Jenny - Clean

THIS website continues to listen to what our readers have to say and has introduced a ‘Wednesday Whinge’ where you can express your feelings on racing industry issues of the past week. Try to keep them objective. Just e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

OUR decision to introduce the Wednesday Whinge with snippets from around the country has been welcomed. Your response to our new (re-named) feature ‘The Good, the Bad & the Ugly’ continues to grow in popularity. It also gives us a chance to run some of your e-mails too hot to handle in the mail box in a toned down version that still gets the message across. No doubt the critics of this website will be accusing us of ‘bashing’ racing in Queensland again after this week’s Whinge. What they need to remember is that we’re not the ones writing the e-mails, we’re not the ones making the news and most of all we’re not the politicians and officials calling the shots. All we are doing is providing a platform for comment.

 

OUR NEW WEDNESDAY WHINGE FEATURE – THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY!

 

LET’S GET SOME HALF DECENT BETTING STEWARDS TO CONTROL THESE ROGUE BOOKIES

THOSE critical of  the Racing Queensland decision to reduce the minimum bet amount for bookmakers to $500 need to take a step back and read between the lines.

RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon has been around racing long enough to know what is going on in the bookmaking ring where some of the greatest piranhas are not the big punters but colleagues of those who struggle to survive.

Battling bookies will tell you stories of how agents punting for some of the bigger bookmakers, aided by information from trainers and jockeys on their speed dials, have been blowing them out of the water.

“It’s not the big punters but your fellow big bookmaker that you have to be wary of,” one told letsgohorseracing only a few months ago. “If you aren’t in the right click you struggle to survive. And these blokes have the very best information and rarely miss.”

When Kevin Dixon said: “The change (new legislation) was a direct result of an approach by a delegation of bookmakers” – perhaps this is what he was referring to. With a required betting maximum of only $500 even the biggest battler in the ring has a better hope of surviving.

But whilst the RQ chairman has earned some Brownie Points for protecting and providing incentive for more competitiveness and not a betting ring in Brisbane that some claim is virtually ‘closed’ or ‘controlled’ by the big few, perhaps the time has come to employ a Betting Steward to monitor these unethical operations.

Instead of wandering around like lost sheep, chatting to the biggest names in the ring like they are the best of mates, it’s time for the Betting Stewards of Brisbane and south-east Queensland to start doing their job instead of pretending to do it.

Surely we’re not heading back to the days when hard-working betting stewards like Luke Bailey and Ian Black complained about illegal activities in the Brisbane and Ipswich rings then were shown the door by Racing Queensland.

One leading bookie even telephoned Bailey and told him that had he not complained about his activities to senior stewards he would have held his job instead of losing it. How rich is that?

 

THIS SPELLING FARM HAS AN AMAZING SUCCESS RATE WHEN IT COMES TO FRESH WINNERS

THE Victorian-based Ratings Bureau seems to have statistics on just about everything that moves and shakes in the thoroughbred industry.

We had a tongue-in-cheek e-mail from a reader asking if they had any stats on successful  plunges being landed on horses when they return from spelling farms and suggesting that there is a standout for the form followers.

We won’t name the state or the spelling establishment but industry sources are claiming that these winners are getting more than their share of fresh air and sunshine during their holiday sojourn.

Every time a particular stable starts a horse fresh the bookies are on-guard but even so they continue to get burnt – such being the case with one recent midweek starter backed like there was no tomorrow and duly saluting.

 

STATISTICS SHOW MAJOR DECLINE IN ACCEPTANCES ACROSS QLD – NOT JUST TOOWOOMBA

AND speaking of statistics we have had a couple of e-mails concerning the decline in acceptances in Queensland racing.

There was a story in The Courier-Mail stating that field sizes were down by 15 per cent in Toowoomba since the cushion track was installed.

But it seems there are some in the industry concerned that this downhill slide might not be isolated to racing in Toowoomba.

Last year acceptances apparently showed a downturn of six per cent in Queensland. That took the figure for a three year period to a reported 15 per cent decline.

At that rate Toowoomba won’t be the only club struggling to survive in five years’ time.

In fact a prominent racing identity in North Queensland, dismayed by the response from new Racing Minister Stephen Dickson to industry questions at a meeting earlier this week was over-heard to comment: ‘The way things are going there will be no racings in Townsville in 10 years’ time.’

 

TEAM MEAGHER INJECTS MUCH-NEEDED NEW BLOOD INTO QLD TRAINING RANKS

TEAM MEAGHER has injected new blood into the training ranks in Queensland and celebrated their first winner when St Darci saluted at the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.

Champion trainer John Meagher has joined with his son Chris and Dan in a magnificent training base near the Gold Coast while another son Paul is the stable’s pre-trainer.

John trained more than 550 winners during a stint in Singapore before deciding to return to Australia to guide his sons into the business. St Darci was only the fifth runner – and the first winner – that they Meagher Racing had saddled up.

John, who makes no secret of his faith in the future of racing in Queensland, prepared the 1985 Melbourne Cup winner What A Nuisance among a host of Group I winners, many of which were owned by Lloyd Williams, before he moved to Singapore in 1999.

 

‘BLUEY’ COULD BE THE BACK-UP ‘BOBBY’ NEEDS TO SHED HIS ‘BAD BOY’ IMAGE   

BOBBY EL-ISSA, struggling to shrug off his ‘bad boy’ image in the eyes of the authorities in Queensland, has a new helper in his corner.

