FIELD OF 32 REMAINS IM MELBOURNE CUP CONTENTION
A total of 32 horses remain in contention for a start in tomorrow week’s $6.2 million Emirates Melbourne Cup (3200m) following today’s close of second acceptances.
Ciaron Maher’s brilliant BMW Caulfield Cup (2400m) winner Jameka headlines the list of Cup hopefuls, as she prepares to emulate Ethereal and become just the 12th horse to complete the Caulfield Cup – Melbourne Cup double in the 1 November feature.
Following the withdrawal of the Chris Waller-trained Preferment, Michael Bell’s Big Orange and the Lee and Anthony Freedman-prepared Our Ivanhowe are the top-weighted gallopers with 56kg, meaning all weights will be raised by 1kg come final acceptance time should they remain in the final field.
Big Orange is one of 10 internationally-prepared gallopers remaining in the Emirates Melbourne Cup, eight of which are currently inside the top 24 and are assured a start in the 3200-metre staying test.
TAB.com.au pre-race favourite Hartnell, a gallant second behind Winx in Saturday’s William Hill Cox Plate (2040m), remains in the field and is one of seven horses hailing from the Godolphin operation that remain on-track for a start in the Emirates Melbourne Cup.
Charlie Appleby’s BMW Caulfield Cup placegetter Scottish, last-start Geelong Cup winner and placegetter Qewy and Oceanographer, John O’Shea’s Tally and the Saeed bin Suroor-prepared duo Secret Number and Beautiful Romance round out the Godolphin septet.
While Qewy (25th) and Oceanographer (29th) both currently sit outside the final field of 24, fellow internationals Wicklow Brave (eighth), Curren Mirotic (fifth), and Heartbreak City (18th) are all assured of a Cup start come the first Tuesday in November.
Aidan O’Brien’s sole representative, Bondi Beach, has also secured a position in the final field and is one of four Lloyd Williams-owned horses among the field of 32. The Bart Cummings (2500m) winner Almandin, Assign and Gallante complete Mr Williams’ quartet.
Saturday’s Group 2 Schweppes Crystal Mile (1600m) winner The United States was among today’s most notable withdrawals, with Preferment and Tarzino the other top 24-ranked horses not to accept.
Trainer Matt Cumani’s Geelong Cup placegetter Grey Lion currently sits at 24th in the Order of Entry, but is not guaranteed a start, with the winner of Saturday’s Lexus Stakes (2500m) at Flemington guaranteed a start in the Emirates Melbourne Cup if among the final acceptances.
Final acceptances for the Emirates Melbourne Cup will be taken at 4.30pm on Saturday, 29 October, following the running of the Lexus Stakes. All 32 horses remaining in the Emirates Melbourne Cup field will be examined before that time by Racing Victoria vets to determine their suitability to accept.
NIKOLIC ALLEGEDLY SEXUALLY ASSAULTED BY GERALD RYAN 20 YEARS AGO
CONTROVERSIAL jockey Danny Nikolic was allegedly sexually assaulted by racehorse trainer Gerald Ryan more than 20 years ago when they worked at stables owned by racing identity David Moodie, who was appointed chairman of Racing Victoria last year.
CAMERON HOUSTON, CHRIS JOHNSTON & CHRIS VEDELAGO report for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Nikolic has given written permission for Fairfax Media to identify him as the victim of the alleged assault – an open secret among many in the racing fraternity – which is said to have taken place just days before the Golden Slipper Stakes in Sydney in March 1996.
Ryan has been implicated in a string of assaults on young jockeys and stablehands at Moodie's Hobson's Lodge, but has never been charged by police or sanctioned by racing authorities.
He continues to train more than 100 horses at bases on the Gold Coast and Rosehill in Sydney.
A former jockey himself, Ryan declined to make any comment on Thursday.
The new revelations involving Nikolic are expected to cause further turmoil in the "sport of kings", which is already reeling from a probity investigation into Moodie, announced on the eve of last weekend's Caulfield Cup.
This week, Nikolic and his legal team completed their appeal to overturn a four-year ban from riding in Victoria's Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
At no stage during the three-week hearing did Nikolic's lawyers raise the explosive claims of sexual abuse to explain or mitigate the behaviour that prompted Racing Victoria to cancel his licence.
While Nikolic opted not to make any comment about the 1996 incident, sources close to the former jockey said he was allegedly assaulted by Ryan after falling asleep in a Sydney apartment.
Nikolic, who was 22, awoke and grabbed Ryan by the neck and threw him against a wall. Other Hobson's Lodge staff sleeping in adjoining apartments were woken by the commotion.
