By Hans Ebert
Everything that needs to be known about the James McDonald case seems to have been written. Whether there’s more fallout involving others, only time will tell.
What has not been written is what can be done to keep out the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, The Tennis Player, and other vultures and parasites hovering around, especially young jockeys, who are perhaps not the most streetwise, and like the serpent offering the apple to Adam, playing on their vulnerability to be Oliver Twisted by handing them something rotten to the core.
Do these characters- these pox on society- exist everywhere there’s horse racing? Probably. It’s certainly no secret that, like fleas, they’re all over horse racing in Singapore and Malaysia, which is why these racing jurisdictions are often banished to the wilderness and not taken seriously.
Before the Macau Racing Club became Le Rue Morgue, and looked like being a healthy, thriving, young racing club, it didn’t take long for the “dark invaders” to move in with some racing executives laying out the Welcome mat for them.
Even in Hong Kong, where Integrity issues are of paramount importance, and nipped in the bud before the Barbarians at the gate break through, there have been those few times when they have sneaked through the net. The Chris Munce “Tips For Bets” case involving one particular group of “investors” led by “Cosmo Kramer”, which led to the arrest of the then-jockey, struck a timely dose of fear to some riding here at the time, who had never heard of the saying, “You’re judged by the company you keep.” The arrest of Chris Munce quickly stopped the meetings with “Cosmo, Jerry and George” at popular meeting places like the Captain’s Bar and the Champagne Bar.
With James McDonald having suffered a brain freeze, and, instead of a Dutch Connection, falling in with the character known as “The Tennis Player” aka big noting, well-known racing groupie and serial braggart Anthony Gardiner, begs the question as to how widespread is this type of “tennis squad”, who are their cahoots, and how and whether their big dollar punting tentacles affect the rank and file punter through the manipulation of odds?
Those who loathe the elitism of horse racing in Australia should be more fearful of gangsterism entering and controlling the sport. All those references to the “colourful characters” of horse racing is the polite way of calling someone a crook. And these days, when emails are forwarded, exchanged, and many are privy to all types of information- which owners are unable to pay training fees, who’s zooming who, those living a lie on the racing twitterverse, it’s a little odd that many racing writers can reveal names, dates and betting plunges, but suffer from George Castanza-type shrinkage when asked what all those highly-paid racing executives and racing ministers are doing- if anything- to stop the rot.
Why would someone in Hong Kong even care about the James McDonald case instead of sitting back and just lovin’ it all unfold? It has to do with being a racing fan, and protecting the image of horse racing to ensure that nothing leads to a No Confidence vote in the sport. This case involving one of Australia’s most high profile jockeys riding for the powerful Godolphin racing group, who’s ridden in Hong Kong and is known to the city’s racing fans, opens up many different topics for conversations. It also opens up a can of new worms.
Will this affect confidence in betting on Australian racing? How will any of this help the image of racing in Australia from a global perspective? Is James McDonald’s eighteen month suspension fair when compared to the kid gloves suspension handed down to one senior jockey that gave him ten months to improve his golf game during the winter months? Something doesn’t add up? But maybe our maths are wrong, Batman.
From the few times we’ve spoken to James McDonald, he’s come across as a nice enough young man, who had the racing world at his feet and a huge future in store with Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin organisation and global brand. Let’s not forget how this brand was tarnished by the high profile doping scandal case involving former Godolphin trainer Mahmood al Zarooni, below.
Some are saying that, financially, James McDonald is set for life with his investments in property and other businesses. But being able to take sitting out eighteen months on the sidelines and not able to do what he was born to do- ride some of the best horses in the world to win- will need great human resolve.
Of course, he will make a comeback, and some who have been in similar predicaments have returned and taken up from where they left off. But apart from Frankie Dettori, none of these comebacks involved working for a global racing organisation as big as Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin brand.
What still needs answering is what, if anything, is being done to keep the parasites away from feeding on those in horse racing. And not only jockeys. This is where hard-nosed investigative journalism comes into play. But from the outside looking in, racing in Australia doesn’t have a Woodward and Bernstein. When push comes to shove, it has a number of lightweight Lois Lanes and Jimmy Olsens.
For the most part, these are racing reporters- racing reporters either fed stories to manipulate and hide the truth, or else taking a story only so far before fear takes over as gigs are at stake, and where questioning those in authority can lead to having the rug pulled from under you. Just ask Kenny Callander. How many of Mr Callander’s peers jumped to his defence when “they” tried to silence him for questioning authority? Did anyone? Or was he fed to the wolves with there being no moral outrage other than some mild-mannered token hand wringing? The hypocrisy of it all is sickening.
Has anyone really questioned those racing administrators with the power to bring about closure to the long drawn out horse opera involving trainer Kate Goodrich, where she alleges bullying, harassment in the workplace, the disclosure of her private medical records, and financial losses? Why has this case been allowed to drag on and on and on since around 2013 with no signs of closure? How many more tweets can she send out about the same old story before the racing twitterverse implodes? Before at least one top banana responds? Silence is not golden. It speaks volumes.
Adopting a silence of the lambs attitude in the hope that “the crazy woman”, who continues to take on all of those protected species involved in racing in Victoria, will meekly go away is not a smart business strategy, not when her case becomes part of a laundry list of unresolved complaints against RVL that seem certain to have the Rules of Racing being taken on by the Court of Public Appeal.
Call her what you will, but Kate Goodrich is not going away even if there’s an offer on the table. She’s demanding “justice for all”, accountability, a public apology by all those who have waltzed around her case, and doesn’t give a damn what people think of her and the story that refuses to go away. It shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet when one examines all the facts and findings that bear out her revolt against the system. The system is stuffed. And despite what some may think, she’s not some devious woman holding out for a big payout.
Surely, with the James McDonald case having more holes in it than a slab of cheddar cheese, it’s high time those being paid the big bucks to keep horse racing on the straight and narrow be forced to get off their backsides, bring about closure, revisit all the recent cases that have received zero responses and are left hanging in limbo, prove to racing fans the world over that everything is above board and under control, and that racing administrators are capable of doing more than holding corporate “pow wows” behind closed doors, and answering soft ball questions lobbed their way on radio stations every time there’s the slightest hint of the natives getting too restless, and a Braveheart stepping in?
If these racing administrators are still unable or incapable to bring about closure to all of this, it only proves that a fish stinks from the head down, and that horse racing in Australia might have a glorious past, but it has no future with the Fat Lady having been clearing her throat for the last couple of years.
The irony is that the present and future of racing in Australia is tarnished by those very same people allowed to continue playing the role of sanctimonious political windbags along with those somehow managing to become decision makers, but scared to make a decision, and who clueless as to how to put their Humpty Dumpty house in order. Who hired these clowns? And why? Basil Fawlty?