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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TIME TO RECOGNIZE IMPORTANT ROLE GOLD COAST PLAYS IN RQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


QRIC UNDER FIRE OVER ALLEGED SECRET RECORDINGS

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

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

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

 

 

FLETCHER ATTEMPTS TO STOP STEWARDS GETTING HIS PHONE RECORDS

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

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

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

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

 

LINK BETWEEN PRO PUNTER & TABCORP TRADING MANGER INVESTIGATED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

QCAT ROLE IN CURRIE CASE IS UNDER CLOSE INDUSTRY SCRUTINY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PERCEPTION OF 'SLANG' TERMS COULD DECIDE CURRIE FATE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    

 

SQUEAKY CLEAN NSW RACING UNDER INTEGRITY CLOUD LIKE QLD & VICTORIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SAD LOSS OF GREAT WORDSMITH & PASSIONATE RACING JOURNALIST

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

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

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

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

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

“He will be greatly missed.”

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

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