IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS reports on an unfortunate incident at the Home Hill Cup meeting last Saturday where high profile bookmaker Lloyd Mitchell was barred from fielding.

Mitchell, a veteran and respected operator on tracks all over the north for decades, was told by security to leave the track. He claims the club had approved his request to field on Cup Day but officials invoked a Local Rule to protect the monopoly of the locals.

Racing Queensland passed the buck back to the Home Hill club but that was only after the Betting Supervisor had told Mitchell there was no longer a closed ring policy with RQ. It seems he was unaware of the Local Rule and the hierarchy of RQ wasn’t buying into the dispute.

Here is the Butts column:



THE contentious subject of closed betting rings is back on the agenda at Racing Queensland after an incident at the Home Hill Cup meeting on Saturday.

Long-time bookmaker Lloyd Mitchell was refused permission to operate AFTER   he had been told a senior Queensland Racing official last week that there were no longer closed rings in the state.

The saga began when the 67 year old and well respected fielder applied three weeks ago to work Home Hill Cup day. He received a reply from the club stating his application to field had been refused. The club stated that the ring was closed to six bookies in the main ring and three in the corporate zone.

It was then that Mitchell contacted Racing Queensland (spoke with Betting Supervisor Mark Sweeney) and was informed that he had the right to field as there were no longer closed rings allowable in the state.

Mitchell then emailed the Home Hill club secretary and suggested he seek clarification from RQ. Apparently he did but Mitchell was then advised by the club to refer to Rule 77 which states that clubs had the right to say who, and how many bookmakers can field.

It was this rule that was enforced when Mitchell and his clerks turned up on Saturday with their own portable betting stand and power.

SECURITY at the track then ordered he take down the stand. Mitchell dismantled his gear and decided to await the arrival of stipendiary stewards.

Stewards, he said, sympathized with him but declared they could only work to and invoke Rule 77.

Mitchell claimed the crowd was so great at the Burdekin on Saturday that the ring could have easily withstood ‘another three or perhaps four bookies.’

According to Mitchell, the leading local bookie Russ Reguson admitted to him the ring could accommodate another two bookmakers.



BOTH the Racing Minister Steve Dickson and RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon were special guests at the meeting but neither got involved with the Mitchell predicament.

Kevin Dixon said yesterday that RQ did not have a policy on betting ring closures.

“It is simply a matter between respective clubs and bookmakers. We don’t get involved in those arrangements unless we have to,” he said.

Dixon, on his first visit to Home Hill which he thoroughly enjoyed, said he could understand the club’s situation.

“Some bookmakers have a habit or turning up for the big days but not on the ordinary days,” he said.

The Dixon party flew into Ayr in the Government jet and spent about five hours mingling with the bumper crowd.

“They told me the gate was equivalent to the entire population of Home Hill – not bad figures – and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves,” the Chairman said.



THE bookie episode on Saturday puts the upcoming Oak Park carnival under the camera and places the question of closed rings right back on the agenda.

Lloyd Mitchell has warned that there could be closed rings throughout the north ‘because of the Home Hill decision’ and the RQ chairman’s reaction.

“And that includes Townsville where we will strive to keep the other visiting bookies out at carnival time.

“Why not,” he asks?

Last year Cairns bookie Brian Jorgenson caused a stir when he complained to the Office of Fair Trading about Oak Park’s ‘private arrangement’ with a group of bookies.

Figures from last year’s Oak Park meeting should horrify any serious punter who intends betting at the meeting.

On the first day last year bookmakers bet an average of 172.8 per cent. On the Saturday, they really ‘opened up,’ betting an average percentage of 181.6.

By comparison at the Charters Towers meeting (open ring) in December last year the percentage was 128.6 %. At the Home Hill meeting (closed ring) on Anzac Day last month the percentage was 167.8%.

When shown the figures on Saturday, a Home Hill committeeman asked Lloyd Mitchell: “What does that mean?”

The bookie answered: “Just shows you how much your punters are being robbed!”

NB: If bookies bet figures of 100 per cent and lay every horse in the race for the same amount they break square. The normally accepted percentage per race is figures of 115-20 per cent. Beyond 150% is considered grand larceny!



AT a time when TABs around the country are losing the battle with corporate bookies for turnover and punting clients, you might think the Tatts operating management would be concerned.

But apparently that is not the case – in Townsville at least.

While at least two other city hotels have applied and been surprisingly refused PubTAB licenses, the Oonoonba Hotel, one of the oldest and best known racing pubs in the north, has turned its PubTAB facility into a rock scene.

Nothing wrong with having live music but at the Oonoonba the portable stage is constructed right slap bang in front of the TAB and SKY monitors.

The pub has ignored the protests from the punters, but worse the TAB has virtually turned a blind eye.

The northern region’s TAB manager is aware the stage goes up on a Friday afternoon (not every Friday mind you) for the night session, but is loath to suggest the stage be moved elsewhere in the pub so it doesn’t obliterate the screens – incidentally those are the TAB screens.

Oh, and by the way, anyone who complains to the TAB gets barred from the pub.

Just ask Yours’ Truly.

It certainly wouldn’t have happened in the days of Brian Beven and Dave Moore who were licensees of the same pub that the late bookie Gary Ware (he married Dawn Fraser) called his local.

And I reckon Cec Carmody would be turning in his grave. He was one of the early licensees of the Oonoonba and apart from his long and fruitful association in racing administration, he was the owner of several grand gallopers including of course Blazing Saddles.

Imagine Cec, Beven or Moorey allowing a live band in site or hearing distance of the TAB!

But seriously racing cannot afford to lose punters or turnover. TAB is after all the lifeblood of the game.

Maybe someone should tell the northern manager and ask who pays his wages – the punters (most of them drinkers as well) or the rockers.



DOUG Murphy, the recognized ‘mayor’ of Mingela (west of Townsville) and long-time racing personality, died last week aged 78.

Doug, renowned for his sartorial dress, impeccable manners and undying passion for all things racing, was the force behind Mingela’s annual May day meeting right up until it was closed by the Bentley regime a few years ago.

He will also be remembered as the man behind that great old bush campaigner  Foreign Monarch.

Doug and his boys trained the old marvel right from day one. He won his Maiden at Mingela by 10 lengths in 1995 with Nobby Cairns up and had his last start at Cluden as a 10-year-old stallion in June 2004. It was start number 201.

Foreign Monarch won 38 races, ran 29 seconds and 23 thirds for $178,447.

Like the entire Murphy family, he seldom missed a Mingela meeting. He had seven starts for three wins, a second and three thirds.

But even more remarkable is that in three of those Mingela starts, the chestnut had raced two days previous at Barcaldine – and made the long trip to race on the Monday on his home track.

He won the Barcaldine Cup (1600m) in 1997 and ran second in a WFA (1200m) at Mingela two days later. Part of the Barcaldine prize was a flash new head collar which was stolen from the horse as he stood in the float waiting for his trainer and entourage who were dining at a road side café on the long road home.

The other remarkable feature of this terrific stallion, bought for $500 at the original Parry Nissan Yearling Sale, is that he won or was placed on the following tracks: Longreach, Corfield, Charters Towers (33 starts for 13 wins and 16 placings), Barcaldine, Richmond, Normanton, Home Hill, Julia Creek, Birdsville, Mt Isa, Cairns, Stamford, Bowen, Pentland, Mackay, Ingham, Collinsville, Mackinlay, Prairie, and of course Townsville, on Cup day as a two-year-old.

What a horse! What a bloke!



TERRY BUTTS can be contacted by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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