El-Issa has appointed well-known racing journalist Glen Davis as his Racing Manager. ‘Bluey,’ as he is affectionately known, spent decades as the Racing Editor for Australian Associated Press in Brisbane before taking a redundancy recently.

Many believe that El-Issa is being harshly treated by Racing Queensland stewards in having to ride in the country before being granted a city license. He was disqualified for 18 months after his ride on Bold Glance at Eagle Farm in February of last year.

Phil Purser on his terrific website, justracing, wrote a must read opinion piece on what many others agree is a discriminatory approach to El-Issa in forcing him to make his comeback in the country.

One wonders if they would adopt the same approach with a more high profile jockey – then again those blokes rarely face disqualifications let alone serious charges in Brisbane racing.   

 

IS THE TRAiNING AND LICENSING MANAGER THE LATEST TO FALL ON HIS SWORD AT RQ?

OUR spy in the Deagon Bunker reliably reports that there has been another reasonably high profile casualty from the work force at Racing Queensland.

If our mail is right Peter Smith, the one-time Training and Licensing Manager has been shown the door at RQ or is soon to depart his desk.

Smith has had a meteoric career at RQ. He bounced back after previously losing his job at racing headquarters but our man in the Bunker says he aligned himself too closely with an Integrity head honcho, now departed, without too many tears from the industry or staff.

 

MICHAEL DUFFY COMES OUT SWINGING IN SUPPORT OF STEWARDS IN OLIVER CASE

IT might not have been his most memorable birthday but Racing Victoria Chief Steward Terry Bailey did earn praise for his team from RVL chairman Michael Duffy for the work done by his panel at times in controversial circumstances during the spring carnival.

Duffy has threw his support behind the stewards who convicted Damien Oliver under the rules of racing, and defended the severity of the penalty handed to the champion jockey.

Speaking after last week’s annual general meeting of RVL, Duffy told BRENDAN CORMACK of THE AUSTRALIAN that concessions had to be given to ensure an otherwise flimsy case, built from an allegation that came anonymously via Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna, ended with an admission of guilt.

"I have great sympathy for their (the investigative committee's) position. Their evidence was very, very slight," Duffy said.

"And then you get to the point where you negotiate a position where you see if someone's prepared to plead guilty and then there is a penalty applied."

In responding to the critics, Duffy said Oliver had a right to silence because an investigation, being conducted in parallel with the stewards' case, may lead to a criminal prosecution.

"They made a judgment which I think was correct. They said let's try and get a conviction here and they got it," Duffy said.

"The next criticism that comes is that Damien Oliver's penalty was too light. I can't recall many cases in the law, or anywhere else, where, if there is a plea of guilty and there is a sentence, people don't criticize it.

"But they don't take into account the mitigating factors. One, the person will not plead guilty unless there's going to be a mitigating factor in relation to their penalty and, secondly, there are also going to be factors there. If you haven't got a strong case and you may or may not win, then you have to be prepared to give a bit, too."

 

REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD – EVEN AT A TIME WHEN DISASTER STRIKES

INDUSTRY insiders were wondering why RAY THOMAS of the SYDNEY TELEGRAPH got the ‘exclusive’ on the cancer problem that will sideline champion jockey Chris Munce.

One would have thought that Munce would have been keen to see the news broken in the city he now calls home – Brisbane – where rumors had been circulating for almost a week.

The story goes that Munce was so incensed by what one of the editorial high flyers had to say about him during his Hong Kong woes that he was determined the Courier-Mail would not get the story.

Munce didn’t forget the loyalty shown to him by one of Australia’s most popular scribes, Ray Thomas, of the Sydney Telegraph, when he was at the lowest ebb of his career and battling to ever ride again.

Interestingly he allowed Mark Oberhardt, the veteran Courier-Mail columnist now working as a freelance, to share the ‘exclusive’ with Thomas. The CM should recognize the wrongs that were done to Obe in the Bart Sinclair era and give him a job as a back-up to Nathan Exelby whose new role as Racing Editor of the CM is a breath of fresh air.     

 

THE SUCK-UP AND SURVIVE MENTALITY CONTINUES TO HAUNT RACING COVERAGE

WE were disappointed to hear that Terry Butts was highly criticized in some quarters because of his objective coverage of the visit to Townsville by new Racing Minister Stephen Dickson.

They were those officials and LNP supporters who believed Butts should have glossed over the dismay shown by the majority of industry stake-holders to the response to questions by the Minister.

For too long the racing industry in this state and its officials have become accustomed to the Sinclair Brand of Race Reporting – that’s the one where you write what officialdom wants and they declare you the greatest racing writer on the planet and even host a dinner in your honor when you retire.

Blokes like Terry Butts are regarded as dinosaurs – a dying breed in racing journalism. They would much rather be remembered for the objectiveness of their coverage and their fight for the rights of punters and racing stake-holders than endearment from officials whose deeds will be forgotten long before they will.     

   

NOW here is this week’s e-mail selection with apologies to those who didn’t miss out:  

 

KEY ROLES FOR ‘GOLDEN HANDSHAKE’ FIGURES AT ENGINEERING FIRM NEEDS INVESTIGATING

‘PRIOR to last week I had an open mind about the job the Bob Bentley Board did and felt that much of the criticism leveled at them was politically motivated.

They say a week can be a long time in politics well that also applies in racing and it took that long for me to change my mind and the same applies to many of my friends.

After reading the Hansard report of what was said in Parliament by Racing Minister Stephen Dickson let me say that most of us believe there should be a Judicial Inquiry into all aspects of the ‘golden handshakes’ and the ‘contract deals with an engineering firm’ and ‘how two former RQL senior executives are now enjoying key roles with that same firm.’

