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

IT was a mixed bag in the e-mail box this week ranging from comments on the $1,000 fines imposed on Victorian jockeys who had ‘pocket money’ bets; fallout from the QCAT appeal by Dan Nikolic; more concerns about the RQ Board appointment process in Queensland; a disturbing e-mail concerning a respected Clerk of the Course in Toowoomba; and much more including our popular feature: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly side of racing in the past week. And for those who are interested letsgohorseracing is now on Twitter.


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

IT was a mixed bag in the e-mail box this week ranging from praise for Racing Queensland on its change of heart concerning the Sunday TAB dates for the Sunshine Coast, the decision to rein in on-course bookies with a change to SP transmissions and support for two Sunday TAB meetings in Queensland. There is an interesting twist to the decision by Racing NSW Chief Steward Ray Murrihy to fine Nash Rawiller for being in the jockeys’ room while working for the media and not riding. More concerns have been expressed over the make-up of the new control boards for racing in Queensland. And just for a change there are a couple of harness racing-related e-mails.

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

GROWING disharmony in Queensland racing dominated the e-mail box contributions this week with allegations that it is not the level playing field promised by the new Government when it comes to race dates. There are concerns that some clubs are being victimized with the chairman of the SCTC writing a scathing attack to RQ. Contributions also included industry response to the appeal win by trainer-journalist Terry Butts, comments on calls for BETFAIR fluctuations to be broadcast and a host of other contentious issues, along with our new feature: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which contains a refreshing e-mail on suggestions to improve racing in Queensland and the story of a high profile Australian jockey who had his wallet snatched by a hooker in the States.




WE were so impressed by this e-mail to Terry Butts concerning the state of play in Mackay racing that is symptomatic of much of the racing scene in Queensland that we were happy to reproduce it as one of the best ever received.

‘LONG gone are the days when we could go to the track in Mackay for the trots or races or even to the dogs and be assured of cold drinks, hot food and a betting ring which would take on all comers.

It saddened me to see the terrible state of the Ooralea set up when I was home last year.

I jumped the fence to have a look at (club chairman) Ian Joblin’s long promised pool and stabling improvements but alas nothing but a Taj Mahal of a stewards’ set up and a new building not near the winning post.

The ludicrous scene of a grandstand without a roof in the heat of the summer of 2012 beggared belief.

In what was a pristinely clean shed while Cashy and co worked there was rubbish, ill maintained gear and a look of no-one gives a rats.

All the old racing families bar five have gone. The patronage at meetings would at best be labeled ‘bloody awful’ except for the days that Joblin and his committee sell racing’s soul to the night clubs and pubs.

They give away phenomenal amounts of profit generated from a crowd of binge drinking idiots to people who are neither involved in nor supporters of racing.

Confidentiality prevents me from telling a story about a $250,000 contract that the Mackay Turf Club turned its back on which could have built to even bigger things for the major clubs in the north.

So knowing all that and seeing the Mackay club in the dire position it is in does not surprise me at all. I think of the committee and am reminded of the John Cleese cheese shop sketch.

I sometimes wonder if Ian Joblin would be at his happiest if no racing people came to the track. He could then entertain his sycophantic social set using racing money to buy their drinks in a room paid for at the expense of prizemoney foregone.

How do we change it?

So many patrons have gone because of the ‘no kid’ policies, others because of the foul behavior of the swilling public he seems intent on pandering to and others because they are stopped from getting close to the horses.

Mackay is just symptomatic of a lot of Queensland racing – but not all.

I think that we, the older and sadly thinning few who just love the horses and the sport, can make a difference.

It would be a step in the right direction if through the Silks & Saddles column and the letsgohorseracing website you could start a column in which positive simple things can be nominated to be done to improve our sport.

It might stop some of the old fossils who are again at the helm berating you blokes and your publications. I doubt it though but at least it will put them off their Metamucil.

Here are a few examples that I have seen:

FLINTON club brings all the strappers a feed and a drink at the stalls. A simple gesture but the guys and girls talk about it at meetings all over and they do get great support from the trainers.

THE most successful promoter in Australian racing in the last 50 years was and is Ken Norquay (former of the Sunshine Coast Turf Club). He could double a gate by offering every lady who came in free cosmetics and health care products. It costs the club nothing as companies give them away anyway but no-one has bothered to ask them. One night he gave away 6,000 Dixie chickens which you could get a voucher for as you paid for your ticket. The crowd of 3,000 bought 6,000 entry tickets.

THE corporate bookmaking agencies have enormous give-away budgets. Why not hit them up for free bets?

ON the big race days why do clubs not have a stall set up to show people how to buy a share in a racehorse? My daughter, who is now at the top of the tree in the travel industry, says that whenever she goes to any of the big days she is always quizzed by her friends and acquaintances about owning a racehorse. The OWN A SHARE IN A RACEHORSE marquee should be set up by Racing Queensland racing at every major meeting.

