Over the past few weeks, we have been thinking about the future of Racingb*tch. With two offers on the table for the brand and two other related properties, the thought was to just sell it and get back to our full-time gigs which have zero to do with horse racing.
After all, this little blog started off as a hobby and something irreverent about a sport that we have followed as punters and felt needed some shaking up while having a dig at those one-time untouchables and sacred cows and udders slowing it down and having it fester through their personal agendas. Power corrupts and greed WAS good in the Eighties when Gordon Gekkos were around.
The racing industry is still being cut off at its knees by way too many who have grown up and grown old knowing racing in one way only and still want the sport served to them the same old way- and this includes what we write about- and write for free and for fun and to try and make a difference.
We have turned our backs on taking in advertising as it would make the blog look like a dog’s breakfast, but, more importantly, ‘cos many of those who wish to advertise here are products we would not endorse. So, the idea of selling a random hobby that brings in squat- and sometimes unnecessary headaches- made sense. It was no longer becoming fun and it certainly was and is not financially rewarding.
But after a month of going back and forth as to whether to sell or not, deal or no deal, we’re keeping it as we stumbled on a new revenue generator that has been staring us in the face. More on this later while we take this short commercial break.
Anything new which brings us closer to new racegoers and products for this group of consumers, excites us. It’s moving things forward and not being part of racing’s rat race and the Rat Pack or Tony Clifton killing “My Way”.
Writing reams and reams of copy about the usual suspects has become a bore and a chore and we wonder if we’re making a difference. Perhaps we are judging by the legal threats we receive. We like that. It makes us feel like the renegades some of our heroes were and are. If Racingb*tch were a person, we’d want it to be equal parts Lennon, Keith Richards, Goodfellas, Hunter S. Thompson and Joan Rivers.
We are not about writing exclusively about the racing worlds in Oz or Hong Kong or Singapore. We want to write about the global world of racing and how to “co-mingle” it all in one place: Here. We want to be part of the New and, ding dong, ring out the old and help create or re-create a new, vibrant industry and be right here when racing in China opens up. And it will.
We have seen, first-hand, how and why the advertising and music industries became irrelevant to consumers: They refused to embrace change and tuned out listening to consumers. They stayed in their ivory towers and thought they could send their troops down to the town to see what the village idiots were doing.
Technology and Steve Jobs have made sure that it no longer works that way and the cuckoos have taken over the nest eggs.
So, Racingb*tch and what comes out of the team behind Racingb*tch- and it is a team though every team has a leader- will always be about consumers- especially new consumers to horse racing- and communicating with them in new ways about a sport that has been sullied and needs new thinking if racing’s Humpty Dumpty is to become a good egg and not end up having its ass fried.
Now, get off that high horse, come along for the ride and join us for a nice cuppa elephant dung coffee.
BREEDERS CUP CONCEPT FOR NSW IS COMPLETELY OUTDATED
If there is one distinguishing feature about horse racing, it is its unique ability to stay shackled to the past. Racing has done sweet fanny adams to introduce anything new for so long it has been left behind. Perhaps permanently. So when it comes to the scary task of introducing something, just anything new to their own backyard, racing goes down the old road well travelled and introduces its own carnival – just a day or two here and there in different states, with feature black type or Group races, primarily to be seen to be doing something and buying time, disguising its irrelevance and abject failure to respond to the Herculean challenges that have not unpredictably, landed on its doorstep.
NSW racing had a racing event or carnival, call it what you will ,called the Sydney Easter Racing Carnival, which, not unlike Victoria’s ground breaking and now iconic Spring Racing Carnival, was one of the best racing events/carnivals in Australia. But like most empires, they all decay and crumble, particularly if the rulers and the sycophants who make up the “courts” of the emperors or rulers hasten the arrival of their very own “use by date”. And that is exactly what happened in NSW.
As the AJC declined through the 70’s and 80’s, and the Committee lunches became the place to be and positions on the Committee were coveted by leading lights in the NSW business world and their board rooms, in keeping with the times, most had little or no understanding or empathy with racing. It was merely another glittering line on one’s CV. It also brought with it social status particularly for the better half who would wallow in the limelight of the cocktail circuit. For Committee Members, and they were a select few, it most importantly brought with the vitally important “keys to the booze cabinet”, where the mandatory nip or four of the finest Scotch, Gin or Dark Rum an hour or more before the first set the scene for “a glorious days racing at Royal Randwick”.
