Jenny - Clean

THE WEDNESDAY WHINGE has a new look but won’t be dispensing with the theme and focus on the THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY side of what is happening in racing. The Whinge will continue to provide an opportunity for The Cynics to Have Their Say. Thanks again for your support for the most read column on this website and one of the most read on racing websites in the country. Our popularity continues to grow despite the bagging it cops from some high profile officials, especially in Queensland, who cannot cope with constructive criticism of any kind. We encourage supporters – and critics – to continue to contribute but plan to restrict the Whinge to less than 10 of the best items each week. Our message to those who continually bag us is simple: IF YOU DON’T LIKE WHAT YOU READ, THEN DON’T REVISIT THE WHINGE.

 

CHRIS WALLER CIRCUS COMES TO TOWN SO BRING ON THE CLOWNS

TREVOR ANDERSON of BRISBANE sent this email which echoes the sentiments of how many punters felt about the Fred Best Classic at Doomben last Saturday:

‘THE Chris Waller circus moved from Sydney to Brisbane on Saturday and one could argue that the stewards were the ringmasters while the punters were made clowns of.

The Fred Best Classic degenerated into a joke in the eyes of many when the Waller-trained favorite Sir Bacchus flopped badly while his stablemate, Counterattack, was able to land a massive plunge after sitting wide without cover for the entire trip.

Even if stewards had intended questioning Waller over the below par performance of Sir Bacchus – considered a Stradbroke hope beforehand – he had already fled the scene. SKY Channel explained that they could not interview the champion trainer post-race as he had left for the airport for a flight home.

That aside stewards then dumbfounded punters by announcing in their report on the race that they had given Waller approval for blood tests to be taken from Sir Bacchus on Friday which begs the question why was that not made public. When it involved the favorite for a Group 3 on a major carnival day surely it was important enough.

To plagiarize the thoughts of Phil Purser on his excellent website, justracing, on Monday:

“I must say I was ‘amazed’ to read in Saturday night’s stewards’ report for the Doomben meeting that Race 8 favorite Sir Bacchus must have been causing his trainer, Chris Waller, some concerns the day before the race. Yet the pre-race silence on the matter, from all quarters, was deafening.

“It’s history now that Sir Bacchus went like a crippled soldier crab, never getting out of reverse gear after settling back in the pack, clocking in 11th when going for five wins from his last six starts, whilst his stablemate Counterattack was backed as if unbeatable (for $7 to $4.4).”

Once again it has been left to the websites like justracing and letsgohorseracing to protect the interests of the punters. All we got from the mainstream media after punters were again made look like fools by the Waller stable were more alibis for the champion trainer.

Regardless of whether he suggested Counterattack would be hard to beat on the eve of the Fred Best, there was not the slightest concern expressed by Waller about the condition of the pre-race favorite Sir Bacchus. Why then did he need to have blood tests taken so close to the race? The ones that should have been asking that question were the stewards and if integrity has been stepped up by this top copper who now leads the charge – as we keep being told – then why weren’t the punters kept informed and not treated like mushrooms?

To make matters worse the stewards’ panel overseeing the race – apart from not interviewing Waller nor jockey Hugh Bowman about the pathetic performance of Sir Bacchus – did not even bother having the horse swabbed. And that panel included Daniel Aurisch (as chairman) along with the Harry Hopman (non playing captain of the racing world in Queensland Allan Reardon) and the man favored to take his job (Martin Knibbs).

Come on guys punters deserved better than this poor display from you. This is what we have come to expect over recent months in Sydney where the Waller juggernaut has rolled on with stable second strings continuing to salute after being heavily backed while favorites perform poorly. Questions are asked – on occasions – but from a punters’ perspective the answers provided are far from acceptable.’

 

RACING MEDIA ‘SPIN DOCTOR’ DOESN’T PRACTICE WHAT HE PREACHES

DANNY MARLOW of GOLD COASTsent this email:

‘THE racing media ‘spin doctor’ wasted no time excusing the embarrassment that the Fred Best Classic degenerated into at Doomben on Saturday.

