22 November 2012

ABC The Drum: Good luck restoring confidence in racing

"Illegal betting scandal overshadows Melbourne Cup": That's the headline people read in Townsville on Cup Day this year. And in Cooper Pedy, Albany, Double Bay and South Yarra. That's what they read in Louisville, Newmarket, Chantilly and Happy Valley.

Read our full story over at the ABC's The Drum.

19 November 2012

"The Spring has been terrific in every way!" - Hines wraps up.

Tomorrow's the big day. Like a reveal on Extreme Makeover, tomorrow the racing public finds out just how it's been duly processed.
Meanwhile the Racing Review chaps were a force for good yesterday. Bruce Clark kicked off with a topic close to our heart: "Why is it an Independent Panel?"
HINES: "It's not really Independent, I think you've got to get this in context."
Ok. So the panel that was so independent they wouldn't talk about, is now not independent at all.
"Its a panel established by the integrity subcommittee of Racing Victoria  to look specifically at the Oliver matter, so it was identified as an inquiry panel, it has Rob Montgomery Deputy Chairman of Stewards, James Hitchcock, a steward and Tony Burns, a barrister that we appointed to that panel."
Yes, very informative, but why was it necessary? And who appointed it and why is Terry Bailey not on it?  Hines said Bailey couldn't be involved in the Oliver matter, because he was tied up with the VCAT Nikolic matter. "It's a workload issue." But that hearing was on the two days after the Melbourne Cup, not in the two weeks before the Cup when swift action was necessary to protect the betting public.

18 November 2012

Cyril Joseph Angles (1906–1962)

Cyril Joseph Angles (1906-1962), sporting commentator, was born on 1 October 1906 at Surry Hills, Sydney, second of eleven children of Victor Emmanuel Angles, labourer, and his wife Ethel Josephine, née Smith, both Sydneysiders. His mother averred that Cyril cried until he was eighteen months old. The family shifted to the Kensington district when he was 4 and he was later sent to Marist Brothers' High School, Darlinghurst, where he distinguished himself as a sprinter in 1919. Having ridden his pony at Payten's paddock, Randwick, he was apprenticed as a jockey to Jack Phoenix, but put on weight and left after two years. By then he belonged to the sub-culture of the turf which flourished around the five courses near his home and he next worked as a clerk for his father, 'Lordy' Angles, who had become a bookie. Through the influence of his brother Fred, a big punter, in 1924 Cyril was employed as a tipster and commission agent by the self-styled 'Mastermind of the Turf' Rufe Naylor who got him a job in 1931 with radio station 2KY.

16 November 2012

ABC The Drum: Spring gems buried in mud

Time to wrap up this infamous spring with a question: If it weren't for Damien Oliver occupying the front page, is it possible the crisis in confidence in racing would be far, far worse?

Read our full story over at the ABC's The Drum.

Stewards always had "ample powers" to stand down Oliver

One of Australia's most prominent officials has told Turf Confidential that Racing Victoria Stewards have always had "ample powers under the Australian Rules of Racing" to require jockey Damien Oliver to answer questions -- and to penalise him should he fail to do so to their satisfaction.
The official, who has decades experience at the senior level, said he was "at a loss as to why (Oliver) wasn't interviewed" by stewards as soon as he was identified as the mystery jockey who placed an illegal bet.
"If he refused to answer questions he could have been immediately stood down and asked to show cause why his licence should not be withdrawn under AR175 (f)," the official said.
Under AR.175 (f), stewards "can penalise" any jockey, indeed any licensed person:
"...who refuses or fails to attend or give such evidence as directed at any inquiry or appeal when requested by the Principal Racing Authority or Stewards to do so."
Likewise, under AR.175 (g), stewards can penalise:
"Any person who gives at any inquiry or appeal any evidence which in their opinion is false or misleading in any particular."

16 questions RVL's Rob Hines will not answer till Tuesday, if ever

Last night we put 16 questions to Racing Victoria for its CEO, Mr Rob Hines:
  1. In order to protect the betting public, why did RVL Stewards not interview and stand down D Oliver immediately when The Age first published the allegation that he placed an illegal bet on a rival in the same race in which he was riding?
  2. Mr Hines says no prior arrangement or deal has been made with D Oliver, and he and other RVL officials say Oliver only informed RVL on Monday that he made an illegal bet. If this is so, why is Oliver not also being charged with bringing racing into disrepute for not making his admission earlier?
  3. Does Mr Hines know of any RVL office holder who had prior knowledge of Oliver's guilt prior to his admission on Monday?
  4. When was the separate three-person panel conducting the inquiry into Damien Oliver appointed?
  5. Who appointed the independent panel? Was it the CEO Hines, the RVL Board or the Chairman of Stewards? Or some other person or individual?
  6. Has the RVL Board approved the appointment of a separate panel?
  7. Is the separate Panel answerable to the Chairman of Stewards, or to the RVL Board?
  8. What avenue of appeal exists to the decisions of the separate panel? 
  9. What are the terms of reference of the separate panel? 
  10. Who decided the RV Chief Steward should be excluded from the separate panel?
  11. What precedent is there for the appointment of a panel separate from the Stewards?
  12. Why was it necessary for the Chairman and other stewards to be excluded from the Panel's work?
  13. Under what Australian Rule of Racing was the separate panel appointed?
  14. What legal firm is advising RVL on matters pertaining to the separate panel?
  15. Is Rob Hines considering legal action against those journalists who have accused him in public of not being truthful about when he first knew about the Oliver betting scandal?
  16. Mr Hines is retiring. When is he expected to leave the role?
RVL responded this morning saying Hines won't be making any statement before next Tuesday's hearing.
UPDATE: RVL responded to question 16: "His term as Racing Victoria CEO concludes at month’s end."