Several decades later- and we can only sympathize with the Herculean task facing Chairman John Cornish and his ATC Committee as they come to grips with turning around a financially strapped AJC- the task was made even more challenging with having to virtually go to a ground zero type scenario in demolishing the old concrete cancer ridden grandstand and constructing an almost brand new non-racetrack infrastructure. Escalating construction costs, and from what we are told, an extremely mischievous and Machiavellian Racing NSW intent on getting their own way on media rights, have added to the woes of the ATC.
So then, why do we constantly hear of these “pie in the sky”, outdated ideas, attributed not surprisingly to John “the messiah” Messara to resurrect the Sydney Autumn Carnival by running a Breeders Cup series in Sydney in March or April? It does not surprise us that a Breeders Cup type concept is given oxygen by one of Australia’s most prominent breeders. And one who still polarizes racing people in NSW like no other. The “Messiah” has never ever even been an acquired taste, and wont ever be, in racing circles. Interestingly he appears to be taking a half a step back from this half baked idea if weekend media reports are any guide. He is reported to have hosed down talk of a Breeders Cup series, dismissing it as just “pub talk” at this stage. Well Johnny, mate, who fucking started the pub talk? You could have killed it off months ago, but didn’t.
Let’s face it, the last thing NSW racing needs is a Breeders Cup series. It will be yet another expensive white elephant which NSW racing can ill afford. It simply exposes the flawed thinking that has become entrenched in the DNA at the highest levels of racing administrators throughout Australia. Decision making is marked by “indecent haste”. Millions of dollars in funds and resources are wasted on feasibility studies and round the world junkets just to be seen to be doing something. And the end result, as always, is an accumulation of massive and unwelcome bills which could and should be put back into the pockets of those who the show on for the NSW racing industry – the owners, trainers and jockeys. But then again in NSW, their respective associations all seem to be fully paid up members of the Racing NSW cheering squad.
Sadly for NSW racing, the ATC is in no position to tell Racing NSW to “keep off the Randwick grass”. They are too dependent on funding to complete the Randwick reconstruction, the costs of which are escalating by the day. The ATC only has to cast a glance over the border at the massively successful Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, which is driven primarily by the VRC. It was developed by the VRC as a VRC racing event around its world famous Melbourne Cup and Cup week. The VRC has never lost ownership of the Spring racing carnival to the Victorian racing governing body Racing Victoria. There is a lesson here for the ATC. And from what we have observed and what we hear, the relationship between Racing Victoria and the VRC is based on respect, and despite the familiar “tiffs” that are part and parcel of robust discussions in racing, both bodies enjoy a harmonious and constructive working relationship. Unlike NSW, perhaps in Victoria, it has a lot to do with those involved at Board level of both Racing Victoria and the VRC. The egos seem to be very much under control in Victoria, and the rampant lust for power and out of control self interest seems very much the domain of the powers that be in NSW. Pity about that!!
OH, GAWD NO- LEE FREEDMAN RETIRES. AGAIN!
Like many, we had grave reservations about the longevity of the racing partnership between racing’s “odd couple” – Lee Freedman and Graham Rogerson. The fanfare seemed very much contrived. Like retired footballers trying to make a comeback – it was always going to be difficult for Lee Freedman. It’s no secret that he had lost his passion for racing and was basically going through the motions when he handed his licence in and transferred the family “markdel” training operation to brother Anthony, who hit the ground running and has made a strong impact in his first year flying solo.
Graham Rogerson is very much in the veteran classification. He is firmly based in his native New Zealand these days and has downsized his Sydney stable substantially. He is still however one of the wiliest operators in racing on both sides of the Tasman. It would be a gross understatement to say that he has had a “colourful” career in racing. In recent years, he has dabbled, unsuccessfully, in setting up and then dismantling his own breeding operation, and has even taken out his own harness racing training licence. Who knows? He may finish up training the odd “dishlicker” or three next.
While “Rogie” is the archetypal survivor, “Freedie” appears to have “still not found what he’s been looking for”. His tweets and occasional outbursts about anything and everything in racing, do him no favours. As one racing wag observed last Saturday at Rosehill, “Freedie is becoming one heck of a bitter person”.
Amusingly, reports that Lee Freedman could find himself a career in the racing industry in administration were greeted with the derision that they deserve. The best unsolicited advice we can offer Lee Freedman is to get the hell out of racing and clear his head and then perhaps look for a position with a global racing and breeding operation. We suspect that the Australian chapter of Lee Freedman’s racing life has just about been written.
