It’s going to be an interesting meeting in the Falvelon Room at Eagle Farm this afternoon, don’t you worry about that.
Up at the front of the room, alone except for each other, will sit the finger pointers – Robert Heathcote, Desleigh Forster, Kelly Schweida and Brian Guy
(Guy’s son, co-trainer and fellow vocal critic of the QRIC Daniel is notable for his absence. Would it not be an uneven playing field if all the other trainers were leaving their horses behind to attend the meeting, while D Guy was at home looking after theirs? It’s a moot point I guess – the Guys’s train so few winners that no-one really cares).
Heathcote is the spiritual leader of this wolf pack, the vocal front man for the toecutters whose form is making spurious claims that other trainers who make them look second-rate during runs of success are cheats, even though when their own streaks come like Heathcote’s did with Buffering, the expectation is that they themselves are feted as geniuses not rorters, and that statues are built in their honour at the gates of the Farm.
Many ignorant racing folk claim that Robert Heathcote is the man to listen to on all matters integrity, because he is squeaky clean.
To that I simply say “Oh really? What about O’Leary’?”, and add that sometimes being an old racing man ain’t as bad as it sometimes feels in the morning, for at least long age gives you plenty of time to learn and know your racing history.
You can make of that what you will I sup-hose, and filter it through your own funnel.
In the pews on the opposite side, glaring across at the finger pointers, will be those trainers who are are having the fingers pointed at them – Tony Sears, Lindsay Hatch, Daryl Hansen and Toby Edmonds.
Daniel Guy’s absence means at least that Heathcote can’t accuse Sears and Edmonds of cheating by leaving their own training partners and kids at home. It’s probably the only thing that the man in the glass house and his mates haven’t accused them of lately.
The four have been victims of a vicious campaign of whispered rumours, unsubtle innuendo, and outright claim made in dark corners that they are racing cheats, allegations that would end their careers if they could be proven, but to date the darts being thrown by their colleagues don’t carry a skerrick of proof, and they are being made by people who don’t even have the guts to put a name to those they are pointing at.
It’s quite disgraceful really, given that people’s lives and professions are at stake.
You can accuse Archie Butterfly of a lot of things, but a lack of courage or courage of his convictions isn’t one of them. When this author points the finger at a person, he says their name, and although I’ve been the target of oppressive legal actions and faux-arrests with no foundation that were designed to shut me up, I’ve always stood up and kicked back, and I never hide behind lawyers letters or broad sweep gutless claims made against people I don’t have the ticker to name.
This is racing, not the Kingdom of Oz.
Tin men and cowardly lions aren’t invited, and they are not welcome.
It’s all too easy to call a bloke or his son or daughter a cheat behind closed doors in the Commissioner’s office, or when talking on the phone to the media; but it’s a lot harder to look the person that you’re bagging out in the eye and do it, as I’m sure the finger pointers are about to find out this afternoon.
The wise old heads and voices of reason will be gathered together quietly sipping tea in one of the neutral corners – Jim Murdoch QC, Pat Duff, Brian Wakefield and Kevin Kemp.
If you added up this small group of sages combined years in the racing game, and them deducted them from 2020, you’d find yourself back in Australia well before Captain Cook and his ship of white fools ever lay eyes on the joint. They are a group of hugely respected, vastly experienced, highly astute men who have been there and seen that in the racing industry, and at this stage of their long, winding racing journeys each is largely devoid of self-interest, and their prime focus is firmly on the longevity of our beautiful game.
It stands them apart from the rest.
The self-proclaimed new age Gold Coast trainer Michael Costa will be sitting somewhere in the middle of the room by himself, just the way he likes it. I’m not quite sure what he’s actually doing there at the meeting, Perhaps he’s after some new owners to replace the major Asian client he is rumoured to have recently fallen out with, or maybe he’s just there to bolster the numbers for Aquis and it’s owner Tony Fung in the event that anything comes to a vote.
Fung himself is said to be attending the funeral of his family’s long time business associate Stanley Ho, the Triad money launderer who died last week, so he can’t make the meeting himself.
Les Ross will be somewhere in the room too.