THE Arab airlines have large amounts set aside for give-away flights and are interested in racing. Have they been approached?

FIRST timers at race meetings are embarrassed to ask how to bet. Again Racing Queensland should have a Customer Service Centre at all major meetings, city and country.

WHY aren’t tracks themed? Kilcoy promotes its steak sandwiches – simple and it works. Esk has great cakes made by the CWA. Roma has its two major meetings on billboards outside town. Its tourist group promotes these meetings as major parts of its year in what would otherwise realistically be a pretty boring hot western town of 10,000 people. They have buskers entertaining race-goers while they wait to buy a ticket at the gate and jugglers wandering about. It’s entertainment, not just racing, and people come back year after year and the town prospers.

Anyway, I’ve had my whinge. I have been involved in all aspects of the game – management, licensing, steward, promoter, owner, trainer and strapper.

I did maintain my dignity and not swing a (legal) bookies’ bag but have been known to put the money on if I think we have a chance.

It saddens me to see our industry only dealing on a reactive basis and not on a proactive one. I hope my small suggestions are food for thought.

On a much more happy note it was great to see Terry Butts (an old mate) pushing on with his appeal to ensure that the Chief Steward was kept accountable. Keep going, get their money through costs and rub it in their faces.

Whilst some of what I have told you is confidential (that has been removed) unlike some of the weak, poor buggers who write in and aren’t game to give their names I don’t care. Let them come after me.

Great punting and I hope we all end up with a Black Caviar in 2013.’ – John Madden, formerly of Mackay.



THE mainstream media – more interested in protecting their close relationship with Chief Steward Wade Birch – sought not to publicize the result of the Terry Butts appeal. They didn’t mind running the story when he was wrongly charged with prejudicial conduct.

That didn’t stop our Spy in the Deagon Bunker from reporting on the reaction at RQ to another defeat for the Chief Steward who has now been nicknamed ‘the Man.’

Here’s what our Spy had to say in an e-mail to Terry Butts:

‘Well your victory has certainly set the cat among the pigeons.

Another defeat suffered by the so-called ‘Golden Boy’ has the staff suggesting that the way he is racking up defeats they should re-name him ‘The Man’ – after Anthony Mundine. Our man must certainly be getting punchy.

What this case cost the industry beggars belief – not to mention the past failures, like the Larry Cassidy debacle. The ‘golden boy’ is becoming a very expensive commodity.

When you add in the additional costs of wet nursing him by paying for ‘the Sheriff’ initially and then bringing ‘old mate’ back from Victoria on a big fat salary, he doesn’t come cheap this fellow.

You could run a metropolitan race meeting on what he has cost the industry over the last 12 months.

You may have guessed that many on the RQ staff are not too shattered by ‘The Man’s’ latest defeat.  He won few friends with his perceived treatment of loyal and capable staff after the fleeing of the Orchardist and his cohorts.



THERE were several e-mails this week suggesting that Racing NSW Chief Steward Ray Murrihy should clean up his own backyard before offering too much advice on how to cure the woes facing integrity in Victoria. We have run an example further down in this column.

What we didn’t run were the e-mails of a very disparaging nature attacking Mr Murrihy over his comments that BETFAIR is now the biggest influence on betting in Australia.

The suggestion by Sydney Morning Herald columnist Max Presnell that race-goers should have easy access to the BETFAIR fluctuations caused plenty of comment.

Most of all it revolved around how embarrassing these market moves would be for Sydney racing if recent times are any indication. Short priced favorites are being laid at four and five times their original quote and getting beaten – some are even finishing nearer last than first.

Most of us didn’t need to be told that in Sydney racing at present – particularly when it comes to some of the higher profile stables – it pays to monitor BETFAIR fluctuations and throw the form guides out the window.



AN interesting story is doing the rounds about the high profile Australian jockey who recently hit a hurdle while holidaying in America apparently emanates from one of his mates who he confided in back home.

It seems that the hoop decided to ride some track-work after hours and sought the services of one of those high priced ladies of the night – experimenting with one of the not so fair skinned variety.

Apparently, she must not have been content with the small tip she got and left his hotel room with his wallet which contained what some punters might call a small fortune.

His mates reckon it will give him something else to whinge about apart from the stewards.



RACING Queensland is conducting a month-long survey and calling for stake-holder feedback on its monthly magazine.

The control body wants to know what the industry prefers to read and what it sees as the main purpose of the magazine.

A word of warning to stake-holder groups before they proceed with answering the series of 15 questions being asked. There is no room in the magazine for any criticism of the powers that be.

We understand that one major stake-holder group had a column canned because it was critical of prizemoney levels which everyone knows are on the nose in Queensland.

Once again we have the new-look RQ hierarchy using censorship to silence any form of criticism. It stinks but that’s racing in Queensland today.

Ironically, the word is strong that the magazine was to be dumped and information run solely on the RQ web site until long-time publishers, TMPC, offered to take it over.

