AN annual $24 million prizemoney spike for all sectors of NSW racing is tipped to finally shunt Sydney's meagre average Saturday field sizes into double figures, according to the state's top racing brass.

BRAD PENGILLY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Racing NSW unveiled a bold $1.3 million bush-only race called The Kosciuszko, for which punters and racing fans can broker deals with the state's top regional horse owners to share in the riches, on the same day as it trumpeted record stakes increases.

Saturday city races will now be worth a minimum of $125,000 from September 1 (up from $100,000) to complement rises for metropolitan public holiday races ($60,000), midweek events ($50,000), Highway races ($75,000) as well as provincial ($35,000) and country TAB events ($22,000).

The whopping rise in prizemoney has been concentrated at the lower end of the spectrum for horses running down to 10th, which can now earn as much as $3500 for doing so on Saturday metropolitan cards.

Sydney's weekend average field sizes have crept up in recent years, but still linger below 10 and it is hoped the latest innovation will promote a better betting product on the biggest wagering day of the week.

"The objective of this is to distribute as much prizemoney to as many people as possible," Racing NSW chief executive Peter V'landys said. "That's why we've concentrated on fourth to 10th.

"Every participant has been looked after here. This gives you an incentive to compete, which will increase race fields and it will defray owners' costs."

The nation-leading prizemoney kitty has been boosted by the gradual phasing in of tax parity legislation, under which Racing NSW's share of the tax raised from gambling on horses has been increased by the state government to fall in line with Victoria.

Racing NSW is also angling for a cut of the state government's looming point-of-consumption tax, a new digital betting levy aimed at Australia's online bookmakers.

Group 3 races in NSW will now be worth a minimum $160,000 and listed events $140,000 while there were substantial boosts to the Percy Sykes Stakes and Arrowfield Sprint, which will now be worth $1 million each during The Championships.

Each of the 10 Championships races during the two-day autumn extravaganza will now carry a $1m  prize purse.

"Gambling has opened right up to other sports as well, but for these increases it means we can encourage people to race horses and create a better product for people watching on a Saturday whether it's at a local country meeting once a year or in the city," Sydney's leading trainer Chris Waller said.

"Everybody is getting looked after. Australia has a big population of horses and what [Racing] NSW is doing is smart. They're going to draw more horses here and it's going to create competition. I can see the good side with the better product we'll have.

"We're going to get back to the glory days where we had not just one or two great horses, but many great horses. There will be less horses sold overseas and there will be better racing here."

Added NSW Trainers Association boss Glenn Burge: "We welcome the prizemoney increases and look forward to more initiatives in the future."

The Kosciuszko will be run on the same day as the $13 million The Everest, the world's richest turf race, on October 13. Racing NSW has entered into a joint venture with Tabcorp and the Australian Hotels Association, which will raffle $5 tickets at NSW AHA hotels that feature a TAB outlet.

Tickets go on sale on Thursday and 12 winners will be drawn out on September 14, with each successful ticket holder to select a bush-trained horse to compete under his or her banner, subject to agreeing a prizemoney break-up with the horse's owners.

Group 1-performed Care To Think has opened the $6 favourite with CrownBet ahead of Victorem and Eckstein (both $8.50).





IF the response we received is any gauge the racing and punting public of Australia would welcome the opportunity to vote for the most popular jockey, trainer and horse each year.

There were some very tongue-in-cheek comments following the story that in Hong Kong, where the Jockey Club run an on-line poll combined with an extensive publicity campaign encouraging people to vote, Zac Purton was more popular than Joao Moreira and Pakistan Star streets ahead of Horse of the Year Beauty Generation.

It wouldn’t be as simple to run in OZ with the various States having to conduct their own polls ahead of a national final the best choice in the eyes of those who would like to see Australian racing follow the Hong Kong lead.

HERE are a couple of contributions that we chose to publish on the issue:



‘My mates and I support the suggestion by Nathan Exelby in The Courier-Mail that the ‘most popular’ concept adopted in Hong Kong should be introduced in Australia.

Wouldn’t it be fairer to engage the racing and punting public in the decision-making process than have the Awards voted on by high profile officials and members of the mainstream racing media who always seem to have their own favorites and agendas?

The Most Popular Horse category in recent years would have been a no-brainer with Winx and Black Caviar arguably winning hands down.

One could also suggest that the men who guided their careers in Chris Waller and Peter Moody would have been voted Most Popular Trainers of those particular eras. But nowadays Darren Weir could beat them both.

When it comes to Most Popular Jockey it isn’t the two-horse race that emerged in Hong Kong with rivals the ‘Magic Man’ Moreira and ‘Aussie’ Zac Purton a furlong in front.

One would have to consider Willie Pike from Perth a genuine rival to the likes of Craig Williams, Hugh Bowman and even the ‘wonder woman’ of Australian racing, Linda Meech.

It’s all food for thought and would make for much more positive comment in racing than the usual ‘political favoritism’ claims associated with current voting system.’



ALAN THURSTON of GOLD COAST sent this email:

‘MIGHT I suggest that what Australian racing needs as much as a Most Popular Horse, Jockey or Trainer is a Most Popular Personality Award?

Peter Moody might no longer by involved in the training business but he is in demand as a keynote speaker on all things racing and one could argue would win this Award by streets. There are few more knockabout popular characters in Australian racing than Moods.  

Melbourne Cup winning jockey Michelle Payne is in the same boat when it comes to popularity but her stocks are higher these days outside the racing spectrum. Michelle’s profile is set to sky-rocket even further with the release of the movie, Ride Like a Girl, early next year.

Darren Weir, the bush boy from Berriwillock, who has taken training success in this country to a new level, is a likeable larrikin who would attract a stack of votes. He features in a recent biography written by Bruce Clark – Weiry – the Rise and Rise of Darren Weir.

There are many others who possess the credentials but lack the overall appeal to be voted Australian Racing’s Most Popular Personality.

Chris Waller for instance, despite the fact that he is a Kiwi, isn’t every punter’s cup of tea. No-one questions his amazing training feats with the champion mare Winx but his penchant to cry when interviewed after most of his big wins is as un-Australian as it gets in the eyes of most hardened punters. And we haven’t mentioned the ordinary race days when those who follow his stable are blown out of the water on a regular basis by form reversals from second string runners in races where he saddles up the favorites.

There is always the ‘First Lady of Racing’ – Gai Waterhouse – but most see her as yesterday’s news these days. There are so many more women in racing attracting the spotlight like Michelle Payne, the likeable Linda Meech and the soon-to-be-retired Clare Lindop.

Meech has shown she can compete with the best of the men on the track and is currently vying for the Victorian riding premiership. Her statistics are amazing.

Michelle, on the other hand, attracts much more media spotlight – unfortunately not always positive from the day she created history winning the Melbourne Cup. There are times she shoots from the hip then has to eat her words.

Gai’s right hand man Robbie recently wrote of Payne:

MICHELLE Payne is a great asset to racing and I like and admire her very much. I want her to be successful. However, when you are publicly vocal on an issue (as she is), you must expect debate. Michelle had a lot to say about Sandown (recently). She has publicly complained about Flemington and other tracks in the past.

May I gently point out; Michelle’s ‘walk’ doesn’t match her ‘talk’? This is her record or ‘walk’: Acceptors 138: ran 95; on good 22, dead 58, slow 8, heavy 7. Scratched 43: on good 8, dead 24, slow 5, heavy 6.

This translates to: Payne scratching on good 36% of acceptors; dead 41%, slow 62% and heavy 85%.

This is typical of all the soft track-advocating trainers. Bart Cummings was the worst.

Lee Freedman and I were asked to discuss the tracks policy on Radio RSN late 2016. I stopped his argument quickly quoting his stats:





















In contrast to those that like good tracks, they are huge ‘scratchers’ – outrageous to me.

Gai just lets them run.

As I have said to death: Horses break down less on good tracks, punters bet more, turnover is higher, tracks stand up to racing better, and therefore costs race clubs much less. Good tracks are always much safer for jockeys. Should be an easy argument. Artificially soft tracks are the enemy of racing and its participants.

Hope Michelle thinks about it and realizes she should welcome good tracks and not scratch on soft!

THEN, of course, we cannot list jockeys in the Most Popular Personality category without mention of Hugh Bowman who lets his performance on the track do the talking but is always humble and a real gentleman when interviewed about his successes.

No doubt I have overlooked several who others will consider were ‘must includes’. There are those who might say that the training feats of Ben Currie in Queensland have been freakish but others who would put up an argument that it might not be best for me to mention.

Like everything in racing it comes down to a matter of opinion but makes for good healthy debate.’




‘I would just like to say that if you are going to have Most Popular Horse, Jockey and Trainer Award categories voted on by the public why not let the punters decide who wins the Most Popular Tipster?

This would have to be made from those whose selections are available to the punting public through the media and not by subscription or sourced privately.  

SKY Channel will no doubt be promoting some of their bus load spearheaded of course by veteran form analyst Tony Brassel who with all due respects is one of the worst in the land considering the number of venues he tips at. He’s in good company at SKY with Bernadette Cooper in Brisbane way in front of the also-rans when it comes to finding losers.

I’ve been a punter for years and seen all the supposed superstar tipsters come and go – probably the most notable being Dominic Byrne who is still called on for his form expertise even if time has passed him by these days.

