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.


RED CARPET FOR PETER FOSTER WHILE PHIL PURSER GETS EJECTED

MERV MITCHELL, a long-time fan of the JUSTRACING website and its publisher PHIL PURSER raises an interesting comparison:

‘AS inquiries into the ownership of star mare Azkadellia become murkier and murkier the question being asked by many followers of racing in Queensland not surprisingly remains unanswered.

How did international conman Peter Foster, at the centre of the allegations scam, manage to secure an entry pass to the owners’ enclosure at Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Day when Azkadellia was favorite for the rich Group 1?

Foster is an extremely well known identity and The Sunday Mail reported his attendance on Stradbroke Day and linked him to Azkadellia. He was also photographed in the birdcage leading up to the big race.

Yet it has been Racing Victoria and not Racing Queensland stewards who seem to have been proactive in investigating the Azkadellia ownership which perhaps will be attributed to the fact that she is trained in Victoria by Ciaron Maher.

Sadly, officials of the Brisbane Racing Club were more proactive on Stradbroke Day in their determination to have Phil Purser, the owner of the justracing website removed from the enclosure. It doesn’t pay to be an objective critic of the major club – or so it seems.

Whilst one could argue some from the BRC must have been made aware that Foster was there – unless some of them were living under a rock – one particular official was reportedly hellbent on having Purser turfed.

The hard-hitting writer, who subsequently retired after pioneering racing websites in this country, had the proper media accreditation to be there. What happened to him that day was a disgrace.

It is even more shameful considering he never got the apology he deserved and in the light of the fact that the red carpet was being rolled out to this international conman like every other owner of a horse that raced in the Stradbroke.

Integrity in racing certainly weaves a strange path in Queensland. Little wonder there is no confidence in the product on or off the track. Hopefully things will change with this new control body broom being put through the joint.’  


 

‘DINOSAURS’ OF TURF WRITING TEAM DON’T HAVE TO ‘SUCK UP TO SURVIVE’

ALBERT WILLIAMS, of REDCLIFFE, a regular critic of all things racing in Queensland, weighs into the debate on media coverage of contentious issues in the industry in the north:

‘IT’S nice to know that some turf writing journalists regarded by their critics as dinosaurs are still alive and kicking.

I want to commend Terry Butts on continuing to hammer Racing Queensland over its under achievement in his ‘Silks & Saddles’ column which is published by the North Queensland Register which alas many racing followers would not get to read.

The determination to present objective reporting by writers like Butts and another of the old guard in Peter Cameron (who has a racing element to his TRAPS page in The Sunday Mail), is sadly missed among the racing media now pretending to provide a level playing field coverage of what is happening in the industry.

In my opinion too many of them adopt the mentality that many feel was firmly established by the former Racing Editor at Queensland Newspapers in Bart Sinclair.

Too many of those who write what we read in racing today are protégés of Sinclair or follow his doctrine of making sure you think twice before you dare to criticize. There was a time when racing writers were the representatives of the punting public. Now the punter takes a back row seat to officials who sadly some scribes feel it is more important not to offend or more importantly to impress. This doesn’t only occur in Queensland but is especially apparent with some of those writing in the mainstream Sydney racing media.

But back to the state of play with Buttsy and he has never been scared to call a spade a spade. It has come back to haunt him at times. There was that story he wrote which offended those running the show during the Bentley era and they tried to use the fact that he was a licensed trainer to take action against him. The legal brilliance of Barry Taylor sat them on their backsides. Yeah that’s the same legal and business brain that quit as Deputy Chairman of the RQ All Codes Board because of lack of consultation from then Chairman Kevin Dixon and his advisors, Treasurer Tim Nicholls and Racing Minister Steve Dixon during the negotiation of that you beaut new TAB deal. It’s the one that promised so much and has delivered so little.

