QUEENSLANDERS will get a second helping of the Late Mail Luncheon® when it returns to celebrate the 2015 Brisbane Racing Carnival in May.

A fantastic line up of Queensland's best trainers will again join some very special guests and the usual suspects when the 2nd annual event kicks off on Friday 8 May at Sofitel Brisbane Central.

THE Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board has made the decision to warn off five Queensland greyhound trainers for life, while one case was adjourned and another was referred back to the stewards for further investigation.

Chairman Kevin Dixon advised the board had made the following decisions after considering three written submissions and one verbal submission.

THE newly-elected Labor Government has ordered an independent review of Queensland’s greyhound industry to investigate how the practice of ‘live baiting’ went undetected.

The ABC reports that barrister Alan MacSporran will head the review, which is expected to take three months and cost $3 million, to be funded by the racing industry.

It comes as the Board of Racing Queensland meets this afternoon (Monday) to assess ‘show cause’ submissions from seven trainers allegedly involved in the practice.

 

 by JOHN LINGARD, EDITOR, LETSGOHORSEACING

IN a surprise move Racing Queensland plans to resurrect Deagon as a TAB venue with 12 race dates proposed for the new financial year – the first of those on Friday, July 17.

These would be hosted by the Brisbane Racing Club and are obviously designed to relieve the workload on Doomben whilst ensuring the new Eagle Farm track is not over utilized early days.

This is part of an overdue decision by RQ that would see TAB racing at two venues in Queensland on many Sundays during the year. These would be shown on SKY with the secondary fixture on SKY2. 

A ‘secret’ list of draft dates for racing in 2015-2016 fell off the back of a track outside the letsgohorseracing headquarters. Rather than comment politically on the move to return to TAB racing at Deagon we have left that to the RQ ‘spin doctor’ at The Courier-Mail to put the slant on this that Little King Kev and his cronies would prefer.

Under the proposal Deagon would host race meetings on:

Friday, July 17 (primary venue)

Sunday, August 30 (secondary to Gold Coast)

Sunday, September 13 (secondary to Sunshine Coast – this is the annual Family Picnic Day)

Thursday, October 8 (secondary to Rockhampton)

Sunday, November 22 (primary with Mackay the secondary meeting on the day)

Sunday, Decemb er 20 (secondary to Sunshine Coast)

Sunday, January 3 (primary)

Thursday, February 25 (primary)

Sunday, March 13 (primary)

Friday, April 29 (secondary to Townsville)

Sunday, May 15 (primary)

Friday, June 17 (secondary to Townsville)

The introduction of two Sunday race meetings in Queensland – similar to what occurs in the southern states – is seen by some as a move to provide a desperately needed increase TAB turnover which letsgohorseracing understands has slumped on the local product and is secretly alarming some officials especially under the turnover requirements of the new TAB deal with Tattersall’s. Surprisingly greyhound turnover has increased since the live baiting scandal was reveled.

Dual Sunday racing will be held on July 12 (Sunshine Coast and Cairns); August 9 (Cairns and Dalby); August 23 (Sunshine Coast and Kilcoy), October 18 (Sunshine Coast and Mackay), November 29 (Sunshine Coast and Rockhampton), December 6 (Sunshine Coast and Kilcoy), December 23 (Sunshine Coast and Cairns) and then in 2016 – February 28 (Sunshine Coast and Mackay), June 12 (Sunshine Coast and Lockyer), June 26 (Sunshine Coast and Townsville).

Under the Draft Dates Proposal for 2015-16 the pioneer of Sunday racing – the Sunshine Coast – would be reduced to 39 Sundays. But it would host five metropolitan Satudays and eight Friday night meetings.

During the year there would be 11 Saturdays where the primary metropolitan meeting would be held outside of Brisbane. These include five at the Sunshine Coast, four at the Gold Coast and one each at Ipswich and on the much maligned new track at Toowoomba for their Weetwood-Cup meetings (which suggests this will be approved even before the success or failure of this year’s venture can be gauged).

The Winter Carnival in 2016 would be launched at the Gold Coast on April 30 with the Hollindale-Prime Minister’s Cup meeting following by the Toowoomba Cup and Weetwood on May 7; BTC Cujp (May 14), Doomben Cup (May 21), Doomben 10,000 (May 28), Queensland Oaks (June 4), Strandbroke (June 11) Ipswich Cujp (June 18) and Tattersall’s Tiara on June 25.

