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 received several emails from industry stakeholders and racing followers who were surprised by the controversial appointment of Jamie Dart to the role of Director of Stewarding and Licensing in Queensland.

None of the contributors were in any way questioning Dart’s honesty as a steward but could not understand how the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission could promote him after he was Chief Steward of Greyhound Racing in Queensland when the ‘live baiting’ saga occurred which claimed several other high profile industry scalps.

They want some answers to the entire selection process for QRIC with questions also about whether Norm Torpey was the best available candidate for a new role created within the Integrity Unit.

There are calls for a shake-up of the whole appointment process after controversy surrounded who would replace Sam Woolaston, the disillusioned Chief Steward from North Queensland who resigned to take up an appointment with the Racing Victoria panel.

RQ was faced with an industry revolt in the north when it was suggested one steward might be heading there so it seems that decision was quickly reversed and Paul Gillard, said to be close to the new stewards’ boss, is reportedly heading north.

But the musical chairs on the Integrity Unit Titanic is expected to continue with Chief Steward Allan Reardon’s attractive contract unlikely to be renewed in June and several other high profile stipes unhappy with the new arrangement, especially the promotion of Dart, looking for new jobs.       

Here is a selection of the emails that we have elected to run and should Jamie Dart or Integrity  Commissioner Ross Barnett wish to respond they are welcome to unedited right of reply:




‘HERE’S hoping some tough and embarrassing questions are asked in Parliament concerning the appointment of Jamie Dart to the top stewarding job in Queensland.

The mail is strong that the majority of the stewarding staff at RQ apparently has no confidence in their new boss or the way he operates. Stakeholders want to know if stories are correct that the new-look Integrity Department is reportedly in total turmoil with many stewards looking for a way out and why Dart was reportedly sent on holidays when his appointment was announced allegedly to dodge the likely flak that it would attract.

When the track record of the shortlist for the top job is put under the microscope it is hard to understand how the Selection Panel could unanimously support the appointment of Dart. There is, I might add, a cloud over the statement that the decision was actually unanimous.

On one hand we have Commissioner Ross Barnett – with all due respects a green-horn when it comes to all three codes of racing, not to mention the politics of the industry in Queensland – assuring us that the appointment was ‘made on merit and well deserved’. He insists it was based on Dart’s experience, knowledge and professionalism.

In contrast, Shadow Minister for Racing Jon Krause believes the Dart appointment is a joke, casts a shadow on the QRIC operation and ‘makes a mockery of the Government’s commitment to improve integrity and animal welfare.’

Commissioner Barnett has dismissed suggestions that Dart should accept some responsibility for the failure to detect ‘live baiting’ practices by greyhound trainers. He was quick to add that during his tenure as Chief Greyhound Steward Dart did not attract any adverse mention in the MacSporran Commission of Inquiry.

Krause disagrees with some of the points made by the Commissioner: “He (Dart) was Chief Steward of the greyhound industry when the ‘live baiting’ scandal was exposed. It happened on his watch.”

The question remains: How did Dart survive the cull at RQ last year, which saw the axing of highly respected Chief Executive Darren Condon, all three Boards and Dart’s predecessor as Head of Integrity Wade Birch who is now said to be working in racing in Thailand?

It just doesn’t make sense if the Government wanted a ‘fresh start’, as was stated by the then Racing Minister when the sackings occurred, that they would continue to employ the Chief Steward at the forefront of the Greyhound industry where all the trouble occurred. To then promote him to the newly-named role of Director of Stewarding (with even the highly experienced Alan Reardon answerable to him) almost sounds like a bad joke.

The appointment needs to be explained further when you consider that opposing Dart for the job were highly credentialed stewards in Reid Sanders, Martin Knibbs and Ian Brown. Now some might argue that the extremely competent and popular Brown, from a legal background and currently the Chief Gallops Steward at the Gold Coast, does not have as much experience as Dart. But the same cannot be said for Sanders and Knibbs.

According to the Media Release from QRIC announcing his appointment after a year as acting Director of Stewarding, Dart has 17 years of cross-code experience working in Brisbane, Townsville and New South Wales across a range of positions including Deputy Chief Steward of the South District in NSW, Chief Steward in North Queensland, a senior steward with the gallops in Brisbane and Chief Stewart of Greyhounds Queensland.