Butts went to bat in his column this week for the changes being made at RQ under the new Board leadership of Steve Wilson, Mark Sowerby and CEO Dr Elliot Forbes. It seems the first casualty was the RQ Operations Manager. If the rumor mill is right – which it so often is in racing in Queensland – more departures will follow.

Strangely, we don’t seem to be reading anything about this movement at the station in the mainstream racing media nor are we likely to see any comment on how bad most punters regard UBET or the ‘dud’ TAB deal which has stagnated prizemoney for racing in Queensland while NSW and Victoria roar ahead. So much for the ‘furlong in front’ promise of arguably the worst Racing Minister we have ever seen. Time could well reveal that Little King Kev is not far behind him when it comes to RQ Chairmen either.

My message in this Whinge is to the Nathan Exelby’s of this world. Stop worrying about writing all these hard-hitting comment pieces about how bad a look Cobalt positives are for the industry and why there is no merit in pursuing offenders. Start looking at how bad the prizemoney levels are in Queensland and ask why? Delve into how bad that TAB deal was – forget about this supposed commercial in confidence crap – and, heaven forbid, you might even take a look at the integrity side of the industry and whether it is a level playing field from what happens on the track to the preparation and treatment of horses from some stables.

EDITOR’S NOTE: JUST wanted to correct you on one thing Albert. Nathan Exelby was the first racing journo to tweet that the RQ Operations Manager had resigned and in that tweet did correctly describe him as a polarizing figure during his time in the industry in Queensland. As for the Terry Butts column piece you were referring to, well for those who don’t read the NQ Register, I am sure they would have no problem with us reproducing what he wrote this week:

 

NEWLOOK BOARD AND CEO TACKLE ENORMOUS TASK OF REFLOATING RQ 

THERE is welcome and long awaited action at Racing Queensland headquarters as the new Board and CEO settle in to tackle the enormous task of getting the industry back on track.

Just last week the head of operations Declar Martschinke cleared his desk but his sudden departure was of little or no surprise to many.

But he might not be the only scalp as the new brand RQ gets serious about regaining respect and sustainability after years in the doldrums.

In an era that has seen other States boast record profits and big boosts to prizemoney, Queensland has literally floundered in their wake.

Latest mail from the bunker is that UBET will come under strict scrutiny. The feeling, quite rightly, is that UBET has underachieved. “It has not fulfilled its function nor its obligations to the industry,” said one of the brigade.

It is interesting to note that UBET’S Brad Tamer is one of  many (too many in fact) appointed to the two new Advisory Panels that have recently been announced and of which you might soon hear a lot more.

I am sure the present make-up of these Panels will be tweaked for it is unwieldy – in its current form – and at least one person chosen to represent a country area will certainly not last – but more on that later.

UBET is the engine room of racing but its secret deal with then RQ All Codes Board Chairman Kevin Dixon two years ago that was designed to guarantee the financial future of racing for decades has been nothing but an abject financial flop. Racing was at that time – and still is – in a tail-spin.

UBET has not kept pace. It seemingly doesn’t even try to match its opposition. Fixed Price betting is what the punters want. Nowadays it reportedly exceeds the pari-mutual (tote) turnover. So why does UBET continue to display its prices two days AFTER the opposition? It happens every meeting every week and in Queensland too.

Is that competing?

Worse, it is common knowledge now that bookies employed at UBET actually ‘lost’ on the Melbourne Cup last year as well as the Stradbroke – the biggest betting events of the year.

And the UBET’s response was (wait for it) - Every corporate bookie lost on the Cup!

As one racing administrator said: If UBET was a racehorse there would have to be a Stewards’ Inquiry into its performance.

Another disturbing fact is that 70 per cent of UBET turnover is on southern races, and a mere 20 per cent on Queensland gallops. And you might ask why?

Have punters lost faith or confidence in the control of Queensland race meetings?

And, did you know if UBET loses on its Fixed Price operation the return to RQ is nil?

There is no return based on turnover, according to a highly placed source.

