26 September 2011

Brouhaha builds over ham-fisted stewards merger plan

Ever since NSW Racing Minister, George Souris, let one rip last Wednesday people have been looking around asking "who farted?". Now Craig Young in the SMH has dropped another bombshell, the Chairman of Stewards, "Ray Murrihy wasn't even consulted about the decision" to merge the stipendiary stewards of horse racing with harness racing. Souris appears to have convinced the board heads of each code to sign up but with precious little consultation with anyone else.

25 September 2011

Rick Hore-Lacy breathes life into punters' post-mortem

Legendary appearance by Rick Hore-Lacy on TVN's Racing Review this morning after Toorak Toff's Group 1 win at Caulfield yesterday: admits to penury and debt, to "buying horses and never having enough money to pay for them", to "living on dreams" chasing big paydays with unlikely champions; phone rings on air, flicks it to voicemail then checks his messages(!), all while conducting the interview. "I once ran a successful business - boring as all hell!" Training, however, is "an exciting business, you never know when you're next good horse is coming from."  To finish off "RHL" picked a fight with Richard Callendar before confiding he got "80s" about his 11-1 chance for the G1 Caulfield Guineas, Chase the Rainbow.

Critics of trots 'choreography' go ballistic

You'd think everyone would be on their best behaviour given the scandal and corruption that's rocked the harness racing game in recent months.  However questions continue to be raised about the veracity of recent races. As the SMH's Chris Roots reports, some punters have had more than enough and said so bluntly on the public forum on industry website Harnesslink.com:
Fed-up punters vented their frustration over Kevin Pizzuto's drive on Our Amazing Art after it ran second to odds-on favourite and stablemate Franco Torres. Chief steward Bill Cable has stood down Our Amazing Art and adjourned an inquiry into the race, in which Pizzuto loomed up to win in the straight but failed to run down his stablemate.
The forum post was headed "One of the worst things Ive seen on a harness racing track EVER!!!!". Fearing legal blowback, Harnesslink has since closed comments, but you can still read the forum here, unless they shut down the forum for good. However, keenly aware of the important role such fora play, Harnesslink told the Herald to shut it down "wouldn't make us any better than industry bodies (who I won't name) that don't mention the 'dark side' of racing, and want to pretend all is well.'' 
Amen to that brother! Shine a light on the 'dark side' if you want it gone. More transparency, more scrutiny, means stronger integrity and more reliable form, leading to more confidence in the wagering product on the part of the public. Should be simple really.

09 September 2011

Trots scandal claims second scalp as driver is "warned off"

Latest news in the corruption scandal rocking harness racing in New South Wales is that veteran driver Robbie Byrnes  refused to supply access to his phone records to officials and was ''warned off'' all racecourses yesterday, "a punishment which means he cannot have any involvement in trotting", reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
"In August two stewards, Paul O'Toole and Matthew Bentley, resigned their positions after being confronted with allegations that they had not taken pre- and post-race drug tests from particular horses. This gave corrupt trainers, punters and drivers a huge advantage in orchestrating betting plunges. It is believed as many as 80 per cent of the doped horses won their races."
Owner Mark Vallander was warned off on August 23 after also refusing to comply with similar requests for information. The Daily Telegraph says "police and racing investigators are trying to establish whether sensitive information was leaked by stewards to trainers concerning which horses would be drug tested, and also whether there was collusion between stewards, drivers and punters."

25 internationals among 163 Melbourne Cup noms

Breedingracing.com reports:  Nominations for the $6.2 million Gr1 Melbourne Cup (3200m at Flemington on Tuesday 1 November) closed September 1, a month later than previous tradition, with the 163 entries including 25 currently being prepared in the Northern Hemisphere. Racing Victoria’s international recruiting officer Leigh Jordon said he was pleased with the international nominations which, as expected, have “less speculative entries with the change in entry dates. With nominations closing a month later, the entries are more indicative of which internationals are likely to come or are genuinely interested in doing so if they perform in their homeland this month. By way of comparison, there were 25 internationals in contention for the Melbourne Cup at the same time last year with 1st declarations taken in the 1st week of September. Last year there were 8 internationals that started in the Cup (following the morning scratching of Bauer) and we expect 6-8 internationals to contest this year’s 151st edition.”

08 September 2011

Naughty corner: trots, hoops, drugs, bans

Handing up at the red hots.
  • Trotting's deep throat: Tim Reilly and Chris Roots in the Sydney Morning Herald continue their red hot coverage of the troubles in the red hots with their latest revelation that a "licensed person" was the key whistleblower. http://bit.ly/ozHzcY
  • Hopped-up hoop: Carl Di Iorio at Cyberhorse reports on the 12-month disqualification of jockey Wayne Wheatley by Racing NSW stewards over a positive sample to a "banned substance".   http://bit.ly/of13rL
  • "Conniving" trainers: Racing NSW stewards also disqualified owner and already-suspended Queensland trainer Ronald Drysdale for 12-months & Lismore-based NSW trainer Michael Pearson for 6-months following an inquiry “into the bona fides of the training of the racehorses Sheemon, Tegic, Dekarnage & It’s All Happening”. Stewards found Drysdale (as owner of the horses) “did connive with licensed trainer Michael Pearson, for Pearson to hold himself out as the trainer of the horses for the purpose of entering those horses and racing the horses” when “at all times they were not being trained by a qualified trainer but were being trained by Drysdale, whose qualification to train was cancelled by Racing Queensland on 14 March 2011”. via breedingracing.com

Steroids ban for India's top three trainers

In India, three leading trainers “have been banned as the steroids scandal that has rocked Indian racing involving a Classic winner finally drew to a close in Mumbai” reported racingpost.com.
However the “controversy rages on after Sheraz Sunderji, Cooji Katrak and master trainer Pesi Shroff received what was seen in some quarters as lenient penalties for their transgressions”. The Sunderji-trained Indian 2000 Guineas winner Ocean And Beyond was disqualified “after testing positive for the anabolic steroid Boldenone (also known by trade names Equipoise & Ganabol) at the Mumbai winter meeting run by the Royal West India Turf Club”. Traces of the banned substance were also found in post-race tests on 2000 Guineas runner-up Star Future (Katrak) and Eloise (Shroff) who was 3rd in the Indian 1000 Guineas; both horses were also disqualified. The trainers at the centre of the affair were found guilty merely for their “vicarious liabilities” according to medication rules: Katrak was suspended for 120-days; Shroff was suspended for 30-days; and Sunderji (found guilty once before in his career) was suspended for 45-days. RWITC chairman Vivek Jain issued a statement “seemingly in anticipation over the relatively soft punishments in a scandal that has garnered widespread publicity in India”. He claimed: “We have adhered to the rule book & past precedents. There was no clear evidence to question the trainers' intent of administrating the banned substance, but there is a clause of ‘vicarious liability' under which the sentences have been handed out.” Boldenone (the substance at the centre of the scandal) is a banned steroid “that could be used to build up muscle and stand more rigorous training”. racingpost.com noted: “Not only were the 3 horses concerned among the best in India, they were trained by 3 of the nation's most successful trainers.”
According to Indiarace.com, the trainers “maintained that the feed procured from the RWITC had been contaminated with the drug in question”. However stewards countered “by saying the same feed was given to about 200 horses and the remainder had all tested clean”. Run under the auspices of the Royal Western India Turf Club, the Mumbai Classics are India's senior races - in effect the national Classics. Via breedingracing.com.