A source close to Nikolic said he was not "overly emotionally traumatised or scarred by the incident" and never made a complaint to police.
Nikolic is believed to have informed Moodie and Victorian Racing Club stewards of the alleged attack, but with his riding career about to take off, he wanted to avoid a scandal.
"Gerald Ryan was a popular racing figure with a quiet and likeable nature," one source said.
"He made a lot of people plenty of money with his prodigious horse training talents. And we all know what a powerful motivator money is."
Following a string of accusations against Ryan, Moodie called a meeting of all staff at Hobson's Lodge in April 1996.
According to reports at the time, Moodie asked if anyone had been sexually harassed – and more than half of the 22 employees raised their hands.
Within days of the meeting, Ryan went on a month's leave from Hobson's Lodge, while an investigation was launched by stewards from the VRC, which was responsible for oversight of the sport in Victoria at the time.
Racing Victoria assumed control of the integrity of the sport in this state in 2001.
More than 30 people were interviewed by VRC stewards, including 22 stablehands, six jockeys, three apprentice jockeys, and an owner believed to be Moodie.
The VRC informed Ryan that he would have to ‘show cause’ as to why he should keep his trainer's licence, at a hearing on June 6, 1996.
On June 3 – just three days before he was due to defend the serious accusations – Ryan handed back his licence to the VRC. At the time, he was Victoria's leading trainer, but did not explain his shock departure.
He is understood to have trained horses in Malaysia for a stint, before returning to Australia in 1997 and establishing a base on the Gold Coast.
Several alleged victims and their families are scathing of the racing industry's handling of the sexual abuse allegations, and some say the allegations may explain Mr Nikolic's fiery attitude toward the racing establishment.
'Who'd believe me'
Gail Goring, the mother of former jockey Mark Goring, says her son was routinely groped by Mr Ryan as a 15-year-old apprentice.
She says the VRC and Moodie should have done more to protect staff at Hobson's Lodge from the trainer's predatory behaviour.
Mrs Goring said her son was one of several jockeys to provide a victim impact statement to the VRC but he never reported the assaults to police because of fears it would damage his career prospects.
"When this matter came to a head, I asked Mark why he hadn't said anything. His answer was 'who's going to believe me against Gerald Ryan?' "
In August 1997, Mrs Goring sent a letter to the VRC pleading with them to never issue Mr Ryan with another licence in Victoria.
"Inspector Mark Flanagan of the vice squad, racing division, advised Mark to press charges because he was a minor at the time.
"Mark declined to do so because he thought the immense interest and publicity could be detrimental to his career," Mrs Goring said in the letter.
At the time, Mrs Goring says, she was given an assurance from former chief steward Des Gleeson that Ryan would never work in Victoria on his watch.
In 2003, Mark Goring was killed in a race fall at Tatura.
For the past two decades, Ryan has stayed north of the border and enhanced his reputation as one of the nation's finest trainers.
He's won the Brisbane trainers' premiership and finished in the top 10 of the Sydney trainers' premiership in six out of the past seven years.
While he attended Melbourne races, the 61-year-old never had a permanent base in his home town.
But last December, Ryan told Fairfax Media he was thinking about setting up a satellite stable in Melbourne.
"I'm 60 though, and I've got to think about that, but I never go into these things half-hearted. It's a lot of work and it would take time to build the Melbourne business," Ryan said.
Despite fleeing the state in 1996 without facing his accusers, Ryan's plan to return to Melbourne was endorsed by Moodie, who was appointed chairman of Racing Victoria in May last year.
"We enjoyed some sensational success in those times. He's a wonderful horseman who's a hard worker and I'm sure if he had some presence in Melbourne I would support him," Moodie said in December last year.
As recently as October 2009, Victoria Police continued to receive sworn statements about Ryan's alleged historical offending.
Spiralling out of control
Former jockey Jamie Evans told police he was working as an apprentice from 1986 until 1988 at the Epsom training centre in Mordialloc to trainer Kath Smith, whom he was boarding with.
In 1986, while riding at Geelong racecourse, he was injured by a horse and took two powerful pain medication tablets.
"I became very drowsy after about 20 minutes," he said.
At the time, Gerald Ryan was a fellow jockey, but much older than Evans, who was 17 at the time.
"I looked up to him, he was like a mentor to me."
Driving home with Ryan, Evans said, he fell asleep in the front passenger seat but woke up at the training centre in Mordialloc to find Ryan performing oral sex on him in the car.
He told police he ran from the car onto the street, hailed a taxi and went to Mrs Smith's house, but didn't tell her what had happened.
