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.



WE have received several contributions to the Whinge this week concerning the fight by Danny Nikolic to make a comeback to race riding. Our feedback suggests that there is a good deal of resistance to the controversial jockey returning to the scene of some of his biggest wins in Melbourne. Here is a selection from the contributions we received and we have given it a good run to ensure the message well and truly gets across on this contentious issue:    

BEN RUSSELL of BRISBANE doesn’t want to see Dan Nikolic relocating north if he gets his riding license back:

‘AND the winner is – wait for it – Queensland racing.

Danny Nikolic – the most controversial jockey in the land in the last decade – has declared he will base himself in Queensland if he wins the fight to get his riding license back.

With all due respects to how a jockey of Nikolic’s talents would boost the riding ranks in the north, the racing cynics are posing the question: What’s second prize?

If the corporate bookies were betting on the outcome of the VCAT appeal now underway, most would have Nikolic a short priced favorite to regain his license on the basis that he has served his time and to keep him out of the saddle would be a restriction of trade. That’s without mentioning how Nikolic insists he has turned over a new leaf and is a ‘changed man’.

There is of course the baggage that will forever accompany ‘Dan the Man’ even if he implements a ‘have saddle will travel’ philosophy and turns his back on Victoria and the Spring Carnival which delivered some of his greatest success for a happier hunting ground in Queensland.

That would overcome the obvious problem of an eminent showdown with the stewards in Victoria where because of his history virtually every Nikolic ride will – some might say – deservedly – be put under the microscope.

It’s a different ball game in Queensland where some punters say many of the stewards are so disillusioned with the system that they simply go through the motions and little disrupts their Day at the Races where a good time is had by all and there is little action at the station unless something glaringly obvious occurs that can be seen by even the blind man and his Labrador collecting for charity at the gate.

Allan Reardon, the Chief Steward in Queensland, would have crossed paths with Nikolic during his stint in Melbourne with the Terry Bailey panel. There are those who say that the controversial jockey believes Reardon will give him a better go than Bailey who he described to the VCAT hearing this week as ‘corrupt’.

Not that the Nikolic family have enjoyed any different treatment from the stewards in Queensland. Danny’s brother John handed in his trainer’s license after being involved in a major inquiry in 2010. It involved a horse he trained called Baby Boom which got beaten as a raging hot favorite in a race at the Sunshine Coast and attracted unusually high bets to lose on Betfair.

John Nikolic, who turned from trainer to punter, was banned for nine months by Racing NSW stewards last year after an inquiry involving the horse Wonderful Jester which landed a big plunge at Murillumbah.

Nikolic admitted to rubbing penetrene, a non-performance enhancing product, with an absorbent pad to ‘both sides of Wonderful Jester’s neck, front of his chest, over his legs and then his nose’ in the stabling area shortly before the horse won.

Nikolic, whose wife Yvette is a part-owner of Wonderful Jester, then threw the pad over the fence near the stabling area before it was retrieved by a rival trainer and presented to stewards after the race.

The absorbent pad used to treat the horse with penetrene also tested positive to cocaine but a urine and nasal sample on Wonderful Jester after the race both returned negatives to cocaine.

Racing NSW chief steward Ray Murrihy, who flew to the Gold Coast for the inquiry hearing, said they could not establish the origin of the cocaine positive test on the pad and that it ‘could have come from a number of sources’.

Nikolic said he had no idea how the pad tested positive to cocaine. “Cocaine is pretty much everywhere these days and even on banknotes and it certainly didn’t come from me,” he said.

Wonderful Jester’s Gold Coast trainer Lisa Garrett and her stablehand Paul Rolfe, who was present at Murwillumbah for the race last August, also had no idea how the pad could have returned a positive sample to cocaine.

Last year John Nikolic called on Racing Queensland to license his brother to ride here. “Chris  Munce did jail time and RQ gave him a license back, which I thought was the right thing. Most  people would realize Danny has virtually no chance of getting a fair go in Melbourne and he likes the lifestyle up here and the weather.”

So there you have it – if you want to know why ‘Dan the Man’ is looking to base himself in Queensland. It has nothing to do with the poor prizemoney compared to the bigger southern states or the fact that many punters regard punting on Queensland racing as a wealth hazard. Nor has it anything to do with the fact that Melbourne is a minefield for him, Sydney a ‘no go zone’, he left Hong Kong under a cloud and that he’s running out of options.

