Ben Loakes is not a fashionable racehorse trainer.
He’s just a battler from the bush.
Four months ago the father of the small-time Gladstone-based trainer with a few horses in his care was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
The life expectancy of someone with this illness at this stage is just 4-6 months.
Ben Loakes is a good son.
He wanted to be with his Dad, and help him to travel peacefully down a path that no man wants to tread.
Loakes dropped everything, and relocated himself and his family to Brisbane so he could be there with his father during these dark days. He had to pull his 15-year-old kid out of his school and enrol him in unfamiliar surrounds in a new school in Brisbane to make the unplanned move happen. Grade 11 is a pretty important time for a kid, and success in that year is vital to their future.
It was tough on the whole Loakes family, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, and a man who abandons his Dad in his hour of need isn’t a man at all, at least not in my view anyway.
Ben Loakes couldn’t leave the horses behind. There was no-one to care for them, he wasn’t traveling well enough to pay someone else, and if he left them at home they would starve or die, and as a horse-lover there was no way he was ever going to let that happen.
So he managed to secure a few stables at Eagle Farm to house them, in the condemned old stables out the back on the Nudgee Road side, near the train tracks, where there are a whole lot of vacant barns awaiting demolition, and only Lindsay Gough remains, and only because he cries too much when in public, and doesn’t really like people.
The Brisbane Racing Club said Loakes could have the stables from the start of March until mid-April, and then when the Winter Carnival kicked in he’d have to move out so that the visiting trainers could move in, if anyone from down south or across the ditch was mad or desperate enough to stable their horses there.
Loakes took the offer up, expecting the old man to have his last bet sometime during then, but his Dad is made of tough stuff, and he kicked on like Might and Power in the ’97 Cup, and he’s kicking still, although the finish post is looming up fast and the Grim Reaper disguised as Doriemus is storming home at a million miles an hour.
Mr Loakes Sr lives on still though, and due to COVID the Winter Carnival got cancelled, and the interstate and Kiwi visitors didn’t come, so Ben Loakes asked the BRC if he could stay a little bit longer, just so that he could stay the distance with his beloved and get his kid through the exam period at school. It wasn’t a real big ask.
Matt Rudolph, the bloke who got outed from the game for two years for trying to pervert the course of the Kavanagh cobalt inquiry by coercing a witness to change his evidence (his DQ was later reduced on appeal to 12 months), got picked up by the BRC when no-one else would have him, and is now the General Manager of Racing for Queensland’s biggest club, would you believe.
That’s what we call integrity up here in Queensland, employing disgraced, dishonest, once disqualified racing officials who try to turn Stewards inquiries into boat races.
For seemingly no reason at all, and with vacant old stalls around, Rudolph told the battler with the dying dad Ben Loakes to take to two to the Valley, and refused him an extension of his tenure at Eagle Farm so that he could stay with his old man.
Excuse my language, but it was an absolute c*nt act.
Loakes doesn’t know why, but I reckon I do.
You see a few years back, before he took up training, Ben Loakes used be to a union official for the CFMEU (now the CFMMEU). He fell out with the secretary of the union over some political issue or another, and got sacked. Then he had the temerity to take the union on in an unfair dismissal case.
Union bosses don’t like being challenged by anyone, most particularly sacked staff, and those with the gall get branded with the mark of Cain for life, hated forever.
The CFMEU is a big player at Eagle Farm. Mirvac’s building the towers there, and the union has a lot of members at Mirvac, and the company has form for being in bed with the CFMEU, and from time to time has even been known to bribe its officials to secure industrial peace, and a dog named David Hanna who’s presently sitting in a jail cell is proof of it.
Concrete pours for high-rise towers that are stopped mid-stream by a union concerned about safety issues, real or otherwise, cost building companies a lot of wasted money, up to and over six-figures depending on how large the pour, and the CFMEU has stuck the job at Eagle Farm up before.
If a union boss or senior official rings a company like Mirvac and tells them that if a certain whistle-blower that they don’t like is on the track, they might have a whole heap of problems, the company will usually ask the union how high they want them to jump, and how quick they want the bloke they don’t like off the site, and then they’ll jump higher and get him rid of him faster, if they possibly can.
When the big builder’s got a joint venture partner like Mirvac do with the BRC, and their partner is in debt up to their eyeballs and strapped like Madam Lash for cash, more often than most people would ever guess, they will have a word in the partners ear and spell out the numbers in cold hard cash its going to cost them if an irate union comes looking for safety issues on a job, and suggest that if the unwanted and hated one ain’t there, them the union might stay at home.
Get what I mean?