12 November 2012

Now it's EPO. How did we get here?

Watch your back... Edgar Degas'
Jockey forward flexed standing in the saddle
We woke up yesterday, the day after the worst week for Australian racing in the modern era, to yet fresh infamy:
Geez, Louise, how did we end up here? Toss in a rash of race-day stomach tubing, dubiously-connected owners, the Nikolic hearing, and the fact that Oliver is still riding -- for the chaps on TVN's Racing Review you could sense the barely-contained panic. For 87 minutes they held their noses rather than deal with the great steaming mound of manure in the middle of the room. With minutes left on the clock, the boys took in a little whiff, collectively gagged and then pulled the pin. It was simply all too hard.

The Spring's glittering gems now seem way off, barely visible in the twilight: a stellar Caulfield carnival, Dunaden's brilliant Cup, Pierro's tussle with All Too Hard in the Guineas, Ocean Park's superlative string of victories. All these gifts now buried in mud.

Matt Stewart in The Herald Sun has pulled together a brilliant shame file.  He concluded:
"But, sadly, this spring might be well be remembered as the spring where racing managed to isolate itself from the rest of the community by so much it might be impossible to bridge the gap."
What new effrontery awaits? Who is going to step up and clean up this mess?

08 November 2012

Memo to RVL: process comes before, not after the inquiry

Oliver will ride on, and Racing Victoria CEO Rob Hines demonstrates he still doesn't get it:
"Once the current investigation into allegations against jockey Damien Oliver has concluded, we will provide an explanation of the process and timing of our investigation," Hines said.
No, no, no. Transparent processes are established BEFORE the inquiry, not after. And if Oliver has admitted to the infraction he should be stood down immediately. The Cup may be yesterday's news but Oliver remains a rolling bad headline.

On the topic of Racing Victoria's inept handling of this issue, yes, it is true we've been ahead of the curve, but note that the floodgates of indignation are now fairly gushing with opprobrium for RVL. Cop these quotes:

06 November 2012

Cumani, Freedman discuss Damien Oliver on Melbourne Cup morning, 2012

UPDATE: Richard Hinds comments in The Age entertainment pages:

ABC The Drum: UPDATE: Damien Oliver should stand down.

"Damien Oliver should stand down from riding immediately following a report in this morning's Fairfax press alleging that he admitted last month to authorities to the charge of betting on a rival runner. Failing that, connections of cup favourite Americain should do the racing public and the great tradition of the Melbourne Cup a big fat favour and remove Oliver from the ride.
These latest claims cut to the very heart of our story on Friday. Corrupt activity and the administrators who appear unable to deal with it in a timely and transparent manner are doing the Australian turf untold damage."
Read our updated story over at the ABC's The Drum.

05 November 2012

7's McAvaney: "Racing is my first love."

Many forget or are unaware that silver-lined host of Seven's Spring Carnival coverage, Bruce McAvaney, started out as a racecaller in the late 70s for Adelaide's 5DN. McAvaney attracts more than his share of troll-driven ridicule and rarely gets his due as the consummate professional and one of our greatest broadcasters. Here's his call of At Talaq's 1986 Cup.

RVL winds back claims it must "sit back and wait" for Police

We were alarmed by comments last week from RVL CEO Rob Hines, when he told TVN:
"The Stewards are not law enforcement, the police are the law enforcement agency and we have to run second string to them. So when they have a criminal investigation we have to sit back and wait for that to be resolved." 
So we asked RVL media to put three questions to Mr Hines, questions not specifically related to any allegation or investigation:
  1. Under what statute must RVL "sit back and wait" to investigate any information it has that the Australian Rules of Racing have been breached? 
  2. Does ANY police investigation into possible criminal activity within the racing industry specifically preclude RVL from conducting their own investigations within their own jurisdiction under the Australian Rules of Racing? 
  3. What formal processes exist for the sharing of information between Police and Racing Controlling Bodies?
Here are RVL's corporate responses reprinted in full:

RVL confirms Oliver investigation... and its own lack of transparency

Racing Victoria Limited Communications Manager, Shaun Kelly, has responded to our ten open questions and has finally confirmed that RVL is investigating Damien Oliver:
"In response to Questions 1-10 ... Racing Victoria’s investigation into jockey Damien Oliver is ongoing, and we will not be commenting on any matters relating to it at this stage."
That's it. While this finally breaks RVL's refusal to acknowledge that it is even conducting "an investigation into jockey Damien Oliver", RVL is happy to leave questions 2-10 unanswered, including in our opinion the question that most goes to RVL's capacity to maintain public confidence in racing:

02 November 2012

ABC The Drum: Our national day of wilful blindness

"It's the eve of Victoria Derby Day, truly one of the world's great racedays, and the Spring Carnival PR machine is in overdrive: it's all horses and frocks, gallops and Gaultier. And we're just three days from that race that 'allegedly' stops the nation, when Melbourne's biggest annual tourism event reaches its crescendo.
"Most notably, no one gives a flying horseshoe whether the racing game is 'allegedly' crook or not. The public, the media and racing's administrators have swept that word 'allegedly'into the wowser basket.
"Nothing will spoil our national day of wilful blindness, of hooves and hedonism. And to be honest, yours truly plans to join the throng headlong in celebration of the noble steed and, of course, 'the punt'."

Read our full story over at the ABC's The Drum.

The 1956 Hotham Handicap...

The "Hotham Handicap", run on Victoria Derby Day since 1869, produced Australia's first recorded triple dead heat, in 1956.

Triple treat: (from left)  Fighting Force (J. Purtell), Ark Royal (R. Heather) and Pandie Sun (W. Williamson).