Might I suggest that there are currently two media tipsters who the majority of punters believe stand head and shoulders above the rest and they are both Victorian-based in Dean Lester and David Gately.

‘Deano’ has been around for a long time and attracts a huge following on his main base at RSN out of Melbourne. ‘Gater’, the new kid on the tipping block, is building a legion of punting fans through Best Bets and, especially its popular Thursday night preview show Get On. Lester has worn the crown of tipping king for so long it is hard to believe that he is under threat from Gately.

And on the subject of Awards one contender has to be Matt Hill for his race-calling. Who would have thought that a young man with such talent could already be compared to the likes of such great callers as Bert Bryant, John Russell, Bryan Martin and the irrepressible Greg Miles? As young as he is, Matty is already one of the ‘greats’ in the eyes and ears of many horse racing fans.’





HIGHLIGHT of the weekend for many was the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership win by Aussie Zac Purton.

Considering how Purton has to battle weight a lot more his win over the Magic Man Joao Moreira was a remarkable effort – and he virtually had the title won before Sunday’s final meeting of the season at Sha Tin.

It still played out very well for those glued to the Hong Kong coverage with Moreira making a late bid to peg back the Purton lead at his final day of riding there before moving to Japan.



THE return to form by Voodoo Lad, swooping from last on the turn to win the Group 3 Sir John Monash Stakes at Caulfield was arguably the performance on the weekend.

It was another training triumph for Darren Weir but continued the great association Brad Rawiller has had with Voodoo Lad, having won four races from four rides on the bay gelding.

“It was a terrific ride as he’s not easy to ride and Brad just clicks with him,” Weir said. “You’ve got to do everything properly on him. He gets him into his rhythm. His previous two rides weren’t any good as he was pulling and he was ridden too close. He’s a good horse on his day.”

Voodoo Lad took his record to four wins from five starts at Caulfield and proved Weir correct in his pre-race warning that the horse had genuine excuses at his two previous failures in Adelaide and Brisbane.



SATURDAY racing produced two outstanding prospects in Zoustyle which won brilliantly at the Sunshine Coast and outstanding Caulfield debut winner Brutal.

Trainer Tony Gollan will spell the unbeaten Zoustyle and set him for the Autumn Carnival in Sydney. His time for the 1000m at Corbould Park was only slightly inferior to the Open winner on the day – Ringo’s A Rockstar.

The five length win by the O’Reilly colt Brutal was stunning. Team Hawkes have always had a big opinion of him but have been patient and that looks set to pay dividends.




VICTORIAN visitor Al Galayel attracted the lion’s share of stewards’ attention in the sixth at Rosehill on Saturday which featured yet another major form reversal from the Chris Waller stable.

Waller had five runners in the race, of which Raqeeq was the best fancied at $6 and charged home to be beaten a short neck by stablemate Vaucluse Bay which had been beaten 10th lengths into last place at his previous run at Randwick.

Amazingly the Racing NSW stewards’ panel, under the chairmanship of Mark Van Gestel, seemed more concerned about a change of tactics on the visitor Al Galayel from the Cairon Maher stable.

Their report reads that as the field was being loaded into the barrier stewards received advice from the Maher stable representative that Al Galayel would be ridden in a more forward position with the option to lead if possible. Due to the late notice stewards were not able to notify the change of tactics to the public. The stable was fined $500 for failing to notify within 30 minutes of the race with extenuating circumstances taken into account. Al Galayel again failed to negotiate the Sydney way of racing and tired to finish fifth.

While he was going backwards Vaucluse Bay pressed on to win and ran up to the better form he was showing prior to his dismal last at Randwick. But he was able to race wide and without cover for most of the trip and stewards did not bother to seek an explanation for the major form reversal which is punters complain is common place in Sydney racing when Waller has multiple runners.

Vaucluse Bay’s previous form to the Randwick flop was good and he dropped slightly in class but rose 4kg in weight to win at Rosehill where he firmed from $15 to $10.

Waller had four other runners in the race – the best fancied Raqeeq at $6 ran 2nd, Chatelard ($10, 7th), Monasterio ($21, 9th) and Mutarakem ($8.5, 12th).

Waller also had three runners in the third on Saturday. Prepost favorite Asterius blew like a gale from $3.8 to $5 and ran last while stablemate Jolly Honour backed from $6 to $4.8 bolted in. Stewards reported that Asterius over-raced, bled from both nostrils and incurred a mandatory three month ban.




WHEN you watch the deliberate ‘dives’ taken by some of those dingoes during the soccer World Cup it makes you appreciate just how brave our jockeys are.

And now some in racing are complaining because they want another riding fee increase. Whatever they get they deserve every cent of regardless of how much they can earn in prizemoney percentages or slings.

Back to the soccer – some of these blokes are paid outrageous tens of millions of dollars in contract fees and the best they can do when beaten for the ball is to take a ‘dive’.

Watching them writhing around on the ground in ‘false’ pain made a mockery of what was otherwise a showcase world event.

Even tiny lady jockeys take more risks every day of their lives for far less money and a lot more bravery than these cowardly kings of the football castle.  



APPRENTICE Boris Thornton has received some positive publicity since moving to Queensland but his ride on the hot favorite Privlaka in the opener at the Sunshine Coast on Saturday is best forgotten.

Somehow Privlaka, $1.6 to $1.5, managed to get into a bad pocket in the five horse field and didn’t get clear until the winner Yaba Dabl Doya $8 had established a winning break. Privlaka was beaten a short head but should have bolted in.

What didn’t help Thornton on Privlaka was Tegan Harrison’s mount Fast Arrow which sat three wide outside him and kept going when they straightened. The favorite had to ease back and around that horse to make his run which cost him victory.

Stewards inquired into his tactics and advised the apprentice that he had erred in not steadying Privlaka and bringing that horse to the outside earlier. Trainer Rob Heathcote agreed but said Privlaka would be sent for a spell.

Thornton was back in the room explaining the poor performance of Tan Tat Diamond ($3.5 to $4.8) which beat only one home in the second but had a lucky escape in the eighth when he was found not guilty of a careless riding charge on Scrabble when The Overdraft and the Real Spiel were checked.



SOME punters believed Shogun Sun was beaten by his bad alley when well tried in the final race at the Sunshine Coast while others blamed the ride.

Top jockey Jim Byrne couldn’t get in or find cover and was parked four wide throughout on Shogun Sun which battled to finish 10th. That didn't stop some punters who backed the horse from bagging his ride in emails to the Whinge.

Byrne told stewards his mount was unable to sprint like he did winning at his previous start which he attributed to its 59.5kg although some might say the horrific run out wide was also to blame.




WORLD class sport and incredible global growth underpinned a memorable 2017/18 racing season in Hong Kong, which concluded on Sunday with overall turnover of $HK124.2 billion, representing a 5.8 per cent increase on the previous season. 

A crowd of 31,903 turned out at Sha Tin for the season finale and enjoyed the exciting conclusion to a fascinating battle for the champion jockey title. Zac Purton sealed the premiership with his win on Rise High in the Class 1 Sha Tin Mile Trophy Handicap, holding off defending champion Joao Moreira, who rode a treble.

The day’s turnover came in at $HK1.938 billion, the highest ever for an 11-race card, while commingling for the day set a record at $HK335 million.

Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, Chief Executive Officer at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, said: “We are delighted with another record season, one of our most exciting seasons both on and off the track. That excitement reached a thrilling climax this afternoon, with Zac Purton holding off Joao Moreira’s final push to win the jockeys’ championship. As well as great sport today, we also had record turnover for an 11-race meeting, despite receiving 35 millimetres of rain, and that shows the enthusiasm for our product.

“It is extremely competitive and exciting; we have world-class jockeys from right across the globe, world-class trainers, horses sourced from all over the world. We deliver the most international racing product, and, in terms of excitement, I don’t think any racing jurisdiction can match us on a race-by-race basis.

The CEO emphasised the Club’s strong financial position: “Our total gross margin of $HK5.48 billion is an increase of 6.3 per cent. Our contribution as Hong Kong’s biggest taxpayer once again topped $HK13 billion for the second time, demonstrating the importance of racing to the Hong Kong community.”

Much of the growth across the season was due to the HKJC’s strategic positioning as a global commingling hub. The total amount wagered with commingling partners reached $HK16.5 billion; a massive increase of 154.8% on last season’s $HK6.5 billion.

Engelbrecht-Bresges said: “Commingling is quickly changing the global landscape and that is seen in the fact that it made up 13.3 percent of our season’s turnover this year compared to 5.5 percent last year. On Sunday we reached a new record of $HK335 million for a single race meeting, a truly extraordinary mark. It is now a significant driver to Hong Kong’s turnover and that is due to the ever-increasing international interest in our racing product, which is proving to be attractive as an exciting sports option founded upon the highest integrity.”

Also noted was the increase in simulcast turnover, with Hong Kong bettors wagering $HK3.94 billion on races from abroad, an increase of 12% on the previous season.

He said: “This trend comes at a time when our customers are showing a greater appreciation for international racing. The time is right for us to launch our World Pool concept, beginning with Royal Ascot next year, which will offer a strong value proposition to customers in the UK and Hong Kong, and further strengthen our position as the international hub of commingling.”