Interestingly, the first Saturday meeting actually assigned to the new Eagle Farm track is on October 3. But no track has been allocated the Saturday metropolitan meeting in Brisbane from August 15 to September 26.

That suggests that allow RQ would like to re-open Eagle Farm on August 15 that there is some doubt about when the new track will be ready to race. If Doomben has to continue to shoulder the load – and it has done a remarkable job despite the alleged bias to on-pacers on some days – the track there will require a much-needed recovery period which a third Brisbane venue at Deagon will provide.

What new infrastructure will be needed and whether field sizes will be limited at Deagon is conjecture for others to consider. There will no doubt be an extra cost despite most of the facilities being in place at Deagon already.

DEAGON was established well over a century ago but was utilized for a ‘closed’ race meeting during the Equine Influence crisis in 2007. It was the first time the training centre had been used for racing since 1941.

The first public race day in 72 years was held as a Family Picnic Day in September 2013. The local community was the driving force behind the day. It proved so popular that another was held last year.

Although now owned by Racing Queensland, Deagon meetings are hosted by the Brisbane Racing Club. The venue has turned the full circle from a racing venue to a boutique training complex and now back to a racing venue.

In the latter days of the Bob Bentley era that almost came to an end when there was a proposal for it to become the home of state of the art harness and greyhound complex. This riled local thoroughbred trainers, especially those with major real estate interests at Deagon, which then became a political hot potato and when the LNP Government returned to power the plan was scrapped.


By JOHN LINGARD, Editor, Letsghorseracing

THE standing down of ‘sacrificial lamb’ Wade Birch, the Head of RQ Integrity, is a small step in the right direction but the real buck stops with the Board of Greyhounds Queensland and the RQ Industry All Codes Chairman Kevin Dixon.

Reports of the political games and manoeuvring that is occurring being the scenes to protect the job of the RQ Chairman only highlight the need for the Labor Government to engage an interstate non-connected Queen’s Counsel or the like to conduct an Independent Review of the greyhound scandal.

Queensland racing and politics are far too interwoven with mates doing deals with mates for there to be any confidence in a Review headed by anyone local – especially if it involves current Integrity figures or former Ministerial heavyweights who have consultancies with certain high profile businessmen linked to Government and the racing industry.

 

by TERRY BUTTS of the NQ REGISTER

RECENT Doomben winner French Lesson from the North Queensland stable of Glen Baker has returned a positive to cobalt.

Chief steward Alan Reardon notified Baker  by phone yesterday morning and told him the horse had returned a reading 'well over the threshold limit'.

Baker said he was stunned.

RQ WOULD LOVE JIM O'SULLIVAN TO CONDUCT THEIR INDEPENDENT REVIEW INTO GREHOUNDS - THAT CAN'T BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN

BY JOHN LINGARD, Editor, letsgohorseracing

INDUSTRY stakeholders and the racing public are urging new Racing Minister Bill Byrne to extend his independent review into Racing Queensland’s disgusting failure to uncover live baiting which was unearthed by Animal Liberation Queensland.

They want the new Labor Government to also examine the RQ Integrity Department’s handling of the cobalt swab situation and to have RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon questioned over serious allegations doing the rounds about the new TAB deal with Tattersall’s, alleged favoritism to clubs loyal to the current hierarchy and the lack of consultation and information provided from the Deagon bunker.

Byrne has already indicated the likely appointment of senior independent figures to ensure the industry is cleaned up. The greyhound debacle – and failure of RQ to act on information received from Animal Liberation Queensland and the RSPCA – is just the tip of the iceberg with the problems confronting the industry.

Much of this has occurred under the watch of RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon who needs to be exposed to extensive questioning at an independent review and questions need to be asked as well of his association with former Treasurer Tim Nicholls, former Racing Minister Steve Dickson and the LNP Government despite claims by Dixon that he is a-political.

Anger is growing at suggestions by RQ that they will provide $1.5 million of industry funds for Integrity Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan to investigate the ‘live baiting’ controversy. Those close to the action have been quick to point out that Jim O’Sullivan was on the selection panel that put the current Greyhound Board in place and say there would be a major conflict of interest for him to determine their future. A similar Board in NSW has been stood down, the one in Victoria will soon be stood down (if media reports are correct) but in Queensland we sit on our hands. Questions should be asked of Greyhound Board members, like Steve Hawkins (a close friend of Kevin Dixon and major greyhound owner-breeder) whether they were aware of the live baiting allegations and what they did about it.

