19 October 2019

Slaughterhouse outrage warns of racing's judgement day

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

As the week unwound, marketing for The Everest went into overdrive. When the barrier draw on Tuesday used the Harbour Bridge — absent the outrage of last year's Opera House fiasco — Racing NSW supremos got busy crafting an entirely different narrative for today; one where The Everest, in just its third running, would cast aside the sclerotic, centuries-old Melbourne Cup and assume the mantle as Australia's greatest horse race.

Then Thursday night's 7.30 went to air, sweeping away all this facade to lay a repellent, despicable truth in the shape of a procession of abused, tortured and finally dead racehorses at the feet of racing regulators.

11 April 2019

How Winx made racing great again

Win or lose on Saturday, the great mare has given so much over her career, she has nothing left to prove

The swansong takes its mythical meaning from the solitary and beautiful cry that a swan allegedly makes as it dies, a wail made more poignant by the fact that swans glide silently through their lives, leading to that final moment of reckoning. It is an ancient notion that was already well established among the Greeks of the third century BC.

And so it is we anticipate poetry in motion from Winx on Saturday, a send-off equal to her unmatched career, a swansong full of grace and beauty and power, as she puts a space between herself and the also-rans down the Randwick straight one last magnificent time, just as she has done in no less than 19 of her 36 career wins. But, to paraphrase national treasure Bruce McAvaney, this is more special than special. The racing public expect an archetypal fairytale finish; even after all she has given us, we need the Queen of the Turf to leave us with one final indelible record of her greatness, that of the greatest thoroughbred athlete to take breath since the rum corps staged the first Australian horse race around Hyde Park in 1810.

05 November 2018

The Guardian | Melbourne Cup 2018: waning locals open door to foreign raiders

The Cup’s international status has grown this century and 11 of the 24 runners this year are trained in the northern hemisphere...

A roll call of racing’s global elite and a bevy of exceptional thoroughbred talent will collect on Tuesday to cap a vintage year with the 158th running of the $7.3m Melbourne Cup. After another winter of discontent, spring has sprung in all its glory, supercharged again by wonder mare Winx, and so a skittish nation turns its eyes and smartphones to Flemington. While “community attitudes” to horse racing are polarising in the social media era, Cup Day, a public holiday in Victoria since 1873, still signals party time in Australia, an end of year imperative to down tools, gather in groups, overindulge, and “get on the punt” in the best antipodean tradition.

06 November 2017

The Guardian | Melbourne Cup 2017: cream of world racing descends on Flemington

From hangovers to foreign raiders, 2017 promises more of the same against the backdrop of stellar Spring racing...

Can Frankie finally do it? Can Aiden O’Brien finally do it? Can Sheikh Mohammed finally do it? Yes, it’s Melbourne Cup time, when the land down under goes over the top for a horse race and when the world’s racing elite ply their annual quest, before going home wondering what the hell happened, again. This is that peculiar Australian festival of wanton abandon to the punt and the plonk; a hangover from another era, that gives annual licence to a national hangover. No other national event can so conjure Australia’s historic and reckless will to party.

02 February 2017

ABC Sport: 'The Everest'... peaking too soon?

The marketing maxim is any publicity is good publicity. But the brains-trust at Racing NSW and the Australian Turf Club (ATC) must be concerned at the mixed reaction to yesterday's bombshell announcement that Sydney will stage the Australia's richest-ever horse race in the middle of Melbourne's marquee Spring Racing Carnival.

28 January 2017

Edgar Britt (1913-2017)

One of the first of many Australian jockeys who came to ride in Britain after World War II, Edgar Clive Britt rode his first winner at Canterbury, in Sydney in 1930, before riding for the Maharajah of Baroda in India for a decade from 1935. Britt moved to Britain to ride for the Maharajah, when his horses were trained by Sam Armstrong, winning the Cesarewitch Handicap on Kerry Piper and the substitute Manchester November Handicap on Oatflake in his first season in England. The Maharajah's Sayajirao provided his first classic winner in 1947 in the Irish Derby and St. Leger. In 1948 Britt lost the retainer with the owner, but found a job with Marcus Marsh and when Harry Carr broke a leg, Britt came in for a number of rides for Cecil Boyd-Rochfort's yard, winning the St. Leger on Black Tarquin. He rode Musidora to win the 1949 1,000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks, Frieze (horse) in the 1952 Oaks, Nearula in the 1953 2,000 Guineas and Honeylight in the 1956 1,000 Guineas, all for Charles Elsey's stable. Britt retired in 1959 and returned to Australia.

On 10 June 2004, aged 90, Britt was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to horse racing as a jockey, commentator and journalist. and was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in the same year. Britt died on 28 January 2017, aged 103. -- Wikipedia

02 November 2016

The Guardian | Melbourne Cup 2016: Our compulsory day of distraction

WE'VE got our first piece up about horse racing for The Guardian...
AUSTRALIA'S compulsory day of distraction is again upon us as they line up on Tuesday for the 156th running of the $6.2m Melbourne Cup, the world’s richest handicap and in recent years the subject of scandal, intrigue, tragedy and even feminist fanfare. Once-a-year punters are scouring the form guide, pins poised, hoping to fluke another 100-1 pop like last year’s Prince of Penzance. The professional punters meanwhile are prepping for their most lucrative payday of the year, when the huge betting pools are awash with mug money and “the overs” are theirs for the picking.

 Read the full article at The Guardian

15 September 2016

ABC Online: Racing on notice: will racing go to the dogs?

The thoroughbred industry has watched on in horror as the greyhound industry failed to reform and paid the price.
In the 1990s, when the NSW TAB was privatised and floated, all three codes of racing negotiated deals with the then Carr government to become self-regulating.
Now Premier Mike Baird has shown there is no going back; his government will shut down rather than re-regulate.
Baird will actually forgo wagering revenue rather than put a cent into enforcing existing animal welfare laws.
They will see businesses and clubs close and jobs lost before they will ensure bodies like the RSPCA, with a statutory duty under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, have enough resources to do more than just rely on public complaints and covert media footage.

03 November 2015

ABC Online: Our Melbourne Cup runneth over with love

Michelle Payne and the Cup. AAP: Julian Smith
Held under the dark clouds of drugs, corruption and drive-by shootings, this year's Melbourne Cup turned out to be even beyond the horses. A history-making winner and her family showed us racing's capacity to be inclusive, accepting and empowering, writes Michael Hutak.
Did the Australian turf just get the shot in the arm it so desperately needs? Racing showed its human face this afternoon, as Michelle Payne became the first woman to ride the winner of racing's godhead, when she saluted on Prince of Penzance with one of the great the Melbourne Cup rides. In a complete boilover, bookies got the lot as the 100-1 outsider from the bush overcame the world's best thoroughbreds to write the proverbial fairytale in this 155th running of the event.
But it wasn't the race that won the crowd's heart; it was what happened directly after, as Payne and Prince of Penzance were led back to scale by the horse's strapper, her brother "Stevie". The joyous display by Steven, who has Down's syndrome, leading his history-making sister back to scale, were indelible images of a racing game that despite all the problems it faces, has a capacity to be inclusive, accepting, and empowering. 

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.