MICHELLE PAYNE might be a ‘pain in the arse’ for officialdom when it comes to her controversial tweets about the state of the tracks in Melbourne but as a trainer – and a jockey – she is entitled to have her say without being silenced or censored.

Granted, Victorian Chief Steward Robert Cram made a valid point when he told Payne: ‘You’ve got form in this area’ which prompted another fine – this time of $300 – smaller than her previous ones involving Sandown and the departed track manager from Flemington, Mick Goodie, who has found a new life in Queensland racing.

Cram’s description of Michelle’s latest tweet regarding the Flemington track last weekend as ‘rude’ and ‘insolent’ is debatable in the eyes of many in the racing industry around the country not to mention the locals who wholeheartedly agreed with her assessment.

In the lead-up to last Saturday’s meeting Payne threatened to scratch her runner, Sweet Rockette, if the track ‘looks too firm’, labelling the situation as ‘absolute bulls---‘. She ended up running the three-year-old filly which ran 4th in the Cap D’Antibes Stakes.

Payne felt she had to respond because she was frustrated the track hadn’t been watered. Cram accepted her frustration. She sympathized with the situation that track manager Liam O’Keeffe had been confronted with and subsequently apologized for the tweet.

That doesn’t alter the fact that the Flemington track was rated a Good 3 after heavy rain that was forecast for the morning failed to arrive. Payne, like many other stakeholders, believed O’Keeffe should have watered the track on Friday. But he was in a no-win situation.

Payne said O’Keeffe had told her he wished he could have watered the track before the meeting. He doesn’t have the crystal ball that the Weather Bureau possesses but even they can’t get it right.

Instead of continuing to fine and chastise Payne for saying what most were thinking stewards should be pressuring officialdom to have the Rules amended giving track managers the flexibility of being permitted to water on race morning if forecast rain doesn’t eventuate.

Payne said track managers, regardless, should be able to water the day before even if rain was forecast to make sure the track had some give in it. Wasn’t that the situation some time ago following complaints that the international horses faced the prospect of breaking down if tracks were too hard and in the old terms tracks were required to be in the ‘dead’ range for the start of meetings. Why not revert to the same?

There were horses that felt the hard track at Flemington on Saturday. With the Spring Carnival on our doorstep the last thing racing needs is bad publicity from locals and international visitors regarding the track surface resembling a ‘bitumen road’.

Payne is right when she says: “If there’s rain forecast for Saturday, they should still water the track on the Friday. If the rain doesn’t come then the track has been watered and it will be fine for the horses. If it does then it might be a Slow 6 which is still fine for racing. That way we won’t get a track which is too firm and horses won’t pull up sore.”

Payne has now been fined $500 for criticising the state of the Sandown track, $300 for Saturday’s tweet and last year she copped $1500 for attacking then Flemington track manger Mick Goodie.

In retrospect perhaps someone in a much higher role was sharing her thought process when she tweeted: “Maybe Mick Goodie’s position needs to be reviewed? He has no one to answer to, gets away with it time and time again. It’s not very nice to upset people but I’ve been there many times (to) our premier track, walked it and felt like going home.”

Ironically, the services of Goodie at Flemington have since been disposed of and he is now working with the big losers in Australian racing in Queensland where his seemingly mission impossible is to get the greatest embarrassment and track redevelopment disaster in the land at Eagle Farm back in action by Christmas.

Good luck to him but if it doesn’t succeed it will just be another failure for Racing Queensland – which many in racing believe them to be masters at. Ask any racing follower and they will highlight the failings of racing in the Sunshine State from lack of punter confidence in integrity to administration of the sport and even things as easy to oversee as Racing Awards which have hit an all-time low in the eyes of many.    

But back to the final word on Michelle – here’s hoping these fines do no silence or censor her completely. Perhaps she should word her criticism differently but Payne simply has the guts to echo the sentiments of many others in the industry and most agree with her that the rules should be changed. If they don’t heed her warnings it is only a matter of time before this becomes yet another major issue of for the ‘fruit loops’ in the animal liberation movement who simply don’t understand the intricacies of horse racing.



ROBBIE WATERHOUSE shoots from the hip when it comes to all things racing and his look back at Saturday’s big meeting at Flemington could easily have qualified for the ‘good section’ on the WHINGE this week but as you read on it becomes ‘more ugly’.

Here’s what Rob had to say:

‘I took the opportunity of fielding at Flemington Saturday. A great day’s racing and the opportunity of seeing the wonderful new members’ stand was too good an offer to refuse, despite it being a very cold spring Saturday.

It was a great day of racing. The grandstand is wonderful – the megastructure possesses real “wow factor”. Well done to the VRC, and the engineers/construction companies who have made this stand a reality.

But it is hard to contain my disappointment with the new Flemington bookmakers’ rails.

Said plainly, it was horrible. There was virtually not a punter in the ring in either the pubic or members. Bookies and clerks would have outnumbered punters 10 to 1 at any time.

On a day like Saturday – a Group 1 Saturday, I’d expect to write 1,000 tickets over the nine races on the card at Flemington, especially when the Group 1 race was close to 5-1 the field. I’ve written 2,500 tickets in the modern era on similar race days.

On Saturday, I wrote 40 on-course bets for the day, to turnover a meagre $2300. Sacré Cœur!

I’m a “top odds” bookie, wanting to do business. In my career, I’ve worked at some poor meetings – e.g. Orange dogs on a wet night in winter. Saturday at Flemington was worse. I don’t think I’ve worked at a meeting writing less than a 100 “briefs”.