Jim O’Sullivan is not the one to investigate the greyhound debacle. There needs to be an independent person brought it. Barry Taylor is a lawyer with a racing background, who served on the Racing Queensland Board before resigning in protest over the lack of consultation on the TAB deal. He has no ties with greyhound racing and would ensure the sport was cleaned up and those responsible for this mess shown the door.  

Heads need to roll – not only over the greyhound debacle but many other things that have occurred since Dixon took over three years ago. Forget about the positive slant his mates in the media put on everything he does. Those pedaling that propaganda now want to be part of bagging the crap out of greyhound racing. They were the ones who should have been doing their jobs and investigating these allegations long ago – not leaving it to an ‘angel of mercy’ – a young woman from Animal Liberation Queensland to expose what everyone knew was happening. That was Hayley Cotton - pictured above right in the Gold Coast Bulletin.

Nathan Exelby the Racing Editor of The Courier-Mail is playing catch up with his colleague Brad Davidson of the Gold Coast Bulletin. If you want to read the great inbalance in reporting – log on to News Limited and read reports from both. It was Davidson who revealed the plans by the Minister to have an independent review. Not only did Exelby miss that one – for some reason – but when he followed it up a day later it was the last paragraph of his story and he was quick to add that the Minister would not speculate on the future of RQ officials – man of whom everyone knows are his mates.

As Brad Davidson correctly reported in the Gold Coast Bulletin:

SPECULATION has been rife in recent weeks that Dixon’s position at RQ could be in jeopardy due to his alleged ties to the former government and the controversy surrounding the live baiting issue won’t help his cause.

Bill Byrne is no dill but has been handed a poison chalice. He needs to dodge the Dixon coat-tuggers and show the RQ Chairman (pictured above left by the Gold Coast Bulletin) the door sooner rather than later. Dixon supportes have already gone into over-drive to protect ‘little King Kev’ spearheaded by the club chairman who benefited most from the decision-making of his hierarchy.

Animal Liberation Australia has outlined five important things that have happened since the ABC 4 Corners expose was aired. They include:

  • 100,000 people signing a protest petition.
  • Dozens of trainers being suspended.
  • The industry's prestigious awards nights being cancelled.
  • The entire board of Greyhound Racing NSW being stood down.
  • Sponsors backing out.

And critically, thousands of animals will now be spared from the most terrifying ordeal imaginable. Pressure is mounting on the future of greyhound racing. Regardless of what happens this is a disaster of ‘Fine Cotton’ proportions for this so-called sport.

If Queensland doesn't act quickly confidence not only in greyhound racing but the administration and integrity of the three codes will be lost forever. It's time for a change at the top Mr Minister.

 

by LGHR Editor JOHN LINGARD

BILL BYRNE, in his fledgling days as Racing Minister, would win a lot of friends inside and outside the industry if he put the broom through the Integrity Section of Racing Queensland.

Byrne has flagged possible changes to the policing of the racing industry in the wake of the greyhound live baiting scandal but here’s hoping he goes the whole hog and starts by sacking the RQ general manager of stewarding and integrity Wade Birch.

The buck has to stop somewhere in this sordid ordeal and the more revelations about RQ not doing their job when told of these problems months ago suggest that the new Minister should also consider appointing a new Chairman of Racing Queensland.

It took a group of Animal Liberationists, the RSPCA and the 4 Corners expose to show up the inadequacies of the integrity units in three states but the situation in Queensland is especially alarming when it is considered that RQ was apparently made aware of ‘live baiting’ in October but allegedly did nothing about it.

Gold Coast-based Brad Davidson is one of the few News Limited racing scribes with the balls to objectively criticize RQ while his colleague Nathan Exelby, the Turf Editor of The Courier-Mail, is seen by many in the industry as too busy promoting his mate the RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon.

Davidson tweeted on the dog scandal:

POOR effort by RQ to wipe their hands of this mess – a full inquiry is needed.

RQ received email with concerns about live baiting last October – blamed admin error for no action.

There are alarming reports that a letter from the RSPCA warning RQ and its Integrity Department of the increasing usage of ‘live baiting’ at training tracks in Queensland was ‘lost in the mail’.