Writing in his column, The Verdict, in The Sunday Mail, Nathan Exelby was quick to alibi the plunge win by Chris Waller stable second string Counterattack but was deadly in his silence over the mystery blood tests allowed by stewards on stablemate and favorite Sir Bacchus on race eve.

As usual the information we got was what Exelby wanted us to know. The sanitized version of a race that some punters felt was on the nose. And did he ask why no questions were sought by stewards from Waller or jockey Chris Bowman on the pathetic performance of Sir Bacchus which finished near the tail of the field? Of course not!

Did he ask whether Sir Bacchus was sent to be swabbed? Of course not!

Why rock the boat when you need to deal with Waller on a daily basis to make it easier to do your job. All we got was: ‘You can’t say you weren’t warned.’

Exelby was obviously referring to a story written by his colleague, Brad Davidson – he’s the one that regularly scoops the Racing Editor from the big smoke when he writes for the Gold Coast Bulletin.

In an article during the week, Davidson wrote: When asked whether Sir Bacchus or Counterattack was his best chance in the Fred Best at this early stage, Waller replied: “I think Counterattack is the class act.”

Sadly, punters have been burnt so many times by Waller’s ‘tips’ that they have given up on him. His record is abysmal so why would they believe him this time?

Then again, it seems even the ‘spin doctor’ didn’t practice what he preached in the ‘you can’t say you weren’t warned’ department. On perusing the selections panel in The Courier-Mail Form Guide for Saturday’s Doomben racing one discovers:

Brad Davidson tipped Counterattack as his on top selection. Exelby stuck with Sir Bacchus and had Rageese and Sold For Song ahead of Counterattack (his fourth fancy).

Anyone who follows the CM Form Guide selections would be in the poor house after the three major days of the carnival this month. Exelby didn’t manage to a find a winner in any of his ‘on top’ selections in eight races on Saturday. Not only did Davidson tip Counterattack but he also had on top Straturbo in the first and Our Ivanhowe at big odds in the Doomben Cup. Not only is Brad arguably the best Turf Scribe in the state but he is also the Best Tipster.’

 

CONFIDENCE IN NEW INTERGRITY UNIT WON’T JUST HAPPEN OVERNIGHT 

AS a FORMER LONG-TIME OFFICIAL in various capacities in racing in Queensland I would ask that my identity be with-heldas I still want to enjoy my day at the races as rare as these are:

‘I won’t be convinced that these aren’t Keystone Cops running the new Integrity Unit at Racing Queensland until we see some action at the station.

One only has to see the lack of action and information emanating from the last race at Doomben on Saturday to suggest that little has changed from the good old days.

Then we have the revelations about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans raised involving a high profile integrity identity in the Wednesday Whinge last week but little seems to have happened after that.

Here’s my take on what will happen. Jamie Dart will be appointed Head of Integrity – he seems to have the top coppers onside. Allan Reardon will finally ride into the sunset – after the winter carnival probably – with either Martin Knibbs or Reid Sanders taking over his role – and Ray Murrihy will be appointed as the Independent overseer when the new Appeals structure becomes operational.

Things will role on pretty much as they have been in recent years and despite all the huff and puff little will happen integrity-wise on or off the track. That’s how things seem to work in racing in Queensland – despite which political party is calling the shots.’

 

HARDLY THE RIDE OF AN INERNATIONAL JOCKEY AT THE SUNSHINE COAST

PERCY SINCLAIR of SUNSHINE COAST writes:

‘MY mates and I have been punters since we were in short pants and we have come to expect the unexpected. Horses aren’t machines. They are animals. But at times we tend to blame them rather than that little person who is doing the steering.

And so it came to pass, that we watched the ride of international jockey Damien Browne on the odds-on Charnley River with some amazement last Sunday. Fortunately the horse was at odds that were far too short for most punters to do too much damage.

With all due respects to the deeds of Damien on the champ Buffering we thought an inexperienced apprentice could have done a better job on Charnley River at the Sunny Coast. Instead of finishing second to the rank outsider in the field it should have won by panels but saw more of the outside fence than the rail.