Unless the Racing Act has been changed there is a requirement to print a monthly calendar keeping the industry informed on all matters racing, especially programming and rule changes.       



THERE are strong rumors circulating which we will try to confirm in the next week that the number of horses being trained at the Gold Coast and Toowoomba has declined dramatically in recent times.

If the numbers being mentioned, which we won’t repeat, happen to be near anywhere right there is a major problem at the Gold Coast which is suffering badly at the hands of the prizemoney surge in northern NSW.

Toowoomba is under siege from within and without. Rival clubs are angry at perceived favoritism of the Downs club by the new powers that be at RQ.

And locals insist that nothing will change, regardless of a new track, until the current committee is shown the door. They are being blamed for the demise of the cushion track.

Here’s what one e-mailer wrote this week about the Downs situation:

‘Little Chief Bobby and his deputy, Gra Gra, are blaming the problems with the cushion track on poor maintenance issues that the club cannot escape from. The heat damaged the membrane and it will not drain properly with all that rain. you will have us believing that all the seafood the club bought for the banquet that night will not be reused a week later as your attempt to have an Australia Day "TAKE 2" as per the email to members.

Having seen the extent of the drainage work done under the track at construction of the cushion in 2009, and the careful laying of each level, and having the maintenance of the cushion explained to me at the time as an owner by Trevor Woodham from RQL. the only reason it does not work now is SIMPLE.

It is not being maintained the same way as the manufacturers trained RQL staff at the time.  Otherwise the guarantee would be something the club and members could action and be financially reimbursed for or at least corrected under the guarantee.

Some questions being asked are what will become of the costly specialized equipment they bought to maintain the cushion track when the grass returns.?

Will the cushion be where the wood chip is? If it is then who is spending the money on the specialist drainage the cushion needs?  It will make it the most costly training track equipment in Queensland racing clubs.

No wonder other clubs are bewildered by the LNP and its Racing Minisgter Dickson allowing RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon to ignore where the best return on investment will come from $10 million.

Will betting revenue increase to give the Government a return on the large capital expense? Not likely.

The ageing infrastructure at the Toowoomba Turf Club from the on course stabling to the members facilities to the guest facilities in an ageing tent are laughable and will not attract more to the track. Most visitors do not care what they race on, but are after a good venue and an experience to match the dollars charged..

So Chairman Bob Frappell and his Deputy Graham Healy have some questions to answer not just frmthe members of the Toowoomba Turf Club but also the Communities of all the Racing Clubs in Queensland.



FIRST it was Kilcoy that attracted a spat between the lady jockeys and now we have chapter two occurring at Toowoomba last Saturday night.

It seems the ill-feeling between some female riders is getting out of hand and becoming very personal. The Clifford Park situation was well handled by Chief Steward Martin Knibbs in trying circumstances.

Perhaps RQ should look at charging some of the main offenders with bringing the industry into disrepute when they start suggesting publicly that rivals are getting rides because they are offering trainers sexual favors.

Both lady jockeys have now been dealt with by stewards - Jacqui Brown yesterday received separate month's suspensions to be served concurrently and was placed on a good behavior bond for a year. She was also fined. Skye Bogenhauber was fined on Saturday night.



FOR some strange reason a prominent race club official has accused my old mate Mark Oberhardt of running the letsgohorseracing website.

We would love to have Mark contributing to our site but as a non-for-profit entity that only runs advertising to cover costs, we can’t afford to pay people and unlike some other sites we don’t promise to pay then fail to deliver.

But back to the blast that the ‘The Ear’ copped and responded in kind to. Perhaps the guy concerned is getting a little too used to running the control body from his other desk that he thinks everyone else operates the same way. And we know he isn’t copping the objective approach that is adopted to race coverage by our site and justracing.

Get a life mate!

Mark is doing his best since he left The Courier-Mail where his Ear column continues to be sadly missed. That’s quite rare these days. Normally with sports-writers they are no sooner gone than they are forgotten.     

Maybe we should have run the photograph sent to us of this official in top hat and tails scoffing on a jug of beer during a Royal Ascot junket last year - it did him proud.  


Now for the e-mail contributions that we have elected to publish this week with apologies to those who missed out:



CONCERNS expressed in e-mails received from industry stakeholders in the past week should send a strong message to the LNP Government and its Racing Minister Stephen Dickson of the need for an Independent Chairman of the new Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board.

There is a growing belief among some key industry figures and clubs – in particular Sunshine Coast, Mackay and Ipswich – that if Kevin Dixon and his chosen ones are appointed to run the show it will not be a level playing field.

Amid accusations of favoritism for Dixon-friendly clubs – in particular Toowoomba, Brisbane and Gold Coast – the proposed TAB race dates for the new season have created turmoil and disharmony not to mention questions about financial viability.