Then we have the situation of the bungled inquiry involving a high profile trainer with a Media Release stating:

Racing Queensland stewards have confirmed they interviewed Mr Reg Kay this afternoon in relation to comments attributed to him regarding his attendance at a property near Ipswich last week prior to a joint QPS/RSPCA operation.

At this stage, stewards have found no evidence to support that Mr Kay engaged in the alleged conduct for which seven licensed trainers were stood down this week.

Accordingly, no further action has been taken at this time.

Two days late and RQ issued another Media Release advising that seven greyhound trainers had been issued with show cause notices of why they should not be banned for life. It followed the airing of the 4 Corners program showing individuals involved in alleged ‘live baiting’. Heading the show cause list was Reg Kay.

This is a blunder of monumental proportions by the Integrity Department of RQ and heads should roll over it. The buck stops with Wade Birch but more importantly with Chairman Kevin Dixon. Both should be sacked by the Minister.

Worse is yet to come. Letsgohorseracing has received allegations of a greyhound being clubbed to death by a trainer for failing to perform, of the owner being provided with another dog to ensure her silence after a high profile vet resigned and reportedly took his concerns to the RSPCA and of RQ being advised but allegedly taking no action (at this stage) on this issue. If these allegations are correct this is what some would call another cover up of mammoth proportions.   

Since the 4 Corners program was aired of course we have had politicians and administrators on the front foot. RQ has suspended 13 trainers, including seven who have been asked to ‘show cause’ when they should be warned off for life. Close to 100 greyhounds and pups have been impounded.

Under the present legislation, Racing Queensland is responsible for both the administration of all three codes, in addition to overseeing racing integrity. That means the same body that promotes the industry, also polices it.

The simple separation of the two bodies will not overcome the problems of the past unless some high profile stewards are brought in to take control. The Racing Minister should order a nationwide search for a new Chief Steward and Integrity Manager. Policing of all three codes should then be taken out of the province of RQ. In the case of the Racing Integrity Commissioner many beieve he should either eliminate the position or appoint someone who can prove to stakeholders and punters that he or she is prepared to do the hard yards. Many believe that has not been the case with former Police Commissioner Jim O’Sullivan and question what he has achieved since being appointed.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has described the live baiting scandal as ‘very serious’ and said she was in talks with her Racing Minister about the issue. “It has been absolutely horrific what we have seen, what has been carried out in the greyhound industry,’’ she said.

She should take it a step further. At the least what is needed is a new Head of Stewarding and Integrity and a new Chairman of Racing Queensland. If they want to stop short of sacking those who many believe should have been more proactive then leave them there but put someone else above them who will win back industry and public confidence.

While all this is going on we have one of Kevin Dixon’s greatest supporters canvassing club chairmen to take a deputation to the Racing Minister telling him they are happing with the job the boss of the control body is doing.

Most regard this as finger down the throat stuff with the ‘cowboy’ heading the posse of support simply trying to repay the current RQ hierarchy for the overwhelming support his club has received at the expense of others (some saw it as LNP political pork-barrelling but we all know the RQ Chairman is a-political, so it wouldn't have been that).

Fortunately there are some race club chairmen out there who don’t share the cowboy's views and in fact want to see the back of Kevin Dixon after only three years. They want the Racing Minister to act now – not in a few months time when it is more likely.

The pressure has only just started to mount and 'little King Kev' shouldn't be feeling too safe despite after walking away from his first meeting with the new Racing Minister as his supporters would say 'unscathed'.  

RACING Queensland can confirm eight of the nine samples sent to Perth for confirmatory cobalt testing have returned results which are in excess of the threshold and will now be sent to Sydney for referee analysis.

RQ General Manager of Stewarding and Integrity Wade Birch said the samples consisted of two from the thoroughbred code and six from the harness code – split between two thoroughbred trainers and three harness trainers.

THE Board of Racing Queensland has issued seven greyhound trainers with show cause notices as to why they should not be warned off Queensland racetracks for life following a board meeting at Deagon this afternoon.

RQ last week suspended seven trainers following a joint RSPCA-Queensland Police Service raid, while a further six were suspended today by stewards after footage of them allegedly involved in live-baiting was aired on 4 Corners last night. This takes the total of trainers suspended to 13.

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