EI CLASS ACTION RATTLES THE CAGES IN NSW
While many of the smaller players among the breeders and trainers ranks in NSW and Queensland have actively welcomed the class action launched in the Federal Court by prominent and highly successful Australian class action specialist lawyers Maurice Blackburn, against the Commonwealth Government over claims of negligence relating to the outbreak of EI in 2007; it appears that the big and powerful NSW breeding operations and certain high profile trainers are less than enthusiastic.
The responses of these breeders and trainers is entirely predictable. They were well compensated – the trainers, financially, and the breeders through the special zones created to allow the transport of mares to visit stallions already domiciled in NSW. No problem, per se, with the latter. It could have dominoed a breeding industry which could have been on the ropes for years if the very limited choices of stallions weren’t able to be patronized, some way above their average bookings.
But what we find extremely intriguing is why the big and powerful NSW breeding interests are not supportive of the class action? It merely feeds the perception of one of the “topics du jour” at last Saturday’s Rosehill meeting that high stakes, in fact very, very high stakes are involved here, involving possibly former Federal and State political identities. We recall a very much disgraced NSW State Government Minister these days, at the forefront of the EL crisis alongside a prominent NSW racing identity providing daily updates on EI and literally fornicating over each other with their over the top compliments about the sterling jobs they were doing to save the NSW racing industry and compensate its hapless participants.
As for the trainers and their compensation payments for EI, did two prominent Randwick trainers receive unusually large payments despite the size of their stables being nowhere near as big as the most successful stable Randwick based stable or its counterparts at Warwick Farm and Rosehill? Perhaps the class action may unravel such discrepancies and the reasons, if any.
INTEGRITY RULES MUST ALSO APPLY TO ADMINISTRATORS
Racing headlines over the second half of the year have been dominated by serious allegations and breaches of the Rules of Racing as they apply to Integrity matters by jockeys and trainers – almost exclusively in Victoria.
Unquestionably, the image of racing has been battered and bruised by allegations and instances of race fixing, illegal betting by jockeys, race day administration of medication and drugs and an appalling mishandling and response by Racing Victoria to these very serious breaches of the rules of racing. It has completely sapped public confidence in the ability of Racing Victoria to vigorously uphold the integrity of racing in that State.
But, to be fair to the participants, and in particular to the profession of jockeys and trainers, is this media and general community focus on the obvious targets – the jockeys and trainers, allowing administrators to escape accountability and scrutiny for decision making where clearly some of the decisions have distinct “odour” about them, correct?
Racing Administrators go out of their way and make a great song and dance encouraging whistleblowers to “dob” in cheats be they jockeys or trainers, with all the promises of anonymity and, no doubt “silent” deals on immunity from prosecution and penalty.
So, why not extend the same protection and immunity to whistleblowers if they are prepared to expose corrupt practices, corruption and the like by racing administrators? Perhaps such protection and immunity from prosecution and penalty may encourage those employees either previously employed in the racing industry or still on the payroll of race clubs or governing bodies to shed light, for example, on the distribution of State and Federal Government compensation payments from EI and the Papal Visit which resulted in the temporary relocation of Randwick trainers to other training centres.
If a handful of Randwick-based trainers received larger compensation payments than some of their colleagues, on what basis were these payments calculated, and were these trainers encouraged, and by whom, to fill any vacant boxes, so these particular persons could maximize their compensation?
Casting a glance at our friends in Victoria and Queensland and other States for that matter, the nagging doubts about contractual arrangements with “preferred” suppliers will only be dispelled if they are made public and it can be demonstrated that the rigid principles of due diligence have been applied.
Integrity is not a one way street. It does not just apply to one or two categories of licensed persons. The “fish always rots from the head”, and anecdotally, executive positions and titles don’t always produce men and women of integrity in positions which can be exploited to gain an advantage or conversely to disadvantage a person or organization.
If the Australian racing industry is serious about not paying lip service to Integrity, then it MUST extend the same scrutiny to the very people that govern the industry.
YOU FUCKING SERIOUS, RAY MURRIHY?
If we didn’t know better we’d give you the benefit of the doubt, Ray. But listening to your justification of upholding the Race Four protest against the winner Marden in favour of Scream Machine, we are completely blown out of the water trying to understand your logic or complete lack of it.
Let’s say upfront that we did not have a bet in the race, so we could not really give a toss about the result, except that we felt for the poor souls who put their hard earned on Marden and were left lamenting at your fucking “ground breaking” decision, Ray.
