When is a Winner Not a Winner? – When It Wins a Race in Queensland – The Tawdry Tale of How the QRIC Stewards Made a Kindergarten Kids Mistake, and Altered the Outcome of More Than Half a Million Dollars in Bets

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This is Race 4 from the nationally televised Queensland race meeting at Emerald yesterday, one of only two meetings held across the State.

Due to the meeting’s TAB status and its broadcast on Sky, a conservative estimate of over half a million dollars was invested on the race, so a lot was riding on the outcome.

It’s immediately obvious from the still frame of the finish, taken by me from the official race replay, which horse has won.

Or Else, a $17 shot ridden by Beau-Dene Appo, has got up on the outside to to beat the $1.95 favorite Addicted in the middle.

The finish wasn’t even close as far as photos go, and Or Else had swept to the lead at least five strides out from the post.

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For Else was the winner without any question.

But it didn’t win.

Addicted did.

Or at least that’s what the official race day judges and the QRIC Stewards say anyway.

The Stewards that officiated on the day are – on the evidence of these events – grossly incompetent one and all, and they speak with forked tongues. If the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission was fair dinkum, each and every one of them would be looking for a new job this morning.

You see, the photo-finish apparatus malfunctioned during the race, so there was no stand-alone print for anyone to look at.

The malfunction was no Act of God.

There have been rumours floating around regional racing circles for at least a year now that essential equipment has aged and worn, and requires replacing. Numerous applications for funding have been made to Racing Queensland for the repair and/or replacement of tools of the race club trade such as barriers, rails, scales , jockey rooms and yes, photo finish equipment.

While tens of millions of dollars have been spent fixing the mess created by Racing Queensland managed course proper constructions/destruction in town and at Ipswich. most of these funding requests for basic equipment have either been refused, or are still sitting on someone at RC’s desk awaiting assessment at the end of the financial year.

Yet still the clubs with the time-worn and  bruised and battered equipment race on.

That’s the back story to the latest debacle in Queensland racing.

The front page story of the day is that in the absence of a photo-finish print, the judge Mr M. Bulger decided – by opinion and by eye – that as the runners crossed the line Addicted had been in front and won the race, and had put that horse’s number up in the frame.

Sadly the Judge got it wrong.

It’s troubling but totally excusable, for a lot of punters get it wrong from time to time when trying to pick the winners in a photo on the naked eye, that’s the reason that we give judges cameras, and in every other State spend a couple of bucks on annual checks and services to make sure that they work.

My mate the Eagle – who is named that for obvious reasons – doesn’t get photos wrong though, or at least he hasn’t in the forty years that I have known him, twenty of them spend from lunchtime to close each day in the TAB.

The Eagle’s a man who bets on every race on the card, every card, in every code when he has the cabbage, and the COVID 10 000 has created many a man a temporary bank.

The bloke with the best photo finish eye in the business sent me this text straight after the race.

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The Eagle was right of course.

Mr Bulger had got it wrong.

Never fear though, for the jockeys and trainers of both the winner and runner-up in the race were skeptical about the result too, and went straight to the Stewards after the numbers had been semaphored to voice their concerns.

The Stewards pulled up a copy of the replay, and took a look, and right there the whole controversy could and should have been ended before it had even begun.

The correct weight signal hadn’t sounded, and under the Australian Rules of Racing (see it was the mandated role of the Stewards to thoroughly and properly examine the matter, and to correct the judge’s mistake.

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If the race day Stewards – Mr or Ms Hudson and Allison, and more particularly the Chairman of Stewards Mr Joshua Adams – had performed their roles competently, then Judge Bulger’s immediate post-race placing would have been reversed, and For Else declared the official winner with Addicted in second place.

The Stewards had exactly the same race replay vision that I did when producing the still images displayed above, and as you have seen the result is conclusive.

For Else won.

No he didn’t.

The Stewards confirmed the judge’s placings.

Addicted was declared the official winner of the race, and more than half a millions dollars in wagers around the world were affected too.

Adams and his panel cited AR Rule 214 (4) as the justification for their decision.

As I said earlier, they speak with forked tongues. I’ve already shown you that rule, it says that the Stewards have the power to overturn the judge’s decision if the available evidence shows that he made a mistake, which he clearly (but in the circumstances, excusably) so obviously did.

The Stewards had no excuse at all.

This is not acceptable.

Punters confidence in racing in this State has been severely damaged. Some have had what should have been winning tickets turned into dust, other have struck windfalls that that they shouldn’t have.

The connections of For Else have been robbed of $3750, the difference in prizemoney between running first or running second; and the connections of the second horse have been gifted the same amount in error. The trainers and jockeys of both horses have been paid the wrong winning percentages.

The whole racing world is just looking at us like we are fools.

Perhaps its time for the Stewards to call for the betting sheets, and to scour the names of account holders who backed the winner closely. A tip to the QRIC though – you might want to convene a different panel to undertake that task, just to avoid any potential conflicts of interest.

Whichever way the coin lands, heads must roll.

Then integrity of Queensland racing depends on it.

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