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Integrity’s A Funny Thing

Is officialdom bringing racing into disrepute?

Veteran Australian Racing journalist Steve Moran, writing his first column for anzbloodstocknews.com, asks:  When will racing’s governing bodies and its stewards stop bringing racing into disrepute?

This article has caused quite a stir on the social media platforms.

detective with magnifying glass

OK, I’m being a touch facetious but not entirely flippant.

Like it or not, justified or not – that question has been the standing joke among industry participants, especially in Victoria, over the past two years.

It seems that every bit of racing’s dirty linen gets a public hearing and often via industry leaks. It’s a funny thing integrity! Bit like children perhaps. Ought to be seen (to be done) but not heard.

While there are, of course, no degrees of honesty or integrity the racing game has a multitude of grey areas which need balanced and considered policing.

After all, nobody genuinely believes that every staying horse resuming in the spring is genuinely complying with AR 135 (a) and (b) that “Every horse shall  be run on its merits…..and the rider of every horse shall take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout the race to ensure that his horse is given full opportunity to win or to  obtain the best possible place in the field.”

Naturally, the racing game (and the massive wagering which accompanies it) demands that things are seen to be above board.  Breaches of integrity have to be investigated and prosecuted when appropriate. But at what  cost, financially and in terms of damage to the industry’s reputation?

I can’t help but think that it’s time the industry collectively took one big deep breath and carefully consider that need for ‘balanced and considered policing.’

Call me naive but I have no concerns that our game is poisoned by endemic cheating or corruption.

I’m pretty sure, from years of race day interaction, that the punt is not the raison d’etre for the Majority of trainers, especially those at the top end of the game.

Of course, I am not so naive as to think that nothing untoward ever happens. And I certainly make no judgment on the wisdom of any specific, major prosecutions of late as I am not privy to all the information stewards may hold.

However, I do note that Racing Victoria’s legal costs more than doubled to $2,380,000 in 2015, from $1,020,000 in 2014. Goodness knows what that figure will be in 2016 and 2017 given the on-going cobalt cases. Racing NSW, incidentally, spent just $87,366 on legal fees in 2015.

I’ll admit I’m illiterate when it comes to corporate and financial affairs and maybe a $2,380,000 legal bill, amid awkward times, is not massive for an organisation of RV’s size but obviously if it were eliminated there’d be almost $25,000 extra which could be added to the prize money on 100 races.

I believe there is also a strong view among industry participants that our ‘police’ ought not sweat the small stuff.

Did the likes of Sarah Moody and Manny Gelagotis really need to be fined for what were deemed to be inappropriate tweets and comments – especially given the further costs incurred when Gelagotis appealed the decision and the negative publicity both cases generated?

Magnified illustration with the word Facts on white background.

A view that common sense was not applied when Platelet (Strategic) was scratched from the Darley Classic (Gr 1, 1200m) because of an incorrect stable return or that El Roca (Fastnet Rock), in Sydney, was taken out of the Hobartville Stakes (Gr 2, 1400m) because of a misunderstanding of the rules which loosely centred on the horse having the equivalent of Gatorade.

A view that too many rules have been amended with a complete disregard for common sense, particularly with many very  minor treatments within 24 hours of a race and mandatory minimum penalties. That the whip rule is unwieldy and unworkable and unnecessary and simply provides ammunition for  racing’s detractors.

That  Racing Australia’s  bid   to   have   all   breeders   under   its   control   is   unnecessary,   Regulation   for   the   sake   of   regulation and also likely to be costly.

All   I’m   saying   is   that   not   all   is   rotten   in  the  state  of  racing,  so  I  would  hope  the regulators are not starting from that premise.

That  greater  collaboration  with  trainers  on the  rules  of  racing  is  advisable  and  that  the  imposition   of   penalties   should   be   applied  in   the   most   cost-effective   manner.   There   is   a   sense   of   frustration   out   there   which  administrators  would  be  unwise  to  ignore  if   for no other reason than their own tenure.

www.mikedekockracing.com

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