THIS might be a horse racing website but when it comes to politics we are entitled to our opinion.

Anyone with half a brain doesn’t listen to the advice of Queensland Newspapers – in fact anyone with half a brain doesn’t listen to The Courier-Mail when it comes to how they should vote.

Once again leading up to an election we have the Murdoch Media telling us who should govern Queensland – not because it’s in the best interests of the State but probably because that particular political party has promised something to ‘Rotten’ Rupert.

Yesterday we had some worn-out hack feature writer telling us we were morons if we put Labor back into Government. Today the headline suggests that Annastacia Palaszczuk doesn't deserve to win.

What are they suggesting a vote for that moon-faced mound of shining insincerity Tim the Toolman Nicholls and his goat riding LNP team who would even do a deal with the ‘Devil’ if it meant taking power and returning Queensland to the corrupt old days of Sir Joh and his merry bunch of men?

From a racing perspective God help metropolitan and TAB racing if the LNP and their ‘I know nothing Minister’ Jon Krause seize power. At least Labor is prepared to do something about reclaiming profits from these parasite corporate bookies through the introduction of a Consumption Tax. On that racing issue - especially when it comes to integrity - the LNP have gone missing in action and will seek to 'geld' QRIC which can only 'protect' some of their mates and major political donors who are in trouble. WHAT A JOKE!



THIS time next week racing in Queensland will almost certainly have woken to its worst nightmare.

An LNP Government, led by ‘Tim the Toolman’ Nicholls, will have replaced Labor and his latest racing sidekick, Jon ‘I know nothing about Racing’ Krause will be the latest Minister in a long line of duds.

Gone are the days when Russ Hinze and Bob Gibbs controlled the industry with an iron fist for their respective Governments. Sure Russ was an old rogue and provided the handout mentality for harness racing that has ultimately led to its demise. Bob came from the other side of the tracks replacing the way the ‘silver tails’ at the Queensland Turf Club had controlled thoroughbred racing for so long but many are now saying ‘be careful of what you wish for’.

For all the good that Russ and Bob did it has not lasted. The entire racing industry in Queensland has degenerated into a standing joke and a political battleground with little light at the end of the tunnel. Think twice if you believe a change of Government will do anything more for RQ than rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Every Government promises a new look control of racing but fails to deliver and those who have followed the industry for decades know that will only happen when politics is removed from the equation – good luck there!

LETSGOHORSERACING has watched a succession of Racing Ministers and Control Body Boards come and go and has that included some absolute morons. No sooner is there a change of Government and the current ones get booted for replacements of a different political persuasion. Nothing changes. Those running the show spend the first 12 months blaming the problems confronting the industry on the job done by the previous Government or Board – a la Bob Bentley and Labor, Kevin Dixon and the LNP.

When the Palaszczuk Labor Government came to power they claimed to have inherited massive ‘hidden’ racing debt from the previous LNP. Whether it existed to the extent maintained is questionable but a new Board, acting on the direction of an originally appointed and highly paid Administrator, who was arguably a waste of space, claims to have turned that around.

Grace Grace, who took over as Racing Minister, made sure a couple of her old business ‘mates’ headed up the new RQ Board and regardless of what side of the political ship you ride on one has to question just what they have achieved. Grace will be remembered in the annals of racing in Queensland alongside the likes of the unforgettable Merri Rose.

Member for Beaudesert, Jon Krause, is the one anointed to replace Grace when the LNP wins Government, as the bookies are suggesting, this weekend. There are already those who argue that he is a bigger dill than his previous LNP counterpart, Steve Dickson, now incredibly leader of One Nation in Queensland (just when you thought Pauline was smart enough to run more than a Fish and Chips shop).

Dickson is the one who told us that under the leadership of the previous LNP Government that racing in Queensland would wind up ‘a furlong in front’ of the southern states. ‘Dicko’ has become renowned for silly statements like this one from last week’s great debate in the lead-up to the election when he declared: ‘The wind doesn’t blow when the wind’s not blowing and solar power does not work at night.” When he was running racing in Queensland, by remote control from then Treasurer ‘Tim the Toolman’ and his RQ first lieutenant, ‘Little King Kev’ Dixon (boss of RQ), the industry fell even further behind.

Our man in the bunker at Deagon suggests the RQ Board and CEO Elliot Forbes (he is gone even if Labor retains Government) are already packing their bags with strong suggestions from within the bowels of the LNP that ‘Little King Kev’ is poised for a comeback along with some of his no-talent sidekicks of the past.   

Hold the phone there – wasn’t he in charge and his Board sacked because the buck stopped with them during that disgusting ‘live baiting scandal’ at the greyhounds. Wasn’t Kevin Dixon the one accused of ‘doing a dud deal’ with the TAB which saw two high profile fellow directors of the time in Barry Taylor and Brad Steele resign in protest at lack of consultation. To be balanced those close to Dixon deny those allegations and say his ‘sacking’ was political payback by the Labor Government and that the TAB deal was the best possible.

That aside if Dixon returns to rule at RQ surely that is an insult to all the others who suffered as a result of the ‘live baiting’ fiasco, headed by the biggest scapegoat of all, former CEO Darren Condon. One might question are the rumours right about who threw Condon under the ‘greyhound bus’ and whether he has found it impossible to return to the ‘racing work force’ because of ‘bad mouthing’ from the Deagon Bunker or the Farm or perhaps it is from fair weather friends (like the one close to Dixon, a media man who put his own big hoof in his mouth over live baiting but continues to blame Condon for his demise).

It’s hard to get an answer on any number of contentious issues from the LNP leading up to the election. There are those who say Kevin Dixon is a certainty and deserves to return to run the industry. We spoke to two other MPs who said: “Two things are certainties. We will not be supporting the reappointment of Kevin Dixon – you don’t look backwards. And most of all we will speak strongly against any move to sell Eagle Farm or Doomben”.

The one positive from a return of Kevin Dixon to the RQ fold would be his reported failure to see eye to eye with the current chairman of the Brisbane Racing Club, ‘Nifty’ Nev Bell, the position that the ‘little King’ once held after his successful negotiating of a merger between warring factions at Eagle Farm and Doomben. There are those who maintain that there should be a public inquiry into several aspects of the operation of the BRC and that questions need to be answered by some of the key directors about the disaster that has been the redevelopment of the Eagle Farm track which is still undergoing repairs with no certainty it will be ready for the Winter Carnival. Archie Butterfly has proved a real thorn in the side for the BRC on his must-read website, itsnotnormalisit, making some amazing accusations against the BRC, its chairman, some of its key directors and especially the behind-the-scenes activities of its CEO David Whimpey. None of his questions have been answered nor has any action been taken to challenge what the Butterfly is writing. Sadly the mainstream racing media has continued its role of turning a ‘blind eye’ and continuing to ‘spin doctor’ the poor jobs being done by many running racing. They, like their boss ‘King Rupert’ who has waited to see which way the wind blows before putting his publishing might behind the LNP, will be the first to pump up the tyres of the new Government.

The BRC reportedly made a healthy donation to the election campaign of the LNP – not a good look for any racing organisation. Just what they think that will deliver is open to debate but here’s hoping Labor doesn’t knock over the odds-on favourite and return for ‘pay-back time’. Those who know the politics of the situation are saying that the BRC won’t get off the hook that easy if Kevin Dixon returns either but whether Tim Nicholls, whose electorate is smack bang in the middle of the Farm, will allow him to ‘keep the bastards honest’ remains questionable. One could also ask where the ‘I know nothing’ new Racing Minister would stand in all of this – apart from being just another ‘furlong in front’ remote controlled by ‘Tim the Toolman’. Jon Krause has already said the most important commitment of the LNP if elected would be to ‘get Eagle Farm back on track’. Here’s hoping that doesn’t mean more millions from the coffers of an already struggling racing industry.

The LNP released its ‘Better Future for Racing’ policy and rather than read or listen to the spin doctor garbage from their ‘mates’ in the mainstream media, here’s how the unbiased Archie Butterfly dissected it in brief:

‘I have taken a good look at the LNP’s racing policy this afternoon, and let  me tell you that unless you live in a rural electorate housing a non-TAB country race club and track it is an unmitigated and utter piece of sh*t.

It’s a dud and a lemon, an absolute Cedric Rocker of a package that is nothing more than a return to pork barrel days of Queensland under Joh’s rule, a shallow and cynical exercise that is designed by the LNP not for the benefit of the racing industry, but purely so they can shore up their rural and regional seats in the face of potential serious challenges from the purportedly surging One Nation.

Do you know what South East Queensland racing gets under this deal?

Two-thirds of six-tenths of eighteen-sixty thirds of sweet f*ck all, that’s what.

$7.5 million over four years.

Not PER year, all up. Seven and a half lousy million dollars.

A miserable $1.75 million a year.’

Worse still are the plans that the LNP has to ‘geld’ the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission. We are LGHR are the first to admit that QRIC has been over-zealous in targeting too many small fish. But they have done a terrific job crushing the ‘race fixing at the red hots’ which has been going on from the days when Russ was running the show. A succession of supposedly high profile stewards has done nothing about it. One has to question who would benefit if QRIC was to become simply an animal welfare arm of the RSPCA?

Integrity and policing of racing should be ‘hands off’ for any Government. Some will argue that QRIC is costing too much. What price should we pay for integrity to ensure that punters can bet with confidence? One of the major reasons for the downturn in turnover on the Queensland product – from harness to gallops – is this lack of confidence in the punting fraternity – from the pros to the battlers. Yet what can we expect if the LNP wins Government, a pandering to the crooks in the industry – it will be open slather to do what they like on and off the track because there will be little or no policing of what goes on.