It was bad enough that the Bentley Board saw fit to change the contracts of ‘loyal’ executives and then provide them with a massive payout totaling almost $2 million when they fled the scene days after Labor lost the election. This was industry money they were playing with.

I wonder how many other former staff members of Racing Queensland, who were shown the door during the Bentley era, enjoyed the same profits and privileges. Every step should be taken to make them repay what most in the industry believe they were not entitled to.

Just look at one of these guys. He walked out with a ‘massive golden handshake’ from a job that most felt he failed at. He then buys a bakery and now reportedly has a high paying job working for a company that was granted big money contracts when he was the CEO. Well that’s according to what we read in Hansard.

This whole contract deal involving the cushion tracks has to be made part of the Judicial Inquiry that many believe has to happen. It has an awful smell about it and the industry deserves to have some answers.

What we want to know is:

Were the contracts for these cushion tracks advertised?

If not how did the engineering firm in question win these and how many millions were paid to them?

What was the involvement in the contractual process of the two high profile RQL executives who were subsequently appointed to key roles with that engineering company?

This needs to be full disclosure on this whole affair. RQL may not have been accountable under the Labor Government but surely the LNP Government and the new Board will be keen to show us just how unaccountable they were and who benefitted from this contractual agreement.’ – Ted Bradshaw, Brisbane.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Racing Minister has indicated that the new Board will commission an independent audit into this process. Here’s what he said in State Parliament about the situation:        

THE acting CEO has also advised me that the former RQL CEO, Mr Malcolm Tuttle, and the former director of product development, Mr Paul Brennan – the two former senior RQL executives charged with overseeing the procurement process and by extension of that RQL’s close working relationship with the engineering firm and who left RQL immediately after the state election on extremely favorable terms – both now hold senior positions with the same firm at the centre of the allegations.

I think I need to say that again. They were employed by the same company that they were dealing with. That is incredible.

The matters raised by the current management of RQL are serious ones and continue to reflect what appears to be a consistent pattern of behavior from those previously charged with running the racing industry in this state.

RQL has indicated to me that it is their intention to commission a special independent audit in an effort to get to the bottom of what we would all agree on face value are serious matters requiring serious investigation.

As previously mentioned, the management model put forward by the former Labor Government meant that the Racing Queensland Board was completely unaccountable to any authority, unresponsive to the needs of the industry and allowed to underperform in all areas of governance.

The vital reform that we are putting in place marks a turnaround from the old Labor guard and we will allow the Newman Government to restore accountability to the racing sector as we help rebuild the racing industry in Queensland.

 

THIS JUST HAD TO BE THE ‘SWEETHEART DEAL OF THE CENTURY’  

‘RACING Minister Stephen Dickson got it right when he declared the ‘golden handshake’ delivered to four key executives of the former RQL Board the ‘sweetheart deal of the century.’

They must have served the Bentley Board above and beyond the call of duty to be rewarded to such a degree, especially considering the opinion that many in the racing industry had of the jobs that they were doing.

The former CEO was a one-time steward who made an incredibly meteoric rise and in the opinion of most if Chairman Bob Bentley said: ‘Stand in the corner on your head’ that is exactly what he would do.

Let’s not go down the track of Integrity and the role that the RQ Board should not have played when Jamie Orchard and Bob Mason were running the show. Of course there have been many denials of interference but there was never the separation of powers between the bodies that two Racing Inquiries ordered.

As if the figure of almost $2 million paid to four executives on their sudden departure from Racing Queensland when the Government changed wasn’t enough for the industry to swallow now we are told that two of them landed plum jobs with a company that was granted contracts for track development while they were at RQ.

It seems the Bentley Board was well and truly on the nose and that some of its key people are still reaping the rewards. It’s time for another Racing Inquiry, even if the terms of reference are limited to the last 12 months. The truth needs to be exposed.’ – Don Murphy, Brisbane.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s what Racing Minister Stephen Dickson had to say on the above issue in State Parliament last week:

(The previous) Queensland Racing Board signed off on a deal which gave RQL top executives a 30 per cent salary increase and something called a ‘material adverse change’ clause in their contracts.

That all sounds a bit clever, does it not?

This clause meant that when all four executives resigned just two days after the Newman government was elected they received a separation payout totaling $1.858 million – a staggering amount of money in anybody’s language – including 14 months’ salary, redundancy payments and their statutory leave entitlements.

Who could ever get a deal like that? You would have to be blessed.

In a subsequent investigation into this matter the Auditor-General found little evidence in RQL’s board minutes that the responsibility of the directors under the Corporations Act 2001 were actively considered by the Board members, particularly the requirements to act in good faith – that is a salient point – and in the best interests of the company.

Those opposite really need to look at what company law is all about because they have a very dismal understanding of it.

There can be no doubt that the RQL Board put in place extraordinarily favorable employment arrangements that delivered these executives a sweetheart deal of the century – a collective payout of $1.858 million upon their voluntary resignations. That is incredible.

Of course, when it comes to the former Labor government and anything they touch, the only consistent thing we can rely upon is their inconsistencies.

With a multimillion dollar payout being handed out with free abandon, one might be led to believe the finances of Racing Queensland were in excellent shape. Unfortunately, for 30,000 Queenslanders this is simply not so.

The RQL Board recently released its 2011-12 annual report which laid bare the years of mismanagement and the apathy of both the RQL regime and the former Labor government.