Pure speculation on my behalf of course, but remember I was a senior union official for 20 years before I took up writing about racing, and I know all the players.
I’ve looked for an alternate explanation for the persecution of Ben Loakes, the man whose dad is on death’s door, but I can’t find one.
None of Matt Rudolph’s excuses ring true.
He told Loakes that visiting trainers only get 3 months on course, but Loakes isn’t a visiting trainer, they only come from interstate or overseas, so Rudolph is either a moron who doesn’t know the rules, or lying through his teeth, or perhaps both.
Rudolph told Loakes another tale about a trainer having to have 12 horses in work to be eligible to train at Doomben or Eagle Farm too, but that’s total bunkum as well. The BRC’s own website lists Lindsay Gough and Danny Bougoure as only having ten horses in work, and both of those trainers have been there for years.
I dunno where the lies, but it’s not in either of those lies, that’s for sure.
It shouldn’t be any surprise to anyone though that Matt Rudolph plays dirty, not after the Kavanagh thing. He went to the Stewards during the week and demanded they kick Ben Loakes off the course, and they did too, and you can read about it in the supplementary report from Wednesday’s Doomben races, and lo and behold it was my old school mate the Emu who did it (the Emu is better known to his old mates as Zim, the former trot trainer who prepared the superstar Sammy Batman that I successfully backed to win 10 grand at Redcliffe one Friday night, but he’s Paul Zimmerman on the official documents).
Bloody small world isn’t it?
Ben Loakes needs to stay with his Dad, so he’d been searching high and low for alternate stabling for his horses, and he finally found one, but he can’t move the horses in until the 20th of the month. He told Zim and Rudolph that, but they didn’t care – which really surprises me, because Zim’s a great bloke and he loves horses too – and now Loake’s been issued with a Stewards direction to be out of Eagle Farm by 6.00 on Saturday night.
God only knows what they expect him to do with his six gallopers. Maybe ride them around the streets in harness pulling a cart like draught horses for 2 weeks until the new stables become available, and tie ’em to the stair rail when he goes up to the Palliative Care Unit six times a day to visit his old man and hold his hand and laugh and cry with him.
You’d think kicking six horses out on the street for no reason when there are 30 odd empty stables available for them to sleep in would be an animal welfare offence, wouldn’t you? I’m pretty sure that it is. Ben Loakes is just worried about putting a roof over their heads, and keeping his kid in school so he can do his exams, and spending every precious second that he can with his Dad.
Yesterday Ben’s (then) partner contacted the QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett seeking help, and went to meet with the Ministers senior advisor Ben Marczyk too, the bloke who attended the meeting with the trainers and QRIC on Monday.
She had no luck with either.
I guess I’m a bit slow on the uptake. I never knew that kicking blokes whose dad’s are dying just for sport and chucking racehorses out onto the street was what integrity was all about, but after the cops game gung ho into my old man’s house with guns and detained him while they tossed the joint and dragged me away to a cell for the grand crime of writing racing stories, I suppose I really should have known.
Ben Loakes running out of options. What a bastard of a situation to be in.
You love horses, and I’m sure you love your Dad, so what would you do?
Take the horses back to the only stable you’ve in got in Gladstone, pull the kid out of school during exam week, and leaving the dying old man behind?
Or just walk away from the horses and leave them to their own devices, and head over the hospice to spend his last days with the man who gave you life, and taught it to you too, and who love and adore.
It’s makes me tear up just writing this story.
Loakes only wants two week more at the Farm.
What the f*ck is wrong with these people?
Oh well, they’ve got a few problems now.
Because I’ve offered to do Ben Loakes QCAT stay application free of charge, and knowing my reputation for not losing cases in my union days, and probably having heard how I took on the best lawyers inside the QRIC and the best externals they could find – Clayton Utz I think it was, most over-rated law firm in the world – single handed, and did ’em all over by getting 4 live baiters – who were even money and perhaps a whole lot shorter to be as guilty as sin – off their charges scot free and back in the game, the battling bush trainer has graciously accepted my offer.
Poor old Zim. He’s on a hiding to nothing.
I always said I’d get square for his doping me with double scotches before the great nude 300 metre dash from the 100 metre mark backward to the 400 pole at Albion Park after the 3.00am close at the Pacesetters disco at the tracl one night in the 1080’s, back in the days when the world wide, and our hair wasn’t grey.
Being the Schillaci sort of type I don’t go much past the 200 metre mark on foot (I led by lengths ’til then), but as the next Senior Steward in waiting knows, when to comes to matters of the mind and helping out blokes who love their Dads, I can stay all day.