IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS comments on the grilling of former RQ Chairman Bob Bentley at the opening of public hearings at the Racing Commission of Inquiry.

He also reports on the need for Racing Queensland to chase over $90 million in fees that allegedly were retained by Tattersalls in controversial circumstances and questions whether other TABs should be considered when the new agreement is negotiated by RQ.

Here is the Butts’ column:


BOB Bentley stole the racing limelight again last week but this time for entirely different reasons.

There was still that touch of arrogance that seeped through the merciless grilling by the barrister assisting the Racing Commission of Inquiry, James Bell QC.

But that supreme air of confidence Bentley so openly displayed when ruler of the dictatorial regime that was the former Racing Queensland Board was certainly missing.

Highlight of the opening session of this inquiry was the relentless questioning by Mr Bell, over the ‘missing $91 million’ that was never (or has yet to be) delivered to the Queensland racing industry. 

It was a visibly shaken former Chairman of RQ and – more importantly – Board member of Tatts, who untangled himself from the ropes, mentally bruised and battered, when the bell sounded for the end of Day 2 of the Inquiry on Friday.



THE blame game was full on and there were many references to multiple emails to and from his ‘friend’ Dick McIlwain, the then CEO of UNiTAB (that was to become Tatts) sent from a server in the UK that raised suspicion by those present and to the hundreds who glued themselves to the website that provided live streaming of the Inquiry.

And there are now questions as to when and if McIlwain might be called.

The Inquiry is in its infancy, but judged by the opening two days the final outcome, just might be a little different to other Racing Inquiries held over the years that ended in fairly predictable outcomes, as most Government inspired Inquiries often do.

 There would be some ‘nervous Nellies’ in the line-up yet to be called before Commissioner Margaret White QC. No doubt.

Two questions:

Is there still a chance Racing Queensland will get the $91 million so urgently needed to boost stakes, for which this money was originally intended?

And in view of the evidence so far, will Racing Queensland renew the TAB agreement with Tatts as the preferred betting agency when the contract comes up in June?



RACING Queensland CEO Darren Condon says the decision is entirely up to the control body, refuting claims that the Newman Government will make that decision.

With RQ free to conduct its own negotiations the opportunity to join the larger NSW or Victorian totes to establish a National Tote is a step closer, one would think.

A National Tote is essential for the future of the industry to combat or stem the influx and onslaught of the overseas corporate bookies which many believe is the cancer of Australian racing.

Meanwhile, on the subject of the ‘missing $91mn’, Mr Condon said evidence from the Inquiry has simply ‘strengthened the resolve’ of Racing Queensland to retrieve the money it believes belongs to the industry.

Asked what degree of confidence RQ has of success, he replied: “We wouldn’t pursue it if we didn’t think we could win.”

Great stuff!



NEXT Tuesday’s race meeting in Townsville will honour two well-known trainers who have contributed much to the north over a lot of years.

The inimitable John P Ross – the wag of Wulguru – hasn’t been in the best of health in recent years but will be at Cluden where a race has been named in his honour.

And another race has been named after the popular Charters Towers trainer Jimmy Swift, who in spite poor health, is still a keen follower of the game to which he devoted his life.

Also trackside will be former Wulguru trainer Kelly Schweida who for the past decade or so has been one of the state’s leading mentors at Eagle Farm.

Kelly and JP were old ‘rivals’ and on many mornings over many years kept the track work brigade of trainers, jockeys and strappers amused (and often in fits) with their pranks against each other and clever one-liners.

Old-timers reckon one of the best was the morning ‘Rossy’ started a tiny undernourished horse named Splinter in a half mile Cluden barrier trial.

And, according to my informant, it ran 100 yards last, which prompted Kelly to ask in a voice for all to hear: “Hey ‘Rossy’…. are you teaching that horse to come from behind?

“Well, did he go off? JP made all sorts of references to Kelly’s German heritage that you couldn’t print,” recalls my informer.

But they remain great mates.

And there will be plenty of those stories relived on Tuesday, including the photo of Rossy ‘swimming’ his Cup horse Flying Gypsy. But surely there will be no mention of the little incident involving a vicious man-eating croc at Rooney’s Bridge way back when.



THE big Bowen Cup meeting – the 140th in fact – will be run on Saturday week but sadly there will be one familiar face missing from the usual bumper crowd.

Lawrence (many called him Lawrie) Martin had not missed a Bowen Cup day for nigh on 50 years. He was the best known face in the crowded betting ring.

He started with Collinsville bookies Bert and Frank Bilney and on their retirement joined forces with Gary Gorrie, with whom he remained for more than two decades.

His other passion was fishing. And it was Lawrie who fell overboard on a tragic fishing trip in Mackay two weeks ago. It was to be his last.

Lawrie Martin was giving a fitting farewell at the Harrup Park Country Club last week by dozens of his racing, fishing and football mates.

He was not only a livewire bagman who worked on racecourses from Armidale to Cairns with Gorrie but he was also a pretty handy footballer.

He  came down to Mackay from native Collinsville to play on the wing for Souths  in the Stewie Doonan era and later, off the field, excelled as director of the highly-successful Souths Leagues Club.

“Whenever we fielded at Bowen the locals always came up to bet with him regardless of the price. He was just so well known and respected by that community. They all called him Lawrence,” said Gorrie, who flew back from Thailand for the funeral.

“Anyone who was a friend of Lawrie was a very lucky man,” he said.



TALKING of Bowen Cup day – it clashes again this year with the Gordonvale Cup meeting which is always a bit of a shame.

Why doesn’t one of these clubs opt for Sunday?

A feature this year’s Gordonvale meeting will be the appearance and performance of renowned entertainer and balladeer Rupert McCall who has enthralled thousands on racecourses all over the country.

But this week it is the Twin Hills and Ewan grass fed picnics that will attract racegoers of all ages, from all areas. There are big fields (in spite of drought conditions state-wide) and each meeting, though miles apart, will attract large numbers for their own unique brand of racing entertainment.

John Manzelmann, the unstoppable trainer from Mackay, will have runners at both venues. But at Twin Hills he will be somewhat ‘busier’ with 30 horses nominated.

He cleaned up last year winning all but one race over the two days and is obviously keen to go one better this year. But there just might be a bit of opposition this time around.

If ever a horse deserves to win it is a neddy named Jack the Snake which was barred at last year’s meeting after he got lost in the dust and failed to complete the course.

The trainer was forced to bring him into the Cluden jump-outs last Wednesday to get a clearance to race again.

Imagine – a 10-hour round trip just to get a clearance?

I hope he wins…and somehow, with the mending of his waywardness… I think he can.



FRANKIE Edwards celebrated his birthday last Saturday in the best known way.

He had two rides for two wins including the Atherton Cup aboard the ever consistent and much improved Beebeesduel.

Frankie wasn’t forthcoming with an age but reckons he cannot be categorized as a ‘veteran’ just yet.

And he proved again on Saturday that he ‘does’ think before he does It!

His other winning ride was Don’t Think Do – a saying made famous  by AFL coach John Kennedy – who said exactly that to his players at a three-quarter time pep-talk in a vain bid to lift his team in a Grand Final against Carlton.

Apparently it was later used as a motivational tool by NRL immortal Wayne Bennett.



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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