There are increasing fears about political interference in the selection process especially with the situation whereby the Government can over-rule the short list provided by the Independent Selection Panel and there are calls for the short list to be made public to the industry when it is produced to ensure transparency in the process.

Respected Sunshine Coast Turf Club Chairman Don Jackson, in a letter to Racing Queensland General Manager of Operations Warren Williams, accuses the Kevin Dixon Board of a lack of consultation and transparency on the race dates issue and accuses the control body of victimizing clubs seen to have been supportive of the previous Bob Bentley administration.



WE have received several requests to get a copy of that letter and reproduce it in full. Instead we have chosen to run excerpts of particular interest.

The SCTC and its chairman believe that:

THE proposed loss of SUNDAY meetings (reportedly 49 to 14) next season will have a huge impact on owners, trainers and jockeys who support the regular Sunday meetings at Corbould Park.

PROMISING the Gold Coat Turf Club a 24 per cent prizemoney increase (compared to just over three percent at the SCTC), will place a huge burden on the Saturday night twilight circuit trying to attract horses for less prizemoney which the Sunshine Coast has inherited while Toowoomba under goes a grass track installation.

THE scheduling of Sunday TAB meetings and replacing the SCTC with meetings at Toowoomba Inner Track, Lockyer, Dalby, Warwick, Kilcoy, Townsville, Cairns, Goondiwindi and even Bowen will not achieve the objective of optimizing wagering outcomes for the racing industry.

SOME of these clubs will be conducting their first full TAB meeting with poor quality horse pools, no exposure to their type of racetrack, a questionable class of jockey that ride at these meetings and lack of available consistent form.

THE SCTC CHAIRMAN POSED THE QUESTION: How does RQ expect the average ‘Joe Punter’ in TABs across the State and also Australia to bet with confidence on trainers, jockeys, horses and tracks, where they have very little knowledge and information?



DON JACKSON has reminded RQ that with the change of administration after the last election, clubs were assured that major decisions affecting the industry would be transparent and a consultation process followed and claims that in respect to race dates there has been no consultation with the SCTC or key stake-holder groups.

He has warned it is of grave concern that the TAB race dates schedule is revolving around the Toowoomba Turf Club and the installation of a new grass track after the cushion that was voted for in 2009 has now been rejected by members.

DURING the period of installation of the cushion track at TTC the SCTC conducted twilight Saturday meetings on their behalf without any interruption to its own Sunday racing program.

SUNDAY racing on the Sunshine Coast has been very successful and beneficial to the industry since it was introduced in the mid 1990s.

THE SCTC now finds the new proposed schedule will have a substantial impact on it and believes there is absolutely no reason for this to occur as the TTC has elected to revert back to the grass track. If there is any impact on any club it should be the TTC, rather than causing this huge upheaval to the balance of the industry.

THE SCTC has spent years developing the Sunday racing market, when no other club would take up the challenge and to be deprived of this for a period of seven months is totally unacceptable.

MR JACKSON suggests a responsible administration would embrace improvements undertaken at clubs by the previous Board and schedule race dates accordingly to complement the investment, and not victimize those clubs at the expense of the industry.

SCTC has warned RQ that the proposed changes and reduction in Sunday racing at Corbould Park will impact severely on sponsorship, hiring of the venue, especially for wedding receptions, greatly reduce turnover on a Sunday and cost owners, jockeys and trainers in south-east Queensland valuable income.

HE told RQ: “It is hard to fathom how the industry can optimize wagering outcomes from quality horse pools and increase field sizes at vanues that will have limited field sizes compared to the SCTC.”

THE SCTC is especially angry about changes which will place in jeopardy major sponsorship for the $100,000 Sunshine Coast Cup; losing the Easter Sunday meeting to Bowen and having it replaced by an Easter Monday fixture when holiday-makers are ready to leave the Sunshine Coast at the end of the school holidays; the continuation of Saturday twilights at the SCTC when Toowoomba has its grass track in action; and the loss of the second day of the Caloundra Cup Carnival.



IN summary, MR JACKSON wrote: As part of RQ’s Financial Management Policies Manual, clubs sare required to provide Business Plans and Five Year Plans. It is impossible to have a stable industry with an upheaval of race dates that have been proposed basically to suit one club who elected to install a cushion track and now will have a band aid solution by re-installing an inferior grass track for future years.

THE SCTC is of the opinion that because it took up the assistance offered by the industry over the last five years in the purchase of the freehold, installation of cushion track and track lighting and most recently on-course stabling, ‘it is being totally victimized along with other clubs that accepted the previous RQ administration offer to improve facilities.’

MR JACKSON suggested that: “A responsible administration would embrace these improvements and schedule dates accordingly to complement the investment, and not victimize those clubs at the expense of the industry.”

THE most salient point made by the SCTC chairman that should be echoing in the eyes of every race club and stakeholder in the industry in Queensland is this:




NOW here what a selection of what you had to say in e-mails on this contentious topic:


‘THE Sunshine Coast Turf Club pioneered Sunday racing when no-one else wanted it. Now that it is successful the powers that be are threatening to take it away from them.