He also highlighted the calibre of Hong Kong’s horsemen, particularly champion trainer John Size, who won a 10th Championship this season, and jockeys Purton and Moreira.

“I firmly believe that, in John Size, we have one of the best trainers in the world,” he said. “As for the jockeys, we had one of the most exciting fights for the championship in a very long time. I think it was a terrific competition between Zac and Joao, and it is this competitiveness which has driven both to excel.

“I would like to wish Joao all the best in his future endeavours in Japan. I’m sure that he will miss Hong Kong and his battles with Zac, but all the best for him as he follows his dream. Now, we have a new champion and we cannot measure how competitive Zac is. His performance in the closing stages of the season has been terrific and he is a worthy champion.”

The CEO also expressed his satisfaction at the Hong Kong system producing such local talent as jockey Derek Leung, winner of the Tony Cruz Award for the second consecutive year, and trainer Frankie Lor, runner-up in the championship in his freshman season.

Engelbrecht-Bresges said that Hong Kong’s feature meetings, the Longines Hong Kong International Races in December and Champions Day in April, will continue to grow in the season ahead, which will offer overall prize money of $HK1.22 billion across its 88 race meetings, an increase of 5% on this term.

“The Longines Hong Kong International Races continues to be one of the highlights on the world racing calendar and we are making further steps to ensure it remains the Turf World Championships,” he said. “We have raised the Longines Hong Kong International Races purse to a combined $HK93 million, which is a 10 percent increase.

“We are also very excited by the emergence of Champions Day, which proved a great success with our Champion Sprinter (Ivictory), Champion Miler (Beauty Generation) and Champion Stayer (Pakistan Star) winning the three feature races. We will further expand this by announcing a new sponsor soon.”

Looking ahead, Engelbrecht-Bresges is excited for the opportunities afforded by the opening of Conghua Training Centre. The integration of CTC into the Hong Kong system occurred last Thursday (12 July), when the first in-training horses arrived at the site on the Chinese Mainland.

“Conghua Training Centre is one of the biggest investments the Club has ever made,” he said. “The comments from top-class horsemen who have visited the site – from Michael Kinane, who visited a couple of months ago, to Derek Leung and Douglas Whyte, who rode work there last Friday – they are all very positive. Michael said it was one of the best centres he has ever seen, while Derek and Douglas appreciate what this means for the future of Hong Kong racing.

“With horses now heading up to Conghua, we can begin to invest in our Hong Kong training facilities, with $HK1.5 billion earmarked to upgrade the stables here at Sha Tin. This is in line with our long-term commitment to improving Hong Kong racing.”





“PAY them what the ride is worth,” a wag commented after hearing that Victorian jockeys are seeking a wage increase at a period when the Australia-wide riding standard is particularly high.

For instance, Brenton Avdulla and Hugh Bowman took the honours at Rosehill Gardens on Saturday following a Flemington blitz by Craig Williams a week earlier.

MAX PRESNELL reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that even with three winners Avdulla, who is set for his first Sydney premiership and still on an improving curve, and Bowman, who notched a double and confirmed why he is listed as the best jockey in the world, didn’t overwhelm the opposition.

For instance, the effort of James McDonald on Star Of Monsoon at Rosehill showed the special touch that will challenge Avdulla for the top spot next season.

And Blake Shinn’s ride on Invinzabeel in the Winter Stakes was a pearl from an outside gate. Yes, Avdulla beat him on Dream Force from an even wider barrier, but he was navigating a better horse – one superbly tuned by John Thompson, who is showing the generations of horse lore coming down from his grandfather old Vic Thompson, who trained at Victoria Park before it became a Sydney car factory, and young Vic, who laid the foundation for Crown Lodge for the Ingham brothers and now Godolphin.

Down south, Williams  rode an unprecedented six winners at Flemington on July 8 at a time when strike action is brewing over the jockeys riding fee.

Apparently at Caulfield on Saturday, 33 jockeys had meeting, while at the Wodonga races a similar number discussed a rise because of the more demanding work load – thus an addition to the $200 per mount they currently receive, established in 2015. Racing Victoria figures the kickback from increased prizemoney is sufficient for any perceived deficit.

There was a time when the “sling”, or present  gauged by the financial result to connections, was the major source of jockey’s income. The return from prizemoney was a minor consideration. But now it has all come from jockey fees and percentages.

Only last year NSW jockeys went from $187 per engagement to $200, worthwhile considering the work ethic of our journeyman jockey Jeff Penza, who has had over 1000 rides so far this season, superior by over a 100 to Avdulla, the next busiest. Penza also eclipsed his 968 mounts for the 2016-17 season.

Penza travels far, wide and often for his stipend and notched a Wyong double on Saturday, maintaining a standard as necessary out of town as the metropolitan areas.

Of course, big league hoops are under a microscope, and Williams, weight-for-age when it comes to verbal as well as saddle, is a prime example. Due to what is deemed a substandard performance by him, the term “Willowed” has arisen.

But that happens to the exceptional: anything short is regarded as a subject of criticism. And, historically, horse players have led the way although their volume is lower these days. Like any sportsmen – and jockeys should rate with the most elite – they are prone to form lapses. Why does Buddy Franklin miss a goal in front when he can produce miracles off the foot?

Still, Sydney looks set for a prime period for hoops, with those mentioned here earlier plus Tim Clark, Tye Angland and Jason Collett making them work for their percentages, and Kerrin McEvoy and Glyn Schofield set to return.

Obviously though the incomparable ride of the week was apprentice Akira Kajiya at Cowra on Saturday. Kajiya lost his stirrup irons mid-race and, riding like the last of a straight-backs, managed to get It’s Business Time home down the outside of the track in a photo finish before being ditched.

Kajiya should get a $50 penalty rate for every time his backside was bounced on the saddle, and a pain allowance for the fall. If the figure is short of the $200 plus percentage of Avdulla’s win on Dream Force in the $150,000 Winter Stakes, Racing NSW should make up the difference.



OUTGOING Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons conceded it was ‘hot in the kitchen’ when he was embroiled in the Aquanita scandal but said it didn’t play a role in his departure.

RUSSELL GOULD reports for the HERALD SUN that Symons has been chairman for eight years and on the committee for 15, a period in which the MRC has enjoyed significant growth and change.

He said he had decided over a year ago to make his exit.

As a non-executive director of Aquanita, Symons was heavily scrutinised during the scandal which resulted in a lSymife ban for trainer Robert Smerdon, which he is appealing, and fines and suspensions for seven others found guilty of race-day treatment of horses.

Racing Victoria stewards grilled the Aquanita directors, including Symons, who maintained he had no knowledge of the activities and defied calls to stand down from the MRC.

Reflecting on that period, Symons said he took some significant “learnings” from it but his connection to racing was strong and he would remain involved when he left his post at the end of the month.

“When you have been through an event like that, you can benefit from it in a positive way. It was pretty brutal, and pretty hot inside the kitchen, but when you get through the other end you can take a lot of learnings from that,” Symons told the Herald Sun.

“So long as it doesn’t break you, it probably makes you stronger. Maybe I was too trusting in certain individuals and I have become a more sceptical person as a result. I just keep on asking the questions until I am satisfied. It has probably made me a better ­interrogator of a situation.

“I would have preferred it didn’t happen. I was absolutely on the front foot at the time saying it had nothing to do with me and, as a result, I didn’t stand down.

“The stewards’ inquiry, and the extent of that inquiry, has proven who was and who wasn’t involved … Their behaviour was outside of my control and knowledge.”

Despite the Aquanita affair, Symons said he left the MRC proud of its achievements.

“Innovation is critical for racing to remain mainstream,” he said. “And I look back at my time as chairman and … feel very proud.”

Vice-chairman Peter Le Grand will succeed Symons.

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THE Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) has issued an apology for incorrect information it distributed yesterday regarding the withholding of Weetwood Day prizemoney payments to the connections of horses identified as the subject of a current Stewards’ Inquiry.

Commissioner Ross Barnett said yesterday that Weetwood Day prizemoney had not been released to the connections of those horses, (Hang and Givus a Cuddle) which were among the horses subject to an ongoing Stewards’ Inquiry.

“After further clarification was sought and received today from Racing Queensland we can now clarify that while the connections have received their prizemoney, the 10 per cent trainers share due to Trainer Ben Currie remains withheld until the current inquiry is completed.

“I apologize for the inaccuracy of the information contained in yesterday’s release,” Mr Barnett said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: WE at LGHR ran the information from the Media Release and also apologize for the inaccuracy that story created.





THE CURRIE stable was catapulted back into the racing spotlight this week when The Courier-Mail exclusively obtained CCTV footage which stewards allege shows father Mark illegally administering race day treatment to horses trained by his son Ben.

Mark Currie has been disqualified for two years on 16 charges and stablehand Greg Britnell for 18 months on 15 charges. Ben, Queensland’s leading trainer for the past two seasons preparing 250 winners out of his Toowoomba stables, is facing 31 charges which are yet to be heard.

Late last month, Mark Currie was granted a Stay of Proceedings until his appeal is heard by QCAT at a date yet to be determined. That meant that documents pertaining to the case had to be filed with QCAT and The Courier-Mail was able (under Freedom of Information) to access content of the CCTV footage and transcripts from numerous inquiries that have taken place since he was first questioned in early April.