First Scream machine missed the start by a conservative three lengths. He blew his chances at the start. Badly. And, as happens in every fucking race anywhere in the world in medium to big fields there is plenty of bumping and interference of various degrees until the field settles over the first 100 or more metres. To exacerbate Scream Machine’s predicament, Kathy O’Hara rightly attempted to minimize the impact of missing the start by her haste to make up whatever lost ground had been conceded. Sure there was interference by Marden, but did that interference affect the result? Very fucking doubtful, Headmater Ray.
Have a look at the third umpire decisions in test cricket, where if there is even the slightest of doubt , the batsman always receives the benefit of that doubt. That said, Headmaster Ray, through the diligence of your good self and presumably second opinion from one or several of your panel, you discovered a possible second incident of interference, which obviously either eluded Kathy O’Hara or she decided it was unworthy of filing a second protest, which if she believed was of significant importance to affect the result of the race, surely she would have taken advantage of the “free kick” you gave her by taking up your offer to add it to her grounds of protest. The result would have been a foregone conclusion.
Let’s face it, how often does a jockey reject a Steward’s invitation to protest? And to be fair to Kathy she’s been around the jockey ranks for long enough and is no dill. So, when Headmaster Ray decided to add a “steward’s protest”, the poor souls who backed Marden had their collective fates sealed.
As a bunch of trainers summed the farce up: “Let’s hope Ray and his panel follow the precedent they have established and go though film of each race and judge the scale of each bump and interference before declaring correct weight”. Sure, they will probably be there till midnight each race day and punters won’t always be able to collect within five minutes of returning to scale, but you’ve set the precedent, Headmaster Ray, and its’ now up to you to ensure a level playing field exists- and be spanked for this mess.
“TOFFEE” – THE FIVE STAR TOSSER.
“Eeeeeeeeew, a horse!”
We had the misfortune to tune in to a podcast of Victoria’s Radio Sports National morning hosted by Shane Anderson where he interviewed our old mate Peter “toffee tongue” McGauran in his present incarnation as Chief Executive of the Australian Racing Board (ARB). The subject? The Federal Court decision to turf out Bruce McHugh’s ill conceived and costly attempt to overturn the ban on the use of Artificial Insemination (AI) in thoroughbred racing. No doubt the Federal Court got it right.
But to hear “Toffee” trot out his entire repertoire of glib political phrases on-air from his Canberra days was enough to make one reach for the tried and tested “wheelie bin”. It was nauseating hearing “Toffee” proffer his pearls of spin, failing miserably to convince us that the entire defence of the challenge was about “protecting the interests of the small and medium breeders”.
“Tofffee”, mate, it brought back memories of your halcyon days as a Howard Government Cabinet Minister, when your Prime Minister John Howard ran around the countryside professing and promoting the legitimacy of every fucking policy as in the best interests of “Howard’s battlers”. “Toffee”, no doubt the “spin” skills you learned in the big house in Canberra, have come in really handy at the ARB. As a matter of interest, since when have the Hunter Valley breeders, who control the Australian breeding industry, and its mouthpiece the Thoroughbred Breeders of Australia, been interested in the welfare of the small and medium breeders?
But there was more. When asked how China might react when and if it becomes a major player in world racing, to AI, “Toffee” was at his patronizing best. He just could not help himself, declaring that Asian racing jurisdictions had demonstrated a willingness to work within an international framework and to uniform rules adhered to and abided by global racing jurisdictions. Spot on, “Toffee” you are absolutely right, except for one important fact, that you and your “friendly” host Shane Anderson failed to point out. A memory lapse perhaps, but while Asian racing jurisdictions have rigorously stood by and supported the rules and protocols set down by the International Horse Racing Federation (IHF),it appears Australia, read Racing NSW, is more than happy to set its OWN set of rules and give the IHF the two finger salute.
Remember the Chris Munce case? Rather forget it eh, “Toffee”? Sorry mate, we haven’t forgotten the international racing incident caused by your good mate and fellow “tosser” Peter “the not so great” V’Landys, by blatantly flouting international racing agreements and protocols and grant Chris a licence, defying the agreements which your very own new employer the ARB had signed up to internationally. The fallout from the Hong Kong Jockey Club is still felt in Australia, despite the valiant attempts by your other good mate John “the messiah” Messara to seek a pardon from the HKJC.
While there is so much to admire and enjoy about Australian racing and breeding, it is incumbent on the decision makers in our sport to “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk”. Pontificating about what you might expect from other racing jurisdictions is all well and good if you can lead by example and earn and retain the respect that you feel that you deserve. Throwaway lines and a selective memory are embedded in the personalities of five star tossers, who do little to promote Australian racing.