There is no doubt that the former Labor government drove the Queensland Racing industry to the brink of destruction, as we have heard so much from so many members in this House from all sides.

 

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ‘INCREASED COMPETITIVENESS FOR QUEENSLAND BOOKMAKERS’?

IT seems that nobody is happy with the new rule that requires bookmakers in Queensland to bet to lose only $500. The punters regard it as a joke and the top bookies have even declared it embarrassing but perhaps there was a method in their madness. We received several e-mails critical of the new legislation. Here are two that hopefully get the general message across:

 ‘WHILST politicians were raving in Queensland Parliament last week about the amendments to the Racing Act and how it would improve the competitiveness of Queensland bookmakers with internet access etc etc etc ad nauseum, punters arrived at race tracks across the length and breadth of Queensland - from Eagle Farm to Gladstone, from the Gold Coast to Goondiwindi and from Innisfail to Toowoomba on Saturday 1st December to find that their bookies only have to write a ticket to lose $500.
 
At Eagle Farm and the Gold Coast where punters were previously entitled to bet to win $2,000 from the rails bookies, many turned away in dismay. Where was the much heralded mantra: "Increased competitiveness for Queensland bookmakers"?
 
However, south of the border at Warwick Farm where bookies including Tom (he knows what punters want) Waterhouse were fielding, punters were accommodated to win $5,000 there and if they fancied one at Hawkesbury then fielders were compelled to not lose more than $3,000 for a Win bet.
 
Racing in Queensland is as dead as a dodo. R.I.P.’ - Jim Bourne, Ashmore Heights.

 

And this one

CRITICISM CONTINUES AFTER $500 MINIMUM BET RULE FOR QLD BOOKMAKERS

‘RACING Queensland’s new chairman Kevin Dixon showed just how out of touch he is with reality when he declared the new rule of ‘having to bet to lose a minimum of $500’ as an incentive to attract new bookmakers.

Rails bookies previously had to bet punters to lose $2,000. The reduction to the $500 figure makes racing in Queensland a laughing stock as much as it makes a mockery of the trade of bookmaking.

With rails fielders interstate having to bet punters to lose a minimum of $5,000, what is the new RQ Board trying to do in Queensland? The answer is drive the professionals away to interstate or the corporate agencies.

I had to laugh at the comment by big betting Linsday Gallagher that his and his leading colleagues in the Brisbane ring will ‘still bet the way we do.’

Perhaps someone should ask Lindsay if that means the same reaction as they had to one of Australia’s leading punters whose commission agents fleeced them one week then weren’t allowed on the next.

What was it the commission agents claimed was being yelled at them by one particular big Brisbane bookie across the ring: “Got back to Sydney where you belong you grub.”

As I recall a complaint was made but not surprisingly there were some extenuating circumstances about settling made (they seemed to expect it earlier than normal) and the complaints of the commission agents fell on deaf ears.

There’s a joke that does the rounds about the big bookmakers in Brisbane racing. It’s very uncomplimentary and I am not suggesting it is true but it goes this way: “The only way they will let you on for any money is if the horse is tied to the ground.”

The percentages bet by Brisbane bookmakers is already embarrassment so instead of Lindsay Gallagher suggesting the $500 minimum bet rule is similar perhaps he and his colleagues should address how they frame their markets before commenting on this latest joke.

And how Kevin Dixon can suggest ‘the minimum bet rule was put in place to protect punters’ beggars belief. In fact it all sounds a bit Irish.” - Harry Somerton, Sydney.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s what Queensland’s biggest bookie VINCE ASPINALL had to say about the new legislation in the MORNING BULLETIN:

ROCKHAMPTON bookmaker Vince Aspinall believes proposed changes to be introduced in Queensland to allow bookmakers to take bets "off- course" will be of little benefit to his business.

"We are 10 years behind New South Wales and Victoria where it has been in operation. I lost most of my telephone clients to the interstate corporate bookmakers some years ago. The corporates can take bets 24 hours a day. They are big business organizations. I can't see this move helping us (regional bookmakers) too much," Aspinall said.

AND here’s a story explaining the new legislation and the responses to it by NATHAN EXELBY in the COURIER-MAIL:

BRISBANE'S biggest bookmakers are miffed by a new rule, which takes effect tomorrow, that means they only have to bet punters to lose a minimum of $500.

Rails fielders previously had to stand horses to lose $2000 but Racing Queensland's rule change means $500 is the magic number across the state, regardless of the venue.

In Sydney, rails fielders have to bet punters to lose a minimum $5000.

Leading rails fielders Lindsay Gallagher, Hadyn Flynn and Ray Karangis were all taken by surprise at the move.

"It's not a big deal, we are still going to bet the way we do, but it's a bit of an embarrassing situation," Gallagher said.

"It certainly doesn't do our image any good. The feedback I'm getting is that a lot of the smaller bookmakers think it's wrong too."

Racing Queensland chairman Kevin Dixon said it was another move to try to attract new entrants to the bookmaking fraternity by removing some of the disincentives associated with the profession.

"The change was as a direct result of an approach by a delegation of bookmakers," Dixon said.

"The minimum bet rule was put in place to protect punters and not bookmakers and therefore it seems a bit strange that it is questioned by a small number of bookmakers.

"We have a policy, as agreed to by the bookmakers association, that we remove restraints on-course bookmakers have that are not imposed on the corporates.

"There is nothing in this move that puts any maximum bets in place."

