM. “We have supported other track upgrades taking precedence over ours, including the two times at Eagle Farm and Toowoomba getting its grass back. Now the synthetic training track at the Sunshine Coast is getting done again.

“We understood those projects were critical to the sustainability of all those clubs and in Eagle Farm’s case it was critical to the entire racing industry. “Based on this we need to be the next major infrastructure project off the rank.”

Any follower of racing in Queensland would agree that if, as has been reported, there is an allocation of $28 million locked in for the Gold Coast upgrade – which one would hope includes the installation of lights – then it is time for Treasury and the Board of RQ to stop pussy-footing around and get on with the job.

And full marks to Brett Cook for warning that the Gold Coast cannot afford to be closed for an extensive period while the upgrade is carried out. “Nine months out would cripple this club. We don’t have the luxury of what happened with Eagle Farm, because we’ve only got one track. If you’re out of play for that long, you lose patrons that you just don’t get back.”

It’s time those running the show accepted the vital role that tracks like the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast play. With all due respects Ipswich pales into insignificance in comparison and more than enough has been spent on Toowoomba where the weekly race meeting these days is regarded by most punters and many stakeholders as a one-stable affair and a standing joke.

As for plans for night racing to go to Doomben ahead of Gold Coast, well that should not even be entertained by RQ. The desperate need for Magic Millions Day to be run as a twilight or night fixture has been highlighted many times by the sizzling heat that not only puts the safety of racing some January days under the microscope but is also far from comfortable for stakeholders and patrons.

Brett Cook has done a terrific job as Chairman of the GCTC but with all due respects he has been too nice. Andrew Eggleston possessed the ‘mongrel attitude’ to call a spade a spade and get things done but the RQ hierarchy of his era couldn’t cope with that and some still say found a way to have him ‘booted out’.

Cook told the CM: “In my first five years as Chairman we had three new RQL boards, four new RQL Chairmen and five RQL CEOs. Those sorts of continuous changes caused a lot of disruption to the industry with wasted revenue and lost momentum.”

He went on to say that in the last two years there has been steadying of the ship – conceding the current RQ Board has a strategic plan but needs time to deliver. He also accepts that new RQ CEO Brendan Parnell has a difficult job trying to juggle three codes with limited resources.

Many would disagree and say the time has arrived for Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliff to step in and ‘fast track’ what should have happened at the Gold Coast years ago. There is also a general feeling that Parnell is hamstrung by a Board that needs replacing – sooner rather than later.


QRIC UNDER FIRE OVER ALLEGED SECRET RECORDINGS

THE Queensland Racing Integrity Commission has come under fire yet again.

This time there are claims from a major provincial venue that a steward was recording conversations of licensees with a hidden device at barrier trials early this month without their knowledge. If QRIC wishes to respond to this one we would be happy to run it.

There has also been industry criticism of the QRIC Commissioner for allegedly taking an overseas holiday while an important Ben Currie was being held. With all due respects with the number of ‘stays’ and delays to hearings involving the Currie stable it would be virtually impossible for him to plan a holiday without something clashing.

 

 

FLETCHER ATTEMPTS TO STOP STEWARDS GETTING HIS PHONE RECORDS

CHRIS ROOTS reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that RACING NSW will start Golden Slipper week in the Supreme Court as punter Steve Fletcher attempts to take an injunction order to stop stewards getting his phone records.

As revealed in the Herald last week, Fletcher is a person of interest in an ongoing betting investigation into former Tabcorp trading manager Sally Snow, who was warned off all NSW tracks for refusing to give her mobile phone to stewards for forensic imaging.

The investigation is continuing and is looking at betting activities over a sustained period on NSW races with the TAB fixed odds business and other corporate bookmakers.

The relationship between Snow and Fletcher is one focus of the investigation and is why stewards would like Fletcher's phone records.

 

LINK BETWEEN PRO PUNTER & TABCORP TRADING MANGER INVESTIGATED

PROMIENT punter Steve Fletcher has drawn the attention of racing authorities once again, this time as part of Racing NSW's investigation into former Tabcorp trading manager Sally Snow.