Unbelievable!

So it seems it is shape up or ship out time at Deagon and the skids are under the non achievers.

It is clear the new CEO, Eliot Forbes and new Board Member, Mark Sowerby, are not to be messed with. They are both heavily endowed with business acumen, have a common goal, and are hungry for results.

Maybe there is hope after all!

 

‘NEVILLE NOBODY’ NQ STEWARD WHO BECAME ‘SAM SOMEBODY’

IT’S amazing how times change and so do opinions in racing – on and off the track.

The appointment of Sam Woolaston as new Chief Steward in Townsville was far from acceptable to some and one of the biggest critics was veteran NQ racing scribe Terry Butts.

Woolaston, one of four on the short-list for the appointment, was chosen ahead of then RV-based Heidi Lester (who wound up Chief Stipe in Macau), the late Gary Palmer (a former champion jockey and RQ based steward at the time) and Patrick Cooper (the former NQ Chairman of Stewards, based in Townsville and son of the late Alan Cooper, one of the best stewards ever to officiate in Queensland).

It’s no secret that a lot of racing people, including Butts, felt the wrong thing was done by Patrick Cooper when he was forced out of the job. They felt he was a wasted talent sitting on the sideline while Queensland struggled to attract good stewards and wanted to see him return to the top policing role in the north.

Such was not to be the case. Former RQ CEO Darren Condon, who oversaw the selection process, wound up off-side with a few important racing identities when he overlooked Cooper and gave the job to Woolaston. His thinking apparently had something to do with Cooper not being as up to date with new rules and regulations, specifically those involving corporate bookies, since his departure. In other words time had passed him by.

Butts angered by the decision, declared in his ‘Silks & Saddles’ column that the important job had gone to ‘a Neville Nobody Steward from Rockhampton’. But times change many things and he came to respect the new steward who unfortunately has become disillusioned with the Queensland racing scene and has taken up an appointment with the panel of Racing Victoria.

Here is what Butts wrote this week about the departure of a steward who became his friend:         

LAST Tuesday the northern chief stipe Sam Woolaston departed Townsville to join Terry Bailey and his team at RVL. He dearly loved Townsville and enjoyed the vast area that he covered – from Mackay to Mareeba and west to Camooweal.

In three years he made an indelible impression on all racing folk in all those far flung places.

When asked why he was leaving Queensland, he simply said: “I see no future ahead and sometimes it was immensely frustrating dealing with matters”.

So he resigned.

He reminded me too of the introduction this newspaper (the NQ Register) afforded him when he first arrived from NSW.

I must confess at the time I was a stickler for Patrick Cooper to get the job after the shabby treatment he had received from previous RQ regimes. And further – I had been told on good authority – that he had landed the job.

When Sam’s surprise appointment was announced I wrote that Patrick had missed out and that  the job had gone to ‘a Neville Nobody from Newcastle’...

Sam reminded me when we bid our farewells on Friday.

Oops!

I am happy to say he soon became Sam Somebody gaining high respect all over the north... as no doubt he will in the south.

Good luck to a good man!

 

ARE THESE ABORIGINAL CLAIMS ON ‘PROTECTED SITES’ GETTING OUT OF HAND?

MARK TOOGOOD of MELBOURNE poses an interesting question:

‘AT the risk of upsetting ‘our colored cousins’ and the ‘political correctness’ of the ‘new Australia,’ please let me have my say on the situation that has blown out of all proportions about horses working on the beach at Warrnambool.

Firstly, let me emphasis that I am not a racist. Unfortunately my comments – like those of others who prefer not to make them public – will have me declared such.

Why is it that every time a piece of real estate seems to attract some added value because of its use by the general public then the Aboriginal community declare it a culturally important or protected site?

If national attention had not been drawn to the use of Levvys Beach by the success of Darren Weir’s 100-plus team of horses, more specifically by Melbourne Cup winner Prince of Penzance, would there ever have been call for the local Council to issue an eviction order.