Unlike the situation in the last at Doomben on Saturday – when Chris Waller escaped even a question from stewards over the pathetic performance of Sir Bacchus after stablemate Counterattack won the Fred Best Classic – the stewards, headed by James Williamson, questioned Browne over his handling of Charnley River.

He told them that from a wide alley – there were only six other starters mind you – he had attempted to secure a position similar to the horse’s most recent starts on the pace (at his previous run Charnley River jumped from barrier 10 in the Group 3 Ken Russell at the Gold Coast and settled fourth. This was a Two-Year-Old Maiden Plate).

Browne went on to explain that it had become apparent shortly after the start that he would be obliged to steady in order to secure a position close to the fence, and at a point near the 900m he felt that would be possible. However, he was obliged to shift out after having placed pressure on runners to his inside.

When he attempted to improve in a three wide position after the pace slowed the horse to his inside shifted out and he was forced to race four wide to the home turn. You can’t help bad luck.

Browne indicated to stewards that whilst these factors did have a bearing on the overall performance he was nevertheless disappointed with the finishing effort of Charnley River and felt it was close enough at the 400m to run the leader down. Stewards acknowledged that his positioning of the horse throughout the event was not ideal but accepted that he had little alternative in the circumstances.

So there you have it – the punters cop another carrot up the rear end and it wasn’t Browne’s fault but that of the horse. So I guess we can’t expect Charnley River to reach any great heights unless he grows a leg or two in subsequent starts.

Noticeably stewards did also question the trainer of the winner Lady Solerno about her seemingly improved performance. The closest she had got at her five previous runs since a spell was a fifth at the Gold Coast and at her most recent start at the Sunshine Coast she ran 12th at $101 so seeing her lead all the way was about as expected as the Doomben stewards asking Chris Waller to explain Sir Bacchus racing like a mule on Saturday.

Trainer Cameron told stewards that Lady Solerno had performed ‘satisfactorily’ at its most recent start (that’s the 12th at $101, he certainly is easily pleased). He felt it was a quality race and he had elected to experiment with the addition of a tongue tie which ‘may have been beneficial’ to her finishing effort. So there you have it – everything explained and so easy for us mug punters to follow!’

 

‘IT’S PAST THE STAGE OF EDUCATING SOME OF THESE STAKEHOLDERS’

ANTHONY ELLIS of MELBOURNE weighs into the debate over industry integrity in VICTORIA: 

‘THERE are plenty of us who have watched the racing industry in Victoria lose public confidence in the wake of the cobalt crisis, the Nikolic affair, threats to high profile integrity identities and the Oliver betting scandal.

To suggest there is a need to ‘educate participants and not simply police them’ would seem too little, too late to most of us observers. If the stakeholders haven’t learnt by now, that would amount to little more than a band-aid cure.

Despite protestations to the contrary, leading trainers had to be living under a rock if they weren’t aware of the implications of positive swabs to cobalt. And there is no place in racing in Victoria or Australia for that matter for the unacceptable behavior of Dan Nikolic towards stewards or situations that occurred like the threat to the welfare of Chief Steward Terry Bailey and his family.

It’s fine for the Trainers’ Association boss to demand that ‘those responsible for managing the process must be seen as absolutely impartial in carrying out their duties’. One wonders if he would take the same moral high ground if his family had been threatened.

In what to an outsider appears to be a combined effort to fire a shot across the bows of the job being done by Terry Bailey, Integrity boss Dayle Brown and the RV stewards’ panel, the Australian Jockeys' Association chairman Ross Inglis has weighed in with the claim that ‘personalities can come into it’ regarding steward-imposed penalties. “They can take a dislike to trainers and jockeys for whatever reason and it can impact penalty,” he told the Herald Sun.

I would like Mr Inglis to answer a couple of questions:

(1)  Does he believe Dan Nikolic is a fit person to be relicensed to ride in the light of what has happened between him and stewards in Victoria in the past?

(2)  Does he believe the penalty imposed on Damien Oliver over that betting incident when he backed another runner in which he rode the favorite was sufficient?