I concede Flemington was cold and, at times, wet. But it was hopeless on Saturday, a Group I day with the new stand. I fear the worst for future the rails at Flemington.

It should be said… the rails bookmakers now work inside at Caulfield, Sandown, most meetings at Moonee Valley, Randwick, Rosehill and Canterbury. We must be where people naturally are.

At every English course, the bookies are in front of the stands, on the grass. Over the garden bed, over the horse tunnel, between the members and the public would be good.

On the floor of the members would also work (where lounge areas are currently).

In the spirit of constructive criticism, there are several “teething” problems with the new stands that can be fixed:

  • Inexplicably there are now no fluctuations screens for punters in the ring (let alone an over weights and allowance board). An unwelcome change from the last fifty or so years.
  • The provided betting-board screens are the “good-value” ones (i.e. cheap), unable to be read if wearing sun glasses! The ones we always use elsewhere, ones that work are “depolarised’’ and can be read.
  • Moreover, I hate my betting board being totally out of my reach and not easy for me to see. Several times Saturday, my board went blank while I was blissfully unaware. Hardly an ideal situation should it happen at 2.55pm on Tuesday 6 November.
  • The heaters provided are totally ineffective.
  • It is the only time as a bookmaker I’ve had to be at ground level, meaning beneath the punters as the ground drops down, I find it quite peculiar. There is something in the science of looking at another object at eye level, not having to adjust one’s eyes as you contrast up or down.
  • Rain water drains from the ring straight to where the bookmaker and the clerks stand. No good Saturday.
  • I am worried a punter will miss the step from ledge at the back of the ring. I think it should all be smoothed off.





AS expected WINX stole the spotlight of racing at Randwick last Saturday with another amazing win that took her tally to 27 straight.

She gave not only one of her greatest fans, legendary sports broadcaster Bruce McAvaney a fright on straightening but also many others before moving into top gear and making her rivals look second rate.

What a pity it was another ‘crap’ crowd that turned out to see the superstar of Sydney sport (with apologies to those in Racing NSW officialdom and their spin doctor mates in the racing media trying to pump it up).

At least the sports and racing mad fans of Melbourne town will turn out in much bigger numbers when she heads there now en route to an unprecedented fourth Cox Plate success.



THE strong headwind took its toll on many fancied runners in the Flemington straight last Saturday but one that survived was boom colt Brutal, adding a Listed win to his impressive resume.

After facing the breeze throughout, Brutal was headed by Leonardo Da Hinchi at the 100m mark but he fought back courageously to prevail in a head-bobbing finish.

In all likelihood Brutal will tackle the stallion-making Caulfield Guineas, but co-trainer Wayne Hawkes was typically non-committal suggesting the stable would let the horse guide them.



GODOLPHIN import Avilius maintained his unbeaten Australian record with another impressive win in the Group 3 Kingston Town Stakes at Randwick and in the process overcame the ‘Waller Wall’.

The margin wasn’t huge but there was a touch of arrogance about the performance. Avilius proved too strong for a field that included an amazing seven runners from the Chris Waller stable (the best of those was runner-up Brimham Rocks).

Avilius is now favourite for The Metropolitan in which he has 54kg and cannot be penalized for the Kingston Town win. He has emerged as a potential big Cups candidate in the Spring for Godolphin.  




THE starting price of $12 suggested that the majority of punters did not heed the advice of top trainer Mick Price that Grunt would improve when he returned to racing at Flemington.

Perhaps the presence of topliners Humidor, Kementari and Kings Will Dream proved a major distraction for those who were fans of Grunt after his G1 win in the Australian Guineas.

After a fifth and an eighth at Caulfield in two runs since a spell, Grunt went to a new level in the G1 Makybe Diva Stakes with a runaway win over Kings Will Dream who lost few fans from a big Cups viewpoint.

Downside of the race focused on the popular Sydneysider Happy Clapper which bled from both nostrils and will be banned from racing for three months.



IT was hardly good news to read that Queensland racing officials are ‘hopeful’ a horse can gallop on the track before the end of the year.

The Brisbane Racing Club and RQ accompanied a large group of trainers on an inspection of the track last week. BRC Members have also been invited to participate in a guided tour. Work on the much maligned track almost resembles a sideshow.

Eagle Farm has been undergoing ‘remedial work’ since May last year after originally being closed for two years for major renovations in 2014. It has been one of the biggest track redevelopment disasters and embarrassments in the recent history of Australian racing.

Mick Goodie, the former Flemington track manger, was on hand to answer questions from the trainers who viewed progress on the track. He is reportedly is confident Eagle Farm will make a successful comeback but the best the racing public can hope for is one meeting in December and two in February – at this stage.




FEELINGS are mixed on whether owner Stuart Ruse should have suffered an 18 month disqualification for the ‘crude’ name of a filly.

Many believe Racing NSW stewards have been too harsh whilst others say an example needs to be made to halt this occurring.

The filly made her debut in early September at Newcastle under the name ‘Andiamo Fica’ which translated from Italian to English means ‘Let’s Go C*nt’.

Ruse was charged and found guilty of conduct prejudicial to the interests and/or image of racing, with stewards alleging he was aware of the English translation when he submitted the name application. 

Stewards also found him guilty of providing false evidence in claiming that he was unaware of the rude translation. He pleaded not guilty to both charges.


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