What they should be doing is supporting the terrific job being done by QRIC when it comes to exposing the ‘real crooks’, especially in harness racing. LGHR hasn’t forgotten when the LNP won Government last time and behind-the-scenes we tried to negotiate a deal for three of the most high profile interstate integrity identities to move to Queensland in a package deal. This was long before QRIC was established by the next Labor Government. Our offer fell on deaf ears. One has to question why? Since then we have seen a succession of Chief Stewards and Integrity bosses stood down or sacked. With all due respects the current RQ Chief Stipe is highly experienced but those close say he has lost interest and it is time to put him out to pasture.

Ironically it was the Racing Minister in waiting, Jon Krause, who stated soon after the last election: “All Labor has done since being elected is turn the industry on its ear and create an environment of fear, intimidation and stagnation across all three racing codes – thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds. The Palaszczuk Government’s handling of the live baiting issue has had a hugely negative impact upon the entire industry and damaged our reputation across Australian racing circles. Delay after delay has harmed Queensland’s racing industry immeasurably and the Minister responsible has been invisible. This Labor Government is holding back an industry that contributes millions of dollars to our economy and employs thousands of Queenslanders.”

Krause accused the Palaszczuk Government of failing in its objective to maintain public confidence in, and ensure the integrity of, the Queensland racing industry. And this from the guy who would have the powers of QRIC reduced when the only ones who would benefit would be the crooks. He has to be kidding and so does Premier in Waiting Nicholls who was aptly described by controversial columnist, the Townsville Magpie, recently as that ‘grinning moon-faced mound of shining insincerity’ – certainly a description that many in racing and a lot of voters in the country would identify with.

No commentary on the outcome of the election and what affect it will have on racing would be complete without mention of the jewel-in-the-crown of harness racing Albion Park and just what will happen with regards to it and the new complex proposed at Yatala. All we will say here is that whatever ‘King Kev’ Seymour wants, when it comes to the LNP ‘King Kev’ Seymour gets. Good luck to he and his first lieutenant, ‘Feathers’ Fowler. They will soon inherit 100 per cent of nothing and continue to rely on millions in handouts from the gallops and greyhounds simply to survive. If it was one of his businesses, Seymour would have declared harness racing beyond saving and closed it down long ago.

Here’s a tip for the LNP that would win them friends if they win Government as expected – appoint Ray Stevens as Racing Minister (it's time for Tim the Toolman to forgive him for that leadership spill vote) and for the new Government to have a fireside chat to Peter Tighe about taking over as RQ Board Chairman. For those who have been living under a rock Peter is a part-owner of champion mare Winx. We are told he recently sold his business and has time on his hands. He knows the industry in Queensland and importantly would ensure that the Brisbane Racing Club was held to account for the way they operate.

If it winds up a minority business and either the Katter Party or One Nation hold the balance of power could someone ‘please explain’ to Pauline that she needs to do a crash course on the racing industry and ensure that the last one to leave before they turn the lights out isn’t her fearless ‘furlong in front’ Queensland leader, Steve Dickson?       





THAT jockey of great renown, Mark Pegus, is driving down the highway today. He departed Toowoomba at daybreak – as silently as he arrived six weeks ago – without fanfare or fuss.

Pegus rode a winner at Clifford Park last Saturday night which has become the norm for him since arriving from Melbourne.

But that win just might have extra special significance. It was not only the last ride at Clifford Park for the international jockey. It might have been his last ride ever – for he is on the verge of calling it quits.

Mark Pegus has held his own with the very best everywhere he has ridden in a widely travelled career. He was not only admired, accepted and successful in South Australia, Victoria and parts of NSW but also in Malaysia, Macau and Mauritius.

And  his enviable reputation as a rider and a man of unchallenged integrity continued during his little stint at Toowoomba where he connected with the Ben Currie stable.The association was short but the figures clearly indicate that it was very successful.

“I am glad I came. But it’s time to move on,” was Pegus’s diplomatic way of saying he was going home.

In fact, it might be said he was tiring of the innuendo, the consistent ill-conceived rumours, the insincerity (of some, not all) and the overall general mood of racing on the Darling Downs.

There is no blame game with him.

He cheerfully packed his bags, proffered a few goodbyes and drove out at dawn today – back to his dairy farm(s) in Victoria and sheep station in outback NSW.

Pegus will ponder his future after he returns from Hong Kong where he will attend Mark Zahra’s wedding next week and spend Christmas at Swan Hill with his close-knit family.

It is then that he will decide his future. And that might well be retirement altogether from the rigours of riding and the bulldust that he doesn’t need – doesn’t have to endure – and obviously won’t tolerate.

Toowoomba will go down as just another adventure.

 Perhaps with his international reputation as a gentleman and a jockey he was the odd man out up there on the mountain!




WITH all due respects to his legendary status as a six-time Melbourne Cup winning owner, Lloyd Williams is basically ‘crapping in the face of officialdom’ at Racing Victoria by admitting he is the ‘head trainer’ at Macedon Lodge.

Letsgohorseracing has openly stated on many occasions that the RV Integrity Unit is the best in the land – arguably the best in the world – but they can no longer turn a blind eye to what has been the worst kept secret in racing.

Williams can’t have it both ways. If he wants to call the tune on the training regime of his expensive team of horses then he shouldn’t be allowed to have a scapegoat – in the form of a pretend trainer – should things go wrong.

Williams confirmation that he is ‘head trainer’ was revealed in a story by JAMES LAMB in THE DAILY TELEGRAPH and has been greeted by cries of hypocrisy levelled at RV by many in the industry nationwide after Liam Howley was last week announced to fill the position replacing Robert Hickmott who will branch out on his own.

Lamb reported:

It has long been touted that Williams is the boss at Macedon Lodge and he made this clear when speaking on the Big Sports Breakfast Weekend show in Sydney.

 “You’re talking to the head trainer here,” Williams insisted.

“There has always been a lot of controversy as to who trains the horses hasn’t there?

“The blueprint emanates right here, I’m chairman and chief executive, I decide how the horses will work and how we will feed them and all those sorts of things and I have people up there who execute it, that is what happens.”

Quizzed why his name wasn’t listed as the official trainer then, Lloyd replied.

“I don’t want to be the trainer, do I?

“You obviously haven’t been around for too long ... that sort of argument was around about 20 years ago.”

Despite the comments, Williams said Howley would still play a pivotal role at Macedon Lodge in the years to come.

“Liam Howley has been at our place for five or six years now,” he said.

“He’s had experience overseas and he understands our European horses which is pretty important.

“He’s a well-educated young man and he’s done a good job. He’s basically been training the horses, or part of the horses, for the past three years up there — it’s not new to him.”

Howley’s new title of trainer will need to be confirmed by Racing Victoria’s licensing committee this week.

That provides the opportunity for RV to show some balls and insist that Williams applies for and is listed as the ‘head trainer’ of his horses. Failure to do so will lead to suggestions that he is receiving special treatment and that the policing of racing in Victoria is not a level playing field.

Many in the industry respect the investment Williams has made ensuring he is the ‘winningest’ owner in Melbourne Cup history. But they have had a gutful of the way his training establishment operates where the piper calls the tune but the rats are caught in the trap should anything go wrong integrity wise.

To do nothing will send a message that he is an ‘untouchable’ who simply ‘craps in the face of officialdom’ when it suits.



THE Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria has today upheld Racing Victoria’s (RV) appeal on the proper interpretation of the Australian Rule of Racing (AR) 178D, meaning tests showing cobalt above the permitted threshold in horses trained by Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh are admissible as evidence.

The Court of Appeal did not allow RV’s appeal in relation to AR 175(h)(i) and AR 175(h)(ii), finding that a level of knowledge or belief on the part of the trainers regarding the administration was a necessary element.

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) determined in March 2017 that the trainers’ veterinarian Dr Tom Brennan administered excessive amounts of cobalt to their horses. Dr Brennan was disqualified for five years by the independent Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board.

The RAD Board found that the trainers had knowledge that their veterinarian had administered excessive amounts of cobalt to their horses. A re-hearing at VCAT found that they did not. Appeals to the Court of Appeal from VCAT are restricted to points of law only, thus VCAT’s factual findings were not the subject of review by the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal has found that Mr O’Brien and Mr Kavanagh presented their horses to race with excessive levels of cobalt and has ordered that their cases go back to VCAT for consideration of penalty.

RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, welcomed the decision by the Court of Appeal saying it reaffirmed that protecting the integrity of thoroughbred racing in Victoria was of paramount importance.

“Throughout this issue, our fundamental concern has been to take appropriate steps to protect the integrity of Victorian thoroughbred racing and to protect the welfare of horses. Where the Rules of Racing are breached, it is our job to take the appropriate action to enforce the rules,” Mr Thompson said.

“This decision reinforces that the action taken by Racing Victoria’s integrity services team was the right and appropriate action when tests showed excessive levels of cobalt in horses.

“While it is now up to VCAT to determine penalties, we welcome the decision of the Court of Appeal as an important endorsement of the actions of our integrity services team.

“As the governing body in charge of an industry that provides the equivalent of 20,000 full-time jobs and drives more than $2.1 billion in annual economic activity, we have a responsibility to enforce rules that are in place to ensure public confidence in a level playing field for all.”

Since the cobalt threshold was introduced on 1 April 2014 until 31 August 2017, 10,483 urine samples have been taken testing for cobalt in Victoria and 99.84% have not breached the rules.

The average level of cobalt in those horses was 7.2 mcg/litre while the cobalt levels of the horses in the O’Brien/Kavanagh cases ranged from 300 to 670 mcg/litre.

“Our integrity services team have acted in the best interests of this sport. We thank them for the way they have conducted themselves and maintained a focus on enforcing the Australian Rules of Racing, without fear or favour,” Mr Thompson said.

“This judgement today supports the introduction of the cobalt rule, along with its application and enforcement in cases where excessive and dangerous levels of cobalt are discovered.”