Maybe it’s my imagination but every time there seems to be a bleat against Bailey and the Integrity staff the story is written by Matthew Stewart in the Herald Sun. Strangely we don’t seem to see the same coming from Patrick Bartley of The Age. In fact I think he is the turf writer that was give a ‘life ban’ by Peter Moody for stories that got up the nose of the big fellow during his cobalt battle with RVL.

One aspect of the Government-ordered review of stewards operations by Paul Bittar that I am inclined to agree with however is that some powers should be taken out of their hands and that relates to penalty. There is obviously some merit in that when you consider the slashing of penalties that has occurred when cases reach the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board.

It wouldn’t worry me if Dan Nikolic copped a ‘life’ suspension but it seems that another top jockey Ben Melham could be paying the price for an association going back some time with him.

Melham is an aggressive rider – so are a lot of others – but he seems to attract the attention of stewards almost as though there is a spotlight on him every time he jumps into the saddle. He is rarely back from a careless riding suspension when another is imposed. Now they have suspended him for his use of the whip. As a close follower of racing in Victoria I have seen many other top jockeys infringe just as much – if not worse – than Melham but they seem to be given the benefit of the doubt (which I might mention he was when facing yet another inquisition over a ride at Flemington last Saturday).

I don’t want to do a ‘Stewart’ and raise some innocuous penalty comparison against a trainer who he says has a history with the Chief Steward, but I do believe Melham is entitled to the level playing field approach which some might say he is not getting at present.

I stand by my opinion that the Victorian stewards are the best in the country and Bailey easily the best Chairman of Stewards – and that includes Ray Murrihy. I think the reference to Bob Challis in the Stewart story was below the belt but that seems to be par for the course when he is writing anything about Bailey.

My aim in writing this email is objectivity – from the media to the stewards. I think Sal Perna is the best thing that has happened to racing in Victoria and without his approach to integrity, racing in this state would have suffered much more in the wake of the controversies of recent years.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: THE whip rules need an immediate overhaul – and it sounds like that is about to happen but of little joy for Ben Melham. With whip-related fines now totaling $250,000 for supposed over-use, I don’t know whether to blame the fruit loop animal activists who have created this farcical situation (and I am certainly not in favor of belting a horse to the line) or the authorities who seem to be using it as revenue raising (a la the fat coppers sitting at the bottom of a hill getting you for being a few kilometers over the limit (and I’m all for road safety and saving lives).

AND for those who missed it here is the MATT STEWART story from the HERALD SUN referred to in the above email:

THERE’S a range of observations in Paul Bittar’s government-ordered review of stewards and his recommendation that important powers be taken out of their hands. But this one jumps off the page.

Bittar, a former Racing Victoria executive and British Horse Racing Association chief executive, noted that “rightly or wrongly, (a range of issues) have resulted in a loss of public confidence in the integrity services functions and systems overseeing the sport’’.

For some trainers that line might reinforce their assertion that Victorian stewards have a gotcha approach rather than one that educates; that a lack of subtlety has fuelled negative perceptions of the sport and its players.

In a report recommending the creation of an independent Victorian Racing Integrity Unit to operate across all three racing codes, Bittar referenced an earlier report that emphasised the need to “educate participants and not simply police them.’’

Stewards now lay charges and can impose penalty, effectively judge and jury.

The role of “executioner’’ — or in most cases penalty reducer — sits with the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board, which has a habit of slashing penalties or imposing ones significantly less than stewards seek.

Australian Jockeys Association chairman Ross Inglis said “personalities can come into it’’ regarding steward-imposed penalties.

“They can take a dislike to trainers and jockeys for whatever reason and it can impact penalty,” he told the Herald Sun.

“Also, with due respect to stewards, they do not possess the expertise to deal with certain investigations.’’

Australian Trainers Association chief Andrew Nicholl said “those responsible for managing the process must be seen as absolutely impartial in carrying out their duties”.

He said there was “clear anecdotal evidence’’ that change was required in the integrity process, including the “manner and style of investigation”.