At a vital time in their spring carnival preparation these horses have now been denied access to a vital training venue. Surely there has to be a compromise. Worse still will it come down to the exchange of some cold hard cash?

If horse traffic on this beach has increased ‘300 per cent’ since the Cup victory by Prince of Penzance then perhaps something does need to be done to limit numbers or times that the area can be accessed.

If the public felt there was a safety or health issue because families and children could not use the beach while horses were working or droppings from them were causing a concern then I could understand the Council stepping in.

But if this was a protected cultural site why didn’t the Aboriginal community notify same years ago rather than now when it is in the national racing spotlight. I suspect there is a motive to all of this but I had better stop short before being declared ‘un-Australian or racially prejudiced’.’

 

‘WHAT DO WE DO – JUST SWEEP THE COBALT CASES UNDER THE CARPET?’

BILL AUGUSTUS of BRISBANE writes:

‘I agree in part with the suggestion by Nathan Exelby in The Courier Mail this week that ‘officials are losing the public relations battle in their race to prosecute positive cobalt tests’.

I agree even more with his comment that ‘the overwhelming majority of people want to see drug cheats prosecuted and eliminated from the sport’.

What I don’t agree with is Nathan’s declaration that ‘there is still so much uncertainty in the science of cobalt and whether it has any real benefits that it seems clear officials jumped the gun in prosecuting it so aggressively’.

What does he – and other racing commentators heading down this track suggest – that the industry just sweeps the current Cobalt cases under the carpet and starts with a clean sheet.

The fact remains there are Rules of Racing relating to the use of prohibited substances. Good lawyers will always find technicalities that will enable clients to escape penalties. That seems to be the case with Cobalt.

In Queensland the situation is an absolute embarrassment and largely relates to a section of the Racing Act which did not permit two swabs to be tested at the same laboratory. The buck here stops with the Office of Racing and one could argue that what has happened borders on incompetence. It’s a bureaucratic nightmare.

The testing laboratories and whether they were accredited could well determine the outcome of the Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh cases in Victoria. The letter of the law could see both top trainers have disqualifications overturned on a technicality.

Then, or course, the knives will be out for the Integrity Department and Stewards at Racing Victoria. And, of course, one Peter Moody will no doubt be having plenty to say about how badly he was done by.

Sure, it isn’t a good look when there are legal technicalities that can cause embarrassment. But there should be far more red faces in Queensland where there is no real excuse for what has happened with testing flaws in the past.

It just seems to me that every time the powers that be try to implement tougher rules and penalties they cop an almighty belting from the industry and with all due respects, from the perspective of a long-time punter, it isn’t a good look.’

 

‘COUNTRY RACING IS GETTING SICK AND TIRED OF BEING OVERLOOKED’

AS a TRAINER IN THE NORTH for many years I try not to be critical of controversial situations that arise but for the first time I find it necessary to make a comment on a couple of issues but would ask that my identity be with-held for obvious reasons:

‘FIRSTLY, might I say I was disappointed that when these Advisory Panels were announced the one for the gallops seemed to be stacked with representatives from the south-east corner and metropolitan area.

I was told there was going to be a separate panel to represent the views of those from the country but when I saw the appointments to that body I became even more dismayed. Among them was an appointment that was beyond belief. Not only is this person far from representative of the industry in the country but as far as I am aware he is no longer an official and he is largely despised by stakeholders. Someone didn’t do their homework here.

I will keep this short and sweet but as a trainer I find it difficult to understand how the Queensland branch of the ATA can have a representative on any Advisory Panel without their being similar representation from the QTA. But that is not the case.

The reason many of us are dirty about this is that one high profile member of the ATA told a meeting with RQ, at which the QTA was in attendance, that trainers in the country couldn’t train or were not up to the standard of their city counterparts which got many of us off-side.