Reid Sanders and Martin Knibbs have arguably had long and far more widespread experience in stewarding, including stints overseas. The Queensland rejection is probably insignificant to Sanders who this week resigned from Harness Racing NSW  - and believe it or not he doesn’t have a job to go to and will probably end up moving his family back home to Queensland.

Sanders, who has worked as Chief Steward in Brisbane, has experience in New Zealand and Macau, not to mention his role as Chief Stipe with HRNSW where he played an integral part in the resurrection of the integrity standing of the sport in that State. His role in the detection of prohibitive substances has been a pacesetter for the three codes in this country and he won an award of merit from the control body for harness racing in NSW.

Knibbs, whose career started in Sydney under the tutorage of one of the best in John Schreck, was the top steward in Canberra, served for seven years on the Murrihy panel at Racing NSW, spent time in one of the world’s leading racing jurisdictions in Hong Kong, then returned to Australia where he has worked as a steward with Racing Queensland, including stints as Chief Steward of Harness Racing Queensland and the Darling Downs Gallops.

One could argue that both Sanders and Knibbs have far superior credentials than Dart for the Director of Stewarding job. The suggestion is that he got the job because he impressed Detertive Superintendent Mark Ainsworth, who was head of the Greyhound Task Force, when they worked together over the past year.

That may well be the case but if the position was ‘merit based’ and on experience there is no way that Jamie Dart should have been appointed. All it has done is created another cloud over racing in Queensland not to mention destroyed working moral within the Integrity Department.

I’ve been involved in and followed racing in Queensland for longer than I care to remember and I would be prepared to bet that this is another bad decision that will return to haunt the industry.’

EDITOR’S NOTE: REID SANDERS told LGHR yesterday that reports he was moving on to another job – either with the National Rugby League or the Gold Coast Turf Club – were incorrect. “I don’t have another job. I just felt it was time to move on. My family would like to return to Queensland. I am a director of a company that constructs Poly Tracks and I will have an involvement with that but I certainly would like to again be involved with racing in Queensland.”

Here is a story by AMANDA RANDO, written for Harness Racing NSW about the surprise resignation of REID SANDERS:

CHIEF Operations Officer Reid Sanders has tendered his resignation to the Board of Harness Racing New South Wales after five years of exemplary service.

Having joined HRNSW in the role of Chief Stipendiary Steward in 2011 Mr Sanders has been integral in the resurrection of the integrity standing of the controlling body.

Intrinsically engaged in investigating and prosecuting the infamous ‘Green Light’ affair Mr Sanders was also the equine industry leader in the discovery and detection of prohibitive substances in Australasia.

Since late 2014 Mr Sanders has undertaken a leading role in the establishment of the Menangle Park Training Centre as well as being strategically involved in regulatory oversight.

During his tenure with HRNSW Mr Sanders was presented with the Harness Racing Australia Meritorious Service Award a distinguished achievement for such a short period in the time in harness racing.

Mr Sanders’ resignation takes effect in December however he will continue to be involved with several major HRNSW inquiries which have recently commenced.

HRNSW will undertake a restructure of roles with the departure of the Chief Operations Officer.



AS I am CLOSELY ASSOCIATED with RACING QUEENSLAND in a working capacity I would ask that my identity not be revealed but there are things that need to be said about the appointment of JAMIE DART.

‘MIGHT I start by suggesting that Jamie Dart’s amazing elevation within the integrity ranks of Racing Queensland could be likened to the gold medal winning performance of Steven Bradbury at the Winter Olympics?

With all due respects, his rivals seem to get bowled over for one reason or another while he keeps finding inside runs to enjoy the spoils of victory.

Having been close to the coalface from way back when I can assure you that Jamie only got the job as Chief Steward of Greyhound Racing Queensland on the recommendation of then Head of Integrity Wade Birch because there was no other suitable candidate and no-one wanted it.

After spending a year overseeing the code during the most tumultuous and controversial period in its history, for some strange reason he was then catapulted into the role of acting Head of Integrity while others like the Boards of RQ and the CEO at RQ were shown the door. It simply made no sense.