For some strange reason, all of the stewards’ inquiries have been held behind closed doors, with no access to media which means the public has been kept in the dark on important integrity issues relating to what has been described as the biggest controversy in Queensland racing since the Fine Cotton ring-in.

PLENTY of contributors to the WEDNESDAY WHINGE have wanted to HAVE THEIR SAY on this issue but we need to be mindful that appeals and charges are yet to be finalized meaning the parties involved are entitled to a presumption of innocence. However, in the public interests we have legal advice that enables us to run excerpts from some of the emails received:



‘CONGRATULATIONS to Nathan Exelby and The Courier-Mail for finding a loophole that has enabled them to publish CCTV footage and transcripts of the Mark Currie inquiry.

It’s a massive backflip on what we have come to expect from the mainstream racing media for far too long. It’s good to see at least one is now out of step with his weak kneed colleagues and is doing his job of  protecting the interests of the punting public.

The CCTV footage and transcripts are certainly very damning for Mark Currie, especially the latter where he reportedly has put his hand up. Let’s just hope he isn’t trying to take the blame entirely as the buck has to eventually stop with the trainer.’




‘IN the light of the alleged CCTV footage from the Currie stable in Toowoomba they can demand all the presumption of innocence they like, it’s not a good look for the industry in Queensland when these guys are allowed to continue to train winners and show boat themselves.

I saw where old man emu, Mark, is prepared to take the blame after apparently being caught red handed on video performing alleged race day treatment at the stables.

Here’s hoping he doesn’t expect us to believe any submissions from the Perry Mason of racing that his client, little Ben, was tucked away innocently in his bed while all this was going on oblivious to what was happening to the horses he trains and takes the credit for when they win.’



‘IF Ben and Mark Currie are found guilty after QRIC unearths all its evidence – despite a questionable appeals process in Queensland – then their stable should be closed down forever and they should be disqualified for life.

We’ve all no doubt watched the 4Corners report on the Aquanita scandal involving top trainer Robert Smerdon in Victoria and Integrity lessons need to be learnt from that.

There are those who believe the playing field in Queensland has been less than level for a long time. If that is found to be the case then an example needs to be made of those who have been responsible.

What concerns many trainers is that Mark Currie – despite this incriminating CCTV footage – has been granted a stay of proceedings to help his son continue to train – in fact the stable landed six winners last Friday, Saturday and Sunday (although one of those was relegated on protest at Toowoomba).’




‘THE story goes that Ben Currie and his dwindling legion of supporters are blowing up big time about the media securing the CCTV footage of his dad and a stablehand giving their horses some race day treatment.

That comes as no surprise because it makes all this cry of a witch hunt and persecution of the Currie stable look a little lame right now – doesn’t it – regardless of the outcome of the 30-odd charges still to be heard against Ben.

What really annoys me as a long-time follower of racing in south-east Queensland and a one-time punter (I will no longer bet on the local product) is that the hearings involving the Currie stable have been closed to the media.

One has to ask why this is so? Surely, in the interests of the racing and punting public, these should be open to ensure that evidence and questions being asked by stewards and the answers provided by the stable are out there for all to hear and consider.

The Currie’s claim they are not getting a fair go from QRIC. With all due respects, the punters can rightly claim the same while they are being kept in the dark with inquiries being conducted for some strange reason behind closed doors.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: WE received emails from many contributors wanting to HAVE THEIR SAY on the CURRIE STORY. Unfortunately, we were unable to publish the majority of these for legal reasons. Needless to say feelings on this issue and the on-going inquiry are still running high and very few of those wanting to express their views with us agree with the stable perception that this is a ‘witch hunt’ – in fact they support the strong stance being taken by QRIC and its stewards.



THE 4CORNERS episode ON TRACK proved a bit of an anti-climax according to most who expressed their views through the WEDNESDAY WHINGE. Here is a compilation of what most had to say hoping it expresses the message the majority wanted to get across:

THE annual bagging of the racing industry by 4CORNERS that we have come to expect was in the opinion of most viewers an absolute dud.

They didn’t tell us much more than most already knew. Whilst the Australian racing industry is going from strength to strength behind the glamorous façade all is not well.

Peter V’Landys (Racing NSW CEO) used the program as another opportunity to sink the slipper into Racing Victoria and promote his baby, The Everest. He tells us racing’s under 35’s want an event of their own and don’t want to follow what their mums and dads did (one suspects he is bagging the Melbourne Cup – another lost cause).

4CORNERS found another opportunity to suggest that racing is heading ‘Off Track’ – the name of the latest episode attacking the industry. They highlighted the Aquanita Doping Scandal as the ‘integrity issue shaking the faith of those who have dedicated their lives to the sport’.

Questions were posed about whether Racing Victoria had done enough to police the issue, whether they pussy-footed around with trainer Robert Smerdon by handing his mobile back to him early days of the inquiry; asked how the doping situation was allowed to happen for so long right under their noses and whether processes were in place to protect stakeholders and the punting public in the future.

Form analyst Ralph Horowitz, known as ‘Racetrack Ralphy’ was called on for his expert opinion and pointed out how the Smerdon team ‘were winning races through the roof’ with their horses performing beyond expectations. Perhaps a form analyst with the punter respect of Dean Lester or David Gately would have been better credentialed to comment or taken more seriously.

No program criticizing integrity practices in Victoria would have been complete without a whine from one of the ‘cobalt kids’. Danny O’Brien claimed stewards treated him differently (more unfairly) than Robert Smerdon and once again had us believe (as the appeal judge did) that a veterinarian treated their horses with cobalt without the knowledge of the trainers.

4CORNERS again threw up the old chestnut of horse welfare – everything from whip use to horses that are too old, too slow or no good ending up at the knackery. There were also questions about what happens to the 2,000 foals that don’t make it to the track. The need to trace thoroughbreds from birth to death was highlighted by V’landys as a Racing NSW initiative and it sounds a good one but expect some resistance from the breeders.

And we were told that of the more than $600 million allocated to stakes in horse racing in Australia each year almost one third is won by the top 20 trainers. Complaints that the professionals are running the battlers out of business in the country were countered by a V’landys response that ‘racing is a competitive sport. Just because you have a slow horse doesn’t mean you have to get a share of the prizemoney.’

At the end of the day nothing new – or an expose as promised by some at the ABC of that pedophile trainer who continues to enjoy the spotlight – just another reminder that a rogue element will always exist in the gambling culture.’





CRAIG WILLIAMS might not be every punter’s cup of tea but his haul of six winners on Finals Day at Flemington was outstanding.

 His career-best effort went within a short half head of seven and increased Williams’ lead in the metropolitan jockeys’ premiership.

Darren Weir, who trained three of Williams’ winners, ­described him as the hardest working jockey in racing. “He’s the only jockey who rings me on a Sunday morning. That’s how hard he works at it.”



THE intriguing battle between Joao Moreira and Zac Purton for the Hong Kong jockeys’ premiership has proved great viewing.

And it will continue for the last two meetings of the season at Happy Valley on Wednesday night then Sha Tin next Sunday.

The duo won four races each – with finishes that had the big crowd cheering for more on Sunday. Purton leads by three wins with 19 races yet to be decided.



IT’S unusual to see favorites dominate on TAB cards anywhere these days.

For the first time in seven years all eight favorites saluted at Belmont in Western Australia last Saturday – their prices ranging from $1.8 to $3.2.

And at the Sunshine Coast in Queensland it must have been a ‘full moon’ when a virtually unheard of eight favorites were successful – every race on the card. These ranged from $1.4 to $3.75.

The only difference to Perth is that in the second – a three-horse race – there were equal favorites which ran first and last.




VERY few agreed with the sentiments of outspoken trainer LEE FREEDMAN who scoffed at suggestions that rising star NATURE STIP was deserving of a slot in The Everest following his Flemington win on Saturday.

Nature Strip backed up his sensational win over 1100m at Flemington a fortnight ago with another success, this time in the Listed Creswick Series Final – but he did look to be getting tired at the finish of the 1200m journey. 

In a post-race interview with's Jason Richardson, trainer Darren Weir revealed that connections were eyeing a possible start in The Everest to be run in October.

Freedman, currently training in Singapore and obviously enjoying a ‘Sling or two or three’, responded to The Everest plan for Nature Strip by tweeting: ‘That's a joke right?’

That lit up the Twitter debate with retaliation from Nick Williams and Manny Gelagotis. Williams tweeted: ‘Lee, so what is the difference between a winter race and a spring non-ratings race – plenty of money but still not a G race.’

Then there were those who simply suggested that Freedman didn’t want to see opposition like Nature Strip for his former stable’s two hopes in The Everest – Stradbroke winner Santa Ana Lane and the promising Shoals.


WE received a couple of WHINGES concerning the fine imposed on popular jockey Kathy O’Hara for misconduct at Randwick on Saturday.

Kathy was fined $1,000 ($500 of it suspended) after she said: ‘It’s a fucking joke’ when leaving a stewards’ inquiry into her ride on You Make Me Smile.

Racing NSW Acting Chief Steward Philip Dingwall told O’Hara that her comments were unacceptable and that ‘they do racing a disservice and you a greater disservice’.