"From that day onwards I started drinking heavily, started taking pills to numb the embarrassment ... my life started to spiral out of control," Evans said.
Then, Evans said, in 1996, with Ryan now a trainer, his friend and fellow jockey Danny Nikolic told him Ryan had sexually abused him after he had fallen asleep.
Evans told police that a stewards' inquiry was opened after a media report about allegations against Ryan and a meeting was held between Nikolic, Moodie, and a group of stewards.
"Danny told me Gerald Ryan walked into the conference, threw his hands in the air and said: 'I can't help it, I like blokes'."
Racing Victoria CEO Bernard Saundry said the current governing body was only constituted in 2001, so could not comment on what processes were taken in the mid-1990's by the state's then-administrative body.
"Racing Victoria takes any allegations of sexual assault or any criminal activity with the utmost seriousness," he said.
"If any allegation of criminal activity is brought before Racing Victoria it is standard procedure that the matter is referred to Victoria Police."
Moodie and Victoria Police did not respond to repeated requests for comment on Thursday.
KO’K TELLS IT AS IT IS – A RACING BOSS IN QLD WHO SHOWS SOME BALLS!
TERRY BUTTS in his ‘SILKS & SADDLES’ column in the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, reported on the annual meeting of the TOWNSVILLE TURF CLUB:
QUEENSLAND needs more racing administrators like Kevin O’Keefe who has all but been forced out of his key role in the industry by frustration with control bodies not to mention ill-health.
O’Keefe launched a salvo at those running the show at Racing Queensland in his annual report for the Townsville Turf Club and it would be difficult to find an objective racing follower or stakeholder who would not agree with his sentiments.
Here’s part of what O’Keefe had to say in his annual report and here’s hoping someone at RQ takes it aboard:
RACING Queensland is the Control Body of the racing industry in Queensland. All other Australian States have been very supportive of the Racing Industry by increasing prize money and investing in a capital works program to attract participants and the general public.
Racing Queensland unfortunately has the total racing industry in a non-buoyant mode where loss of prize money, transfer of race dates to mid-week meetings are denying the Clubs the opportunity to create income to further support the Clubs viability. Saturday Race dates have proven there is sufficient income to support the Club’s financial position.
In contrast to prize money cuts, Administration costs such as licensing, nominations and acceptance fees along with registration fees have been raised to no doubt support the deficits Racing Queensland appear to have or have created. Is this due to the ‘DO NOT MENTION’ the UBET deal being a failure or lack of Racing at Eagle Farm whilst in reconstruction mode?
Perhaps it may be assisted by the fact the bureaucratic system at Racing Queensland has grown dramatically which pushes up costs whether necessary or unnecessary.
We are advised:
Compliance staff has been increased by 300%. (Non-compliance by Clubs administration staff is utilised to withhold administrative funding).
Promotion staff is in excess of five. Results?
Maybe this has been created by the Greyhound live baiting dilemma? Or is it an over-kill at great cost to the overall Industry.
One has to query how it all works in Queensland considering:
(a) The Racing Industry is controlled by the Queensland Government via;
(b) The Racing Minister via;
(c) The Office for Racing a Queensland Government Statutory Body via;
(d) The Racing Queensland Board via;
(e) The Three Codes Boards via,
(f) The Bureaucratic System of Racing Queensland via;
(g) The Racing Queensland Licensed Clubs the majority who are Incorporated bodies under the Australian Corporation Laws where the Directors are held personally responsible under its laws.
Or like the Townsville Turf Club is an Incorporated Association and not an Incorporated Company under Australian Corporation Laws.
The Question: How can a State Government Statutory Body who controls the Clubs racing dates, the prize money levels, Club compliances, Club funding via administration subsidies etc indemnify the Directors of any Club when the threat of insolvency is created by the system and not of their doing?
Now it has been announced Racing Queensland has incurred a loss of $21 million plus for the previous financial year with a budgeted loss of $12 million plus for 2016/2017 financial year. What chance has Clubs of surviving when the administration has obvious financial problems?
It is common knowledge Mackay is a good example where Racing Queensland took over the Club from the Committee who were moved aside. Racing Queensland incurred the Club’s loss to $300,000 plus then threatened to close the Club down if the Committee did not return to take over control. Racing Queensland left the debt with the newly formed Club Committee.
RACING NSW CHAIRMAN QUITS 10 MONTHS INTO THREE-YEAR TERM
RACING NSW chairman John Messara has quit as the state's top thoroughbred racing official just 10 months into a three-year term.
ADAM PENGILLY reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that Messara (pictured) tendered his resignation at a board meeting in Sydney on Monday in another shock to the country's racing administration, which is already reeling from Racing Victoria chairman David Moodie temporarily standing aside on the eve of the Caulfield Cup as he is probed for an integrity breach.