SAM PHILLIPS reports EXCLUSIVELY for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Fletcher is now being investigated over his relationship to Snow and, by extension, her husband, professional punter Nathan Snow.

Fletcher first featured in headlines after he and Eddie Hayson won millions on a New Zealand Warriors-Newcastle Knights NRL match in 2006. Both men denied having any knowledge of star halfback Andrew Johns being injured before they placed their winning wagers and no charges were ever laid.

Snow was warned off all NSW tracks last Wednesday and resigned from her position at Tabcorp after she repeatedly refused requests to hand over her mobile phone to stewards.

She asserted her common law privilege against self-incrimination and told stewards she would not provide any information or evidence at an inquiry. She is subsequently unable to attend any racecourse nationwide, cannot have anything to do with horse ownership and cannot place a bet with a wagering operator.

The Herald understands Racing NSW stewards are now investigating the Snow family's relationship with Fletcher on three fronts.

Firstly, whether prices at the TAB were being manipulated to offer inflated odds on particular horses, which Fletcher was subsequently able to take advantage of.

Secondly, whether limits often placed on successful punters such as Fletcher were being waived and allowing him to bet with the TAB to collect substantial amounts.

Finally, whether Fletcher was betting with accounts registered in names other than his through the TAB, a process commonly referred to as "using a bowler" in the wagering industry.

No charges have been laid with respect to the current investigation and Fletcher did not wish to comment when contacted by the Herald.

A prominent jockey has also been forced to hand his phone over to stewards in relation to the Snow investigation.

The jockey is not accused of any wrongdoing and is understood to have cooperated when questioned by stewards.

Both Sally and Nathan Snow have deleted their previously public - and active - Twitter profiles and the latter has since stepped down from a racehorse syndication start up, which was registered in South Australia.

The investigation into the Snow's is the first time they have been thrown into the public sphere but the same can't be said for Fletcher.

In an unrelated matter, Fletcher was last year charged with 78 counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception.

In court, it was alleged both Fletcher and fellow prominent punter Darren Azzopardi used the identities of a string of police officers to hide their gambling activities with several betting agencies.

He was alleged to have placed the bets between September 2012 and March 2013.

When news of the Snow probe first broke last Wednesday, Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys said the governing body would get to the bottom of the integrity issues at hand, with or without the cooperation of the former TAB trading manager.

"Racing NSW has zero tolerance for those that obstruct and hinder the maintenance of the integrity of thoroughbred racing in NSW," V'landys said.

"We have set a precedent in warning off, and/or excluding from participation, those persons that jeopardise the integrity of racing and it is important that we maintain that strong stance.

"Even though Mrs Snow has refused to cooperate, we will continue to pursue the matter to ensure the integrity of thoroughbred racing has not been compromised."

V'landys reiterated that stance when contacted by the Herald on Wednesday but did not wish to comment any further.

"We are continuing our inquiries and continue to gather a significant amount of forensic material," Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel said.

"It is involved betting activities but that is all we can say at the moment."

 

IF THERE IS ANY TRANSPARENCY IN QUEENSLAND RACING, THE CURRIE INQUIRY SHOULD BE OPEN FOR PUBLIC SCRUTINY..BUT IT ISN’T..WHY NOT?

QUEENSLAND racing is again a laughing stock nationwide with the controversial Ben Currie inquiry, for some strange reason, being secretly heard behind closed doors providing a perfect opportunity for the media – mainstream and social – to play it out like an episode of Fawlty Towers.

Matt Stewart, a no-nonsense Victoria racing scribe, takes the first swipe interstate: ‘Don’t expect blow by blow coverage of the Ben Currie stewards’ inquiry in Brisbane…..because such hearings are in-house up in the tropics. The details of both Currie hearings to be held this month would make for rollicking copy – jiggers, coded texts, brash young trainer with a bad social media habit – but Queensland stewards are not as open to open hearings and inquiries as those down south.’