INSIDERS say the Racing Queensland Board are packing their bags expecting an early exit if the LNP win Government with the help of their ‘new little friend’ Pauline Hanson and her No 1 man in the State, Steve ‘Furlong in Front’ Dickson.

The tip is that ‘little King Kev’ Dixon is planning a comeback to reclaim his position as the administrative boss of racing in Queensland that was taken from him by the Labor Government because his Board was at the helm when the greyhound live-baiting fiasco occurred.

Dixon ruled racing in Queensland with a little – some say a lot – of remote control help from Treasurer of the Day, Tim ‘the Toolman’ Nicholls (with Eagle Farm and Doomben smack bang in the centre of his electorate) and of course one of the worst Racing Ministers ever seen in Steve Dickson.

The story goes that the grandiose plans an LNP Government would do is geld the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission – ensuring policing of racing in this state returned to the good old days when it was far from a level playing field; put ‘little King Kev’ and his bunch of merry men back in charge of RQ where no-one has forgotten the job they did before (especially that ‘dud’ TAB deals that saw two of their Board colleagues resign in protest) and breathe new life into a ‘long dead’ harness industry to ensure their great supporter another ‘King Kev’ a la Seymour is kept happy.

According to a story this morning published on the must-read website itsnotnormalisit, ARCHIE BUTTERFLY suggests to finance big prizemoney and infrastructure promises for Queensland racing, an LNP Government would sell off the farm – Eagle Farm – in fact. When the ‘goat riders’ release their racing policy later today, LETSGOHORSERACING will attempt to get some answers from the LNP to contentious questions that stakeholders and the taxpayers of Queensland want to know but you can count on the mainstream racing media not wanting to ask.

Here’s the ‘Butterfly’s’ story, published today, courtesy of itsnotnormalisit (log into the website, it’s a great read):

THE LNP spokesperson for racing and Minister in Waiting Jon ‘the Mouse’ Krause is about to announce his party’s election policy about the racing industry this morning.

It will look pretty much like this.

Racing Queensland is cactus.

It will be gone by lunchtime on the day of the Minister’s swearing in, and the State of Queensland will pay millions, maybe even tens of millions, to meet contractual obligations and ensure that their in the blink of an eye lid former employees receive their full redundancy entitlements.

QRIC – the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission – abandons its quest to clean up the three codes and instead turns itself into an arm of the RSPCA, with a sole focus on animal welfare issues in an industry where they aren’t really all that many.

The three codes are split, and like in days of yore each will become the captain of their own ships and the masters of their own destiny.

Well the harness and gallops codes will anyway. The greyhound industry can’t, because it has no finances and doesn’t have a track.

Clip Clop Kev wins.

He and the Bantam get to keep Albion Park.

The industry that has been dying for the better part of 30 years needs time to grow apparently, according to the Mouse at least.

It’s London to a Brick on that Clip Clop has paid for this policy position. He’s too smart to have funneled the donation dough through the Seymour Group, so we’ll have to have a poke around and find out how he’s done it, but whatever the means may be the end is magnificent, a complete and utter victory for unbridled failure.

Clip Clop Kev’s a genius at what he does, which is making money for he and Kay and the brood, but when it comes to the progressive leadership of a growth-focused harness racing industry he’s nothing but a dud.

The numbers don’t lie. Harness racing is withering on the vine, and has been ever since Clip Clop assumed total control and turned the industry into both a play thing for his wife and a cash cow for himself.

Three words on the latter – Australian Pacing Gold.

We’ll look at that a whole lot closer later, but for now let’s stick with the LNP election promises.

So far we’re gelding QRIC, euthanising Racing Queensland, and kissing Clip Clops arse by letting him keep Albion Park so that he can absolutely destroy it rather than just leave the job three-quarters done.

Now to the even better bit.

The LNP are going to inject more than a 100 million dollars into the racing industry.

It’s made up like this:

$24 million in increased prize money, although no-one knows for what and which industry is going to get it  $72 million for country racing, the sector in the industry that doesn’t pay any wagering revenue in return $15 million into a capital fund for regional racing, which is weird given that there is already supposed to be more than $60 million in the fund

It all sounds great doesn’t it, but for one blindingly obvious thing.

Where are they going to get the $100 million plus from?

The State is not flush with cash, and in fact is hocked up to its eyeballs.

Racing Queensland doesn’t have a cracker, and is running well in the red.

The race clubs have no dough.

No bugger has any jumping jack flash to spare, yet still the LNP say they are going to give the industry a hundred million dollars.

There’s only one way that they can do it sportsfans, and you and I both know what it is.

Bye bye Eagle Farm.

Thanks for all the memories.




LLOYD Williams has urged Racing Victoria to publicly support integrity chiefs Dayle Brown and Terry Bailey as investigations continue into an alleged widespread doping scandal involving a number of stables.

LEO SCHLINK reports for the HERALD SUN that a probe surrounding the sensational claims stems from the alleged race-day treatment of Robert Smerdon’s Lovani at Flemington last month.

No charges have been issued but racing is awash with rumours a number of high-profile figures, including Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons, could be questioned by integrity staff.

There is no suggestion Symons, a director of Aquanita Racing which employs Smerdon, or any other figure have committed any wrongdoing or will be charged.

But the scope of the case is believed to be far-reaching with the potential for huge ramifications.

Evidence has already been taken from a number of licensed personnel, including float driver Greg Nelligan, and several trainers based at Caulfield and on the Mornington Peninsula.

With the probe still at an early stage, and charges potentially some months away, Bailey has come under heavy fire from within the industry.

Those criticisms have irked Williams who says RV’s board and chief executive Giles Thompson hadn’t provided the “correct support”, speculating the lack of backing was a reason Brown will soon leave the organisation.

“If you haven’t got great integrity, and you’re not properly supported by the board and chief executive, you haven’t got racing,” Williams, the most successful owner in Melbourne Cup history, said.

“I don’t believe Messrs Brown and Bailey have got the correct support. The board needs to stand up and tell its chief executive to stand up.

“There are all sorts of rumours flying around. What racing needs is for the management and particularly, its integrity management, to be fully supported.

“In the old days, Jim Ahern, the chief steward, Pat Lalor, the chief steward, people like Peter Armytage, as chairman of the VRC, would stand up for the stewards.

“But I haven’t seen anyone standing up for them (stewards). Mr Brown is leaving because he hasn’t had the support.”

Williams says Martin Pakula, the Minister for Racing, was “the only person I’ve seen coming out and supporting integrity.”

“I think Martin Pakula has done a wonderful job and he understands the importance of integrity,” Williams said.

“He’s the only person I’ve seen coming out and supporting integrity.

“Now, I would like to see the (RV) board come out, like the Peter Armytages of the past, and support the stewards and say ‘we’re going to make sure this racing is absolutely at the highest level’.

“I’d like to see a strong chief executive to come out and support management.”

Pakula recently installed a new independent board, headed by businessman Brian Kruger.

Williams said Pakula’s actions to replace the old board was “a wonderful thing.”

“I spoke to the (former) conservative government about it and they didn’t do it, but Martin Pakula changed the board of Racing Victoria because he realised the board needed to be strengthened,” Williams said/

“He went ahead and did it against probably most of the advice he had but he’s done a good job.

“But what the board needs to do is come out and do what they didn’t do previously (and) raise their hand and say ‘Integrity is a major issue in racing.’

“And they need a strong chief executive. They haven’t had a strong chief executive before. They’ve got to come out and start supporting management.”





IN the Police Force it is commonly known as revenue-raising.

And, seemingly, the practice is an integral part of the police culture that has been adopted by much-maligned QRIC that is fast losing or in fact has lost the respect of licensees all over Queensland.

Seems $200 a pop is the going “contribution to the QRIC coffers” whenever and wherever the camera and recorder clad members turn up. The “flying squad” netted $600 from a battling trio of trainers at Innisfail recently and at least one case is worthy.

One trainer was fined because she fed a vitamin powder to her horse – and didn’t record it.


I couldn’t. And nor could a couple of other trainers I spoke to.

The trainer readily confirmed the fine with a quip that “I don’t treat my horses with performance boosters. I simply strive to provide a healthy diet”.

She, like many, many other trainers in the north is frustrated and enraged by the jack-booted actions of QRIC.

Stable visits by stewards has long been an accepted practise where commonsense, civility and often helpful discussions took place. But the visits have changed under Ross Barnett’s monster (aka QRIC) with fines levied for sheer and utter pettiness such as failing to document the feeding of a vitamin powder, a product that is on the shelf of any feed store. That is surely bottom of the barrel stuff – and the Commissioner should hang his head in shame.

At Tolga, a lady trainer was fined $200 for allowing a 16-year-old schoolgirl to feed and water her horses while she attended a Townsville race meeting. She would not have returned home until around midnight and asked the girl to help out. How pathetic is that?

But it gets worse. The QRIC cops, after ascertaining she was not licensed (hence the fine), then asked the girl to hold horses while they were digitally identified. The girl’s father sought legal advice and complained to QRIC who responded by sending (at serious cost, no doubt) a team from Brisbane, including at least one lawyer, to investigate the complaint. Talk about waste of precious funds when plain commonsense and decency was all that was required. If this sounds petty it is. But that’s QRIC.  

The list of pettiness knows no bounds and if the mail is right the LNP will do what everyone in the game is hoping for.

One northern trainer, Wayne Brady, actually told two QRIC officers recently they were nothing but revenue raisers “bludging off and persecuting trainers who can scarcely scrape a decent living.”

In the past 15 years prizemoney has increased at Innisfail by $1500 a race. In the SE corner it has gone from $10,000 to $60,000.

And some question the outrageous salaries of some of the industry leaders that they believe has skyrocketed way out of proportion to their ability and worthiness.

Yes, how much does the QRIC Chief and the RQ CEO take home?

Good question.




THE legend of PITTSBURG PHIL – arguably the greatest punter that ever lived – lauds him for keeping his cool under pressure but claims the strain to stay so calm eventually killed him.