We have to give him credit for something and that was winning the confidence of the ‘top cops’ brought in to head up the new Integrity Unit at RQ. Jamie made a big impression on Detective Superintendent Mark Ainsworth, an integrity adviser to RQ, who was appointed to head up the Greyhound Task Force in the wake of the 4 Corners ‘live baiting’ expose. One could argue that the Director of Stewarding position – if based on merit and experience – should arguably have gone to Chief Steward Alan Reardon.

Ainsworth and his colleague Ross Barnett, who was subsequently appointed Racing Integrity Commissioner, were the first to admit they knew little about racing and relied heavily on the experience and expertise of stewards like Dart in their fledgling days. Jamie obviously made a big impression because whenever he hit a hurdle, on and off the track, they were there to ensure he was quickly back chasing the lure.

Rather than simply make the appointment and be accused of again promoting their ‘love child’ the two ‘top cops’ called on Racing Victoria Integrity Commissioner Sel Perna to dispatch his top steward in Terry Bailey to add some credibility to the appointment process. Bailey would have been well aware of the credentials of the main players for the big job in Queensland and obviously it was felt his rubber stamp would dodge any appointment bullets. Just how Bailey voted remains a matter of some conjecture but according to the Media Release the decision was a unanimous one.  

Reid Sanders, the former RQ Chief Steward now an investigative dynamo with Harness Racing NSW, was said to have been put out of contention when a high profile former colleague in Brisbane told the Integrity Commissioner that he would resign if the job went to the man known in racing circles as ‘The Colonel’. Another steward, said to be appointed to a new role, also allegedly stabbed the dagger into the man who once found him a job when he was on the outer.

That left Martin Knibbs as the obvious choice but for some strange reason he didn’t get the gig. Perhaps they have the job of Chief Steward in mind for Martin when Allan Reardon is put out to pasture when his contract expires next June. One would hope so but there are those with reservations.

There is considerable bad blood flowing down Integrity River at RQ at the moment with stewards lacking confidence in their new boss; plenty of ill-feeling; and stories about incidents occurring behind the scenes that cannot be revealed for legal reasons but which could well be raised under Parliamentary Privilege in the near future (here’s hoping the Commissioner is ready for his political baptism of fire in Queensland racing).

Some might say: Well what has Jamie Dart done wrong during his year in the job in an acting capacity. The critics will point to the embarrassing situation with serious positive swabs which saw penalties overturned on legal technicalities because of the centres the B samples were sent to and suggest the buck stops with Dart.

Whatever, it’s a messy situation and as Shadow Racing Minister John Krause told Nathan Exelby of The Courier-Mail late last week: “It makes a mockery of the Government’s commitment to improve integrity and animal welfare. It also confirms fears within the industry about QRIC being set up as a big bureaucracy but making no real difference. Looking at figures and costs, there’s an extra $10 million being spent on staffing and administration. This raises serious questions and doubts about how QRIC is performing and how the Government is managing the racing industry.”

As they say, the more things change in racing in Queensland, the more they stay the same!’



BOB JOHNSTONE of GOLD COAST poses an interesting question on the lips of many followers of racing in Queensland.

‘HOW can the multi-million dollar subsidy being paid to Magic Millions and one of the country’s wealthiest men in Gerry Harvey continue to be justified while rivers of red blood are flowing from balance sheets of the control body and major race clubs in Queensland?

This farce of financially supporting Australia’s ‘richest race day’ – for supporters of a restricted sale – has to stop before the industry here grinds to a halt financially.   

If you want to consider the enormity of the job confronting the new Steve Wilson Board at Racing Queensland just consider the losses being posted by some of the major clubs.

There’s plenty of ‘smokes and mirrors’ in the annual reports with some clubs posting profits based on asset sales, write-offs and depreciations, along with massive grants.

The bottom line is that most are on the wrong side of the ledger, headed by ‘big daddy’ at RQ which lost close to $22 million for the last financial year and has forecast a loss of over $12 million for the current year.

Gold Coast Turf Club lost close to $2.5 million last year which took its total losses for the last four years – according to reports – to $8 million despite some massive grants from RQ.

Brisbane Racing Club at Eagle Farm and Doomben conceded the $1.7 million profit reported was ‘not a true reflection of the club’s actual trading loss’ which was something in the order of a $3 million loss but for over $9 million in write-offs, asset sales and grants.

If prizemoney has to be cut, then it’s time to reduce the overheads by letting Genial Gerry and his Millions circus stand on its own two feet for a change.’