Under the new proposal, Victorian Racing Integrity Unit stewards would police and prosecute race day transgressions with separate integrity investigators handling more serious cases and presenting charges to a reconstituted Racing and Disciplinary Appeals Board.

It would be mischievous to suggest trainer Bob Challis had “history’’ with chief steward Terry Bailey that may have come back to haunt him when stewards recently handed him a six-week penalty over a fairly innocuous non-reporting infringement.

Challis noted in his treatment book that an unraced horse he trained had had a “minor’’ nostril bleed on two separate occasions during trackwork. The horse never raced.

During a random stable inspection stewards noted the report in the log and charged Challis — who later said he was unaware of his requirement to notify — and suspended him.

That penalty would have prevented Challis from working as a clerk of course, a job he’d had for many years. The stewards, it must be said, told Challis they didn’t think the suspension would stop him working as a clerk, but RV’s human resources department disagreed.

Challis appealed the penalty to the RADB, which slashed it to a $2000 fine. The board said Challis’ record over 40 years in the industry was “excellent, if not outstanding.’’

Stewards have 28 days to lodge an appeal. Indications yesterday were they might not, but they have thought about it. Incidentally, Bittar’s report also recommended VCAT be eliminated as an appeal source.

Again, there is no suggestion one event is in any way related to another, but Challis had appeared before Bailey once before.

It was September 4, 2012, the day Danny Nikolic threatened Bailey and his family at the Seymour races.

Challis, as clerk of course, was the only person within earshot of the exchange.

Bailey called Challis into the stewards’ room.

This is the exchange.

Bailey: Mr Challis we’re just going to ask Danny Nikolic to come in regarding the comments he made to me when you were leading him in. You heard what was said?

Challis: Not that I can recall.

Bailey (doubtful): No, I didn’t think so.

Challis asks if he can be excused.

Bailey: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He was only in your ear. You sure you didn’t hear anything?

Challis: I heard him say “watching’’, or something. But I wasn’t taking much notice.

None of this proves anything, of course.

Bailey’s inquiry was entirely legitimate following a sensational quip from Nikolic.

The Herald Sun is not suggesting Bailey acted inappropriately then, nor has done so since.

But there is a good reason why cops don’t dish out penalties and there is a good reason why Bittar has recommended a disconnect between the day-to-day business of stewards and the imposing of penalties on those under their watch.

 

COMING OUT IN DEFENCE OF JOB BERNADETTE COOPER DOES FOR SKY

NAOMI WOODS of ARMIDALE when into bat for SKY host BERNADETTE COOPER:

‘I have to say that I took exception to some of the comments made by regular Albert Williams last week in the Wednesday Whinge.

To remind readers, Mr Williams included in his email the following comments, which were far from flattering in my opinion when referring to Bernadette Cooper:

“Might we suggest that the expert commentary of Michael Maxworthy and Caroline Searcy would have been sufficient? From a punters’ perspective the best thing SKY could do with Bernadette Cooper is either apply a gag when she gets in front of the camera or stick her on one of those old grey Clerk of the Course horses in some back paddock at Hendra for the duration of the meeting. She’s a waste of space”.

Bernadette has been doing commentary on Queensland racing for quite a while now, sometimes up to three and four meetings a week and I think she performs very capably and has come up with some long priced winners on many occasions.  She does her homework and knows the form very well and the rapport she has with jockeys and trainers, most of whom she has ridden against, or for, is very evident. She also does a top job interviewing when on the pony, most recently at The Championships in Sydney.

Caroline Searcy is a breeding buff and adds some glamour to the telecast but she is not a form analyst and Michael Maxworthy does a capable enough job but both were only there as replacements for Greg Radley and Ron Dufficy who were on deck at Scone and it’s Bernie who knows the local form and she is smart enough to be up to date with interstate form as well and to suggest she is a waste of space and should be gagged and sent to the black blocks on the old grey pony is a pretty pathetic comment to make.