Horses from the stable of that trainer – I might mention – are among the most inconsistent in the south-east corner yet he rarely attracts stewards’ attention. Last weekend was a classic example when three of his runners turned in form reversals. Enough said on that subject!’     

 

HERE’S THE FEEDBACK YOU REQUESTED ON THIS CONTROVERSIAL TOPIC

BACK in MAY we ran this item following several emails and phone calls to LGHR and promised to follow up on what action had been taken by the new RQIC. Just to refresh your memory here is what was written back then:  

BLACK FRIDAY THAT NEW INTEGRITY COMMISSIONER NEEDS TO INVESTIGATE

IT’S been declared a scandal that has become the talking point of the Deagon Bunker about a Black Friday that one of the highest profile stewarding and integrity identities must be hoping and praying new Racing Queensland Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett never gets to hear about.

But the new ‘top cop’ responsible for policing industry affairs would need to be living under a rock to escape the stories doing the rounds and if these are only half right he must investigate immediately or his new multi-million dollar Integrity Unit risks losing instant credibility.

Rumors can lose nothing in the telling and letsgohorseracing has been inundated over the past few days. We have made our own inquiries and would be only too delighted to inform Commissioner Barnett in more detail of what we have been told. But there is little chance we will have to with some prominent industry personnel key to talk to the Commissioner about it, not to mention a couple of high profile and respected stewards.

According to what we have been able to learn it all started when stewards and integrity staff went to inspect their new ‘digs’ at Hamilton near the Brisbane River last Friday. When it came time to return to work at their current headquarters at Deagon one high profile member of the team and a personal assistant allegedly went missing in action.

This is where the ‘rumors’ get a shade clouded. But we can confirm that they were seen enjoying themselves at a well known Breakfast Creek watering hotel for quite some time. There is also a report that the duo returned for another look at their new office space.

If the Integrity Commissioner wishes to check out what subsequently happened perhaps he should talk to a couple of well respected and high profile stewards – one of whom was instructed to drive in to Hamilton and convey the couple back to Deagon. He has told colleagues of his disgust at what occurred.

Back at the Bunker and the PA was allegedly unable to do her job properly and was told by fellow staffers to go home. She had to call in her boyfriend who arrived on his push bike to drive her car. Her ‘friend for the day’ circled the office asking if anyone had breath mints to mask the alcohol he told them he had consumed. Lucky they don’t breath-test stewards doing their jobs like happens with jockeys before they ride.

It seems the Integrity Department is in meltdown and has been for some time. Complainants have told us a host of stories, one of some interesting footage from the cameras in the Fitness Centre at Deagon racecourse that would apparently make interesting viewing for the new Integrity Commissioner if he can locate same.

Details of many claims being made cannot be published by LGHR for legal reasons, including one of a high profile steward allegedly being sacked and reinstated over a family sponsorship deal with a prominent racing group.

With some key positions for big salaries up for grabs in the coming weeks the importance of Integrity Commissioner Barnett launching an immediate internal investigation into Black Friday at the Creek cannot be understated. He needs to have the right people in key positions or risk the new Integrity Unit becoming a laughing stock.

Some of those close to the action are however appealing to the Commissioner to conduct any inquiry himself and not to involve one of his high profile QPS colleagues seconded to the Integrity Unit in this investigation as they claim he is too close to the identity at the centre of the Black Friday allegations.

For the sake of all those involved – and we are the first to admit that some racing stories can lose nothing in the telling – the industry and its stakeholders need to be made aware that this serious situation has been addressed by the Integrity Commissioner. If he wants witnesses he needs go no further than his own backyard.

WELL, just to keep you up to date, we understand the above situation has been filed in the ‘too hard’ basket, allegedly after the woman in question refused to co-operate with an inquiry into what happened that fateful day. She has either been moved or moved on but would not ‘name names’ and consequently no action has been taken. What makes this more of a joke is that just about every man and his dog in the industry knows who’s involved and what allegedly happened.


 

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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