That being the case I’m confident, after surviving another Melbourne Cup carnival, that most of my good punting mates won’t die young. And that's despite my fears that their tendency to blow-up badly after a form reversal win or a poor ride could cause a heart attack.

In case some of those non-believers, who normally dig into their pockets and have a flutter traditionally on only the first Tuesday in November have now caught the bug, I thought it might be opportune to offer some advice on how to win, lose and behave on the punt.

History shows that some of the biggest punters who lost without a grimace and won without a smile had their lives cut short while others, who blew up when they lost and celebrated when they won, lived long and healthy lives.

Some doctors even encourage punters to let off steam and show their emotions, warning that most nervous systems can be shattered by too much intense stress and strain.

Those close to Pittsburg Phil claimed that his nervous system wound up shattered. Such was the case with another famous punter of that early era in America – Michael F Dwyer. Both these men won and lost thousands without any outward signs of excitement or dismay.

Pittsburg Phil eventually collapsed under the strain and poor health virtually forced him to quit punting while Michael F wound up a physical wreck, in a wheelchair, rendered virtually helpless in his final years.

Now the punting that most of us undertake – even those who partake on a regular basis – is never going to be in the same league as Pittsburg Phil or Michael F.

But the message is strong – don’t forget to show your emotions. Yell, scream, do that silly dance if you win. Swear, curse and throw the Best Bets at the big screen when you lose. Most of all let it out.

Which brings me to a story of Larry the Loser, an ex-copper now working as a security guard, who loves a punt and frequents my local PubTAB. Anyone who has ever met Larry has a hard luck story to tell about him.  Normally it involves an all-up that going into the final leg looked a certainty but got beaten.

When the word filters through to the public bar that Larry has arrived even the regular drinkers move to the private lounge that accommodates the TAB to enjoy his punting performance. Talk about blow up when he loses, Larry starts even before the race has ended. Some of his sprays at bad rides by jockeys or horses he thinks didn't do their best even extend to him calling up the stewards.    

In a different way Larry reminds me of Ginger, a good mate that I grew up with who epitomizes the likeable loser but after years of unsuccessful punting reckons he has finally found a way to win. It’s hard to believe but he’s now got us all convinced.

As I have probably written before Ginger still religiously spends hours on race eve doing the form and working out the best horses to back. The difference now is that instead of backing them to WIN with the bookies or on the TAB, he backs them to LOSE with Betfair. And guess what? Amazing as it sounds he hasn't had a losing week since he decided to implement his new ‘winning’ formula two years ago. Cup week was no exception when you examine the number of hot favorites that bit the dust.

There have been some great punters over the years but by and large most of us that have followed the racing game for any amount of time tend to reluctantly admit that it is extremely difficult – if not near on impossible – to win on a consistent basis.

The odds are so stacked against the punter. Wet tracks, dry tracks; good jockeys, bad jockeys; good alleys, bad alleys; track patterns, track bias; fat horses and fit horses. You could go on forever.

The tendency of most punters is to try and get out of the hole by betting more heavily when they are losing. Pittsburgh Phil would advise the opposite. He maintained that a punter who was losing had also lost some of his wits.

“Cut your bets when in a losing streak and increase them when running in a spasm of good luck,” Phil would say. When he died in 1905 at the young age of 43, Phil left an estate of almost $2 million – an incredible sum of money in those days – so he knew what he was talking about.

He approached racing with the philosophy: “A good jockey, a good horse, a good bet. A poor jockey, a good horse, a moderate bet. A good horse, a moderate jockey, a moderate bet.”

Phil believed that to be successful at the races a punter must have opinions of his or her own and the strength to stick to them no matter what he or she heard. In other words – ignore the ‘coat-tuggers’ keen to tip you a ‘good thing.’

Pittsburg Phil was strongly of the opinion that a man could not divide his attention at the track between horses and women. He also stressed that consistently successful players of horses were those of temperate habits in life. In other words don’t get blind drunk on the punt and try chatting up the sheilas at the same time.

Well there goes the attraction of those ‘Young Members’ days if the new generation hope to ever graduate to the winner’s circle – at least when it comes to backing the four-legged variety.

Who hasn’t got that horror story to tell of a day at the races with the ‘missus’ or the ‘girlfriend?’ After you’ve just had a decent whack at one that got knocked off on the line by some out-of-form mule, up comes little lovely with: “Guess what? I just had a dollar on that winner and it paid $60.”

You know the story. She backed it because it was her favorite number, or she liked the colors, or it looked over the enclosure fence on the way to the barrier and winked at her or worse still ‘it did a poo in the saddling paddock.’

Perhaps that was the problem for Pittsburg Phil. If he had taken the little lady to the track, she might just have sent him over the edge – forced him to blow up – and he may have been around to back those elusive winners way past his 40th birthday.

In case you are interested in implementing his suggestions, here are some of Phil’s other philosophies for a successful day on the punt:

Winners repeat frequently while the defeated are apt to be defeated almost continuously.

It is not bad speculation to pick out two or three sure looking bets and parlay a small amount.

Watch all the horses racing closely. You may see something that will be of benefit later on.

Look for a defect in your own calculating rather than the cheating of others.

Over the years the racetracks of Australia have been graced by some great punters. Eric Connolly was one of the most famous back in the 30s.

The story goes that he strategically plotted to reap massive rewards from a sneaky plan to have hot favorite, Phar Lap, scratched on the eve of the Caulfield Cup. He had bet up big on the Amounis-Phar Lap Caulfield-Melbourne Cups double.

Phar Lap was duly scratched and history shows that Amounis defied his big weight and rivals to win the Caulfield Cup. Phar Lap beat an attack on his life, a tardy float ride, and a big weight to then convincingly win the 1930 Melbourne Cup – thus providing Connolly and his large syndicate of punters with a small fortune.

Perc Galea, famous for his winning forays in the 50’s and 60’s, was known as the Prince of Punters in Australian horse racing circles. One of his most memorable moments occurred at Rosehill when his colt Eskimo Prince won the 1964 Golden Slipper Stakes.

Eskimo Prince was brilliant from day one, cleaning up the early season two-year-old events with ease. He looked a future superstar. And come Golden Slipper day he proved just that with a dominant victory. The most pleased man at Rosehill was Galea, who had not only achieved a feature race win but had also been successful in orchestrating a massive plunge on the horse.

As he climbed the steps for a celebratory drink in the STC committee rooms, another immaculate suit on and with a smile stretching from ear to ear, Galea looked down when a punter asked if he was going to ‘shout.’

Galea reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of 10 pound notes and dropped them on the crowd, which went into a frenzy, clamoring for the cash and causing racing writers to gush at his generosity. They labeled him the Prince of Punters.

Growing up in the slums of Woolloomooloo, Galea was sucked into the punting game from a young age. He was one of the most successful that Australia has ever known. And unlike most heavy rollers, who ride the road until left destitute by frazzled nerves, bad instincts and no bank, Galea left a considerable estate.

He ignored doctor’s warnings of giving up heavy gambling after his first heart attack in 1962. He bet large until his death in 1977, not surprisingly of heart problems. When his funeral was held, Galea’s popularity could be gauged by the procession which stretched over three kilometers.

In more recent decades there have been some notable figures that have made an impact on the betting rings of Australia. To mention a few, they include the lae Kerry Packer, Mick Bartley, The Legal Eagles led by Don Scott, Ray Hopkins, Eddie Hayson and Sean Bartholomew, who in recent times has been recognized as one of the best judged and most influential punters in this country.

Bartholomew has been different to most of the big bettors at times having up to several hundred bets a day. There were those who believed that a punter of that magnitude had to end up in the poor house.

But even the bravest of bookmakers soon came to respect his opinion and the way that he bet. At the height of his betting activity Bartholomew would walk along the rails ring and back a horse to win $10,000 with every bookie, yet the bulk of his punting business was done off course with the corporates. He had some massive winning days – and like the rest of us there were others when he went home poorer but wiser.

The moral of the story is of course that winners are grinners and losers can please themselves. But even if a trip to the races sees you heading home the worse for wear, don’t be afraid to express your emotions and wind up healthier and happier for the experience.




MELBOURNE Racing Club chairman Mike Symons said he is shocked he has become the face of the continuing Racing Victoria investigation into alleged widespread doping.

MICHAEL MANLEY reports for the HERALD SUN that Symons on Friday vehemently said he had no knowledge of any illegal activities or malpractices and had become “collateral damage”.

“Integrity is the foundation and pillar of my roles and it absolutely sickens me that I’m being referred to in this manner,’ Symons said.

 “I have absolutely no knowledge of what has allegedly gone on. I’m happy to meet with the stewards at any time but at the moment I haven’t met with them.”

Symons said chief steward Terry Bailey had given him “a courtesy call” to let him know stewards were inquiring into alleged race day treatment of Aquanita trainer Robert Smerdon’s Lovani at Flemington last month.

Symons is a director of Aquanita Racing, which employs Smerdon. The MRC runs Caulfield, where Smerdon trains.

“Everyone knows my role as a director of Aquanita and it is disclosed every year in the Melbourne Racing Club annual report,” he said.

“The only people who know about (the call from Bailey) are the stewards and the directors of Aquanita but somehow it’s being played out in the press with speculation that a leading racing administrator is involved.

“I want this to come to a conclusion. I’m sick of the constant speculation. I want them to get to the core of the issue. I’m not sitting back and saying nothing because I’ve got nothing to hide as I know nothing about any illegal practices. ”

Stewards interviewed Smerdon, float driver Greg Nelligan and registered stablehands Jim Cook and Danny Garland at Flemington on October 7.

Nelligan had allegedly been observed by RV’s Compliance Assurance Team administering a plunger paste to Lovani in the swabbing stalls before she was due to race.

Racing Victoria said on Friday that the inquiry was continuing.




