02 November 2015

ABC The Drum: Melbourne Cup 2015: Half Full, Half Empty

IT MAY have serious ethical issues, but racing is so embedded in the vernacular of Australian social and public life, many of us are happy to look the other way in the Spring sunshine.

TEAM AUSTRALIA has been usurped by our newly-minted innovative agile esprit de corps. As a popular leader takes the reins, an exhausted electorate is ready to party before bolting for the holidays. And so the festival of forgetting that is the Melbourne Cup is again upon us.

But as the oracles know, appearances can deceive. If you follow the Australian turf, you know that Winx has been the star of the Spring, capturing the spotlight with stunning wins in the Epsom at Randwick and last Saturday's Cox Plate that have marked her the greatest mare since Sunline. If you follow the daily news, you know the home of Victoria's chief steward, Terry Bailey, was sprayed with six shots from a semi-automatic weapon on the eve of racing's biggest week of the year.

23 September 2015

Did Vic Police rewrite the rules for Danny Nikolic?

Under the banner "Natural Justice Denied?", Costa Rolfe has given Danny Nikolic free rein in a "news" story on punters.com.au. Rolfe quotes him thus:
“The Police Commissioner has given me no reason for the exclusion order except that it's in the public interest. If he has any proof that I am of poor character, why doesn't he produce it?” Nikolic said.
“This exclusion order is a clear attempt to hinder any future license application under racing jurisdictions. 
“I believe it's a clear abuse of his discretionary powers and a tactic to further negatively affect public perception of me by linking me with organised crime figures without justification or rationale.”
Rolfe then paraphrased Nikolic, asking "how Racing Victoria and Victoria Police could essentially rewrite the rules in order to extend his ban beyond its original term."

Huge claims.

29 July 2015

ABC The Drum: "Cobalt five" called by RV Stewards to show cause

The frayed and fragile reputation of Melbourne's Spring Racing Carnival hangs on the outcome of hearings in Melbourne today into the "Cobalt five", writes Michael Hutak.

Cobalt, the meteoric element the smarties swear can send a racehorse past its rivals like a hurtling comet, continues to cut a swathe through the ranks of the Australian turf.

A recent rash of charges, hearings and detections related to the apparent cobalt doping of racehorses has left a stench of corruption hanging over the game's already ragged reputation. It's been a busy time of late in cobalt world:

02 June 2015

ABC The Drum: Sadistic side of greyhound racing must change

A Queensland inquiry has offered the greyhound industry a last gasp chance to survive after accusations of "animal cruelty on a scale never seen before". But there's reason to be sceptical things will change, writes Michael Hutak.

Some time around 1015AD King Canute was such a greyhound fan he introduced laws in ye olde England that rendered the breed exclusive to nobility, banning his celtic subjects, serfs and commoners from using them for hunting and gaming. Thus the "sport" of coursing emerged, whereby gentlemen owners of two greyhounds would wager on whose dog could best chase and catch a live hare. Apparently, this is a noble and pleasurable pursuit.

20 January 2015

ABC The Drum: Cobalt from the blue, time to register racing's vets

The horse racing industry is facing yet another doping scandal, so if the main players are serious about cleaning up this mess and their reputation then it's time to register the vets, writes Michael Hutak.

Like all organised sports, doping scandals are nothing new in racing. Go fasts, go slows, "elephant juice", EPO, steroids and now Cobalt - the headlines of the last week have been both breathless and curious.

The stories around the abuse of cobalt chloride, first in harness racing and now in racing, both here and abroad, have been ongoing for more than two years. The difference this week is three of the country's highest profile trainers now have prima facie cases to answer.

11 November 2013

All The Pretty Horses: "Wastage" in the thoroughbred industry

From the winner's circle at Royal Randwick to "the doggers", the fate of thousands of thoroughbreds every year is a grim tale, writes Susan Chenery*

Oh what a swell party. Diamonds catch the sun as glossy women in heels sink into the grass. Across the the emerald lawn they come bringing convivial laughter and champagne. Flaunted wealth and high fashion. Feathers, sequins and furs. Men in sharp suits and expensive sunglasses. Evening wear in the afternoon.

The bright brilliant colours of the jockeys' silks. The sleek shining horses coming down the straight. The thrill as the members at Royal Randwick gather at the finish line to watch them pass. So elegantly social; such easy entitlement. In the mounting yard the gleaming horses prance; muscular elite athletes, polished to perfection. The afternoon wears on, the bets are laid, the horses come thundering, the champagne keeps flowing. Fortunes are made and lost on days like this. But all this glamour in the members enclosure at Randwick's new $152 million grandstand masks racing's darkest secret.

01 November 2013

ABC The Drum: This Spring, it's about the horses

"After all the chaos, scandal and sensational headlines, after the breaches of public trust and disappointment, allegations of corruption, intimidation and worse, comes a sense of relief born of exhaustion. Not exactly calm, more an absence of tumult. We're not just talking about the lucky country and its brave new government. We're talking about a punting nation and its Spring Racing Carnival..."

...read the rest of our story over at ABC's The Drum.

09 May 2013

ABC The Drum: Singogaite saga: say hello to the 'bad guys'

"Gambling and horse racing has always been a mass-subculture in Australia. This is why the Waterhouse-Singleton saga has struck such a chord; it is a story that defines Modern Australia... "

30 April 2013

ABC The Drum: Where is the joy?

Spat, fracas, brouhaha - whatever colourful epithet you choose - Saturday's spectacular public bust-up of John Singleton and Gai Waterhouse, horse racing's "odd couple", has been hugged by the media like a long-lost friend...
          ...read the rest of our article over at the ABC's The Drum.

29 April 2013

Singleton-Waterhouse brouhaha recalls the famous case of Fair Patton.

The Singleton/Waterhouse brouhaha jogged our memory and had us trawling The Gadfly archives from The Sun-Herald for this article from 1992:
"THE sad death of veteran trainer Vic Thompson Snr revived memories of one of the most famous episodes in Australian turf history. When Fair Patton won the 1964 Brisbane Cup, owner Claude Hawke strode into the winner's circle and declared what a wonderful trainer Thompson was. But only a matter of minutes later, he walked up to an elated Thompson and declared he was taking the horse from Vic and would, henceforth, train it himself. The reason for the shock move was not publicly revealed for another nine months, until it finally exploded into a major court case. In a nutshell, Hawke had discovered that Thompson tipped Fair Patton to a man later described in court as "a punter named Tyler." Hawke not only immediately took the horse from Thompson, but then refused to pay him a 10 per cent trainer's commission of 1,000 pounds for the nag's victory - and Thompson duly took Hawke to court over it.