It’s all to do with lifestyle and weather in Queensland. Now that we know that we can all sleep so much easier at night.’




‘WITHOUT attempting to pre-empt the outcome of the appeal by controversial jockey Danny Nikolic, I can’t see how this can have a happy ending for racing in Victoria if he is allowed to ride again.

Regardless of whether you believe the claims by Nikolic and his legal team that he has mended his bad ways, too much bad blood has arguably been spilled between him and Chief Steward Terry Bailey.

There is also the problem from the past that obviously still exists with some of his colleagues, especially Mark Zahra, who reportedly is ‘petrified’ of Nikolic and didn’t want to have to give evidence at the VCAT hearing this week.

Can you imagine the uncomfortable situation in the jockeys’ room? It is hardly a suitable work-place environment if some jockeys feel intimidated by another.

That’s without even imagining the untenable situation confronting Bailey and his panel. It isn’t hard for anyone who has followed Nikolic’s at times turbulent career to assume that controversy will continue to ride shotgun with him.

What happens if stewards believe there is the need to inquire into an incident involving Nikolic? Will they be ‘gun shy’ expecting cries of ‘victimisation’ from not only the jockey but his supporters which apparently includes the Victorian Jockeys’ Association?

You might say well what is the answer to this predicament?

On one hand Nikolic has served his time, maintains he has been rehabilitated in recent years and there is a strong legal argument that to deny him the right to earn a living as a jockey would be a restraint of trade.

On the other hand there is the question of whether he is a fit and proper person to hold a license to ride, especially in view of his track record which, regardless of ‘time served’, leaves a lot to be desired.

Good luck to VCAT on this one. If they knock him back Nikolic obviously has the financial ammunition to take it to a higher court. If they don’t, will Racing Victoria continue to challenge the ruling as a show of support for Bailey and their stewards?

The answer inevitably lies with the Victorian Government enacting legislation to impose lifetime or lengthy bans on participants or associates that can be argued do not deserve to be involved in racing or sport.’



AS an OWNER AND OFFICIAL OF MANY YEARS STANDING IN VICTORIA I am appalled by the Jockeys’ Association overwhelming support for Dan Nikolic. Their view isn’t shared by the majority of industry stakeholders. I want to have my say but don’t want to reveal my identity for  reasons I should have no need to state:  

‘MY friends and I were gob-smacked to learn that the Victorian Jockeys’ Association wants to see Danny Nikolic back riding again and have written a glowing reference to support his appeal.

What sort of a message does that send to fellow jockeys who have admitted they feel ‘petrified’ and ‘intimidated’ by Nikolic because of incidents that have occurred in the past?

The VJA will no doubt argue that Nikolic has served his time, has turned over a new leaf and deserves the right to earn a living at what he does best – riding winners.

But do they expect many in racing – some known to Nikolic and others simply observers of his disgraceful behavior and resentment to stewards and officialdom – to just turn a blind eye and forget about what has happened.

They have to be kidding. The list of alleged misdemeanors is endless from abuse and lack of respect for stewards to run-ins with police and reported affiliations with what we will call ‘the wrong people’.

Since the VCAT hearing began we have read reports where Nikolic has admitted lying to a racing tribunal in the past about a foul mouth tirade directed at Chief Steward Terry Bailey.

He has admitted to ‘punching’ fellow jockey Mark Pegus, admitted pushing a woman in a night club altercation, had dust-ups with a detective and a taxi driver, allegedly sent vile text messages to relatives, including his ex wife (the daughter of slain racing identity Les Samba), police say he associated with known criminals and had dealings with gambling king pin Eddie Hayson. All those things could be considered on the minus side of the ‘fit and proper person’ ledger.

On the plus side Nikolic has been undergoing psychological treatment, denies improper betting-related conduct and describes past criminal indiscretions as ‘relatively minor’ and not serious enough to stop him from riding.

Despite his rehabilitation claims it is obvious that Nikolic still has a major problem with Chief Steward Terry Bailey and no doubt the feeling is mutual. According to a report in Fairfax Media, Nikolic told the VCAT hearing that Bailey – the man he once called ‘a f---ing c—t’ is ‘corrupt’.

When you read the following in the report in Fairfax Media you have to question how the VJA could possibly provide Nikolic with a glowing reference. Here is what was written about him:

The first question Nikolic was asked by Jeff Gleeson, SC, for Racing Victoria, was what he called Mr Bailey at Seymour.

Nikolic replied: "A f---ing c--t." He also conceded he called Mr Bailey that day "a c--- of a thing".