A LEADING racing administrator is the latest figure to be embroiled in a sensational Racing Victoria investigation into alleged widespread doping.

LEO SCHLINK reports for the HERALD-SUN that as many as seven trainers are believed to have been grilled by stewards in a complex probe stemming from the alleged race day treatment of Robert Smerdon’s Lovani with an unknown substance at the Turnbull Stakes meeting at Flemington last month.

Chief steward Terry Bailey won’t comment on the case.

But information extracted from confiscated mobile phones belonging to Aquanita Racing personnel has led to several high-profile figures being interviewed.

The Herald Sun understands directors of the Aquanita board, including Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symons, could be interviewed. There is no suggestion Symons or any director is involved.

Smerdon and other members of his staff, including float driver Greg Nelligan, are among a growing band of ­licensed operators to be formally interviewed.

Nelligan was observed allegedly attempting to orally administer a paste to Lovani with a plunger shortly before she was due to race. Nelligan was monitored by members of RV’s Compliance Assurance team after he allegedly took the mare behind closed doors into a swabbing stall. The float driver’s mobile phone was confiscated.

The paste has been sent to a laboratory for drug analysis. The results of those tests are not yet known.

Stewards interviewed Smerdon, Nelligan and ­registered stablehands Jim Cook and Danny Garland at Flemington on October 7.

The investigation is expected to take several weeks.

The Herald Sun was told charges were not imminent given the complexity of the case.



AS the Melbourne Cup carnival enters its third day, the racing industry is about to be rocked by the findings of an doping investigation conducted by Racing Victoria stewards.

BRENDAN CORMICK reports for THE AUSTRALIAN that charges could be laid as early as tomorrow (Friday), with stewards exposing the alleged use of coded text messages to alert punters when to bet on doped horses.

A far-reaching investigation involves several stables and senior training figures as well as racing administrators. It’s understood that interstate figures are also being questioned by integrity officers.

The Australian understands several mobile phones have been seized by Racing Victoria stewards for forensic examination in the past month.

The phones belong to licensed persons. The investigation has looked into three years’ worth of data.

Trainers from metropolitan, country and interstate stables, their staff and some owners have had to comply with the investigation as part of their licensing agreement.

It is understood one figure in a position of prominence will be required to stand aside.

A person known to one of the parties is alleged to have provided information that led to the unraveling of the coded messages.

The coded texts would be sent to those involved in the scam once the alleged doping had taken place so that they could orchestrate plunges. The alleged doping could involve dozens of races.

Racing Victoria stewards are tight-lipped as the matter is currently an investigation being held in-camera.

Racing Victoria chief steward Terry Bailey would not confirm whether the current investigation had spread into other stables but he said stewards still have a number of interviews of licensed persons to conduct before making any further comment.

Several witnesses gave evidence early last week during an exhaustive day of interviews.

The revelations follow a recent crackdown by stewards on illegal treatment of horses on race day.

On October 7 at Flemington, acting on a report from the Compliance Assurance Team, stewards interviewed Melbourne trainer Robert Smerdon and registered stablehands Greg Nelligan, Jim Cook and Danny Garland.

It was in regard to the suspect treatment of the mare Lovani after it had arrived on course. The mare was led into an enclosed box, believed to be the one used to get urine samples from horses.

The Australian understands what followed was filmed on a closed circuit camera and recorded. Stewards, suspecting race day treatment took place orally, ordered the late withdrawal of Lovani from the ninth race.

The inquiry was adjourned so that the substance found in a plunger, confiscated from Nelligan, could be identified.

Stewards have not yet provided anything further in the way of a report. No charges have been laid in respect to that inquiry and it is not suggested that the inquiry is linked with the text messaging/doping scandal.

Trainers not involved in the case and owners with no blemish on their records want the book thrown at the alleged culprits if the allegations are proved.

One racing identity said yesterday racing in Victoria would suffer for some time as a result of the findings.

The Australian attempted to contact Smerdon but he was not available.

Racing in Victoria has had to battle damaging headlines around the carnival over the past five years.

The betting scandal involving Damien Oliver in 2012 tarnished the industry. He placed $10,000 on the winner of a race at Moonee Valley that he had a ride in through a conduit from the jockeys’ room. Oliver was banned for 10 months.

The cobalt episode involving Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien dragged on through the 2015 and 2016 carnivals, with the original hearing and a subsequent appeal.

Moody quit training after being found guilty, annoyed by the finding and not prepared to exhaust his finances on further legal fees.



MOST will remember the Melbourne Cup just run for the history-making quinella of Irish father and son Aidan and Joseph O'Brien but for a group of long-time friends who finally got around to organizing an overdue reunion it will be a day they will never forget.

That clichéd expression – the more things change the more they stay the same – could not have been further from the truth for the six of us who got together for the first time in well over a decade to celebrate the race that stops a nation.

Close-knit families and old friends traditionally use Christmas, Easter or their annual holidays to enjoy a reunion. But after years of growing up and going to the races together, Melbourne Cup day provided a perfect opportunity for the ‘old’ crew to re-live what seemed like a life-time of unforgettable memories.

You would think that organizing a group of six one-time like-minded individuals to rendezvous at a chosen destination on a given day would not be that difficult. At one stage it seemed like a higher being was sabotaging our plan.  But eventually it came together. We punted, we played, we remembered the best of times and at the end of the day we looked back, had a good laugh, were sad to leave and agreed to do it all again next year.

Old habits die hard when it comes to Cup day. There are those caught by the bug of making that annual pilgrimage to Flemington. Thousands of others prefer Cup day celebrations in their own backyard although that seems to have been largely overtaken by a somewhat younger brigade of drunken revelers.

Many like to party at their favorite club, pub or even stay at home. Then there are those – too worn out to make the trek that for so many years took them to Melbourne – who re-live the good times watching the action on television.

No matter what your tradition, I’m prepared to bet it has a downside. Perhaps it’s the nightmare of negotiating the big crowd on the trains or buses heading out of Flemington. Maybe it’s the battle for a taxi at your local track where the young drunks are even worse for wear on the rank than they were inside the course.

Or is it the din of the local pub or club where you battled to hear the race calls, had to line up for a bet then collided with the guy trying to wend his way back to a table with a tray full of drinks?

There’s something to be said for watching the Cup in the comfort of your own home - lazing back on the lounge, remote in hand, barbeque ablaze not far away, fridge full of coldies, mobile phone locked into the TAB account, not having to get dressed up or negotiate traffic.

The downside of that of course is you are forced to watch some of the mutton heads providing the television coverage from the course or studio. Don’t get me started on the Three Stooges who do the prices for the corporate bookies for Racing.com or that know-all that we christened, Mute Button, from Sky. There was some light at the end of the tunnel if you tuned into the Network Seven coverage, largely the brilliant Bruce McAvaney and the gorgeous Francesco Cumani. Pity about some of the other ratbags like the boring and beaming Jason Richardson, who just can't seem to shut up or the endless hosts at the celebrity marquees which seem to get more coverage than the stars of the show - the horses, trainers and jockeys not to mention the new Cups King, Lloyd the Magnificent.

But back to issues of far more importance – to us at least – the Cup Day reunion and the organization of that had more than a few downsides as well.

Many will recall earlier columns which told of the transition in my life from punting tragic to doting dad. It was something that snuck up and caught me by surprise. There was plenty of time for settling down – or so I believed – in my early working years when going to the races, meeting my mates at the pub and watching the footy were highest on my list of priorities.

In those early years my colleagues in combat were a great group of friends that I called racing’s answer to Enid Blyton’s ‘Famous Five’. Every Saturday – rain, hail or shine – we would rendezvous at the track. There was Ginger, Stretch, Waldo, Yogi and his sister, ‘Butch,’ who was anything but. They were great times.

We would get the best of inside info from ‘Butch’ who was dating two jockeys at the same time. She had ‘Battery Bill’ at her beckon call alternating with ‘Handbrake Harry’ every other night. Her timing was precise. Her information spot-on – at least until she dumped both for an SP called ‘Shifty.’

Such was the success of our strike rate on the punt that financed several Melbourne Cup excursions as well as overseas trips to major race meetings including the Kentucky Derby, Japan Cup, Hong Kong International and Royal Ascot.

But all good things come to an end. We went our separate ways. What seemed like a life-time later – and by then the victim of a failed marriage but with two great kids to show for it – I returned to that old stamping ground at the races where the ‘Famous Five’ and I had enjoyed so many great times. But nothing stays the same.

Ginger, who we secretly regarded as the ‘born loser’ of the group, was the only one still living what he called the ‘life of Riley’ – punting from one meeting to the next but joining a new group of mates at the local club rather than going to the track.

How can I best describe Ginger? He reminds me of that Welsh wannaba artist named Spike who played the flat-mate of book store owner, William Thacker (Hugh Grant), in the movie Notting Hill – a loveable larrikin.

Then from the other side of the tracks we have Waldo, who inherited a fortune in mining shares when his parents died and nowadays flits around the country in his company’s private jet. His wife, Wilma, was the daughter of a well-to-do grazing family with long-time ties to that political party we call the 'goat rooters'. She’s a social butterfly who prefers to mix with the rich and famous of the racing set.

We remember Waldo from his school days when his mum would tie his tuck shop money in his handkerchief (he was 12 at the time). He grew up on meat pies and cream buns, which explains his portly appearance. Ginger always reckoned if Waldo’s parents hadn’t been rich he would be shoveling shit for a living.

Everyone loves big Stretch, a real gentleman with the ladies. He made it big in real estate and is now the King of his own little castle at Noosa where the punt remains very much part of his lifestyle.

Yogi, to put it in the nicest way, was always a bit of a dreamer. But he has unbelievably fulfilled a lifelong ambition to train racehorses and has proved very good at it in fact. His stable of horses and owners is strong. We knew there had to be a secret behind his success.