In my opinion this is a disgraceful act of political mischief making by the new RQ Board. Why doesn’t Kevin Dixon misuse his powers even further and close the Sunshine Coast Turf Club down? He might as well as the actions proposed will just about run them out of business.

And it seems all of this is simply pay-back because the SCTC dared to support the policies of the then Board of Bob Bentley and head in a direction they believe was in the best interests of racing in their region.’ – Stan Muir, a loyal Sunshine Coast racing supporter of many years standing.


‘THE decision by Kevin Dixon in his interim role as Racing Queensland Chairman to spread the Sunday race dates around and threaten the future of TAB clubs that were perceived to be Bob Bentley-friendly highlights a worrying future for sections of the industry.

It shows why Dixon should not be politically handed the chairmanship of both Racing Queensland and the umbrella body, the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board.

And to ensure he gets his mates on the latter Board will arguably lead to a worse monopoly than Bentley ever represented.

But Dixon seems to have the ear of Treasurer Tim Nicholls and we are reliably informed that he has the remote control on Racing Minister Stephen Dickson. If there is political interference in this Independent Selection Process then there will be calls for an inquiry into the whole process.

The need has never been more evident for an independent chairman of QACRIB – someone with no ties to the major clubs and industry in south-east Queensland. Unfortunately, it seems that only with independence on the new overseeing Board can racing be assured of a level playing field.’ – As I am a trainer on the Sunshine Coast, please don’t use my identity for obvious reasons.


‘SURELY the Racing Minister and the LNP Government aren’t so naïve that they cannot see what is happening in racing in Queensland.

Blind Freedy can see the favoritism being afforded the basket case of racing in Queensland, the Toowoomba Turf Club, by the RQ Chairman Kevin Dixon.

Some say it is to pump up the tyres of his good mate, Bob Frappell, at the expense of former chairman Neville Stewart. Most believe even the installation of a new grass track can’t save racing in Toowoomba from oblivion under the current committee.

The problem is that in trying to save Toowoomba this inexplicable and totally inane race date schedule that is proposed for next season will threaten the very future of the club that has pioneered Sunday racing when no-one else wanted it.

How strange it is. When the Bob Bentley Board was perceived to be favoring the Sunshine Coast and other clubs, the supporters of Dixon were the first to bellow. Now we have the reverse and they are totally behind what is being done in reverse. What a woeful and despicable industry racing has developed into politically in Queensland.

Making matters worse The Courier-Mail recently described Kevin Dixon as one of the business leaders of the state for the way he has pulled the racing industry out of the mess it was in. They have to be kidding!’ – Jim Edwards, Ipswich.


‘HOW could anyone in their right minds suggest replacing a Sunday TAB race meeting at the Sunshine Coast with one at Bowen?

We are all aware that Bowen isn’t too far from the tourist magnet of the Whitsunday Islands but on Easter Sunday one could argue that the Sunshine Coast would have a far greater drawing power with holiday crowds.

And that’s before we even consider the contrasts between the two venues – one has been developed into a magnificent TAB venue and the other isn’t fit to stage a TAB race meeting. One would attract terrific TAB turnover – the other arguably wouldn’t get within a bull’s roar of what is a respectable return.

Some of the decisions made in this proposed TAB race dates schedule for next season are completely from left field. One could have suggested that an amateur, with little or no knowledge of the racing scene in Queensland, might have drawn these up. But that wasn’t the case and instead it smacks of political scuttlebutt.

And doesn’t the new RQ hierarchy realize the political bombshell they are creating at the Sunshine Coast which was the old stamping ground of some very heavy Liberal and National representation, eg Mike Ahern and Joan Sheldon. How naïve can they be?’ – Max Taylor, Sunshine Coast.


And finally:

‘HEAVEN help the racing industry in Queensland if Kevin Dixon becomes chairman of both RQ and the umbrella All Codes Board – but that’s only half of the problem.

If the ones he wants to share the Board table on the major body with him are appointed then clubs like Sunshine Coast, Mackay, Ipswich and a couple of others may as well shut up shop.

Those who have watched what has happened in the six months since Mr Dixon became chairman of the Interim Board are already accusing him of favoritism to perceived ‘friendly’ clubs.

If that sounds a bit familiar, it happened when Bob Bentley was in the Chairman – the difference being the clubs that were bellowing the most then – like the BRC (of which Mr Dixon was chairman) – are the ones who are now conspicuous by their silence when it comes to fellow clubs in the same boat as they once were.

Unless there is an independent chairman of the All Codes Board and at least one other independent member (hopefully from the country) then the disharmony that has started to emerge will increase from a whimper to a scream.