Nikolic also admitted he lied in denying he swore at Mr Bailey, because he chose to ‘clean up’ his language when appearing before the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board in 2012.

Mr Gleeson challenged Nikolic that that answer was itself a lie, and that he lied about the lie on Monday because he feared it would portray him in a bad light. Nikolic said he misinterpreted Mr Gleeson's initial question.

Later, while Nikolic admitted he had spoken poorly to stewards in the past, he said Mr Bailey told him he was going to f--- my career" that day at Seymour. Mr Bailey, who was at the tribunal on Monday, has denied this.

"I believe there were two parties in the wrong but I was penalised and I was found guilty," Nikolic said.

After lunch, he said he believed Mr Bailey had "perjured himself". When asked by Mr Gleeson if he believed Mr Bailey had sustained a "vicious" lie against him, Nikolic said: "Yes he has."

Asked if he regarded Mr Bailey as a "corrupt individual", Nikolic replied: "Yes, I definitely would."

On the other occasions he had sworn at stewards, Nikolic said he had told Mr Bailey he was "f---ing kidding" at Moonee Valley one day, and he also alleged stewards had once gone through his riding gear when he wasn't there.

"I might have told him [Mr Bailey] I thought he was a f---ing disgrace or something like that. I can't recall exactly, it was a long time ago," he said.

Mr Gleeson read part of Nikolic's statement, during which the suspended jockey said he had "committed wrongful acts" and served his punishment.

Nikolic was in 2013 convicted and fined $1500 for assaulting jockey Mark Pegus, but on Monday denied punching him. Instead he said the assault was a "jumper punch". He was also found guilty of assaulting a detective who interviewed him, and pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Pegus' partner.

But Nikolic on Monday told the tribunal he had pushed the woman to the "head and neck region", and denied the allegation he pulled her hair. He also said he had only touched foreheads with the detective after he had been thrown into a chair.

Nikolic also disputed some of the evidence used to prosecute him for assault and criminal damage offences over a run-in with a ranger in Hong Kong in 2007.

He admitted he was at fault over an allegation he punched a taxi driver in Melbourne after a day of drinking, although he denied the punch, and instead said he "pushed him forcefully".

Nikolic told the tribunal he had undergone counselling during his suspension and was better equipped to handle his emotions. He agreed he could get angry and had a problem with authority in 2012, but said that was no longer the case.

"Things are a lot different for me now than what they have been in the past," he said.

Julian Burnside, QC, for Nikolic, said his client's exchange with Mr Bailey came at a time he was under scrutiny for the Smoking Aces race-fixing affair.Nikolic also told the tribunal his marriage breakdown in 2009 and the 2011 murder of his former father-in-law, trainer Les Samba, had been stressful for him.

The VJA stand on this issue is almost unbelievable. Des O’Keefe has done some wonderful work for jockeys all over the country but on this issue he needs a reality check. The word is strong that there is great division in the riding ranks over the pending return of ‘Dan the Man’ but no-one wants to speak out. One nark joked: ‘Instead of having the ambulance just follow the fields in each race, they will need to err on the side of caution and have a paramedic permanently stationed outside the jockeys’ room.’   

Perhaps I shouldn’t be commenting on the outcome of this appeal hearing but the feelings I am about to express are those of a legion of people in racing not only in Victoria but throughout the country.

It will set a terrible precedent if Dan Nikolic is allowed to return to race riding in Victoria regardless of whether he has served his time or not. The courts and appeal bodies need to send a message that behaviour like his toward stewards will never be condoned. If he returns to the racetrack then it will create an impossible situation for not only stewards but also some of his associates in the riding ranks. It will be nothing more than a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.’



MARK FARRELLY of BRISBANE has a message for the Racing Minister & Integrity Commissioner:  

‘I fear that the horse may have already bolted on the warning that I want to send to Racing Minister Grace Grace and Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett.

The mail is strong that a decision has already been made to permanently appoint Jamie Dart to the newly-named role of Director of Stewarding, Licensing and Registration for the three codes of racing in Queensland – a position he has held in an acting capacity for some time.

My feelings on this issue – which are those of many others connected with the racing industry – should not be interpreted as a criticism of Mr Dart’s honesty, integrity, ability or competence as a steward.

The general opinion is that he is not the right person for the job considering what has happened in the past involving the greyhound industry. This overhaul of the stewards and policing of racing stems largely from the live baiting revelations.

