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.

26 April 2013

Godolphin trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni banned 8 years for administering steroids

Newsmaker: Al Zarooni
Former trainer Mahmood Al Zarooni has been suspended for 8-years by the UK's British Horseracing Authority's (BHA) disciplinary panel after being found guilty of administering anabolic steroids to horses at Godolphin's Moulton Stables, reports racingpost.com. As a result, "15 horses have been suspended from racing for six months as it emerged that Al Zarooni administered the banned substances with two foremen and a vet's assistant." Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford, speaking on behalf of Al Zarooni, issued an apology "to Sheikh Mohammed, all at Godolphin and fans of British racing". Australian-born BHA chief executive Paul Bittar commented in a press release: "The panel has determined that the drugs were administered on Al Zarooni's instructions. This case has shown there is no place for performance-enhancing drugs in our sport and we have a robust testing system." Bittar praised the cooperation by Godolphin's head Sheikh Mohammed to ensure a "rapid resolution" to the saga which has the potential to tarnish British racing's reputation. Australian racing luminary, Richard Freedman, commented on Twitter:
"Under current Australian racing policies regarding non-raceday steroid testing, Al Zarooni would not have been charged."
Racing NSW Chief Steward Ray Murrihy responded to the news by calling for a debate on the use of Anobolic Steriods in Australian Racing. WITH SOURCE: Breedingracing.com

23 April 2013

Godolphin in damage control after "catastrophic error" on steroids

Following yesterday's dramatic 'positive' to anabolic steroids by 11 horses trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni at Moulton in the UK, the powerful Godolphin stable in England is undergoing an urgent internal procedural review at the instruction of Sheikh Mohammed. "This is a dark day for Godolphin. We are all shocked by what has happened," stated Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford in a press release. "His Highness Sheikh Mohammed was absolutely appalled when he was told and this is completely unacceptable to him. We will await the outcome of the BHA inquiry before taking any further internal action. Sheikh Mohammed has instructed me to begin an urgent review of all of our procedures and controls. That is already underway and we will take advice from the BHA in completing it." In a further blow to Godolphin, among the 11 'positive' horses banned "for an extended period of time" is Gr1 winner Certify, who will be unable to take part in May's Gr1 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket. According to the British Horse Racing Authority's Adam Brickell, "Al Zarooni will be called to a disciplinary hearing at the first available opportunity." The trainer has accepted responsibility, stating in a press release: "I deeply regret what has happened... I have made a catastrophic error. Because the horses involved were not racing at the time, I did not realize that what I was doing was in breach of the rules of racing. I can only apologize for the damage this will cause to Godolphin and to racing generally." SOURCE: Breedracing.com

22 April 2013

No evidence, no findings, no comment, no worries.

Despite all the lurid claims and bold predictions that the racing game was crook and police action was imminent, it appears no clutch of jockeys has been arrested and/or charged with anything more serious than traffic offences.
And now Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has refused to repeat his demand for answers over RVL's conduct of the Oliver affair during the 2012 spring carnival. 
The Premier, who remains fully embedded as Minister for Racing, said through a spokesperson that he:
"has confidence in Sal Perna as the Independent Victorian Racing Integrity Commissioner and there is no doubt Mr Perna is the appropriate authority to investigate the handling of the Damien Oliver investigation."
If you remember, on November 20, 2012, after months of controversy, Napthine finally emerged from his bunker to declare he "was very concerned about allegations of mishandling and delays into resolving the Oliver inquiry". So concerned he put out a release headed:
"Minister seeks independent investigation of Damien Oliver Inquiry"
in which he asked Perna to investigate:

06 March 2013

Public interest derailed by Perna's process

More than three months after Damien Oliver was disqualified by Racing Victoria for betting $10,000 on a rival runner, the man charged with investigating the affair is yet to interview a single participant.

"I've been working with RVL to get all the documentation together," Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna told Turf Confidential last Wednesday, exactly 100 days since Racing Minister Denis Napthine called on him to investigate Racing Victoria's dismal handling of the matter. 
"I've examined the bulk of the information but there's still a couple of items I still need to get from RVL.
"I should be able to start interviews next week."
Blow us down with a feather. This farce, which dragged the 2012 Melbourne Cup Carnival through the mud and left an ugly stain where Victorian racing's good name used to be, is being interrogated with all the rigour of rigor mortis.

Process is clearly strangling this Commissioner's sense of urgency.