‘BEFORE the ‘cobalt crew’ start hoisting a new hero onto their shoulders in ‘Dan the Man’ Nikolic, I think we should read behind the headline that was just a shade misleading.

‘Terry Bailey Would Resign If A Court Allowed Jockey Danny Nikolic To Ride Again’ was a use of journalistic license by a sub editor.

What Bailey told the VCAT hearing was that his working relationship with the controversial jockey was ‘untenable’, adding: “If Danny Nikolic was to gain a license, then maybe (MAYBE) it would be me that would have to move on.”

When asked several times by Nikolic’s barrister Julian Burnside, QC, if he would do his best to work with the jockey if relicensed Bailey said their position was untenable and could not work.

After reading the headline I was relieved to read the story which had a big ‘maybe’ as the rider to any decision Bailey might make. It would be an absolute farce and injustice if racing was to lose a steward of Bailey’s ability and standing because a jockey with Nikolic’s background was allowed back to race riding.

Regardless of how much the Cobalt Crew want to bag him and the job that the Integrity boys at RV have done, I can assure you that in the eyes of many licensees who rely on a level playing field, these blokes are heroes.

As for Nikolic having the right to earn a living and ply his trade as a jockey, let’s consider some of the facts and what was allegedly said by him to Bailey in the past.

Nikolic was suspended from riding after it was found he had threatened Bailey underneath the stewards’ tower at Seymour racecourse in 2012. The pair vehemently disagree on what was actually said.

Bailey claims Nikolic told him “we all have families c***, and we know where yours live c***” - which the jockey has denied.

Nikolic claims Bailey threatened to ‘ruin his career’ which Bailey has described as a “bkig fat lie”.

Few would disagree with Bailey’s statement that while Nikolic was riding he showed an unwillingness to comply with riding rules and stewards’ directions.

There can only be one winner out of the current hearing. One can only hope if Nikolic gets his license back that he stands by his word and bases himself in Queensland rather than Victoria.’ 

EDITOR’S NOTE: We thought this story by CHRIS JOHNSON in THE AGE was worth reproducing. It gives another insight into the Dan Nikolic saga.

AN old-time racehorse trainer from the Mornington Peninsula, Mick Crawford, first met the allegedly crooked jockey Danny Nikolic when the kid was just 14, in 1988.

Crawford knew Nikolic's father, John. The two were apprentice jockeys together. John Nikolic never made it but his eldest son Danny wanted to do better. So he took him to see Crawford, by now a trainer at Caulfield.

The Nikolics were living in Bambra Road. Young Dan had started at De La Salle College but his heart wasn't in it. He wanted to get into a jockey's silks and win races and earn all the big money that was on offer for the best.

He started by cleaning out the stables then finally got to riding. "A top kid," says Crawford. "None better."

Now, Nikolic is 41 and fighting for what must surely be the last time to ride again. He has been in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) all week trying to get his jockey's licence reinstated by Racing Victoria, the body that suspended him for abusing stewards. As it stands he is banned for four years.

The tribunal has also heard all about Nikolic's chequered police record including assault convictions. It has also re-examined allegations of corruption: race-fixing, bribes and money laundering going back to 2010.

The former champion jockey has been banned from racecourses and Crown Casino. The most recent allegation and aired also in the tribunal is that he formed a company with notorious Sydney gambler and brothel owner Eddie Hayson last year, although his lawyer Julian Burnside QC said there was no evidence his client was aware of that. It heard he gave his girlfriend Tania Hyett's betting account PIN to a Sydney-based gambler, the subject of a separate investigation into match-fixing, to bet on rugby league matches.

Nikolic also told the tribunal he himself had used his girlfriend Tania Hyett's TAB account to wager hundreds of thousands of dollars on AFL, NRL and Australian Open tennis matches, but never on horse racing.

Outside of the courtrooms he frequents, Nikolic has been forced to deny involvement in the execution-style killing of horse trainer Les Samba, in 2011; he was married to Samba's daughter. He has also denied any part in an incident where Victoria's chief racing steward, Terry Bailey, had his front door peppered with bullets on the eve of the Melbourne Cup last year. Nikolic and Bailey have had a long-running feud.