The Stewards’ Report on the incident read:

K O 'Hara pleaded guilty to a charge of misconduct under AR83(a) for making an inappropriate comment as she left the Stewards room following an inquiry in this race. K O'Hara was fined the sum of $1,000. Acting under the provisions of AR196(4) Stewards stayed $500 for a period of 12 months. K O'Hara was advised that her conduct at recent inquiries had been less than satisfactory and she must conduct herself in a professional manner in similar circumstances.

Our contributors suggested stewards would be more highly regarded by the punters if they took some action concerning the form reversals from Chris Waller-trained runners especially in races where stablemates are successful and favourites fail.



NOTHING official from the QRIC bunker but we are told that IAN BROWN has been appointed Deputy to Peter Chadwick, new Chief Steward heading to Queensland from Singapore.

Brown, who has served his time as Chief Stipe in North Queensland and on the Gold Coast, beat some stewards with more experience for the job, including Martin Knibbs, who has worked in Sydney and Hong Kong. Plenty are starting to ask what Knibbs has done to hit so many hurdles when it comes to promotion at QRIC.

Where can we expect Marty to be sidelined to in future? There’s a tip he’s going to the dogs! 

As for the promotion of Mrs Brown's 'boy' well some are saying it pays to be 'related' to the right people which simply isn't fair on a bloke who we at LGHR reckon does a terrific job and is a good choice.



THE win by the Ben Currie-trained APOLOBOOM at Doomben was one of the biggest form reversals of the weekend but attracted little interest from the stipes.

Apoloboom, which firmed before starting $6.5, had run 8th at the Gold Coast and 6th (to stablemate Isis Magic) at Toowoomba at its two previous starts. He had no luck when wide at his latest run but it was still a rise in class against Saturday grade horses on Saturday.

Enough said or we’ll be accused of a ‘witch hunt’ and ‘persecution’ of the Currie stable.



CHAMPION trainer DARREN WEIR was far from happy with the ride of DEAN YENDALL on the heavily-backed MOUNT KILCOY at FLEMINGTON on Saturday.

Stewards quizzed the Yendall tactics and he agreed it wasn’t one of his better rides. Yendall admitted he could have hooked Mount Kilcoy out about 50m early but with the strong headwind in the straight was not convinced he would have overhauled Mr Money Bags.

Yendall rides a lot of winners for the leading stable – especially at the provincials – but is responsible for more slaughter jobs than most.




THE ‘pub punters’’ favorite jockey, Dean Yendall, was in strife again for making an inappropriate post-race remark late last week.

Yendall was fined $200 following his win aboard Helcrimson at Bendigo last Friday. He had just unsaddled his mount when approached by's Brad Bishop for the customary interview.

After being asked how he was feeling after the win, Yendall replied that he was suffering from wrist soreness. Elaborating on the cause of the pain, Yendall told Bishop and viewers that it was due to 'too much wanking'.

Bishop, not surprisingly caught off-guard, tried his best to steer the conversation in a more PG-rated direction.

Yendall is no stranger to unsavoury post-race comments, with the Victorian hoop infamously declaring that he had ‘a raging horn’ after winning the 2016 Myer Classic.

Here are a couple of responses to his ‘wank’ comment:

‘Those who support him clearly don't know the difference between first class and second. As for those who think that Yendall is ‘hilarious’, they either have no sense of humor or respond to all levels of toilet humor which is the lowest class humor of them all.’

‘A pygmy with a matching brain.’

‘Gives the punters a good laugh. I feel like sending him the 200 for making my day.’

‘The fact that they fined him for this is absurd. Who do they think their audience is? No one watching would have been offended.’



SINGAPORE-bound Chief Steward TERRY BAILEY handed down his last suspension in Melbourne when CHRIS PARNHAM copped a 20 meetings for reckless riding on GOLDIFOX at Flemington on Saturday.

The West Australian hoop was not seen at his best, shifting out abruptly in the straight and interfering with Pedicel and Inkslinger, which almost fell.

Parnham described the incident as a brain fade but believed it should have been a careless riding charge, rather than a reckless one.



OUR spies report that the QRIC cops were out in force at Rockhampton for the two-day Newmarket and Cup Day meetings.

They were said to be ‘like bees around a honey pot’ with one visiting trainer apparently attracting considerable interest.

There was not so much attention by integrity to freezing, faraway Oak Park however where one visiting trainer earned the ‘tag’ of the ‘Ben Currie of the North’ – for all the wrong reasons.



Inside the extravagant life of the world's biggest professional gambler, known as 'The Joker' - who spends $3 billion a year betting on horse races:

THIS is probably a story that you would have expected Horse Racing Only to run given the publisher’s reported close connection to the individual written about. But we don’t mind reproducing it courtesy of the DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA (report by JOSH HANRAHAN) given the interest that ZELJKO RANOGAJEC apparently has in betting on Queensland racing.

  • Zeljko Ranogajec, 57, is considered the world's biggest gambler, betting $3 billion annually on horse racing
  • Ranogajec has been pictured only rarely and keeps business and day-to-day lifestyle extremely private
  • Along with wife Shelley and their daughter Emily, they left Sydney for London's most exclusive address in 2011
  • Now, Daily Mail Australia can give a revealing look into the extravagant lifestyle of the billionaire punter

He is the man who beats the odds - the world's biggest professional gambler.

But Australian billionaire punter Zeljko Ranogajec, a master mathematician known around the globe as 'The Joker', is also an elusive man of mystery.

Despite outlaying an estimated $3 billion on international gambling every year, including an extraordinary $800 million on the Australian horse industry, the 57-year-old is fiercely private.

The mammoth gambler is so rarely seen he is often jokingly compared to Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster or the Tasmanian Tiger.

But after flying under the radar for much of his life, Daily Mail Australia can now provide a rare insight into the extravagant world of Ranogajec, his wife Shelley and their teenage daughter Emily.

Intimate family pictures reveal a jet-set lifestyle of flying between continents, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, and booking top seats at major events such as Wimbledon.

After growing up in Tasmania, Ranogajec (who also goes by the pseudonym 'John Wilson') moved his family to London and the luxurious residence One Hyde Park, where a single apartment sold for a world record AUD$255 million in 2014. 

A RARE PHOTO of the man widely believed to be the world's biggest gambler, Zeljko Ranogajec (centre, in hat). His wife Shelley (next to him) and daughter Emily (second from left) are seen alongside him, as is his good friend David Walsh (far right) The Joker: Zeljko and Shelley married in March 1998. The professional gambler has been known to use the pseudonym 'John Wilson' to hide his identity in some business dealings.

As his wealth and gambling achievements grew, The Joker went out of his way to keep his day-to-day life private, employing tech experts to keep his business interests hidden in complex corporate mazes.

'We like to keep our dealings secretive. Nothing in writing,' he famously said of his punting in 2008 court evidence. 

In 2015, Ranogajec surprisingly opened a private Twitter page, describing himself as:  'Allegedly the world's biggest punter and high stake professional gambler.'  

He listed his hometown as Australia, London and USA but as usual his identity remained hidden - behind a 'profile picture' of a $600,000 Lamborghini Aventador. 

Similarly Ranogajec's wife and only child have also gone to great lengths to keep their identities secret, using pseudonyms and rarely showing their faces in photos.

But the pair's secretive social media accounts, in which they refer to themselves as 'Aussies living in London', are far more revealing, detailing the often lavish events they attend and famous people they meet.

The family left Sydney in 2011 and headed to London, where they moved into One Hyde Park - the most expensive address in the world The billionaire family's extravagant lifestyle includes having front row seats to famous acts such as Celine DionThe billionaire family's extravagant lifestyle includes having front row seats to famous acts such as Ellie Goulding Rubbing shoulders with celebrities and fine dining with world renowned chef Heston Blumenthal is also the norm


Ranogajec and his family are on the move every few weeks, travelling from Milan to Melbourne, Los Angeles to Paris and Hobart to Singapore.

When not flying between continents, the Ranogajecs appear to have a love of the ocean, seeing in 2017 in style aboard the cruise liner Ovation of the Seas.

Other cruises have been taken with Australian friends including Tasmanian art collector David Walsh and Sydney socialite Kristy Mirzikinian.

The Ranogajecs are major fans of the arts and the couple's daughter regularly appears at musicals, where she has on occasion joined the singers on stage.

The family routinely has box tickets to the Wimbledon men's final and front row seats for acts including singer Ellie Goulding as well as mixing with celebrities such as supermodel Cara DeLevigne.

There are international flights at the front end of the plane, fast cars and fine dining at Michelin star restaurants.

For the Ranogajec circle it's not unusual to have renowned chef Heston Blumenthal dine at their personal table or say a polite 'hello' to actor George Clooney, seated at the one opposite.

Charity dinners and official functions are also common, with daughter Emily arranging events for organisations including the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Through her teens Emily also enjoyed a number of lavish birthday parties, with clowns replaced by singers and performers from Australia and the United Kingdom.

In response to a story on her father last month by respected Sydney journalist Kate McClymont, the teenager went on the attack, tweeting: 'I think Kate McClymont should've done some fact checking... I thought the SMH was supposed to be a reliable source.'

McClymont's story had explained how Ranogajec, under the name John Wilson, will get even richer next month. 'Mr Wilson', who has the same birthday and address as Ranogajec, is listed as a major shareholder in Colossus Bets.