Jamie Dart was the Chairman of Stewards for Greyhound Racing in Queensland when this 4 Corners expose occurred and all hell erupted. It claimed some high profile scalps. Not only was the Board of Greyhounds Queensland sacked as a result of this but so were other Boards including that of the thoroughbreds and the gallops (some would say it was just an opportunity for the new Government to change those for political reasons).

But in the case of the ‘dogs’, Wade Birch lost the job of Head of Integrity and Darren Condon was removed as CEO of Racing Queensland all because of some ‘dodgy’ email from Animal Liberation Queensland warning of live baiting that was never shown to him by his PA.

Now if experienced and competent identities like Birch and Condon were shown the door, surely the first to go should have been the Chairman of the Stewards for Queensland Greyhound Racing considering this occurred on his watch, regardless of how long he had been in that role (I am told it was a little over a year).

The decision to promote Mr Dart to Acting Head of Integrity was questioned but most of the critics considered when applications for the newly named job were called there would be a strong field from throughout Australia and that new blood, which is desperately needed in this role, would be found.

The head-hunting for the new Director of Stewarding has been bogged down in some behind-the-scenes issues that cannot be written about publicly for legal reasons but which have been the talking point of the Deagon Bunker.

Not only will it be a gross insult to the members of the former Boards, along with Wade Birch and Darren Condon, but also if Jamie Dart gets the job it will make Racing Queensland a laughing stock.

The critics will maintain that Dart has been promoted despite overseeing the greatest setback, disaster, cruelty and controversy to confront racing in Queensland since the Fine Cotton ring-in affair.

With suggestions that ‘live baiting’ still occurs, claims prohibited substances are still being used at the gallops and trots, the prospect of controversial jockey Dan Nikolic joining the riding ranks in Queensland, complaints that positive swabs involving some well connected trainers seem to be taking an eternity to get to the inquiry stage and continuing questions  about the integrity of racing in the north and its effect on tumbling turnover, the last thing the sport needs is a could hanging over any important appointment.

The time has come to pension off Chief Steward Allan Reardon, who is said to be going when his hefty contract expires next June and find a replacement to go along with a well credentialed Director of Stewarding who will send a message to all stakeholders that the ‘good old days’ are over in Queensland and a new broom is ready to be put through the joint.

If Racing Minister Grace and Integrity Commissioner Barnett aren’t asleep at the wheel and are fair dinkum about cleaning up racing in Queensland, hopefully it is not too late to reverse this farce that is apparently about to happen.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: NO doubt the Labor Government will claim that the sackings which occurred after the last election were ‘not because of the live baiting disaster’ but to, as the then Racing Minister Bill Byrne declared ‘give the industry in Queensland a fresh start’. Well, if that’s the case the appointment of Jamie Dart to Director of Stewarding, Licensing and Registration would hardly be seen as a ‘fresh start’. The mail is strong that the best steward in Australia, Terry Bailey, was seconded to join the appointment panel that interviewed applicants for the Director of Stewarding job. Granted he is only one vote but at last RQ is starting to listen to someone whose opinion is valued by the industry at large when it comes to important issues. I am told that respected Victorian Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna is working closely with his newly appointed Queensland counterpart Ross Barnett which is a step in the right direction unlike the days when the RQ Board of ‘little King’ Kev Dixon turned its back on the chance of having Bailey as Chief Steward and went with Allan Reardon instead. If the reports are correct that Reid Sanders (now based with NSW Harness Racing) and Martin Knibbs (a respected member of the RQ Stewards’ Panel) were in for the job then perhaps it’s time for the stakeholders of the north to taste some of the Colonel’s old Kentucky Fried treatment. And as for the pending departure of Allan Reardon then his replacement is starring them in the face in Martin Knibbs. It’s as simple as that! And perhaps while the two Integrity Commissioners are working so well together if Dan Nikolic gets a gig to ride in Queensland they might second Bailey once a month to do a ‘guest’ stint with the RQ panel just to keep the ‘little people’ on their toes.        



DENIS SMITH, a highly respected and long time harness identity who pens the popular and long-running TROTS TACTICS column weighed into the debate concerning Kevin Seymour and the new development planned for Alberton.

ALBERT Williams, who comes over as well informed and fair handed in his comments might like to enlighten us further as to the benefits which have flowed to Harness/Trotting in Queensland since Kevin Seymour assumed the role as, AW described it, ‘King Pin’.