Gallagher and his fellow fielders welcomed yesterday's legislation that allowed them to offer a round-the-clock service to clients.

"All we ever wanted was a level footing and credit to the state government for following through," Gallagher said.

 

‘CAN DO’ SHOULD BE AWARE OF CONCERNS THAT NEW RACING MINISTER ‘CAN’T DO’ THE JOB

‘SOMEONE close to ‘Can Do’ should whisper in his ear that the chosen one for the Racing Minister’s portfolio ‘Can’t Do’ the job.

Steve Dickson’s whistle-stop tour to the north did little to convince the industry in the country that they will get any better deal out of the new Government.

Why call a ‘meet and greet’ with the local stakeholders if you aren’t prepared to answer the hard questions Mr Dickson?

You obviously don’t know where the industry is going to get that much-needed prizemoney boost from to ensure Queensland doesn’t lag even further behind the southern states.

Easy way out for you I guess was to hand-ball the prizemoney issue to the new Board who without some Government support will have their backs to the wall as well.

There isn’t much light at the end of the tunnel for racing in Queensland. You can change Boards, catapult political friendly people into key positions and pat each other on the back during legislative debate in Parliament but at the end of the day your only answer to the industry woes will be to blame it on Bentley and Ludwig.’ – As I am well-known to the industry in Townsville the last thing I need is the back-lash that revealing my identity will create: 

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s early days for Steve Dickson as Racing Minister and a bit premature to suggest he ‘can’t do’ the job. I find it hard to understand why the LNP threw him to the ‘wolves’ considering they had to know he would do it tough without any background in the industry and they had a ‘ready-made’ Racing Minister in Ray Stevens. If Dickson wants to be remembered as a Racing Minister who achieved something and not just join a seemingly endless list of non-entities from both sides of politics who have held the portfolio then he needs to start answering the questions that stake-holders are asking and not playing political games with them. Queensland racing is heading down-hill like an out of control avalanche and the last thing the industry needs is buck-passing and political mumbo-jumbo from the Minister.      

      

INDUSTRY NARKS LABEL NEW RACING MINISTER ‘STEVIE WONDER’ AFTER TOWNSVILLE VISIT

‘THE industry narks in the north got it right when they labeled the new Racing Minister ‘Stevie Wonder.’

It was almost like I was in a time capsule and listening to that dill who held the job previously for Labor in Tim Mulherin.

If Steve Dickson was there to reassure those of us in the industry in Townsville that we should not be concerned about the future, he failed miserably.

Surely he didn’t think that like some of those real bush joints where his simple presence would suffice, Dickson failed to make any promises, answer any tough questions and just kept stressing our need to have the right people running the show despite admitting there might not be a country representative on the new Board.

The audience showed concern that appointments to this Board were not area specific, and that it  was possible, if not likely, all members could be from the south-east corner, leaving the country without a voice.

The need for the formation of a Country Racing Queensland, similar to Country Racing Victoria was never more evident or more unlikely. Whatever happened to the days when the National Party looked after the interests of its racing constituents in the country? Then again what would you expect when ‘Geoff the Goose’ seems to be calling the shots for the Liberals?

The LNP missed a golden opportunity to appoint Ray Stevens to the job of Racing Minister. He knows the industry from the city to the bush, he was the politician that racing folk in most regions wanted and he did the hard yards only to be snubbed and overlooked apparently because he wasn’t the chosen one of ‘Tim the Tool Man.’

Perhaps it’s for the best because I couldn’t imagine Ray doing the bidding for the ‘boys club’ rom Brisbane, especially Kevin Dixon, who is obviously calling the political shots and struggling to convince those in the north that he has their best interests at heart.’ – Glen Brownson, Townsville.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Unless the north gets someone they believe will fight for their rights on this new Board the two big D’s – Stephen and Kevin – are going to have one hell of a problem on their hands. It’s time for ‘Can Do’ to intervene and even if it means a dust-up with his Treasurer, the Premier has to ensure that this happens. There are already murmurs in the north that favoritism is being shown to some clubs in the south, especially Toowoomba. Feelings are running high over the suggestion that millions in infrastructure funds will be set aside for a new grass track to replace the cushion at Clifford Park. Whether it is warranted or not there are behind-the-scenes whispers that too much favoritism is being shown to the Toowoomba Turf Club at the expense of other clubs because of the cuddly relationship between Kevin Dixon and Bob Frappell. There is little doubt that Kevin Dixon will be running the new racing show and conflict of interest is going to continue to haunt him as it has done from the time he first got his feet under the table and moved to boost funding to the Brisbane Racing Club where he had just resigned as Chairman. Unless there is a strong country representation on the new Control Board many in the north will struggle to believe that the future guarantees a level playing field for them in racing in Queensland.    

 

MINISTER SHEDS NEW LIGHT ON WHY THE LIGHTS HAVE GONE OUT AT THE SUNSHINE COAST

‘THOSE of us who were wondering why there is so little night racing at the Sunshine Coast these days got the answer from an unexpected source.

Rather than RQL chairman Kevin Dixon admitting that it was too costly to run the lights at Corbould Park, it was left to Racing Minister Stephen Dickson to let the cat out of the bag in answer to a question at an industry meeting in Townsville.

“Corbould Park has the best racecourse lighting in Australia. It costs $50,000 every time they race under lights. That’s why you don’t see night racing on the Sunshine Coast,” Dickson said.

While this massive investment stands virtually idle – they had only a handful of night meetings this season compared to when the previous administration ran the show – there is talk of converting Toowoomba back to grass racing.