What is it about the politics of racing in Queensland that systematically seems to be bogged down by two words – ‘self destruct’ – no matter who is running the show?’ – As I am an official of a TAB club that doesn’t want to cross swords with the current RQ bosses, please refrain from revealing my identity.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I keep hearing that the Race Dates proposal sent to clubs was for discussion purposes only. Well why not consult with them before distributing suggested dates that have created nothing but disharmony. Allegations of favoritism to some clubs at the expense of others only highlights the need for an independent chairman of the new all-powerful Board to run the three codes of racing in Queensland. I remain confident that the three gentlemen appointed to make recommendations for the new Boards (Bill Carter, Jim O’Sullivan and Peter Arnison) will come up with the right people. My concern is political interference if they don’t nominate those that certain key players want. If that happens, the Government should be aware that all hell will break loose. It is imperative that those nominated to the Racing Minister by the three-man panel are identified publicly. And on the subject of Sunday racing, it will be a grave injustice if the Sunshine Coast was to lose what it was prepared to pioneer. What is wrong with having support meetings at other venues but leaving the Sunshine Coast as the primary Sunday meeting? Toowoomba should race at Corbould Park during the construction of a new grass track. The Inner Track is, in the opinion of many, not suitable for a TAB meeting. Once the new track is completed at Toowoomba, then the SCTC should regain the Sunday dates that they now enjoy. Anything else will be seen as political pay-back for supporting the Bentley Board.                 



‘ONE wonders what Racing NSW Chief Steward Ray Murrihy thought when he read an article by former Australian Racing Board CEO Andrew Harding concerning the stewards.

Harding was adamant that a proposal emanating from the Perna Report into Race Fixing in Victoria concerning the transfer of stewards to a separate statutory body was flawed.

There have been rumors in the racing industry for some time that Mr Murrihy is keen to see a national body running the stewards with the suggestion that he would head that up. He reportedly gave evidence to the Perna Inquiry and perhaps Sal pinched some of his thunder in making this suggestion.

We currently have Racing Queensland under instructions from two inquiries to institute a separation of powers between stewards and administration. That hasn’t happened but nor has much else of significance in Integrity at the hands of the new Board in Queensland.

Might I suggest that before Mr Murrihy starts worrying about fixing the problems in racing in Victoria he start looking at his own backyard where the racing product on the track is degenerating into an absolute joke?’ – Bob Pearce, Melbourne.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the interesting column, written for the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD this week, by former Australian Racing Board CEO, ANDREW HARDING.

RACING integrity commissioner Sal Perna last week released the report from his inquiry into race fixing. Several of his recommendations should be implemented immediately and some others at least warrant consideration.

But his proposal to transfer the stewards to a separate statutory body is seriously off tangent.

First, he makes a specific finding that race fixing is not a systemic issue in Victoria - he even goes so far as to spell ''NOT'' in capitals. So, if the current system has kept the industry free from systemic corruption, then where is the compelling case for changing it?

Perna points to the fact that the three codes each have different integrity structures, vocational training, pay scales, rostering systems etc. What he fails to explain is how this has translated into weaker integrity outcomes in Victorian thoroughbred racing.

These HR details are strictly pedestrian stuff, not what constitutes a ''watershed moment''.

He also points to the different approaches that each code takes to drug control, but again he is attacking a straw man. Yes, harness racing does less drug testing than thoroughbred racing, but in what conceivable way can this mean that the integrity of thoroughbred racing is less than it should be? However, Perna's chief concern is what he perceives to be the lack of independence of the integrity units in each of the codes. He says they are ''cost centres'' within controlling bodies which compete with other departments for funding.

This might have the consequence, for example, that they are not able to do as much drug testing as they think necessary.

He also fears that senior management may have an unhealthy influence on decision-making by the stewards. Unlike his earlier arguments, these are concerns which it could perhaps be worth discussing. In my experience, the sorts of scenarios he paints should never happen in reality - any administrator who doesn't understand the importance of public confidence in racing's integrity shouldn't have a job.

But an argument might be able to be made that they are theoretical possibilities.

Does it necessarily follow that the stewards must be transformed into public servants? I don't think so - the remedy, if any at all is needed, lies much closer to home.

Ask yourself this: What is the core role of the racing integrity commissioner if he isn't there to serve as the quasi-auditor general for integrity in the racing industry? Take Perna's concern that a controlling body might give inadequate funding to drug control. His legislation already gives him the clear power to audit how much drug testing they do and then tell them to lift their game. If they refuse, he has a line of direct access to the minister.

The same applies if he forms the view that the stewards are being impeded by an overbearing chief executive from properly discharging their duties.

Reading his just-released 2012 annual report, it is apparent that Perna sees his job in the same light - for example, after auditing the drug-testing commitment of Harness Racing Victoria, he has issued it with a formal recommendation concerning the amount of funding it allocates to this. The work he is doing here is very worthwhile, and it raises the question: With Perna on the beat, what is the necessity for a new independent integrity body?

In my view, by all means give the racing integrity commissioner whatever additional powers he reasonably requires. But leave the stewards where they are. Moving them is not only unnecessary, it will also be costly, and it could well be less efficient.