It turned out that his sister, ‘Butch’ the brains of his family, provided the finance to start Yogi’s training operation. She has run a successful ‘escort’ business with outlets in three States for many years and the majority of her clientele are – you guessed it – prominent members of the racing fraternity.

Over the years we all kept in touch but our lives drifted apart. Everyone bar Ginger has children of their own. This year we agreed to shift heaven and earth to celebrate a reunion. It was decided the crew would converge on my home on the bay outside Brisbane for Melbourne Cup Day.

It couldn’t be that hard organizing a get together for six like-minded people. The entertainment was ready made. The house was big enough to comfortably accommodate a platoon of punters. My Filipino house-keeper Josie and her daughter, Concita, handled the catering. There was an endless supply of good food and drink and giant screen TVs to watch the action beside the pool or in the media rooms.

This was a far cry from the days when we roughed it at the races in the bush. Who said the more things change the more they stay the same?

Waldo was the first on the blower issuing a set of instructions. “I really want to be part of this but you know how much Wilma hates Ginger and ‘Butch’,” he cried down the phone line. “This is the first time in 10 years we haven’t been to Flemington.”

A normal Cup day for Waldo and the missus is sailing up the Maribrynong to Flemington on the Pritchard-Gordon’s motor launch, heading to the committee room for lunch then rounding the day off with champagne and chicken beside the Rollers in the car park. Was this Cup day going to be a culture shock for Wilma?

Ginger was flying out of Darwin on the ‘red eye’ on Cup eve and had to meet up with some mates for a session at the Pineapple. Yogi had a horse running at the provincials the day before but was arriving that night. Stretch and the missus were arriving by limo on Cup morning.

‘Butch’ decided to drive north in her new ‘toy’ – a motor home that resembled one of those that featured in the blockbuster movies ‘Meet the Fockers’ and ‘RV.’ She stopped off on the way to do a ‘stock-take’ of her business on the Gold Coast where her ‘girls’ were gearing up for the busiest period of the year – Magic Millions week.

As Cup Day dawned Daylight Saving proved a blessing in disguise. The crew had no sooner arrived when the first of 10 was about to be run at Flemington. With Queensland an hour behind the southern states you have hardly finished breakfast when the Cup card is underway.

There was just enough time for a team meeting to discuss tactics on how we were going to attack the punt. Way back when, there were no arguments. We would run with the late mail from Butch. But this time Ginger was the ‘odd’ man out.

‘Butch’ was instantly offended and blew up. ‘What the stuff’s the matter with you Ginger? I know what you need and I nearly bought along one of my best girls to look after you but that would have been a waste of time.’

I had confidentially warned them beforehand that after years of unsuccessful punting Ginger had finally discovered a way to win. The ‘born loser’ was now the ‘born again winner.’ He still religiously spent hours doing the form and working out the best horses to back. The difference now was that instead of backing them to WIN, he backed them to LOSE, and had become one of Betfair’s biggest clients.

The rest of us agreed that backing horses to lose was not in the spirit of our battle with the punt. The team decided to cast Ginger adrift. I won’t bore you with the details of our Cup Day betting spree. But we did manage to find the winner of the big one (we reckoned it and the second horse were really Lloyd's choice despite his insistence that Frankie wouldn't do a slaughter job on last year's winner). There were also two nice priced winners late in the day and, for our crew at least, it was far from the disaster that many punters encountered.

The majority of winners were in the double figure range. ‘Butch’ had four big tips. ‘The mail from Gai is that Our Crown Mistress is a good thing. The best roughie of the day is Ocean Embers and Pedrena is a big tip at nice odds in the last.' Adding the icing to the cake was her Cup selections which ran the quinella. Our day's punting might have started slowly but it doesn't finish much better than that.

Ten races and only one heavily backed favorite saluted – Ginger was in ‘seventh heaven’ having won a small fortune backing his fancies to lose. He offered to shout us all dinner ‘at Macdonald’s’. I thought Waldo and Wilma were going to throw up. He was only joking though and we all adjourned to enjoy seafood and more drink at one of the bay’s finest restaurants.

Wilma even got a bit ‘tipsy’ and reminisced about growing up in the Queensland outback – the good ‘ole’ days when Joh and his bunch of merry-men did just the opposite to Robin of Sherwood.

I had to give Ginger a pep-talk in the ‘little boys’ rooms’ – urging him not to refer to the National Party in Queensland as ‘goat rooters’ or ‘Laurence’s losers.’ There was another election coming up and just in case Anastasia didn't fall across the line we had to accept that idiot Tim the Toolman might, Heaven Forbid, become Premier with the help of Pauline 'the fish and chip' lady.  As Wilma waffled on, the odd kick under the table was necessary to keep the peace.

Our post mortem of the big day agreed that nothing quite rivals the Melbourne Cup but the support program has long been a bookies’ benefit. Once again they would have needed a convoy of armored vans to transport their winnings.

From ‘born loser’ to ‘born again winner’, Ginger had the final say: ‘The moral of the story is - if you want to bet up on Cup Day then open an account with Betfair and back the favorites – especially the short-priced ones - to lose. You’ll win a fortune!’




WHAT the hell is happening at the Brisbane Racing Club and what are those high profile identities running the show thinking?

Only a year ago Phil Purser, the respected and recently retired boss and founder of the hugely successful racing website, justracing, was ordered out of the enclosure at Eagle Farm where he was properly accredited to cover the Stradbroke Handicap.

At the same time a blind eye was being turned – by officials and stewards – to conman Peter Foster and his entourage who were there to witness the horse they owned but wasn’t in their name in Azkadellia run favourite in the big race. No-one questioned how they gained owner’s passes or their illegal presence in the enclosure while a good man was being booted out at the instructions of a BRC director.

All Phil Purser had done wrong was constructively criticize some of the workings of Queensland’s leading race club. Now the same thing reportedly has happened to a high profile sporting star – as recently as last Saturday – because he dared to criticize the BRC CEO, Dave Whimpey, who one could arguably describe as one of the ‘jokes of Australian racing’.

When you start censoring those in the racing industry who dare to constructively criticize – whether you agree with what they say or not – it defies the democracy in which we live and that our forefathers fought for us to have the privilege to enjoy. Here’s a story posted today by ARCHIE BUTTERFLY on his must-read website itsnotnormalisit which needs to be addressed by some official body to which the BRC is answerable in Queensland. All we can say at LETSGOHORSERACING is ‘God Help Racing’ if the ‘goat rider’ mates of the BRC gain Government (in their own right or with a little help from their questionable friends) at the upcoming election.            

Little Dickie Starts Goose Stepping – And Eagle Farm Descends Into Fascism – Don’t These Idiots Who Run/Rort the Brisbane Racing Club Know What Happened to Hitler and Mussolini in the War? – Just What Is It That They Have to Hide?

aslipersss.jpgThe author of the above tweet is Nick Meredith, a decorated top-level sportsman, race horse owner, and passionate racing fan.

He has been effectively warned off all Brisbane race tracks for no reason at all, other than that he dared to criticise the racing Reich.

This is a bad joke, or would be if it were even remotely funny.

Warning off is the most serious of punishments in the racing world, one reserved for race fixers and live baiters and ring-in organisers and the like.

For the BRC to invoke a provision of the Liquor Act that exists purely so that publicans can throw an intoxicated or aggressive person out of their licensed establishment and use it against an individual for no reason except that he has annoyed them is an absolute disgrace, and reflects terribly but accurately on the character of all involved in this shameful decision and act.

No doubt next it will be me.

Just try it fellas, I dare you. We’ll be in the Supreme Court before acceptances for the next Saturday, that I promise and 100% guarantee.

Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

I’m probably not a good man.

But I’m daylight and another half furlong better than a Nazi, and I’d slit my own throat before I’d roll over and let some pack of self-interested slime bags pervert the freedoms and the great democracy that blokes like my great-grandad died so that I might enjoy.

These blokes who are running the BRC are out of control and have gone mad, and it’s the  fear of exposure that has sent them that way.

I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again and I’ll just keep on asking it until someone gives the race-going Sportsfans of the Pineapple State a fair dinkum answer.

What is it these bastards have to hide?




PERHAPS millionaire owner LLOYD WILLIAMS might not have been so forgiving had last year’s winner ALMANDIN been his only starter in this year’s Melbourne Cup.

Lloyd, superstitiously decked in the same clobber (grey top hat and tails) that he wore the last time he turned up at Flemington for the race that stops the nation, was gushing in his praise of the rides of Corey Brown (on the winner REKINDLING) and Ben Melham (on runner-up Johannes Vermeer).

The multi-millionaire owner, who has spent a small fortune in his quest to dominate the Cup (this was his sixth win), said little of the ride by his good mate, Frankie Dettori, on Almandin, which was given a sore back by the Italian.

Nor did he have too much to say about the performances of Sydney Cup winner Gallante or one of his other European invaders Bondi Beach, both of which were tailed off after working up on the pace. In fact Gallante was gone at the 600m and finished a furlong behind the field.

Dettori, rated one of the best jockeys in the world, has now had 16 rides in the Melbourne Cup and failed to fire a shot. Many of his rides in the big two-miler have been slaughter jobs and this one was no exception. Ironically, when interviewed after the race, he laid the blame for the poor performance squarely at the feet of Almandin.

Social media wasn’t having a bar of that and savaged the Dettori ride as evidenced by some of these tweets:

‘Yet another Dettori special. The only certain tip all Spring Carnival is to avoid Frankie.’

‘Surely it’s time to consider a permanent ban for Dettori in Australia. Every Melbourne Cup he knocks half the field over.’

That certainly wasn’t the case this year as one Tweet explained: ‘Frankie Dettori picking up where he left off in previous Melbourne Cups by leaving Almandin out in the car park.’

But this one summed up the feelings of most: ‘Almandin totally butchered. DETTORI should NEVER RIDE in the Cup again.’