The couple's only child Emily last month hit out on Twitter at a story about her very reclusive father, claiming the facts were wrong.


The online gambling company will next month launch betting facilities at 55 racecourses across the UK, rivaling the traditional Tote and raking them in millions annually.

But in the beginning it wasn't big bets and billion dollar companies.

Ranogajec studied Commerce and Law at the University of Tasmania in the 1980s, when he teamed up with good friend and talented mathematician David Walsh to cash in at the casino.

Using maths to their advantage the gambling mates were soon winning so much through blackjack and poker they were booted off Australian tables.

The pair travelled to the United States where they continued winning, until being accused of card counting and forced home. 

Ranogajec then moved his attention away from casino tables and made horse racing his main focus.

The billionaire now has a cast of experts on his books - fellow mathematicians, experienced veterinarians and data analysts - plus trackside race day observers. A high-tech set up provides minute-by-minute racing results.

His team, known as 'the Bankroll', monitors races and horses around the world and around the clock, only gambling on a race or event once it reaches a specific size in the pool.

But while the mood of most punters hinges on whether they win or lose, Ranogajec has the race won before the barriers open.

Such is the value of his business gaming companies - including Australia's own Tabcorp - guarantee him rebates from the pool, sometimes up to as much as 20 per cent. 

Ranogajec explained his business model during a rare public appearance before the Federal Court in 2008.

'It's very simple... if you bet $100 and lost $5, but you get a 10 per cent rebate, you still make 5 per cent,' he told a magistrate.

'You always win. I'm telling you that, if you bet very large, it's a pari-mutuel pool, you depreciate it so far that you end up getting under fair odds. 

'If you fix something at $8, you get six, but if you get a rebate that puts you into the positive.

'We're called Bankroll Punters Club, that's what we call ourselves. Customers that bet on our level number in the handful in the world.'

He also revealed his stake in the highly successful syndicate called '20.613' percent. When the Australian Tax Office started looking into the syndicate, he moved his business address to the Isle Of Man, a tax haven in the waters between England and Ireland.

The family set up home for more than a decade on Sydney's exclusive north shore, before moving over to London Not only does he love to make money off sport, but also enjoy it in person with priceless tickets to events like the Wimbledon Men's final.

Ranogajec first made news in punting circles when word spread of an individual putting an enormous amount of cash through the TAB at The Vulcan, a pub in inner-city Sydney.

Soon, the betting turnover at the venue grew to be the highest in the whole city.

That was when the Croatian-born punter decided to buy the pub himself, such was the value of the commissions being made by the hotel owners from the TAB.

Another well-known story tells of how Ranogajec went all out to win a world record $7.5 million Keno jackpot at a Sydney RSL in 1994.

Ranogajec reportedly spent days at the North Ryde club, often arriving with seven-figure cheques in hand.

Eventually he won the jackpot and despite reportedly spending more than $7.5 million in doing so is believed to have come out on top with smaller prizes won along the way.

Ranogajec and David Walsh are also believed to have been responsible for four Keno jackpots going off in the space of 18 months at a small Hobart pub, the Waggon & Horses.

Much like his efforts to win the $7.5 million, Ranogajec and Walsh reportedly left betting slips for $340,000 lying around. In one year they reportedly bet more than $64 million in cash at the pub's TAB.

Flashback: Ranogajec and Walsh reportedly won millions on Keno and horse racing at The Waggon & Horses (pictured) in Hobart duting the 1990s. In one year the two best mates reportedly bet more than $64 million in cash across the pubs TABs Empire: Ranogajec and Shelley bought neighbouring properties (pictured) in Mosman for a total of $19.75 million in 2008 One of the couple's lavish homes is now being rented by radio shockjock Kyle Sandilands and his girlfriend Imogen Anthony (both pictured) for $4,000-a-week

Gambling insiders have confirmed that while horse racing is Ranogajec's major focus, sports betting is also an area of interest - as long as the pool is big enough. 

Unlike his jet-setting business partner, Walsh has remained in Tasmania and is famous for his $200 million Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). 

Outside of gambling one of Ranogajec and Shelley's biggest investments has been their property empire.

In 2008 they bought neighbouring mansions at Balmoral Beach, a regular haunt of the family's, for $19.75 million.

One of the homes is rented by radio shockjock Kyle Sandilands and his girlfriend Imogen Anthony for $4,000 a week.

The Ranogajec family packed up and left Sydney for London in 2011, but seems to be in no doubt about where they call home.

The Joker regularly returns to Australia to visit family and friends and catch-ups with his old mate Walsh, where they surely reminisce about the old days, are common.






THE major topic that contributors wanted to talk about this week was how difficult it is becoming for stewards to convince the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal that running and handling charges and penalties imposed should be sustained.

Respected QCAT Member, Ian Hanger, whilst setting aside suspensions imposed on leading harness driver Grant Dixon, issued some advice to the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission and its stewards’ panels.

“Mere errors of judgment in the running of the race should not be penalized unless the conduct can be described as blameworthy,” Mr Hanger warned.

“It would be more appropriate to call as a witness an independent expert who is not associated with the decision-making process.”

Mr Hanger’s comments and another embarrassing upheld appeal, whether conveniently or mischievously described by the mainstream racing media as ‘the miserable strike rate of QRIC’, is viewed far differently and with some dismay by punters and the racing public in general.

HERE are some of the WHINGES that LGHR has received since the Dixon decision was handed down and Ian Hanger made his observations and suggestions to QRIC:



‘THERE is an urgent need to restructure or even dismantle the current system of appeals in the gallops and harness codes in Queensland.

Of course the licensees will not agree with this observation but if they want punters to continue to bet with confidence it is arguably the only answer.

It has become virtually impossible for stewards to substantiate charges relating to the running and handling of horses at the gallops and trots.

One could suggest that stewards in Queensland are now impotent and that a good lawyer has gelded them when it relates to finding loopholes in the Rules of Racing.

No longer can a respected steward, with years of experience watching races, rely on his judgment to suggest that a race ride or harness drive was questionable.

It seems that all a jockey or reinsman has to do these days is blame it on the horse and that is good enough for QCAT to give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

Racing in Queensland is already a joke – on and off the track. This latest embarrassment simply means that punters will continue to steer away from betting on the local product in droves.’




‘THE latest decision and opinion expressed by QCAT which gives every jockey and driver the opportunity to simply blame the horse for charges imposed arguably makes a mockery of the appeals system.

Punters regard racing justice as a dirty word in Queensland these days and one can only suspect so do the hard working stewards who are finding it impossible to sustain charges when it comes to the handling of horses. Little wonder there is less and less action at the station. There is no point!

Denial of natural justice became a common catch phrase when smart lawyers started to get involved in the appeal process. Most would agree there is an argument against the stewards being judge, jury and for the want of a better word, executioner.

That is why the charge ‘Failing to Allow a Horse to Run on Its Merits’ became impossible to sustain. Stewards virtually required the jockey/driver, trainer or even the horse to admit it didn’t try and that certainly wasn’t going to happen.

So they relied more heavily on another rule: ‘Failing to Position a Horse to Give it Every Opportunity’. This was countered with the argument that problems during a race beyond the control of a jockey or driver or even the horse’s racing pattern or behavior were to blame. It has become all too hard for the racing police.

Queensland punters, in particular, have become sick and tired of seeing well backed horses or even favorites that drift alarmingly in price either missing the start, getting blocked for a run, or sitting wide and having to do too much work. Slaughter jobs have become common-place with inquiries, when they are held, largely resulting in a Stewards’ Report of ‘explanation noted’.

From a punters’ perspective it doesn’t make you too confident or keen when it comes to having a bet in Queensland. That is why most of us are heading interstate to bet these days where the licensees don’t seem to enjoy the same protection under the Appeals System.’



‘THE time has come for Queensland to follow the lead of Victoria and restructure its appeals system.

The new Victorian model seems to work a lot better with serious charges laid by stewards but then decided upon by a Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board Judge with an extensive knowledge of racing.

What’s the point of having the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal hear appeals if, on occasions, the Member responsible knows little about racing or harness racing. He or she then simply relies on points of law and a smart lawyer, with due respects, can swing the tide in favor of an arguably ‘guilty’ client.

There’s a vast difference between QCAT hearing arguments over barking dogs or disputes concerning trees overhanging neighboring properties than an intricate matter such as a horse on a running and handling where stewards saw it was ridden or driven differently but the jockey or driver suggests it was the horse’s behavior that contributed to the problem.

In Victoria stewards lay charges on serious offences relating to running and handling etc then the case is heard by a QCAT Judge with the offending party allowed to give his defense with the help of a lawyer before the decision is handled down.

The only time stewards adjudicate is when it comes to charges laid relating to careless riding or driving and penalties imposed can still be appealed to QCAT.

This seems a much fairer system – especially with a Judge well versed in racing hearing the serious charges rather than a QCAT Member who may not be experienced in racing or harness racing. It’s a specialized field where one could argue simple matters of law have to be considered differently to normal criminal or civil proceedings.’



‘PERCY THE PUNTER’ weighs in on the appeal by top jockey DAMIEN BROWNE:

‘THE cynics are already suggesting that the Grant Dixon victory before QCAT has set the scene for Damien Browne to escape his two month running and handling suspension.