To be clear, if somebody wanted to propose that there should be a national panel of stewards for thoroughbred racing, then I could see merit in that proposition, but merging the integrity departments of thoroughbred, harness and greyhound racing in a state like Victoria has zero benefits for the thoroughbred code.

Transferring the stewards to the public service has even less to recommend it. Australian racing is already more fragmented than it should be. The last thing it needs is to spawn yet another type of administration.

Andrew Harding is a lawyer. He was chief executive of the Australian Racing Board from 1999-2012, and before that in-house counsel at Racing Queensland. Throughout his time in racing he worked closely with the stewards.



'THE ugly question refuses to go away for Racing Victoria and the release of new stiffer penalties for some major offences only highlighted the situation.

Many in and outside the industry in Australia are angry that Damien Oliver got off so light – even if it was a 10 month disqualification for having a $10,000 winning bet on a rival horse in a race he rode. Many believe he should have been fined the return from that bet as well.

Under the proposed new integrity rules announced for racing in Victoria, one assumes that Oliver would have been disqualified for a minimum of two years. But it seems that no-one at Racing Victoria was prepared to confirm this to the racing media.

Why not? There shouldn’t be one set of rules for a top jockey and one set for another who is not as successful. This embarrassing situation needs clarifying.’ – Richard Golschewsky, Sydney.

EDITOR’S NOTE: HERE’S the story from the MELBOURNE HERALD SUN that obviously prompted the above e-mail:

IT would seem a reasonable question, but Racing Victoria yesterday appeared unable to answer it - would Damien Oliver have been disqualified for a minimum of two years under racing's new integrity rules?

Oliver was disqualified for 10 months late last year for a belated admission that he had bet $10,000 on a horse in a race at Moonee Valley in October 2010.

There was outcry that Oliver, who rode a different horse in the race, had escaped with a lenient penalty.

Racing Victoria, months later, argued a separate police inquiry, relating to the murder of trainer Les Samba, compromised its ability to deal with Oliver with a firmer hand.

RVL also said Oliver may never have been convicted, or even made an admission, had he not negotiated elements of his penalty, such as being allowed to ride during the spring carnival.

The Australian Racing Board announced tough new rules on Wednesday to deal with racing's cheats, including a minimum two-year disqualification for jockeys found guilty of betting on races in which they were riding.

Oliver's indiscretion would appear at the high end of that rule because he bet on a horse he was not riding.

Australian Racing Board chief executive Peter McGauran admitted he was not "100 per cent familiar" with the specifics of the Oliver case, but said there would be little room to move for those who cheated under the new rules.

"Circumstances would have to be extremely special and unique, such as the offender fearing for their safety or some sort of mental disorder relating to their activities," McGauran said.

"The room for discretion, however, is very narrow."

Racing Victoria's head of integrity, Dayle Brown, would not speculate on Oliver's penalty had the new rules been in place then.

"There are too many hypotheticals," Brown said.

"It's a really difficult question to answer. I wouldn't know."

Brown was not part of the team in charge of investigating Oliver's charges.

He said the integrity department was compiling what it regarded as "special circumstances" that might increase, or reduce, penalties under the new rules.



‘WHAT a disgraceful waste of racing industry money was spent pursuing the Terry Butts case.

This might hark back to the days of the Bob Bentley Board and the gone but not forgotten Integrity boss Jamie Orchard but the buck lies squarely at the feet of Chief Steward Wade Birch.

My understanding of the situation is that once Orchard left with his bag full of RQ chaff, there was a recommendation from the Integrity Department that the case not be pursued.

The only thing that Butts was guilty of was writing a story that got up the nose of the stewards, in particular the Little Chief and at the time his Integrity boss.

The decision might have taken some time to be handed down but it was the right one in the end and justified the fight that Terry and those who supported him were prepared to undertake.

It proved that no trainer – how big or small – should allow the weight of industry money that RQ has on its side to intimidate him. Butts only received a reprimand and they didn’t count on him facing up to the costs of an appeal.

But he did and now the shoe could be on the other foot – unfortunately RQ may have to cough up the costs which were no doubt not inconsiderable. Perhaps I should say the industry is again forced to pay for the mistakes of the stewards, in particular, the Chief Steward whose win rate is akin to a 25 start Maiden performer.’ – Glen Smith, Mount Isa.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Butts case is just another example of why racing in Queensland needs to have an Integrity Department that is effective, working and not condemned to non-existence as seems to have happened since the new Board took control. My mail is that the last man standing in Integrity – who was shown the door because he allegedly assaulted a moron greyhound trainer who threatened his family – has since won an action against RQ and has plans to now pursue the situation in a civil court where some very dirty linen involving some key identities past and present could be aired. To avoid another RQ embarrassment the new Board, when it is finally reappointed, should bite the bullet and reinstate him.       



