DESPERATE times call for desperate measures and there are those concerned for the future of Queensland racing who insist they are prepared to take desperate steps in the hope of delivering the industry a minor miracle.

This is the story of a group who call themselves HOOT (Hands off our Tracks) and as unbelievable as it may sound I am assured there is an element of truth to what a few of their number are about to do.

Frustrated by their failure to prevent what they call a systematic takeover of the industry by the Bentley regime, they have become obsessed with bringing about his demise and have decided to go to extreme lengths and enlist outside help.

Those close to HOOT want to emphasize that their decision was not taken lightly and was only agreed to when every other logical avenue had been exhausted and things seemed to be getting worse.

They are concerned that before too long legislative change will see the control of the three codes in Queensland in the hands of what they believe will be ‘an untouchable administration backed by the Labor Government’ that will have the power to seize valuable club assets and re-appoint itself after a five-year term.

“As far as we are concerned the only light at the end of the tunnel is a change of Government but we’re not prepared to wait that long or take the odds to that happening,” one of the founders of HOOT said.

“We can no longer bear to watch race clubs that we helped establish and become prosperous bled dry financially and stripped of their assets by a Board led by a tyrannical Queensland Racing chairman who seems to have the full support of a Racing Minister we call Colonel Clink.

“While the Domino effect has already started and key industry individuals and groups are starting to roll over to Bentley because they see no choice or want to be on a winning side, we were left with only one alternative – and whether we are laughed at or not – this decision shows just how desperate we feel the situation has reached.”

After weeks of deliberation – and some feelings of disbelief – HOOT were convinced that the only one who might be able to help their plight was an African Witch Doctor.

“Desperate as it may sound, where everything else has failed, he might just be able to place a curse on the Bentley Board, the Racing Minister and the Bligh Government in retribution for what they have done to what was once a wonderful industry.”

A delegate was chosen to make the trip and finalize the details. It was top secret stuff – with even his family and friends believing that the prominent racing identity was travelling to the States – partly for business and partly for pleasure.

Instead he has an appointment in the heart of Africa with a witch doctor of world acclaim when it comes to implementing curses. It seems that ‘witch doctoring’ is a bigger business than most on this side of the world would be aware.

The witch doctor’s personal assistant has told HOOT that all they need to provide are specific racing objects and photographs identified with Queensland Racing that will help him seal the deal. They have stressed that the curse must not involve personal injury – the goal is simply to reverse the rise of the current regime and some of the controversial decisions that have been made.

In assessing costs involved the witch doctor’s PA has suggested that the ‘Get Even Spell’ should do the trick and quite economically compared with some of the money QR is spending on legal, marketing and public relations consultancies.

The background material sent to HOOT by special e-mail from Africa advised that: ‘This spell is targeted at a specific people who need to be brought down from their high perches.’

Superstition has long played a major role in the lives of many folk involved in racing from the trainers and jockeys to owners and punters – but it has never really affected officials. That could be about to change.

For his return to Australia the HOOT envoy will be provided by the Witch Doctor with a number of Voodoo Dolls to be used by members of the group to boost the curse that he has cast.

The e-mail explains that the dolls are used to represent the spirit of a specific person. ‘You can address the doll as if you are talking to that person, requesting a change in attitude, influencing the person to act in accordance with your wishes, your desires.’

Although its origins are in Africa, there are more than 50 million followers of Voodoo worldwide. The message is loud a clear to HOOT members: ‘Once in possession of your authentic Voodoo Doll, you can request it to call upon powerful forces known as Loa.

‘You can perform a simple but effective ritual to fulfill an urgent desire. This timeless ceremony is carried out to persuade the spirits to exert their influence in this world.’

Some might call it old wives’ tales and no doubt there will be those at racing headquarters who are chortling at the thought of being the victims of a curse or a Voodoo Doll. But the next time that bucket load drops on them from a big height they might think back on this timely warning.

For those of you already questioning the sanity of this column or our friends from HOOT, let me tell you about a couple of well documented incidents involving ‘curses’ and sport.

The ‘Curse of the Colonel’ is an urban legend and was placed on the high-flying Japanese Hanshin Tigers baseball team back in the 1980s by now deceased Kentucky Fried Chicken Founder and Mascot, Colonel Harland Sanders, who was angered by fans’ treatment of one of his store front statues.

To this day the Hanshin Tigers are considered the eternal underdogs of Nippon Professional Baseball. Their devoted fans still flock to the stadium no matter how badly they play. Here’s hoping Queensland racing doesn’t face a similar fate.

As is common with sports-related curses, the ‘Curse of the Colonel’ is used to explain the Series drought that the Hanshin Tigers have endured since their first and only victory in the 1985 Japanese Championship.

The curse is said to have occurred when Hanshin fans, excited over winning the series, tossed the statue of Colonel Sanders (after cutting off his hands) into the Dotonbori River at Kyoto. It has been suggested that the team will never win another series until the statue is recovered.

ANOTHER well documented ‘curse’ story was told by the late, great Socceroo, Johnny Warren, in his autobiography, Sheilas, Wogs and Poofters.

During a trip to play against Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in the 1970 Mexico World Cup qualifiers in Mozambique, the Australian team consulted a witch doctor preceding their game.

The witch doctor buried bones near the goal-posts and cursed the opposition and Australia went on to beat Rhodesia 3-1 in the decider.

However, the move backfired when the players could not come up with the 1,000 pounds demanded by the witch doctor as payment and he subsequently cursed the team. The Socceroos then failed to beat Israel and did not qualify.

Whilst the curse is used as an explanation for Australia failing to qualify for the soccer World Cup for 32 years, including the last matches of the 1994, 1998 and 2002 qualifications, it is used in particular reference to the failure to qualify for the 1998 World Cup by drawing against Iran despite leading 2-0 in the second half of the final match of qualification.

The curse was supposedly lifted by John Safran during his 2004 TV series, John Safran v God. After reading the story in Warren’s book, Safran travelled to Mozambique and hired a new witch doctor to reverse the original curse.

The following year the Socceroos not only qualified for the 2006 World Cup but reached the second round before being beaten by Italy in controversial circumstances.

Desperate measures like Witch Doctor curses and Voodoo Dolls are strictly for the true believers but there might just be a few more converts in racing if we see Anna Bligh deposed as Premier; Peter Lawlor not seeking re-election and sailing off into the sunset with his Parliamentary Super in hand; and Bob Bentley taking early retirement and handing over the reins as chairman of Racing Queensland to a deserving Bill Andrews.