I was in attendance at one of the many BOTRA meetings over a long period of time where Mr Seymour assured the handful of people present, that we, ‘had to stick with him, as he was the only person with enough political clout to get us what we needed’.

Those people, and indeed all but a handful of highly successful participants, are still waiting for what WE needed, whatever it was! KS did not elaborate.

While Albert Williams is speaking with Kevin Seymour he might inquire as to the state of the performance graph of ‘Solid Earth Pty Ltd’, the vehicle for Mr Seymour's harness interests in Queensland. 

We, who were basically disenfranchised by the Seymour Policy of creation of an ‘Elite Sport with Elite horses and Drivers’ (again proposed at a BOTRA meeting at the end of Keith Hamburger's Administration, around 2000, albeit to a larger audience), are now well and truly on the bones of our backsides thanks to a ruthless campaign to eliminate the hobbyists by severely curtailing our opportunity to place our moderate horses where they could earn prize money.

We know where our graph is pointing, DOWN, where it has been headed for far too many years. Albert Williams may care to inform us otherwise. 

We were denied the opportunity to question Mr Seymour at the ‘industry meeting’ on Monday 26th of September at Albion Park as HE was not present. A great pity that. We do, however, now rely on the personal integrity of the over-arching control body of racing in Queensland to deliver a fair deal to the numerically superior but financially inferior majority. The hobbyists and small trainers of all three codes!’



BILL O’KEEFE of MELBOURNE sent this email:

IT’S not too often that I think Victoria can learn too much from Sydney when it comes to anything in racing.

But the approach being taken to promoting the Spring Carnival has me and many others quite mystified.

Even Sydney has seen the marketability of Michelle Payne who seems to be doing more work off the track in NSW these days than she does in Victoria.

Surely Michelle should be the ‘poster girl’ for promoting the Melbourne Cup. You don’t have to be some marketing genius to see that.

And why not use brother Stevie, who shares the spotlight of her historical success last year, as well? The AFL saw the merit of parading them both on grand final day.

But these dills deciding where the massive marketing budget is spent on the Spring Carnival didn’t even bother running an advertisement during the AFL grand final. How dumb was that?

Sydney does it right when it comes to promoting The Championships but can’t buy a crowd. It doesn’t seem to matter how Melbourne markets the spring they are guaranteed big crowds. But that’s racing.

You can’t rest on your laurels in the sport and leisure industry these days no matter how big the drawcard or its historic success.

As Matt Stewart so rightly wrote in the Herald Sun this week : ‘It appears racing’s fleeting time in the sun will be shamefully undersold because of factional self-interest and Racing Victoria’s identity crisis.

The lack of a holistic marketing strategy, as opposed to our three city clubs embarking on their own generic-looking glam and champers advertising, is exacerbated by a damaging shortening of the carnival”.

Stewart summed it up perfectly when he suggested: ‘This spring racing has run out of time to properly promote its virtues and contests to the outside world.

There wasn’t a single ad for the spring carnival during the AFL Grand Final. A first-year advertising student will tell you this is a marketing howler.

It comes back to the ambiguous structure of Victorian racing — just whose job is it to promote the carnival beyond the individual agendas of the three race clubs?

Racing Victoria has a big marketing budget — believed to be about $7 million — but is it being used meaningfully?

One of its “masterstrokes”, the painting of a naked model in figure-hugging race-day attire, was scrapped because of pre-release backlash. Does it have anything else?

Where is the BIG advertising campaign to announce the arrival of the spring?

Where is Michelle Payne narrating an ad, reminding those beyond the racetrack, that racing is a sport of fairytales and heroes?

Where is the ad featuring Winx as the sport’s heroine and Hartnell as the potential villain?

There are no such ads because Racing Victoria has never believed they are its brief.

The clubs do their own ads — and they all look the same.

There will be little points of difference but essentially Caulfield, Moonee Valley and Flemington will trot out society-set ads of beautiful 25-year-olds sipping champagne and kissing and hugging each other while clutching betting tickets.

The corporate bookmakers will entice and offend with betting ads and Channel 7 will promote itself as the season’s official network.

But these are all sideshows.

There are bigger stories of the spring, the scene setters about fairytales and heroes. They touch all three clubs without necessarily being their stories to tell.

Racing Victoria has a $50 million rainy day war chest. Might be time to pop it open and ring a smart ad agency’.

And as for the advertisements from the corporate bookies the less said about the one featuring a former Melbourne Cup winning jockey with plenty of skeletons in his closet the better.


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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