Browne has blamed the horse – similarly in a sense to what Dixon did – and one could argue that the precedent has been set. He’s certainly odds-on to have the two month reduced which won’t sit well with those punters who backed his mount.

Then we have the situation involving the case of Ben Currie and his father Mark. But this is a whole different scenario, especially where Ben is concerned – largely because these are charges that don’t relate to running and handling.

But there are still legal technicalities and no doubt a smart lawyer like Jim Murdoch, who knows the loopholes of racing law, will find an escape on some for young Ben. Regardless of the outcome, it will divide the racing industry.’



LEN COURTNEY of BRISBANE has his say on the GRANT DIXON appeal decision:

‘ANOTHER Houdini for the Dixon stable and to most who have followed harness racing in Queensland over the years it comes as no surprise.

Few of us have forgotten how a number of prominent trots trainers had serious penalties for a string of positive swabs overturned on a legal technicality – not necessarily because they weren’t guilty but because the ‘secondary’ swabs weren’t sent for testing to an ‘accredited’ laboratory (even though where these went was regarded by many experts just as efficient as the first one).

Now we have leading driver Grant Dixon escaping two charges following drives deemed unacceptable by the stewards which had netted him suspensions of six and eight weeks. I can assure you that many punters who bet on these races are gob-smacked by the QCAT decision.

In his decision, QCAT adjudicator, Ian Hanger, wrote: “Mere errors of judgment in the running of the race should not be penalized unless the conduct can be described as blameworthy.

“Having listened to Mr Dixon, and Mr (David) Farquharson (Harness Racing Chief Steward) and considering the transcript of the Stewards’ Inquiry and decision, I am not comfortably satisfied that the conduct of Mr Dixon can be considered worthy of blame.

“I have listened to the evidence, viewed the video from each angle and searched for conduct that might be described as blameworthy on the part of Mr Dixon.

“I take into account that he is the person who knows the horse; the fact that he formed the opinion that the extra lap plus the horse’s personality had placed it at a slight disadvantage, the fact that at the end of the race its pulse was much higher than it would normally be at the end of a race and the fact that it is Mr Dixon who must make the split second decisions that are required in the course of a race.

“I am not comfortably satisfied that Mr Dixon drove in an unacceptable manner.”

One could argue that on this basis it is going to be virtually impossible for stewards to sustain convictions for running and handling at the ‘red hots’ when it comes to Appeals.

Punters will forever struggle to accept that QCAT should give reinsmen the benefit of the doubt for questionable drives settling aside the opinion of experienced stewards who watch these horses race week in week out.’






STEWARDING heavies were front and centre when the BRISBANE RACING CLUB hosted a testimonial for ALLAN REARDON, the CHIEF STEWARD bitter that he has been put out to pasture by the QUEENSLAND RACING INTEGRITY COMMISSION.

Those who made the journey north to farewell Al included Terry Bailey (from Melbourne, soon to be Singapore), Ray Murrihy, Reid Sanders and Greg Rudolph.

We’re not sure if Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett (who Reardon recently fired a few shots at) was invited. Notable absentees reportedly also included Jamie Dart and Wade Birch.

Story goes the general consensus was that Daniel Aurisch (who has been appointed caretaker Chief Steward) would have made a better choice to replace Reardon than Peter Chadwick (who comes from Singapore with a mixed report card from some close to the action).

The Reardon testimonial went off smoothly with niceties expressed between one high profile steward and a prominent media man but certainly no love lost.

LGHR reckons QRIC could do a lot worse mending fences with Reardon by offering the job of independent assessor of races the subject of appeals at QCAT (which recommended such appointment could help the stewards improve their strike rate).

As high profile Hong Kong Chief Steward Kim Kelly commented to Nathan Exelby of The Sunday Mail: ‘There is no better reader of races than Reardon’. What lost us at LGHR was Reardon’s seeming reluctance late in his career to go for the juggler on some of those trainers and jockeys who the Queensland punters have no confidence in.  



HOW good is Australia’s leading lady rider, LINDA MEECH, performing almost every race meeting in MELBOURNE?

Her win on WENNER ($7.5 to $5) at CAULFIELD on SATURDAY completed the first metropolitan double in 30 years of training for KEN KEYS (he won one race earlier with AL PASSEN at $21).

Last season Meech rode 127 winners and so far this season she has ridden the winners of 121 races, with the latest the plunged MAGNUS RUFUS at SALE on SUNDAY. Her strike rate of 18 per cent is one of the best in VICTORIA. She seems to get better with age!


RON STEWART, one of the most underrated jockeys in Queensland, deserves bouquets for his ride on RINGO’S A ROCKSTAR ($5 to $4.6) at the SUNSHINE COAST on SATURDAY.

The Norm Stephens-trained sprinter overhauled TARZAN despite proving a bit of a handful for Stewart wanting to hang out then in.

Whilst his ride won the race that of STEFANIE LACY didn’t help third placed IRISH CONSTABULARY when she went to the worse ground on the fence.



PUNTERS finally caught up with SHOGUN SUN when he dropped in class and bolted in at the SUNSHINE COAST on SATURDAY. Not surprisingly bookies took him on ($2.2 to $3.2) as the three-year-old has promised plenty and failed to deliver at times.

He was the second leg of a double for popular trainer KELLY SCHWEIDA (who won the first with favorite BLUEBROOK. The stable could well have had a treble for the day but plunged debutante RAMTASTIC refused to load at the GOLD COAST after being backed into favoritism after some eye-catching trials.




The WINTER CUP at ROSEHILL on SATUDAY was an ugly watch for those who follow fancies from the CHRIS WALLER stable.

SAYED (which refused to settle) and DOUKHAN (lost ground at start, had blood in one nostril) finished at the tail of the five-horse field and couldn’t pick their feet up.

Those who follow the money would however have finished ahead with the heavily-backed HARPER’S CHOICE ($4 to $3) gifted an easy lead and winning like a he had no opposition.


DARREN WEIR broke his own training record for Victorian metropolitan winners in a season with a month to spare at Caulfield on SATURDAY. Victory to imported stayer PACODALI was his 138th metropolitan winner in Victoria for 2017-18.

But that was where the GOOD side of the story ended for punters. PAKODALI ($11 to $8) beat the more fancied stablemate, SIXTIES GROOVE ($4.2 to $4). It was a similar fate for WEIR followers earlier in the card when HARIPOUR ($26 to $19) nosed out the terribly unlucky MANTASTIC ($3.4 to $4.2) which worked wide and should have won.


WE had a couple of complaints about the policy of SKY to transfer live coverage of delayed races from SKY 1 to SKY 2.

Punters complained that on Saturday they were quick to move the GOLD COAST to SKY 2 when it was a minute past post time but waited three minutes to get a second rate NSW race to air on the main channel.

Surely those in Queensland are accustomed to this second rate SKY treatment by now. Bring on live coverage on Network Seven.  




OUR spies in the North insist this story is correct but unfortunately we can’t find a Stewards’ Report to back it up which one would think should have been published.

We are told that one of Queensland’s most popular owners, disillusioned at what has been happening to his horses in races at TAB provincial tracks all over the State, stormed into the jockeys’ room at a meeting in a major northern centre recently and gave the hoops a gob full.

Story goes he was hauled before stewards to explain his behavior – one would have thought with all the gossip and anger doing the rounds they would have been well aware of the situation by now.

We can’t tell you the outcome – or if this actually occurred although we believe it did because there doesn’t appear to be a Stewards’ Report on the incident. Now they wouldn’t be trying to hush this up in the north, would they?   


MOST punters and quite a few ‘experts’ thought BROOK MAGIC was the ‘good thing’ of the day at ROSEHILL on Saturday.

It wasn’t a good look when the easing favorite ($2 to $2.3) was taken on in front by DIFFICULT TO GET which destroyed the chances of both.

Stewards did question Ty Angland about his tactics on DIFFICULT TO DESTROY and he explained that after firing the mare up early she refused to settle. The race went to the Melbourne visitor & ROUGHIE of the FIELD, GALA MOSHEA ($15 to $11).


EASY EDDIE was sent out FAVORITE at his previous start at RANDWICK and ran last when they blamed the HEAVY 8 conditions.

Back on a SOFT 7 on Saturday at ROSEHILL he raced on the pace in the last and proved too strong at $11.

Adding insult to injury for SYDNEY punters the well backed CHAUFFEUR raced like a mule. After coming across from his wide alley he dropped out badly with jockey COREY BROWN blaming the shifting surface for the poor performance.




OUR colleague ARCHIE BUTTERFLY has again hit a hurdle and has been, at least temporarily, forced to close his newest website

Rather than LGHR try to explain what has happened, here is Archie’s latest message, which we are sure he won’t mind us reproducing from his site:

THANK you to the many kind supporters who have donated to my legal defence. Your generosity and care is greatly appreciated, and I hope will assist me in getting back writing about the things that matter in racing really soon.

It's a sad day when a journalist can be cut off from telling the truth and exposing odium simply because the subjects of their stories run to the police and claim they are being harassed and that it is causing them angst.

I have been charged with five counts of stalking different, but professionally related, individuals. Each of the charges relates to one or more articles I have written about certain people accusing them of unethical or unlawful conduct.