‘THE one question that remains unanswered even after the appeal has gone the way of Terry Butts is why the stewards did not pursue the comments made by trainer Daryl Hansen which were at the centre of their concerns.

It seemed to even the biggest dill in racing that all Butts did was quote Hansen as questioning the swabbing procedures of Racing Queensland. It wasn’t Butts criticizing the authorities but Hansen.

Nevertheless the RQ Chief Steward and Integrity Department were hell-bent on pursuing Butts – all the while knowing that they could because he was a licensee but it was morally wrong as he was doing his other job as a racing columnist.

If that isn’t misuse of powers, what is it? But it still doesn’t answer the question why they didn’t pursue Hansen? Could it have been that Hansen was right when he questioned the swabbing protocol of RQ and that they didn’t want the dirty little embarrassing details to emerge for all the industry to hear?

As for Butts – well he was fair game. Bentley didn’t like what he was writing. Orchard obviously had an issue with him. And Birch was annoyed by some of the things he was saying about his stewards, especially their inadequacies in the north of the state.

The disappointing aspect of the Butts decision is that it did not receive the publicity it deserved in the mainstream media. Doesn’t the new Racing Editor of The Courier-Mail want to upset the Chief Steward?

We all know one of his best mates is a member of the RQ panel but was long ago banished to the bush. But surely if he is going to do his job properly he needs to report on the inadequacies of the chairman with the industry starting to question how much longer Chairman Dixon can continue to strongly support his ‘golden boy.’

As I am a licensed trainer in Toowoomba I can ill-afford to have my name attached to this but I will tell you that just about every trainer on the Downs knows of a colleague who is tubing horses on a regular basis and nothing is being done about it.’ 

EDITOR’S NOTE: THE question regarding why the stewards did not pursue Darryl Hansen over what he – and not Butts – said that upset them remains a mystery. Perhaps the answer would have been too embarrassing for the stewards to handle. As for why the mainstream media – especially The Courier-Mail – didn’t report the outcome of the appeal, well that’s just racing politics. It’s hard to upset the Chief Steward when you rely on him for news on a weekly basis and want him to believe he’s your mate and that you support him. I will say this, Mark Oberhardt, the former CM columnist now heard daily on 4BC, didn’t miss RQ in his popular breakfast session commentary on the appeal decision.

IN case you missed it here’s an excerpt from how we reported the Butts’ appeal finding:

IN a landmark decision for freedom of the racing media and a major embarrassment for Racing Queensland Chief Steward Wade Birch, the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT), has overturned a prejudicial conduct charge against licensed trainer and journalist Terry Butts.

Birch, the golden boy of the chief stewarding ranks in Australia, steadfastly refused to accept that Townsville-based Butts, whilst working as a racing journalist for the North Queensland Register and letsgohorseracing website, could not be dealt with as a licensed trainer under the Rules of Racing.

Even after the former Head of Integrity at Racing Queensland, the much despised Jamie Orchard, took a ‘golden handshake’ and departed the scene, Birch argued that the ‘Silks & Saddles’ column, was not an expression of Butts’ opinion but that of trainer Darryl Hansen, whose criticism of the swabbing procedure at RQ did not attract the same attention from stewards.

Butts, a veteran and respected journalist with almost five decades of experience, was amazingly charged by Birch and his panel with being a person, bound by the Rules of Racing, either within a racecourse or elsewhere, in the opinion of the Committee of any Club or the Stewards, that had been guilty of conduct prejudicial to the image, or interests, or welfare of racing, that could be penalized.

The decision, handed down by QCAT member Keta Roseby will be applauded by the racing media, especially those who find themselves in the unique situation of coming under the licensing jurisdiction of racing authorities. It should send a message to control bodies, like Racing Queensland, that this arguable misuse of powers by their stewards will not be tolerated and should never be repeated.

The major issue the Tribunal had to determine involved whether Butts was bound by the Rules of Racing (as a licensed trainer) when in fact he was acting in his capacity as a journalist.

In handing down her decision Ms Roseby ruled, in part: “The article was clearly written while undertaking his profession as a journalist. There is no evidence before the Tribunal that satisfies me that Mr Butts was acting in his capacity as a licensed trainer in publishing the articles.”

Even more importantly, she ruled: “I agree with and accept the submissions made on behalf of Mr Butts. The Australian Rules of Racing cannot (and should not) bind a person beyond their conduct in respect of matters coming within the Rules. Mr Butts did not publish the article in his capacity as a licensed trainer, clearly he was conducting himself in his capacity as a journalist.

“On the basis of these submissions, which I accept, I find that Mr Butts was not bound by AR 175A when he published the article.

“If it were the case that Mr Butts had access to a particular story only by reason of him being a licensed trainer, then that would be a different case because it would be conduct regarding matters coming within the Rules. That is not the case here.

“Accordingly, I therefore set aside the decision of Racing Queensland and order that the charge be dismissed.”


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



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