The criticism of SKY Channel is unwarranted too in my opinion, although I could have done without Kembla Grange myself and was disappointed that there was the quick switch to Kembla Grange after the BTC Cup, but their meeting is always covered on the day that they race there and it made for a very crowded schedule SKY had to work with.  SKY had people on the ground at Scone, Doomben and Morphettville in what was a very good coverage.  I don’t know how old Mr Williams is, but watching SKY Racing on a Saturday afternoon is a far cry from what I for one used to have to do on a Saturday afternoon when my family and I all gathered around a little Kreisler radio and were happy to just pick up a call of a race. Now we are able to watch racing every day in the comfort of our own homes or at clubs, pubs or TABs and I consider that we are pretty well catered for.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: THANKS for your contribution Naomi. I won’t buy into the debate on Bernadette but I have to disagree with you about SKY. I think their coverage, on occasions, is slanted toward racing in NSW. It was good to see that the new broadcaster, racing.com, will be showing Hong Kong racing. That means we won’t face the prospect of races from the Asian venue being delayed like constantly happens on SKY while we watch the dogs from Hatrick or the trots from back of Burke. Punters would welcome racing.com sharing the rights for Queensland racing with SKY as well. That way Albert would be happy as well. He could switch to racing.com and wouldn’t have to put up with watching Bernie.

 

‘THIS ACTION BY STEWARDS WASN’T A GET SQUARE – JUST A COINCIDENCE’

WE received quite a response to the questionnaire sent to trainers by Racing Queensland’s Declan Martschinke concerning the amount of flying they do each year in the hope of organizing some sort of deal with the airlines.

Most of the responses that we received were unsuitable for publication because of their attacks on the Magic Man. But this was one, also posted by prominent thoroughbred and greyhound identity TONY WONKA on a greyhound data forum.

It reads:

‘It’s strange that the person who singlehandedly has destroyed the greyhound industry in Queensland would send out a survey to see how people use airlines. The way greyhound industry participants are travelling most would have difficulty getting around on a push bike.

Instead of asking which airlines they like to fly perhaps a few more pertinent survey questions (from the RQ Head of Operations) would be:

1 Are you happy with the way I have handled the greyhound industry in Queensland?

2 Do you have confidence in the future of the greyhound racing in Queensland while it is under my control?

3 Are you happy with the way I reduced the starters’ fee from $40 to $15 when 90 per cent of participants wanted to see the deductions come from prizemoney?

4 Do you agree that reducing the starters’s fee has reduced greyhound clubs turnover by about 30 per cent through reducing sales of raffle tickets, restaurant meals, etc etc?

5 Are you happy with the way I pander to the every wish of the RSPCA and Animals Australia rather than listen to the concerns of greyhound participants?

6 Are you satisfied that under my control whelpings of Queensland pups has dropped by over 30 per cent and that in the not too far distant future we will not have enough dogs to fill the scheduled meetings?

7 Do you think it’s my fault that so many greyhound licensees won’t be renewing their licensees after July 3?

8 If you had your choice would you rather travel by airplane or push bike?

That’s a survey I would like to see.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: Now we know that there isn’t an ounce of vindictiveness in the bones of those running the show on the good ship RQ Titanic. That’s why we shouldn’t read anything into the fact that after Tony Wonka posted this opinion on a greyhound site the following occurred. They were drastically short of nominations for an Ipswich meeting and he had a bitch coming back from being on season. She had done a bit of work but was not fully fit and in his words was a ‘bit of a walker’. Nevertheless Wonka put her in to make up the eight runners. She ran last, beaten about 10 lengths and ran 31.50. After the race RQ stewards hauled connections in and advised the bitch would have to trial on ALL tracks before she could run again. That same night there were 11 dogs that ran slower time but not one of those was suspended. We, at LGHR, would be the last to suggest that this was a ‘get square’. It was obviously just a coincidence. But it shows why stakeholders and high profile industry identities seek anonymity when they offer objective criticism of those running the show and we will continue to afford it to them in the interests of keeping our readers informed of just how bad things are going in all three codes.

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the above e-mails should not be interpreted as those of JOHN LINGARD, the owner-editor 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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