Presumably he’s there to explain the symbiosis between his long term business relationship with Barrier Reef Pools owner Mike Crooks, and Mr Mishani’s former client-contractor arrangements with Boom Boom Ben Currie.
Or perhaps he is there to address the persistent allegations backed by property records about his having rented overflow stables from his one-time landlord, the former QRIC Head of Integrity and stand-up comedian Tracey Pelling, who is presently domiciled in Melbourne while she waits for Commissioner Barnett to retire and his deputy Sheriff Mark Ainsworth to take the seat, so she can take his.
What we do know is that a lot of people would like to know why exactly Les Ross required a set of shitty extra stables in a secluded area out the back of a house near the course, when he might have just applied for a few extra stables on-course at any time.
Perhaps he just witnessed the success Darren Weir achieved by having home stables at Miners Rest, or Ben Currie did by having a few out the back of Boof’s at Hurley Road, or even the contemporary success that Tony Sears is achieving with the overflow barns in Charlton.
Let’s just hope with the blinds soon to be drawn down on his training career – or at least that’s what he’s saying now – Les Ross might see this meeting as an opportune time to put his hand up and tell a few home truths to put those years of scuttlebutt and propertyt searches to bed.
You can have a hundred to one with me, but the former King of the Brisbane Rails ring is betting 330’s, and he’s a man with good mail about these sort of things.
Stuey Kendrick is motoring down from the Sunny Coast to attend, so he will probably be the last one into the room and end up standing at the back. I doubt trainer Kendrick will say; my guess is that he will be there more to listen. Listen to make sure that his name is not bandied about by the finger pointers, and to find out their address for service in the event that they do.
Kendrick is damn good trainer who has achieved what he has through hard work, and his strike rates are more that of a dedicated trainer with a large team and a wide group of supportive wealthy owners than they are that of a dope cheat, but facts, figures and obvious truths have never stopped the envious from knocking winners, and Kendrick’s pick and stick friendship with Daryl Hansen hasn’t done him any favours.
My close friendship with Kendrick’s client the Neds and Ladbroke’s CEO Dead Shannon hasn’t done Dean any favours either, nor has my friendship with Peter V’Landys done God any, but you don’t judge a man by the friends they keep, you judge them by the mates they dump when they are no good to them anymore.
Which one would do you want to be in the trench with when you’re thrown back 103 years in time and the bayonet-wielding Turks are charging?
The sticker or the runner?
Kendrick’s alright, and so are blokes who stand by their mates when the bullets are flying, and stay planted there even if they might get hit. It’s what those of us who care call being Australian.
Up front at the big table, on the left, will sit the coppers, the QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett and his deputy Mark Ainsworth, both men who have spent most of their adult lives dressed up in silly dark blue uniforms, sporting jackboots, and wearing funny hats with Sheriff’s badges on the front of them, the type of outfits that are particularly popular among the denizens of Wooloomooloo and Potts Point during the 2nd weekend of February.
Sitting to the side of the Boss and Big Ainus, on the other side of a vacant chair, will be the boys head of stewarding Ali Wade – a Kiwi who, like Maddy Sears, started out her racing career working as a receptionist at a Real Estate Agent’s office (do you know if Gai ever worked at Ray White?) – and next to Ms Wade will be Paul Gillard, the newly appointed head Steward at the Gold Coast.
I’m not sure whether the boys intend to put a Korean soccer-style blow up sex-doll in the vacant chair where Queensland’s Chief Steward Peter Chadwick should be sitting, just as I’m totally in the dark about the reason for Queensland’s number 1 man on the ground in integrity’s planned absence from what most regard as the most important meeting that Chadwick should be attending all year.
It’s bizarre that the Chief’s not planning to be there, just as it’s it’s incomprehensible that his boss the Commissioner wouldn’t order him to be, but hey, this is Queensland racing. Nothing really surprises you any more. Not even he Former King of the Brisbane Rails Ring’s price of 660-1 about YES in the Will Chadwick Get His Contract Extended Class B Plate, which we are lead to believe is being run in Mick Goodie’s garden this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
(By the way, has anyone seen going stick Mick lately? He hasn’t been sitting at his desk for a couple of weeks, and all the framed photos of the family on it seem gone).
Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe is of course too busy watching reruns of the Michael Jordan doco The Last Dance to find the time to get to Eagle Farm for a meeting about racing. Pounds is a realist, and knows that he wouldn’t have a clue what anyone was talking about anyway, so it’s probably for the best.
Pounds is sending his long-time policy adviser, mate from church, former union organiser and one season teacher Ben Marczyk to the meeting instead, and he will sit to the back in the middle, hopefully obscured by the giants of racing like Barnett, Ainsworth and Wade, so that no bugger can ask him any questions, like does listing a job as a Community Regulations Officer at the Brisbane City Council on your resume mean that you are:
(a) A former parking officer or stray dog finder?
(b) A one-time Council call centre worker like Archie who told the bird he fell in love with that he was a Local Laws Officer to impress her, and is afraid of losing her if he backs away from the tale?
(d) Something else altogether?
Whichever of the four it might be, it doesn’t really matter.
Just like his boss and ALP idol, young Benjamin doesn’t have a clue about racing either, but he has to clock up 36 and a 1/4 hours a week to get his pay cheque and Pounds doesn’t, so that’s just his bad luck, and possibly ours.
At least he won’t say much.
Finally, on the table to the right will sit a beaming, cherubic Brendan ‘Pins’ Parnell, the former Head of Wagering at Tabcorp turned CEO of Racing Queensland, and top man in the sport in the state.
Next to Pins will be his ever-smiling sidekick twice removed Mary Collier, the former ABC not-shock jock turned spin doctor for the Australian Wagering Council, the front group set up by the Corporate Bookmakers in the wake of their drubbing by my mate Peter V’Landys in the High Court case that forced the leeches like tom.com to pay their fair share, and caused the bottom-feeders to run like hell.
Having two former wage slaves of the big bookies representing the interests of the Principal Racing Authority (PRA) in a vital meeting about integrity in the sport might be de rigueur in Sicily, Calabria, Las Vegas, Malta and the Isle of Man, but to the rest of the right-minded racing world it’s a bit odd isn’t it?
It’s even stranger that in a State like Queensland, where five years ago – after considering the recommendations made by a Commission of Inquiry into the barbaric practice of bludgeoning baby possums in the hope that the taste of their blood would make racing greyhounds run faster – the Government determined that a commercially conflicted PRA driven by a profit imperative was totally incapable of regulating integrity in the industry.
The need for an independent Racing Integrity Commission that was constituted and operated totally at arms length from the organisation responsible for managing the commercial success of racing was the reason that the QRIC was created.
Today’s meeting is about Racing Integrity.
So what is Racing Queensland even doing there?
What’s the Racing Minister’s handbag carrier doing there?
Take it a step further.
An awesome foursome of informants makes serious allegations about allegedly unlawful acts being perpetrated by their colleagues.
A delegation of the tattlers goes to see the Integrity Commissioner behind closed doors, and they give he and his deputy and his deputy the names.
Nothing much happens other than that the dobbers stables get raided, so get the pip and go and spill to the media, but they don’t go to the racing editor of the local rag, they go to the bloke that he once did over because he was afraid he’d show him up for being the sycophantic lightweight that he is.
The foursome’s assessment of the lightweight Racing Editor Nathan Exelby proved correct, and their judgement of the bloke he did over Ben Dorries did too. He aced the story, and within hours the integrity of Queensland racing was being discussed in disparaging terms on the national stage.
QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett stands tall for all of five seconds, and then in the face of widespread public and industry scorn, he goes to water.
A meeting is called with the loose lipped lagging trainers.
And then the targets of their allegations are invited too.
Go to your local shop and make a confidential statement about a murder that you suspect your workmate committed, and the next thing you know you’ll be called to a meeting where the alleged murderer is sitting right opposite you, and a couple of people who made careers out of working for bookies who might benefit from covert knowledge of hot and cold horses are sitting up the front, and a group of self-interested people with seemingly no stake in anything are sitting there clutching their paddles too.
Welcome to Queensland, the place where the once Racing Minister declared that the brothels and casinos he once spent his nights in were never ever really there at all.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
It’s going to be an interesting meeting this afternoon, isn’t it?
Sometimes it’s good being a fly out of sight on the wall.