None of the charges involves females; none involve any form of improper sexual conduct (Maggie is enough for me: I don't need to go shopping); there are no allegations of contact, physical or otherwise, other than an attempt/s to contact the subjects of stories to seek comment and/or provide a right of reply prior to publication; there are no allegations of anything at all other than what is contained in the stories.

It is worth noting that not one of the five people that I am ridiculously charged with 'stalking' has ever taken civil action against me for defamation or libel in relation to any story that I have written. There is a simple reason for this: the stories are true.

So why I am I being harassed by a certain cabal of plain-clothed police from the Hendra CIB, who seem to delight in coming to my home in packs with guns on their hips and frightening my elderly father and infant grandson as they force entry via warrant to remove my tools of trade, research files, telecommunication links to the outside world, and my wife and children's devices too?

I am not at liberty to place my opinion on the public record, but ask you to consider this.

My friend Hedley Thomas's brilliant podcast series 'The Teacher's Pet' - in which he all but openly (and in most people's view correctly) accuses a man of murder - has been downloaded by 1.2 million people and the eighth episode is about to be released.

I have accused no-one of murder or any such serious violent offence, but rather have made accusations of a range of wrongdoing by people who I firmly believe, based on evidence, have done what I have stated or suggested that I have.

My stories and those of Hedley Thomas, while worlds apart in content and probably quality (mine are better), are really of much the same vein. We are both investigative journalists who have done the hard slog and come up with certain conclusions based upon our research and subsequent hypothesis-testing and fact-checking.

However Hedley has not been charged with stalking, and I have. How does that work?

Don't think for a moment that I am suggesting that Australia's leading journalist is a stalker, for I am certainly not. I am simply stating unequivocally that I am not either.

The big difference though is that one of us works for the mainstream media and has the protection of the Murdoch Empire's legal resources and funds, and the other works for himself and has no lawyers and no funds to pay for them.

That's why I am asking you to help if you can.

If I am silenced not only does the racing public lose a unique voice writing about the things that others don't and calling it as he sees it with neither fear nor favour; that's the least of it. The real issue is that by virtue of these totally absurd charges and the impact that they are having on my work and my life I am being used as an example to deter others who may wish to speak up or about issues of extreme importance to our sport.

Meanwhile we race on in the choppy seas at Doomben week after week, or are airlifted to the even rougher waters of Ipswich, or up and down the coast to tracks that are already doing more than their share of the lifting, and no-one is standing up and telling you how, who and why.

I'd love to keep doing so, but to do that I need to be able to pay lawyers to do their business while I concentrate on ours.

That can only be achieved with your support.

Racing matters, and so do the people who love it; and we deserve a fearless, independent voice.

Love me or hate me, agree or disagree with what I write; it doesn't matter. I'm the only one telling you the other side of the story, and that voice is mine.

Please help us keep it alive by digging deep and chucking something into the hat if you can.

Thanks sportsfans.

Good luck, and have a winning day. Help spread the word!


WHILST the approach that LETSGOHORSERACING takes is often poles apart from that of the BUTTERFLY, we believe that the goal posts have now been moved providing an opportunity for the law to be manipulated where websites that dare to question or objectively criticize are concerned.

Greater powers were needed to ensure offenders involved in terrorism and pedapholeia could be brought to justice. Our country and children need and deserve to be safe. Something needs to be done to control those who basically say what they like on Facebook and Twitter regardless of the laws of defamation. There are even racing websites that allow visitors to ‘chat rooms’ posting under psuedonyms to character assassinate whoever they please yet they seem to go unnoticed while those operating ‘investigative’ blogs are under the microscope. 

One could argue that under the new ‘communication device stalking law’ an investigative journalist (without the backing of one of the big media organizations in this country) who legitimately exposes what he or she believes to be illegal activity or corruption of some sort, could be arrested, charged, convicted, censored or silenced by complaints to police from those they are targeting that they are being harassed or menaced. In some cases this runs the risk of a manipulation of the legal system that protects those with the most to lose – the crooks.

Interestingly, it has been brought to our attention at LGHR that under the new Unlawful Stalking Reforms there was particular protection granted to certain parties to ensure what we have just referred to above didn’t happen.

One section of the Bill reads that prohibition on harassment does not apply where a person can show that:

IN the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable. This exemption was included to safeguard the legitimate activities of people such as journalists, salesmen, religious activists, debt collectors, private investigators or political canvassers.

We’re not too comfortable being bundled in with some in that group. Nevertheless, the police have a job to do, on-line harassment has become a major problem and LGHR like every other website operator and blogger needs to stay within the limits of what is acceptable. Keep your contributions coming but please bear in mind that every word you write is now under the microscope not only from lawyers acting on behalf of those you might criticize but also the lawmakers in this State and country.   



INTERESTINGLY, one QUEENSLAND BLOGGER (not racing related) has already been cleared of a ‘stalking charge’ under this innocuous new law.

Here is an ABC NEWS report by PAUL ROBINSON and KRISTIAN SILVA  headlined: ‘Blogger Petros Khalesirad cleared of charges over alleged stalking of Queensland MP’ which reads:

A court has thrown out unlawful stalking charges against a self-described citizen journalist accused of harassing Labor MP Brittany Lauga.

Petros Khalesirad, a local businessman and political blogger, was accused of making derogatory posts on social media and publishing Ms Lauga's phone number and a photo of her house online.

On one occasion he referred to her as the ‘minister for trailer trash’, and asked her neighbors when she walked her dog.

In court, the Keppel MP said the posts made her anxious, and she felt as if she was under constant surveillance by Mr Khalesirad.

However, Rockhampton Magistrate Cameron Press said the weight of evidence was not strong enough to prove a stalking charge and said Mr Khalesirad had no case to answer.

"I cannot conclude that a reasonable jury even taking the evidence at its highest could find that the charge was proved beyond reasonable doubt," he said.

In court, Mr Khalesirad's lawyers argued the charges were concocted to pressure him into dropping an investigation of fraud allegations against Ms Lauga's husband.

"Democracy's an important thing in Australia under a representative government," Mr Khalesirad said outside court.

"I think we have a right to ask questions about government decisions, indeed policy decisions, about members of parliament. I think it's everyone's obligation to do that."

In a statement, Ms Lauga said she was "incredibly disappointed" by the court's verdict.

"Politics can be a nasty business, but I remain determined not to stoop to the level of those who seek to destroy my reputation," she said.




MELBOURNE’S Spring Racing Carnival has been an integral part of the city's culture for well over 100 years. Culminating in one of the world’s most prestigious horse races on the first Tuesday in November in the Melbourne Cup, the ever-vibrant city comes alive for the weeks leading up to the 'race that stops a nation'.

While the racing is obviously the focus, there is far more to the carnival than the horses and far more to the city itself. Carnival time is one of the best periods of the year to visit Melbourne and there's plenty to keep you busy when you're not trackside.

To start your day in Melbourne without a coffee would be borderline offensive in this caffeine-obsessed town. Soak up the European vibe by grabbing a seat at Degraves Espresso on Degraves St, ordering a latte and some breakfast, and make sure you've got a copy of the day's newspaper to read up on the latest form & racing news for the next race day.

Now that you've woken up properly, stroll across the Princes Bridge before taking your pick from either side of St Kilda Road. The eastern side will give you a relaxing walk through the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens while the west leads to the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia's largest art gallery and home to a wide range of exhibitions all year round.

No doubt hungry after the morning's activities, you have an almost overwhelming array of choices for lunch. Melbourne is a truly multicultural city so you'll be able to satisfy any craving. The city's Chinatown runs through the eastern end of Little Bourke Street and is the perfect place to grab some dumplings or a bowl of noodles. The surrounding area is packed with other Asian cuisine, so if Ramen, Massaman Curry or Pho is more to your liking, it won't take you long to find your ideal spot.

From there, continue north through the city centre towards the Old Melbourne Gaol on Russell Street, where you can tour the prison grounds and brush up on your knowledge of Melbourne's criminal history in the era shortly after European settlement.

If the Gaol isn’t to your liking, wander a few more blocks north towards Carlton Gardens at the top of Spring Street, where amongst the grand old trees and floral displays you'll find the stunning old Royal Exhibition building which once housed the first Federal Parliament of Australia. Just behind the Exhibition Building is the Melbourne Museum, well worth a visit for the intriguing exhibits on nature and cultural history.

Just a few blocks westwards from Carlton Gardens is Lygon Street, home to Melbourne's huge Italian community and all the magnificent pizza, pasta and gelato that you'd expect to come with it. Fill up on delicious food here before making your way back down to the southern end of the city centre, because no evening would be complete without a few drinks to cap off a day well spent.

Alongside the Yarra River, there are numerous options to sit and enjoy a refreshing beer or cocktail with a beautiful view of the city. A few local favourites include Abory Bar & Eatery, which sits on the northern bank of the river between Flinders Street Station and the water and Ponyfish Island, a tiny island haven in the middle of the river underneath the Southbank pedestrian bridge. Failing that, just head to the strip along Southbank promenade where you can find popular destinations like Ludlow and The Breslin.

And after the perfect end to your day in this wonderful city, what's left to do but head home for a well-earned rest and make sure you're in top form before heading out to the racecourse in the morning? As of May 15th, Betway has last year’s winner Rekindling as the favourite to take out the 2018 Melbourne Cup at 20/1, so don't forget to keep an eye out before the odds shorten!



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