Robert Craddock, a respected NEWS LTD sportswriter, followed up with this in THE COURIER MAIL: In most other states, stewards’ hearings are open to the media but QRIC has invoked a local law which enables them to hear it in private. The decision to ban media from the inquiry will only enhance racing’s long held unfortunate reputation for circling the wagons when the heat is on. Racing’s standing has taken a severe battering in recent months with the nation’s leading trainer Darren Weir being banned for four years following possession of ‘jiggers’. The need for the sport to be transparent is greater than ever which makes the decision to hold the inquiry behind closed doors even more disappointing. Currie’s supporters on social media have claimed he is being unfairly targeted. The stewards have assembled their case after a protracted investigation. Both parties deserve the truth to be slapped on the table in full public view.’

Such is the embarrassing and appalling system in the north that the investigation involving Currie – the State’s leading trainer and his father Mark (appealing a major disqualification) – has dragged out for so long that it has done irreparable damage to the image of racing in Queensland – to such a degree that even some of the sport’s major participants are now voicing their protests.

One organization copping a not unexpected bagging from the racing industry and anyone who follows the sport closely is QCAT, the Queensland Civil Appeals Tribunal. The QCAT website boasts its purpose is ‘to provide a quick, inexpensive avenue to resolve disputes between parties and make decisions.’

QCAT ROLE IN CURRIE CASE IS UNDER CLOSE INDUSTRY SCRUTINY

WHEN it comes to the three codes of racing, QCAT is anything but that. In fairness the body was not set up to deal with racing matters and on that topic we agree with a report by Nathan Exelby, Racing Editor of The Courier-Mail, who wrote:

‘If nothing else, the long saga of Currie may at least lead to much-needed change. Racing Queensland chief executive Brendan Parnell welcomed recent comments by Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe stating government is looking at changes. “The system needs to be fixed. It’s not working and it leads to reputational damage for racing,” Parnell said. “We look forward to the government fast-tracking potential solutions”.’

Sadly, a respected Member of QCAT, whose alleged ignorance of the intricacies of racing has seen him unfairly become the target of much industry criticism because of comments he has made during the Currie case, is Robert Olding.

Nathan Exelby reported recently: ‘There was a line at last Thursday’s stay of proceedings hearing for trainer Ben Currie that summed up the absurdity of Queensland racing’s appeals system. “What’s Racing Queensland?” The question was asked by QCAT member Robert Olding during a discussion on who the relevant principal racing authority was in Queensland (as it transpires, Racing Queensland and QRIC both act in the capacity of PRA, depending if the matter involves integrity or racing). It is through no fault of Olding that he would not know who or what Racing Queensland is.’

For almost 12 months Currie has continued to train dozens of winners while on stays of proceedings granted by QCAT. Despite the right of his high priced lawyers to use the system to Currie’s advantage, many in the industry are concerned that this ‘could go on forever’.

It again raises the question of the ability of QCAT to deal with major racing matters, especially when some Members hearing cases have little or no knowledge of the industry and one could argue can be easily influenced by a smooth talking lawyer using loopholes in the Rules of Racing.

Olding provoked cries of disbelief from those who have been watching the case unwind, when he granted the latest ‘stay’ to Currie last month, with a declaration ruling that the trainer had ‘an arguable case’ in relation to the seven new charges levelled at him by QRIC.

In the Racing Court of Public Opinion, the phrases ‘presumption of innocence’ and ‘denial of natural justice’ mean diddly squat as a majority of those who follow, or are involved with racing in Queensland, continue to ‘death ride’ Ben Currie and his father Mark.

Don’t misinterpret or crucify LGHR for delivering this message – we are not inferring that young Ben is guilty of anything – but if he manages to live up to his self-proclaimed moniker, the Gingerbread Man – and escapes courtesy of legal loopholes in the system, all hell will break lose in Queensland racing. There are many who say they will never follow the sport in this State again and others who have been involved for years who are threatening to walk away forever.

PERCEPTION OF 'SLANG' TERMS COULD DECIDE CURRIE FATE

AND to think it could all come down to a perception of ‘slang’ terms in racing like ‘going the early crow’ (which young Ben could be accused of) or ‘death riding’ (which many of his critics and rivals are doing right now and will continue to do until this case concludes).