One wonders if ‘Olly’ took time off from playing with his kids to watch the Cup after losing the ride due to an untimely suspension and just what he privately thought of the Dettori ride. If Lloyd wasn’t happy, he certainly wasn’t saying so – then again he and Frankie are the best of mates and there is a suggestion doing the rounds that Almandin got its tongue over the bit.

Dettori wasn’t the only top jockey trapped off the track during the Cup. Dean Yendall had a shocker on the widely drawn Amelie’s Star from the Darren Weir stable. That completed the ‘big Cups double’ for the classy mare that was slaughtered by Craig Williams in the Caulfield Cup.

The army of Williams’ critics were also dining out on his ride on the well fancied European Wall of Fire which also endured a tough trip. Like Dettori, Craig was quick to blame the horse for the poor performance. At least we weren’t subjected to him thanking everyone bar his ‘tea lady’ after he won another feature race.

The bottom line is the three best rides in the race finished in the placings. Ben Melham, who for once got through a big day without suffering a careless riding suspension, produced a copybook effort that warranted a better result on runner-up Johannes Vermeer.

Corey Brown grabbed victory on the line and reckons he could see the Dollar Signs lighting up in Melham’s eyes as he sniffed victory in the country’s biggest race. But history will show that Rekindling (a three-year-old bred to European time) snatched victory in the shadows of the post creating an unprecedented father-son quinella for Irish trainers, Joseph and his famous dad Aidan O’Brien. It was the difference in the weights that told the tale in the finish.

Williams declared O’Brien Jnr the next big thing in world racing. “We are going to see this young man doing all sorts of things. He will emulate his fath­er, maybe more. His father has won 308 Group 1s, something pretty minor. I’m very egotistical and I have been saying for some time he would be the leading trainer in the world. I won’t be here long enough, unfortunately. I’m in the last quarter (of my life) — in fact they have me on the ­interchange bench — but you are going to see a career kicked off here, seriously.”

Williams produced some ‘gems’ during his presentation speech which once again dragged on for far too long. Unfortunately, the official party led by VRC Chairman Amanda Elliott, seemed more interested in chatting among themselves than listening to what Lloyd had to say. Hopefully, PM Malcolm Turnbull, read what Williams suggested during the week that the Melbourne Cup should be celebrated on a national holiday – not just one in Victoria.

But back to the big race post-mortem and with a bit more room in the straight Hong Kong-based Zac Purton may well have tested the O’Brien’s duo with third placed Max Dynamite having only his fifth start since an unlucky second to Prince of Penzance in the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Amazingly, his only other two runs in the past year were in a Hurdle and a Picnic Race in Ireland – an amazing training effort by the great Willie Mullins.

Purton’s Hong Kong colleague, ‘Joe’ Moreira, had another big race day in Australia that he would rather forget falling earlier in the Flemington card and missing the ride on Max Dynamite’s better credentialed stablemate Thomas Hobson. The thrill of securing the 11th hour engagement to replace the ‘Magic Man’ turned sour for apprentice Ben Allen when he was pinched a couple of grand for excessive use of the whip.

This might have been Cup win No 6 for Williams who says he is still ‘well in the red’ chasing Australian racing’s ‘Holy Grail’ but this year he had a record six starters – two of which performed so badly they didn’t deserve to be in the field. What can we expect in years to come – Williams and his effervescent son, Nick, qualifying up to half the field for the big race? Speaking on behalf of most punters and the racing public might I suggest that six is more than sufficient for reasons I had better not elaborate on.

The Cup again proved elusive for the Sheikh who had only the one starter this year in Hartnell, prepared by Goldolphin’s new Australian head trainer James Cummings, grandson of the great Bart, who one suspects has hardly got started on fulfilling his dream of winning the race he wants to most for his boss, not to mention his great mentor.

As one wag suggested perhaps if the Sheikh wants a bit of advice on how to secure a Melbourne Cup winner he should get on the blower to Lloyd for some advice, as long as he resists the chance to buy one of the Team Williams rejects.

Not much changes from one Cup year to the next – the bookies mightn’t have got the lot but they went home with most of it – leaving the punters with some loose change to do battle again on Thursday when all eyes focus on Oaks Day at Flemington when the battle will begin all over again.





WHAT is it about the Melbourne Cup on that first Tuesday in November that makes it different to every other horse race throughout the year? Probably the fact that everyone from the tea lady to the taxi driver wants to tip you the winner!

Once a year even those who know nothing about gambling will roll out their proven method of winning on the Cup. Some will even boast that their successful formula has been handed down from generation to generation.

I thought it might be an opportune time to look at light-hearted and serious approaches that can help you find that elusive Cup winner on Tuesday whether you are a regular or once a year punter who wants to invest big or just have a small flutter.

Having been a victim of the punt for most of my life there is nothing that annoys me more than these parasites that prey on the needy and the greedy with their sharp-talking promises and at Spring Carnival time they are out in force.

There’s The Foolproof Guide to Winning on the Melbourne Cup. Just part with your hard-earned and they will provide an easy, proven method of picking the winner every year. How do they do it you might ask?

Believe it or not they possess ‘the latest secrets the bookmakers don’t want you to know’ and ‘will teach you the methods professional punters use to pick the Cup winner every year.’ It’s as simple as sending them a cheque and they will deliver the hot mail by the early hours on Cup morning.

Next they will have us believing that the late Bart Cummings was a subscriber to their service and that’s how he became the Cups King. Anyone who tries to tell you or sell you on a theory that there is a simple solution to picking the winner of the Melbourne Cup is full of crap.

With so many internationals now trying to poach our famous race even the expert form analysts admit how difficult finding that elusive Cup winner can be. And they are armed with every possible piece of valuable information - from race replays of Australian and overseas runners, to sectional times and the most up-to-date stable information you could hope to have. 

There are systems that have proven consistently successful over the years but certainly not infallible. One of these, which a couple of racing web-sites have in more recent times claimed as their own, has been around since the sixties and has a reasonably successful strike rate.

Here’s how the best one works (and we've added the qualifiers from Tuesday's big race):

  1. Include those Cup runners that were placed in the Caulfield Cup (BOOM TIME, SINGLE GAZE & JOHANNES VEHMEER).
  2. Include Cup runners that finished 2nd, 3rd or 4th in the Moonee Valley Cup (LIBRAN, CISMONTANE & BIG DUKE).
  3. Include Cup runners that finished in the first three at their previous Melbourne Cup run (ALMANDIN & HARTNELL) .
  4. Include the Lexus Quality winner (CISMONTANE).
  5. Exclude any horse that was unplaced at its last Melbourne Cup run (BONDI BEACH, HARTNELL, WHO SHOT THE BARMAN, WICKLOW BRAVE & GALLANTE) .
  6. Exclude any horse that is a three-year-old or seven-year-old and over (HARTNELL, ALMANDIN, MAX DYNAMITE, WICKLOW BRAVE, GALLANTE, LIBRAN, NAKEETA & THOMAS HOBSON).

Those remaining (JOHANNES VEHMEER, BIG DUKE, BOOM TIME, SINGLE GAZE & CISMONTANE) after inclusions and eliminations are the group from which most Cup winners have come over almost half a century. It could mean you have several to back but in such an open betting race as the Melbourne Cup there is always plenty of value.

Then there’s the system that claims a high success rate over the past 20 years for selecting the Cup trifecta. It suggests that you:


  1. Any horse that started on the Saturday before the Cup regardless of where it ran (CISMONTANE).
  3. Any horse that ran a place in this year’s Caulfield Cup or last year’s Melbourne Cup (BOOM TIME, SINGLE GAZE & JOHANNES VEHMEER).


  1. Any horse carrying 59kg or more.
  2. Any horse that raced in a previous Melbourne Cup and finished more than four lengths from the winner (HARTNELL, WHO SHOT THEBARMAN, BONDI BEACH, GALLANTE & WICKLOW BRAVE).
  3. Any horse that has failed to run a place in two or more starts at 3200m or beyond (BONDI BEACH, WALL OF FIRE).
  4. Any horse that has not raced in the six weeks leading up to the Cup (TIBERIAN, RED CARDINAL, MAX DYNAMITE, US ARMY RANGER, NAKEETA & REKINDLING).
  5. Any horse that is aged over seven years (ALMANDIN, MAX DYNAMITE, WICKLOW BRAVE & THOMAS HOBSON).

THOSE remaining after inclusions and exclusions are: MARMELO, JOHANNES VEHMEER, BOOM TIME & SINGLE GAZE.

If you prefer the non-scientific approach to finding the Cup winner, then you can always take your lucky number or favorite colors carried by the jockey. My late mum had wonderful success over the years just backing her lucky numbers – 4, 7, 11 & 13 – and that wasn’t only in the Melbourne Cup.

For those who are interested bay colored horses have the best Cup record. Horses with single word names have won more times than those with two or more words in their names. Blue, Black and White are the most successful colors and jockeys with Red Caps have won the Cup 27 times.

A couple of years back the Sydney Telegraph ran a story suggesting there was ‘great science to picking the Melbourne Cup winner, involving intense study from supreme minds’ but went on to add that ‘all this came undone when Mabel from the Accounts Department cheered home the winner because she likes the horse’s name.’

The writer at the time, Paul Kent, sort the views of some of Australia’s biggest punters, smartest bookies and most successful tipsters on how to select the Cup winner. Here’s a précised version of what they had to say back then:

Leading bookmaker at the time, Michael Eskander, insists the No 1 criteria for finding the Cup winner is: “Can the horse see out 3200m?

“I don't put a great deal of emphasis on the trainer, but if I look at one or two that have never trained a Melbourne Cup winner then that is different than if it is trained by Bart Cummings.”