Admittedly the meetings there are twilight and the lights are not used for the entire card but surely with racing every Saturday evening of the year the power bill would not be insignificant for the Toowoomba Turf Club.

Everyone knows that Clifford Park racing is down for the count – lacking in field size and dwindling TAB turnover – largely because no-one is interested in cushion track racing.

In contrast the punters are keen to bet under the lights at the Sunshine Coast. What’s the answer? Look after your mates.

It would appear because the SCTC was Bentley-friendly it gets the rough end of the pineapple and because the TTC throw themselves at the feet of new RQ chairman Kevin Dickson we see good money thrown after bad.

What a joke! They might as well sell the lights at Corbould Park for all the use they are. The proceeds could be put toward the construction of a turf track in Toowoomba where millions were wasted on a cushion track that has proven an absolute disaster.’ – Wally Harrison, Sunshine Coast.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Why have lights if you aren’t prepared to turn them on because of the cost? The situation at the Sunshine Coast has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous since the new Board took over. It would appear that the SCTC is very much on the outer because of its previous close relationship with the Bentley Board. That aside, surely the best lights in the land warrant using more than three or four times a year. If not they might as well replace them with Christmas lights and just turn these on once a year – to celebrate the festive season and leave night racing to Toowoomba where no-one is interested.  

 

IT’S NICE TO HAVE MATES IN HIGH PLACES – JUST ASK THE TOOWOOMBA TURF CLUB!

‘HOW many more handouts will the Toowoomba Turf Club receive from their mates at the new-look Racing Queensland at the expense of the entire industry?

They reportedly received funding to dodge an embarrassing loss for the last financial year and now millions are set to be allocated from the Industry Infrastructure Fund to replace the cushion track with grass.

There is no doubt the members will vote in favor of the return to grass track racing – as requested by the Racing Minister – but what about the many millions wasted on the failed cushion track exercise.

They talk about the Bentley Board wasting money and driving the industry to the brink. At a time when prizemoney is desperately needed in Queensland we have a major outlay at the expense of other projects being contemplated.

The leading owner in Toowoomba, Neville Stewart, has vowed to take his horses away if the cushion track is replaced. Critics say they can’t win anywhere else.

But is the real reason behind the apparent determination of the TTC chairman Bob Frappell to return to grass track racing the prospect of seeing the back of the man who has done the most for racing on the Downs? Food for thought!

Politics aside, the question that needs to be answered – apart from where is the water coming from and will it be guaranteed in times of drought – is will a grass track ensure the survival of racing in Toowoomba?

There are many who believe that the club won’t even last the five years that has been predicted unless the current committee is shown the door and some fresh blood, free of political agendas, is brought in to lift this once great club from the doldrums.

And by the way, wasn’t it wonderful to see an unbiased racing writer in Terry Butts sum the situation in Toowoomba up perfectly in his column this week unlike what we have come to expect especially from mates of the chairman who do his bidding on a local radio station.’  – Peter English, Toowoomba.           

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rather than comment on the above e-mail I will let colleague TERRY BUTTS do the talking in an item from his popular SILKS & SADDLES column this week which relates to the Toowoomba situation:

 AND while there is talk of race date reductions in the north, and betting (and crowd) decline, it has been confirmed that a new grass track could be funded by the Government in Toowoomba with the Racing Minister confirming it will be up to a vote of the members.

Surely the Infrastructure Fund cannot afford such a massive outlay considering the number of projects that need urgent funding throughout the state and considering the massive amount that was spent to move to a cushion track.

Toowoomba members had their special meeting and elected to install a very expensive all weather surface. It hasn’t been a success with confirmation that fields and turnover are declining badly.

Most trainers don’t want it (and didn’t in the first place) and punters treat Clifford Park like the plague.

But members got what they voted for.

And now the club and a few of its remaining supporters want a new grass track.

Are they serious?

 

HOW CAN QUEENSLAND RAMP UP AN INTEGRITY DEPARTMENT WITHOUT ANY STAFF?

‘MUCH was stated in the Queensland Parliament last week about the ramping up of integrity and restructure of the appeals process but many of us are still more than a shade confused.

How can you ramp up Integrity on racing in Queensland when you sack the Integrity Department and announce plans to replace it with a part-time Integrity Commissioner?

Unless you have the right security people in place (other than stewards) – and by that I mean former policemen with investigative skills who know racing and the law, then the situation is not going to improve.

There is a smell about racing in Queensland that has been there for too long and it won’t simply evaporate by the appointment of a high profile judge or lawyer as a part-time Integrity Commissioner.

He is hardly going to be on the ground, at the coal-face, doing the hard yards to clean things up. The Integrity Commissioner needs to have an effective and appropriate experienced staff that can do the job properly – not a band aid cure as it is shaping to be.

As for the replacement of the First Level Appeals Body by the Racing Disciplinary Board well that is a step in the right direction providing we have the right appointments – not political ones.

But it still does not address the lack of confidence with QCAT conducting the next level of racing appeals. The Government somehow either needs to get away from that process or have specialist panel members of QCAT with an understanding of racing in relation to the law of the land.’ – Jim Cremin, Brisbane.

EDITOR’S NOTE: As far as the punters are concerned this whole integrity situation in Queensland racing is a ticking time bomb. Victoria and New South Wales are moving quickly to step up security while Queensland seems all talk, no action. What the north needs is an independent, operational Integrity Department to restore confidence in the gallops and trots. This pretend operation that currently exists is a joke. One wonders why they talk about the need for tough integrity but seem reluctant to ensure it happens. And the role of Integrity Commissioner needs to be full-time not a part-time job for one of the ‘good old boys.’                 