That is why – if it comes to appeals – the QCAT panel appointed needs to include Members with a solid knowledge of racing who know the difference between a ‘jigger’ and a ‘jackeroo’ or a ‘harp’ and a ‘flute’.

Robert Olding is well credentialed, like most of his QCAT colleagues, to determine if it is acceptable for the neighborhood dog to start barking at three in the morning or if the tree leaning over the fence poses a safety threat to the house next door. But on matters of racing there needs to be an intimate knowledge of the sport and how it operates.

Olding’s profile decribes him as having ‘a unique combination of experience and expertise, as a former partner in a major firm, a retired senior public sector executive and current Tribunal member. Although recognized as one of the foremost experts in Australian indirect taxes, Robert’s expertise is broader, encompassing high-level administrative and statutory decision-making as well as alternative dispute resolution. He also has particular interests in public speaking/presenting for introverts and effective writing in the workplace, and has undertaken and presented training on these topics.’ Unfortunately, there is no mention of whether he knows anything about the three codes of racing, has a punt on a Saturday, or has ever been to the races.   

ONE might suggest that Currie, aka the Gingerbread Man, is his own worst enemy. He could do himself a big favor by steering clear of trading verbal blows, via text, with racing scribes or those in racing with an opinion opposed to his own. It would also be wise for him to use Twitter a shade more wisely.    

It seems to have taken the mainstream racing media an eternity to realize the depth of industry ill-feeling in Queensland toward Currie but they have now jumped on the band-wagon. The ‘exclusive’ in The Courier-Mail concerning alleged texts sent by Currie has the industry talking nationwide – and in the light of what happened to champion trainer Darren Weir, all eyes are on the decision-makers in Queensland.

According to The Courier Mail, one text from Currie to a friend allegedly said: “Harped him up Wednesday morning … Tried two new pain killers and drenching him tomorrow. Haha” and sent another to his father saying “bled that c …” and “he’s f … ed”.

The Victorian media has highlighted an alleged ‘volatile exchange’ between Currie and a Queensland racing reporter in which it is claimed Currie declared “I’m the gingerbread man”.

RSN Racing Editor Matt Stewart wrote: ‘It is unclear if Currie was referring to the folktale in which The Gingerbread Man escapes his pursuers. One of the lines from The Gingerbread Man is “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.” Currie deleted that tweet but others remain on his twitter feed, including one where he declares his stable the “most tested in the country” and another referring to “hearsay and innuendo” that had been a feature of his dramatic fall from grace.

The situation between rival trainers and Currie has reached boiling point as the CM reported: ‘Currie has raised the ire of racing officials by referring to himself as “The Gingerbread Man” last week on social media before deleting the post. Multiple premier trainer Rob Heathcote has been the most outspoken trainer on the issue, but others have started to join the chorus as well, as frustration boils over with how long the saga has taken to be brought before an inquiry. Respected trainer Barry Lockwood highlighted the tension when he said on Saturday that “the Gingerbread Man couldn’t catch me today” after his mare Tumbler beat Currie’s Deconstructed at Eagle Farm. Other trainers like Bryan Guy and Will Hulbert have openly expressed their dismay on social media over the state of integrity in Queensland racing.’

There are reports that many trainers in Toowoomba, where Currie is based and dominates Clifford Park racing, have allegedly had a ‘gutful’ of the situation as well but aren’t prepared to speak out against a local. With QRIC now interviewing other stakeholders on the Downs as part of their Currie investigation, there are mounting calls for a new, no-nonsense, hard-hitting steward to be appointed to oversee racing in Toowoomba - sooner rather than later.

The mainstream media is at last firmly focused on the Currie case – the racing rumor mill suggests some of them jumped aboard when the Brisbane Racing Club banned him from attending race meetings at Eagle Farm and Doomben.