Eskander puts a black mark against horses that have tried and failed in previous Cups. He puts great stock in track condition. A hard track will rule out many of the overseas chances. And he waits until the track condition has been declared before settling on his best bet.

Former top jockey, Wayne Harris, places special emphasis on form from the traditional lead-up races such as the Caulfield Cup – not necessarily the winners but those that finished strongly.

He also takes special notice of how horses are working, especially what the top jockeys have to say. “The jockeys have done the homework. The barrier draw doesn't make that much difference in a Melbourne Cup.”

Sean Bartholomew is one of the biggest punters that Australia has seen. He believes that if he rates form the same way to everybody else then he is never going to finish any better than them, so he does things a bit differently.

He does his own ratings, starting at zero, and subtracts points for what he perceives are negatives, such as horses that have travelled from overseas, have never been tried over the distance, or have a poor jockey, trainer or barrier.

The weighting of points has been determined through experience. He applies special points for those trained by the likes of Bart Cummings. He penalizes the internationals despite their high overseas ratings.

Bartholomew then looks at jockeys, again rating local jockeys ahead of internationals, rewarding those that have done the job before, or in other big races, with trainers given similar consideration.

Following that he looks at factors surrounding previous runs, such as whether horses were held up, and what barrier they are coming out of now. When all has been considered, his best picks will provide the best value in the race.

“It might be 50-1 and probably won't win, but I believe if I back them then over time I’ll finish in front,” Bartholomew says, which he does, more often than not.

FOR what it's worth those responsible for the LGHR LATE MAIL ratings are keen on the internationals WALL OF FIRE, REKINDLING & THOMAS HOBSON. They think the pick of the Australians is AMELIE'S STAR and that's the one I am suggesting you put your hard-earned on at long odds. 




EVER thought how much more appropriate it would be to celebrate Australia Day with a national public holiday on the first Tuesday in November?

There can’t be too many events more Australian than the Melbourne Cup. Even those who don’t follow racing on a regular basis, like the rest of us, still religiously have a flutter on the big day.

The Melbourne Cup is more than a horse race. It’s arguably Australia’s only genuine, unaffected folk carnival. It’s a day when the richest and the poorest are drawn together by the flimsy excuse of a horse race.

It’s a day of extraordinary good humor, helped along by old-fashioned larrikinism and new-fashioned exhibitionism. It’s a day for toffs and showoffs, for winners and losers.

And one of the ironies of the Cup is that many of the 100,000 or more who converge on Flemington on Tuesday won’t see much of the big race at all.

For them, it will be little more than the roar that accompanies ‘they’re off,’ a flash of colors as the big field thunders by, the buzz that builds to a crescendo, and at the end, the million dollar question: ‘Who won?’

Even those in privileged places can but look and wonder. In the members’ enclosure they watch and hope but the finish is little more than a blur of horses’ hindquarters.

Except for that special area set aside for the owners and trainers in the grandstand. That’s where hundreds of hopes and dreams live and die on that first Tuesday in November. Then the cameras swing to the winning owners – many overcome by the occasion. The celebrations are about to begin again.

Most of those who make that ritual visit to Flemington and fail to see a thing will be back next year and the year after that. They wouldn’t swap the atmosphere of being there for the comfort of watching it on television in their homes or at their favorite pub or club.

Some even go through the crush of it all without having a bet, fighting to get to the bar to order endless rounds of drinks, but preferring the office sweep to the agony of making the painstaking push to the bookies or the tote.

Those who love to getaway and go racing will unanimously declare that Melbourne Cup week is an absolute must on the list of ‘things to do before you die.’

Many tell of planning this once-in-a-life time trip only to discover it was so addictive that they have returned every year since and never get tired of going.

Nothing quite compares with that wonderful week of racing, highlighted by the race that stops the nation. But these days you don’t have to be at Flemington to join in the celebrations with literally hundreds of Cup day race meetings throughout the country.

The founding fathers of the great race back in the 1860s would never have thought in their wildest dreams that the Melbourne Cup would grow into the event of today.

The Cup has long been lauded as ‘the race that stops a nation’ and the race which has become ingrained in the Australian culture. It is a race built on dreams, on hard luck and triumph. It is a race which is also survived by tragedy.

But while the Cup continues to evolve it will remain the greatest 3200m horse race anywhere in the world and, by the nature of the conditions, arguably the most challenging to win.

The great American writer Mark Twain visited Australia in the late 1800s, while on a world-wide lecture tour. He was realistic and humorous in his appraisal, but also, on the whole, quite flattering.

Twain arrived in Victoria at the time of the Melbourne Cup, and here are his observations at the time:

‘It is the Melbourne Cup that brings this multitude together. Their clothes have been ordered long ago, at unlimited cost, and without bounds as to beauty and magnificence, and have been kept in concealment until now, for unto this day are they consecrated.

And so the grandstands make a brilliant and wonderful spectacle, a delirium of color, a vision of beauty. The champagne flows, everybody is vivacious, excited and happy – everybody bets, and gloves and fortunes change hands right along, all the time.

Day after day the races go on, and the fun and the excitement are kept at white heat. And when each day is done, the people dance all night so as to be fresh for the races in the morning.

And at the end of the great week the swarms secure lodgings and transportation for next year, then flock away to their remote homes and count their gains and losses, and order next year’s Cup clothes, and then lie down and sleep for two weeks, and get up sorry to reflect that a whole year must be put in somehow or other before they can be wholly happy again.

The Melbourne Cup is the Australasian National Day. It would be difficult to overstate its importance. It overshadows all other holidays and specialized days of whatever sort in that congeries of colonies.

Overshadows them? I might almost say it blots them out. Each of them gets attention, but not everybody’s. Each of them evokes interest, but not everybody’s. Each of them rouses enthusiasm, but not everybody’s. In each case a part of the attention, interest, and enthusiasm is a matter of habit and custom, and another part of it is official and perfunctory.

Cup Day and Cup Day only, commands an attention, an interest, and an enthusiasm which are universal – and spontaneous, not perfunctory. Cup Day is supreme, it has no rival.

I can call to mind no specialized annual day, in any country, which can be named by that large name – supreme. I can call to mind no specialized annual day, in any country, whose approach fires the whole land with a conflagration of conversation and preparation and anticipation and jubilation. No day save this one; but this one does it.’

Who can argue that little has changed in more than a Century since Mark Twain penned those wonderful words?

As in Twain’s day, the crowds still throng. But TV cameras record for posterity all the action on and off the track, the fabulous clothes and ladies’ hats purchased for the event. Businesses in Victoria close for the day.

And throughout the land everything from work to traffic and even conversation seems to stop for those few minutes when the Cup is run (because while there are races for most of the day, nothing quite compares with the Melbourne Cup).

For the horses it begins with serenity in a lush green foaling paddock, perhaps in the Barossa Valley, the Hunter Valley or the Waikato area of New Zealand.

These days it could even begin on the rich, rolling hillsides of Ireland, England or Europe.

It culminates in stark contrast at Flemington in a frenzied carnival atmosphere, with almost 100,000 fans cheering the end of the most famous 3200m this side of the Equator.

The Melbourne Cup is the soul of Australian racing. From start to finish it’s an outrageous, glorious gamble – the only certainty that when it is all over the cycle will begin again.

Folklore suggests the lure of the Melbourne Cup hangs on the fact that it is a handicap – a race that brings together racing’s castes, horses and owners.

But let’s have no cultural cringe about it – the Cup is the most important and demanding test of a thoroughbred’s composite qualities of speed, stamina and moral backbone decided over two miles anywhere.

It would seem that the attitude of punters has changed over the years and they couldn’t give two hoots whether Cup day races are won by a battler or the world’s richest man – especially if they manage to back the winner.

Such was their good humor at the 1987 Cup meeting that they gave three rousing cheers to a bewildered Middle Eastern Sheikh when one of has huge stable won a minor race.

Suspicion suggests that the crowd was letting the Sheikh know that he was one of the lads, even though he could pay out the mortgages of most of middle Melbourne.

The ultimate test of the punters’ goodwill was seen in the mounting yard the year that the late Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, turned up for the presentation drunk as a skunk.

Such has been the impact of this horse race that brings a nation to a standstill that one wonders why the rest of the country doesn’t have a day off as well.

Perhaps Malcolm Turnbull should take a leaf from the Bob Hawke book after Australia won the America’s Cup and suggest that any boss who sacked a worker for suffering a Melbourne Cup hangover and failing to front for duty on Wednesday could best be described as a bum.

Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to celebrate Australia Day in November? We could even call it Bart’s Day. But if they don’t want to do that they let’s swap the Queen’s Birthday Holiday for Melbourne Cup day. After all it’s only a matter of time before we become a Republic – isn’t it Malcolm?

The history of the Melbourne Cup is one of winners and losers, of battlers and toffs, of hard luck and good, of sneering and cheering, of tall tales and true, and of accumulated memories of true blue Australians.

Doesn’t that have much more to do with the culture of this great country than commemorating the first white stake in the turf, Liz’s birthday or, heaven forbid, that of her son Charlie?

They say there are four great Australian myths to those foreigners who have never visited these fine shores and we include in that group the ones who sent us here to become convicts and bushrangers.

Their belief is that:

ALL Australians wear khaki shorts and say ‘Crikey!’

ALL Australians drink is beer.

Australians don’t speak English.

AND that the country stops for three minutes every year to listen to a horse race.

They got the last one right – so I guess three out of four ain’t bad!

Once again on Tuesday the Cup will continue to capture the imagination of an adoring public. It will continue to become the one race that every jockey, trainer and owner wants to win. And every punter – big and small – wants to back the winner of.

In conclusion, let’s reflect once more on those carefully chosen words of the great Mark Twain who was heard to say over a century ago: “Nowhere in my travels have I encountered a festival of the people that has such a magnetic appeal to a whole nation. The Cup astonishes me!”

One can reasonably argue – and who would dare to disagree – that is still the case today.



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