 

SUGGESTION THAT RAY MURRIHY SHOULD WORRY ABOUT THE LOSERS AND NOT THE WINNERS

‘INSTEAD of Ray Murrihy again headline hunting by virtually banning an unbeaten horse from an interstate stable perhaps he should look at cleaning up racing in Sydney.

With the assurance of racing safety on his side and some good publicity for him and his team, Murrihy took a sledge hammer to the Peter Moody-trained Office Bearer because of its ‘dangerous’ foreleg action.

Instead of worrying about winners on the card my message to Mr Murrihy is to start taking a closer look at some of the losers, especially those from the bigger stables.

And here’s a tip: Monitor the betting fluctuations and you will see that the corporate agencies have the right mail. Those favorites that get right out in the market tend to race below expectations for one reason or another.

Come on Ray, instead of trying to pinch a headline or two from young gun Terry Bailey, who is making you look pretty second rate at present, how about doing the job you were put there to do and give punters a bit more confidence when they bet on racing in Sydney,’ Roy Milton, Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rather than be critical of the NSW stewards’ action perhaps it is important to repeat what Peter Moody had to say on the issue. ‘Safety has to be paramount in racing. I’m not going to throw my toys out of the cot over this until I have a chance to sit down and talk with Ray (Murrihy) about his concerns,” Moody said. That aside, you make a good point Roy about stewards in Sydney needing to look at some of the losers. The number of early favorites blowing like a gale and getting beaten are indeed alarming for the punters who are starting to treat Sydney racing far more cautiously these days.   

 

WHEN WILL RACING IN QUEENSLAND LEAERN THAT PUNTERS ARE NOT FOOLS?

‘RACING authorities who treat punters like mugs will come off second best.

Not since the Fine Cotton ring-in in Queensland has a jurisdiction in Australian racing being subjected to so much bad publicity as racing in Victoria during the scandals of the spring carnival.

Yet figures just released shows that there was no lack of punter confidence and that the spring carnival turnover actually increased.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for racing in Queensland. According to reports from informed sources – they don’t like to reveal too many official figures in the north because it embarrasses them too much – turnover is on the decline.

We won’t even mention the ailing harness racing code in Queensland – which continues to be propped up by a new Government for political reasons – but the gallops, especially Brisbane, has lost the confidence of punters.

Here’s hoping a summer carnival, highlighted by the Magic Millions, can inject new life into a state that is on the ropes. Even a new Government, a new Board structure, new faces at the top and a new broom will not save this state unless something is done to improve integrity.’ – Dave Crouch, Gold Coast.

EDITOR’S NOTE: HERE’S an interesting story by MICHAEL LYNCH in the MELBOURNE AGE on the betting turnover situation during the Spring Carnival in Victoria:     

IF a tree falls in the jungle and no-one sees it, did it really fall?

It's an old philosophical chestnut, but one that might be adapted and asked of punters after a spring in which the stench of jockey betting, allegations of race fixing and trainers performing dodgy deeds on race day all surfaced to pose massive integrity issues for racing.

Yet it seems not to have mattered a whit, according to Tabcorp figures.

All the poor publicity over the alleged Smoking Aces race fix at Cranbourne 19 months ago and the case in which champion jockey Damien Oliver admitted to betting on a rival horse in a race in which he was riding did not appear to affect turnover.

Between the Caulfield meeting on September 22 and the Ballarat Cup on November 25 - the designates spring carnival - Tabcorp filled its boots.

Total New South Wales and Victorian TAB turnover on all horse and greyhound racing in the 65-day period was $2.1 billion, up 5.9 per cent on last year. This did not include Tabcorp's Luxbet, fixed odds sport and Trackside.

Integrity is now a major issue for racing. Conventional wisdom is that a collapse in confidence about the fairness of racing will see a major drop in the monies punters are prepared to invest, and as a result a much diminished return to the industry for prizemoney.

Maybe the news on the Oliver scandal broke too late, but Tabcorp's figures will give succour to those who argue that punters don't much care about these sort of things and will bet regardless.

According to chief executive David Attenborough, Tabcorp wagering ''across the standard weekday racing product was up 7.5 per cent on the prior corresponding period.''

The Melbourne Cup is the day of all punting days, so Tabcorp was delighted with the numbers it posted.

Total NSW and Victorian TAB turnover was $183.38 million on Cup day, with more than 207,000 customers betting through an account. Tabcorp's performance in financial year 2011-12 improved to capture 43.9 per cent of the Australian betting market.

 

NO CHANCE OF A QUEENSLAND STEWARD BEING LEGGED OVER A FENCE IN SWAB CHASE

‘THE joke doing the rounds in racing in Queensland is that no trainer should ever fear one of our stewards being legged over a fence in pursuit of a ‘tubing’ offender.

About the only thing you will see out of the pre-dawn darkness in south-east Queensland is the ‘surprise’ testing of jockeys or the testing of horses at the track with new equipment now available.

The fact that it took RVL’s in the field anti doping team to catching a Brisbane trainer in the act raised certain embarrassing questions for local stewards, especially considering the form that the horse had displayed before heading south.

With the Chief Steward now doubling as the boss of the Integrity Department – all those conducting any form of investigation are now gone or have been sacked – it seems that the chances of Queensland ever getting within coo-ee of what it happening in Victoria is a million to one.