BUT there is a touch of irony and one wonders how feelings are running behind the scenes in the media bunker. Brian ‘Bomber’ Burke, a popular former Sports Editor of The Courier-Mail, now retired after a career when he covered gallops and harness racing, reportedly has an involvement with the Currie stable. Colleagues say Burke bred and races Soxagon which scored a heavily-backed and freakish win at Clifford Park recently. Story goes he races it in partnership with Ben Currie after sending his mare Strike On Goal to Rocker, a five-time winner that was raced in part by former RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon, former Courier-Mail Racing Editor Bart Sinclair, top trainer Kelly Schweida and the late Wayne Wilson of race broadcast fame.

Another day, another drama - FAWLTY TOWERS has got nothing on RACING IN QUEENSLAND! 

    

 

SQUEAKY CLEAN NSW RACING UNDER INTEGRITY CLOUD LIKE QLD & VICTORIA

RACING NSW stewards will look into the books of the Tabcorp Fixed Odds business and other corporate bookmakers after Tabcorp Senior Trading Manager for thoroughbred racing, Sally Snow, was warned off on Wednesday.

CHRIS ROOTS reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Snow, the figurehead of TAB betting operation, handed her resignation in at Tabcorp earlier in the week.

Her resignation came after she had repeatedly refused to give her phone to Racing NSW stewards for imaging, asserting her common law privilege against self-incrimination. She has also told stewards she will not provide any information or evidence to the inquiry.

The steward's investigation into betting activities has already questioned several persons of interest and it is understood that forensic accountants have been called in at Tabcorp.

A Tabcorp spokesman would not confirm any internal investigation, but said: "The integrity of racing and sport is paramount. Tabcorp works closely with racing and sports controlling bodies when asked to assist with their inquiries.

"Sally Snow has made the decision to resign from Tabcorp. As this matter is subject to a stewards’ inquiry, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said the investigation and warning off of a high-profile TAB figure showed “there is no fear or favour” from stewards.

“Racing NSW has zero tolerance for those that obstruct and hinder the maintenance of the integrity of thoroughbred racing in NSW," V'landys said. "We have set a precedent in warning off, and/or excluding from participation, those persons that jeopardise the integrity of racing and it is important that we maintain that strong stance.

“Even though Mrs Snow has refused to cooperate, we will continue to pursue the matter to ensure the integrity of thoroughbred racing has not been compromised.”

Snow will not be permitted to enter any racecourse or training facility nationwide, cannot have an interest in any racehorse and can not place a bet on thoroughbred races with a wagering operator.

Racing NSW said Snow would remain warned off until she cooperated with its inquiry to its satisfaction.

Snow and her husband Nathan, who is a professional punter, deleted their Twitter accounts on Wednesday.

Nathan Snow removed himself as a director of Snow Eagle Racing on Monday, which is a racing syndicator registered in South Australia but not in NSW. He is not accused of any wrongdoing,

Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel said the investigation started on February 27 and, at this point in time, Mrs Snow was the only person who had failed to cooperate with the inquiry.

There a several of other persons of interest, who at this point of time have cooperated with stewards but it continues.

"We are continuing our inquiries and continue to gather a significant amount of forensic material," Van Gestel said. "It is involved betting activities but that is all we can say at the moment. We won't naming anyone unless they are charged in the course of the investigation."

 

SAD LOSS OF GREAT WORDSMITH & PASSIONATE RACING JOURNALIST

VICTORIA Racing Club (VRC) Chairman Amanda Elliott has issued the following statement after the passing of renowned journalist, author and historian Les Carlyon AC.

“The passing of Les Carlyon has saddened us enormously at the VRC. There will never be another man of words of his quality.

“What a rare human being he was. His utter decency, his humility, his magic with words, his great intellect, and his marvellous irreverent sense of humor, all combined with his passion for our country, our history and racing.

“He adored the Melbourne Cup, and everything it stood for – the horse, the sport, the level playing field, the Australian icon – to use his words “the ultimate test of grit and heart”.

“Les was a cherished friend and Life Member of the VRC, indeed Flemington was his favourite racecourse.

“He will be greatly missed.”

The VRC will acknowledge Les Carlyon with on-course flags altered to half-mast for this weekend’s Super Saturday meeting, a tribute will be played on screens across the course, and he will be recognised in the racebook. The Club will also consider a more permanent tribute.

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