Messara, who was instrumental in the establishment of The Championships, told his fellow board members of his intention to retire from the Racing NSW board at the end of December. He had been chairman for five years.
It was only in December last year Messara was appointed by racing minister Troy Grant to another three-year term alongside deputy Russell Balding.
Their appointments were confirmed alongside Saranne Cooke and Jennifer Owen earning spots on the Racing NSW board. Owen resigned from her position just last month.
Messara will also relinquish his role as chairman of Racing Australia in a major shake-up of the racing industry as the two biggest states are left in a state of flux.
"It's been a privilege to serve the racing industry in such an outstanding team including the board and the executive of Racing NSW," Messara said in a statement. "All of our original objectives have been achieved during the five years.
"I wish to give special thanks to the chief executive, Mr Peter V'landys AM, who has been a tower of strength during what has been an often challenging scenario.
"I also wish to thank the Deputy Premier and Minister for Racing, The Hon Troy Grant MP and his predecessor The Hon George Souris, for their guidance and support during my term in office."
Messara's appointment to the Racing NSW board as chairman in 2011 was questioned in certain circles given his close ties to the breeding industry where he was principal of one of the country's biggest thoroughbred nurseries, Arrowfield Stud.
But he has overseen racing's long-fought battle to achieve tax parity with Victoria and record prizemoney increases in the state, which now offers $100,000 minimum in stakes for metropolitan Saturday races.
The Championships continues to gather momentum with a pair of $10 million racedays either side of the city's Australian Easter Yearling Sales run by Inglis.
But he also courted controversy when it emerged he had bought a share in It's A Dundeel, which later went on to win the $4 million Queen Elizabeth Stakes, while being an architect of increasing the race’s stakes from $500,000 as part of the inaugural The Championships.
Asked if he should have declared his interest when the prizemoney was being discussed, Mr Messara said, "No, not at all." "Conflict of interest is a state of mind, in my view," he told the Herald at the time. "I know … it looks like a Machiavellian plot, but it wasn't."
Mr Messara rejected any suggestion the purchase and increase in prizemoney were linked.
"Anyone who understands racing knows that it is ridiculously speculative. There is no certainty. I didn't buy it and then say to myself, 'I will win that race'."
Messara's resignation stunned many inside the industry who expected him to fulfil the remainder of his term at the helm of the board.
"Thoroughbred racing has a bright future in this state and Mr Messara's advocacy for reform has played a crucial part in this – from stronger integrity measures for the sport to wagering tax parity with Victoria," Grant said.
"Under Mr Messara's leadership, NSW finally has a premier racing event, the Sydney autumn carnival, which is expected to continue to grow from its strong foundation."
Messara's departure comes at turbulent times for the racing industry with Moodie subject to an integrity investigation from Victoria's Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna.
Racing Victoria's chairmanship was briefly assumed by Michael Caveny after Moodie stood himself down, but Caveny is due to leave the board next week and Mike Hirst is now the acting chairman.
The organisation is still seeking a chief executive to fill the position to be imminently vacated by Bernard Saundry while it is without a boss for its broadcasting arm Racing.com after Scott Perrin's departure.
Despite the many differences between their respective states, Messara and Moodie were thought to have fostered a strong working relationship to settle numerous squabbles which have broken out in the past two years.
The Australian Turf Club paid tribute to Messara, saying he had been involved in some of the biggest and most important changes to Sydney racing in its history.
"We are very grateful for the strong partnership we have continued to build with Racing NSW since the merger in February 2011," ATC chairman Laurie Macri said in a statement released on Monday night.
"This has been due in significant part to the determined and strategic leadership shown by John as Chairman of the Racing NSW Board.
"I particularly commend John's role in working with the ATC to secure the deal with SKY Racing to showcase Sydney racing to the world.
"I am grateful for what I have learned from John's talents as a leader, as are I am sure countless others in the racing industry for whom John has been a wonderful mentor."
RACING MINISTER SADDLES UP FOR VICTORIA CONFLICT RESOLUTION
A SENIOR club official may have summed it up best on Saturday when he declared Racing Victoria a ghost ship.
Whether that ship sinks or drifts off on some fractured course before again finding its way is in the hands of the racing minister.
MATT STEWART reports for the HERALD SUN that Martin Pakula can steer one of two courses for racing’s governing body, which has lost a string of key figures — even its chairman — in recent weeks.
Pakula has long hinted strongly that a new, independent body should replace the Racing Victoria board, which has always comprised of members regarded as conflicted.