Sadly, Integrity is set to take a back-seat role under the new brand of leadership at Racing Queensland which once again raises the old chestnut of whether it is wise to have owners in positions of power that determine appointments when it comes to the policing of racing.’- As I am a licensed trainer in Queensland who witnesses first-hand what is going on please with-hold my identity.  

EDITOR’S NOTE: Even NSW is trying to keep pace but Queensland seems to be dragging the chain for some reason when it comes to racing integrity. I am keeping my powder dry on this until I see what comes out of the appointment of the Integrity Commission for RQL, albeit I was disappointed to read that it will be only a part-time job. There needs to be a full investigative, experienced and skilful Integrity Department ensuring punters are getting a fair deal in racing in Queensland which betting suggests they feel isn’t happening at present. Here’s a story on the RVL situation which racing in Queensland can only ever dream of:

THE spring carnival is racing's shop window. But for much of the recently completed carnival there was as much action in the pre-dawn darkness as in brilliant sunshine at Flemington, Moonee Valley, Sandown and Caulfield.

LEO SCHLINK reports in the HERALD SUN that Racing Victoria's integrity services department has many guises - as the crooks are swiftly learning.

It is not just the racetrack where RV's integrity department was more visible than ever with its small army of vets, anti-doping scientists, betting and form analysts and stewards.

Off-course, RV's war against illegal race-day treatment saw a spate of charges issued against trainers. Some of those cases have been resolved, others are continuing.

The compliance and regulation unit, led by Kane Ashby and Dion Villella, has been dubbed "Miami Vice".

Video taken on a recent raid shows why. In the mayhem, fences are scaled, orders are barked, expletives are not uncommon and those with something to hide tend to panic.

 

TIME HAS COME FOR BOARD OR JUDGE TO ‘HUNT DAN NIKOLIC OUT OF RACING’   

‘WHEN is some Board or Judge with some balls going to bite the bullet and hunt Danny Nikolic out of racing?

With all due respects, the bloke has been out of control for too long and enough is enough.

In fact one wonders how the situation has been allowed to develop as far as it has. Some suggest he was shown too much leniency by previous Chief Stewards.

His behavior toward Terry Bailey cannot be tolerated nor should his contempt of the appeal proceedings when he showed little or no respect for another steward.

The Appeals Panel would win plenty of plaudits from the racing industry and the public in general if they not only dismissed the Nikolic appeal but added a couple of years to the penalty.’ – Alan Lawrence, Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t think ‘Dan the Man’ is going to escape his indiscretion outside the appeals hearing. Here’s a report supporting that belief by PADRIAC MURPHY in the HERALD SUN:

DISGRACED jockey Danny Nikolic could face contempt proceedings after allegedly threatening another steward outside his VCAT hearing.

In a remarkable twist to an already heated morning, Nikolic allegedly threatened steward Wade Hadley and made "gunshot" sounds outside the very room where he was trying to overturn a two-year ban for threatening chief steward Terry Bailey and his family in September.

Nikolic allegedly abused Mr Hadley during a break shortly before noon.

"Let's see where you end up. Look at you. You're a fine f---ing specimen of a human being, but you're all tarred with the same brush," Nikolic is alleged to have said.

"You can't even make f---ing eye contact."

Mr Hadley told the hearing he replied he was "just trying to make a living" before telling Racing Victoria's legal team about the incident.

 

EVIDENCE IN THE DAN NIKOLIC VCAT APPEAL PROVED QUITE REVEALING

‘I found some of the evidence given by Danny Nickolic at his appeal at VCAT last Wednesday and to some extent on Thursday quite interesting.

It is general knowledge amongst the licensees here in Victoria that Nikolic and Oliver enjoy each others’ company in the jockeys’ room during any given race day.

Oliver was caught having a sizeable investment from a phone in the jocks’ room.

Nikolic said when giving evidence ALL his phones were being ‘taped’ by the Police.

It is therefore reasonable to assume that Oliver owes Nikolic for a phone call.

Nikolic also gave direct evidence that the Chief Steward, Terry Bailey was working with police on a number of racing issues.

This answered a question that has been at the back of my mind ever since the Oliver issue became public knowledge.

Because of his dealings with the police, Bailey would automatically be disqualified from taking any roll on a panel formed to deal with this breach of the rules.

The highlight of the hearing was in my opinion the reported clash between Counsel for Nikolic, Mr Robertson and Senior Counsel for RVL Mr Dunn.

In a heated exchange, a report in The Australian credited Mr Robertson telling his Senior to ‘take a tablet” (in other words to settle down).

Mr Dunn addressing the Bench said: ‘He told me to take a tablet. I am not going to be labeled by some sort of JUMPED-UP barrister like Mr Robertson,’

Mr Dunn went on and said he withdrew the words ‘jumped-up.’

But he let the comment stand: ‘I am not going to be labeled by some sort of (jumped up) Barrister like Mr Robertson. (It would appear Mr Dunn doesn’t have a very high opinion of his colleague). - Wayne Linderman South Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I didn’t read that report Wayne so I am accepting what you say is right. If so, there certainly seems to be some dissent within the Nikolic legal team. As far as I am concerned the sooner racing sees the back of Dan the Man the better for all concerned.   

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the above e-mails should not be interpreted as those of JOHN LINGARD, the owner of the letsgohorseracing web-site. That is why he has added an ‘EDITOR’S NOTE’. Every endeavor is made to verify the authenticity of contributors. We welcome any reasonable and constructive responses from parties or individuals.

   

 

 

 

 

 

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