It's all a long way from the "top kid" innocently shovelling up horse poo for Mark Crawford in between schoolwork. And furlongs from the barnstorming, super-competitive jockey who won the Caulfield Cup on Mummify in 2003. 

He has also won the group 1 Caulfield Stakes, the group 1 Crown Oaks, the Turnbull Stakes and the Rosehill Guineas.

Another who has known Nikolic since he was a teenager – a Victorian racing identity who asked not be named – said he was "fearless and charming" as a younger man (the two are the same age) but also "edgy". Meaning: he had a short fuse, mouthed off at anyone he didn't agree with, bent the rules and lived dangerously.

He became known very quickly as an aggressive jockey, unafraid of a gap which only seemed half open and unafraid to get in others' way. He was dux of the Victorian Apprentice's School and was riding at Flemington at 16. He was first suspended in 1992 after winning a group 1 race for trainer Lee Freedman. The stewards deemed he "inconvenienced" other horses.

By 1993 he had 14 suspensions and for a stretch that year only rode one week in 11. He found off the racecourse he had trouble keeping his jockey's weight down.

But then, say his supporters and many others in racing, he suddenly changed, in 1996. Nikolic himself has often alluded to (but never expanded on) personal problems away from the racecourse. His lawyer was set to raise some of these historical issues in Nikolic's personal life but did not. Other lawyers for him have wanted to as well, in the past, to try to mitigate or at least begin to explain some of Nikolic's destructive behaviour.

"It has never been tested," a source within the close-knit jockey industry said.

The same friend and contemporary who described Nikolic as an "edgy" apprentice jockey said he changed through the late 1990s. "He looked lost, he started talking about issues off the track, he had trouble with his weight. But who knows? It's all smoke and mirrors."

Around 1999 or 2000, as Melbourne's gangland war escalated and organised crime was looking for a way to launder drug money, the demographic at city racetracks changed, say observers. "A lot of jockeys started to ride that edge back then," a source says.

In 2000, Nikolic was suspended for a year after a ride in Singapore after which local stewards accused him of preventing his horse, Supreme Echo, from "racing freely." The horse was the favourite but finished fourth. Since then, according to reports and court testimony over many years, he has allegedly ghosted between the jockey's room and the turf, his Port Melbourne pub, the underworld and the largely hidden universe of placing bets.



IF the racing rumor mill is on the ball – as it so often is – the tragic death of two construction workers at Eagle Farm will eventually be played out in the court room.

Family and friends are demanding answers, there are union accusations about ‘corners being cut that lead to deadly work practices’ and suggestions of a Workplace Health and Safety cloud over the site 48 hours before the tragedy occurred.

The two workmen who sadly died were in a construction pit, helping to move an eight-tonne concrete slab into place, when it fell on them at the $37 million Eagle Farm redevelopment project.

Our mail is that lawyers have already been briefed. But before jumping to conclusions let’s wait and see what emerges from the Workplace Safety investigations now underway.  



‘DID you notice Hugh Bowman shake hands with the lady in blue when returning on Winx after her win at Caulfield on Saturday?

I am not accusing him of handing her a harp or collecting lead from her but the Rule states jockeys cannot touch anybody before weighing out.

Only a few months ago Victorian Stewards fined a jockey for being handed a $100 sling before weighing out.

The Stewards’ Report states: ‘Nothing to report’ on that race.

Surely it deserved a reprimand at a minimum.

I get annoyed with high profile participants getting treated differently to the average battler.

As I am a participant, I would not like my details published thanks.’



INTERESTING comments reported by DENIS SMITH in his TROT TACTICS column this week that some of your readers may not be aware of:

THE erosion at the base of the harness pyramid is beginning to become more visible.

Last Saturday night at the premier meeting, Albion Park, some 99 horses went round. All in all some 27 trainers were represented.

Sadly, six trainers provided 60 of the runners, while 21 trainers presented the other 39 starters.

No doubt there are statisticians employed at Racing Queensland. These people should be reporting this dangerous imbalance at the top of the pyramid and our leaders should be taking immediate steps to broaden the base, by offering realistic racing and earning opportunity to the hobbyist faction of harness.

We are often exhorted to pull together to promote the sport, but, since we have been told on more than one occasion that ‘there is no more for hobbyists’, it is unrealistic (to put it very mildly indeed) to expect much pull from a section of participants who are not being fed.


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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