Perceived conflicts of interest have been inevitable, even accepted, around the boardroom table at Racing Victoria.
David Moodie, who stood himself down on Friday as a probe continues into allegations of impropriety, is a major racehorse owner and breeder. Racing NSW chairman John Messara wears the same three hats as Moodie.
There has always been debate about whether owners and breeders are suitable to govern. Does an intimate understanding of the issues and nuances of a complicated industry compensate for potential conflict?
Most owners and breeders wear a fourth hat. They are invariably successful in business.
Talk of an independent commission to run Victorian racing — even Australian racing — has bubbled along for some time and the ghost ship status of RV is regarded by many as the perfect catalyst for change.
But dismantling Racing Victoria is not that easy.
Pakula has lawyers poring over the legislative change required to establish an independent board chosen by government.
Racing’s Victoria’s various assets and obligations to stake holders is believed to be a major hurdle to dramatic restructure.
The minister is believed to be pondering a more conservative option of retaining most elements of the current structure, yet eliminating potential conflict among board members and simply doing a better job in finding the “right’’ candidates.
Moodie is sidelined without a guarantee of returning. His alleged breach, relating to an allegation he tipped off trainer Peter Moody about impending cobalt positives, came a year after his predecessor Rob Roulston resigned over a different breach.
Michael Caveny resigned from the board early last week and will formally abort his post next Monday. He held the role of interim chairman for just two days before RV announced on Sunday that board member Mike Hurst had been elevated to deputy chairman, and interim boss in Moodie’s absence.
Andrew Twaits, regarded as youthful and astute, has also resigned.
They will be replaced by former KPMG chairman Michael Andrew and successful funds manager Alice Williams. Their CV’s are impressive. Pakula might see them as significant building blocks to a revived RV board, especially if dismantling the current model proves too difficult.
RV’s chief executive Bernard Saundry wanders off at the end of the spring carnival and there seems little appetite for his job from potential candidates. There have been a handful of interviews. Some knocked it back, others were deemed unsuitable.
Moodie was also chairman of RV’s media arm Racing.com. It’s unclear if he is still active in that role. Racing.com lost its chief executive Scott Perrin some weeks ago. Perrin hasn’t been formally replaced.
So RV has an interim chairman who walks away in a week, replacing one under investigation, who replaced one who was forced out following an investigation.
The chief executive is off soon as well, without a successor in sight.
If RV’s stewards get rolled at VCAT, where trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh have the stipes on the ropes over procedural shortcuts, the integrity department may also be under pressure.
The nice old lady in the ground floor cafe at RV likes racing, seems up to speed with most things. She might find herself in an interview room upstairs at this rate.
MAJOR SETBACK FOR NIKOLIC COMEBACK PLANS WITH BAN REINSTATED
FORMER top jockey Danny Nikolic has again lost his right to attend racecourses after Victoria's highest court overturned a decision that a police ban against him was unlawful.
JANE LEE reports for FAIRFAX MEDIA that last November, Chief Police Commissioner Graham Ashton banned Nikolic (pictured) from entering racetracks during meetings.
Nikolic successfully challenged the decision in the Supreme Court.
The court quashed the ban in June, saying it was invalid because police had not given Nikolic certain details about adverse allegations against him that had led to it.
The Supreme Court held that Nikolic could have been given information without prejudicing confidential police sources, investigations or investigative methods.
But on Friday, the Court of Appeal ruled that police were not obliged to disclose this information to Nikolic.
Justices Chris Maxwell, Stephen Kaye and Robert Osborn said in a joint decision that the Racing Act gave the Chief Commissioner the legal power to ban people from racing venues "to ensure the integrity of horse racing" and, if necessary, to depart from the ordinary rules of procedural fairness "to protect highly sensitive intelligence or investigative processes of Victoria Police".
They said this described the type of information that had been withheld from Nikolic in this case.
The judges also said that the public interest in not disclosing the "sensitive information" meant there was no obligation to afford Nikolic procedural fairness in this way.
Justice Maxwell stressed that the court did not review the merits of the decision to ban Nikolic, only whether it was made according to law.
Nikolic's lawyers are understood to have seen the information, but have promised the court not to disclose it to others, including their client.
He will be required to pay the Chief Commissioner's legal costs for his Supreme Court challenge, but was on Friday granted a certificate of indemnity ensuring he will not have to pay the police's legal costs for the appeal.
Nikolic declined to comment outside court.
He is separately challenging in the VCAT Racing Victoria's refusal to grant him a jockey licence, since he was suspended from racing in 2012, for abusing steward Terry Bailey at a Seymour race meeting.
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