By Hans Ebert
Visit Hans-Ebert.com

Those paid and given the job of leading horse racing in Australia need a swift kick up their backsides or else be forced to look at themselves in the mirror and see what and where it is in today’s constantly changing world, and have a long hard look at its future. But then again…

Of course, this is only one person’s opinion who over the years has hummed and hawed about having even a part time interest in the pastime. Of course, there are many passionate people in horse racing who truly believe in the industry and that’s fine. It’s part of their DNA and lifestyle. Is it for me? Was it ever for me or was I just swept along, especially in the late Eighties during the Melbourne Spring Carnival by those enablers who hung onto my coattails for a free ride and a lifestyle most could never afford? Horse racing is often one long eco system of enablers. But who saw it “back in the day” when everything seemed possible and it was a different world when well known crooks were “colourful characters” with everyone mixing openly with everyone else at JJ’s at Crown.

Was I taken for a ride? Many times over- from always picking up the tab for those long karaoke nights at Fidel’s with ladies from Gotham City to flights of fancy in Macau, Singapore and Hong Kong where friendships were bought and sold to those who could deliver the goods. It goes on today though the spending has been reined in, because, like any drug, old habits die hard.

When giving up writing and publishing Racingbitch quite recently, and closing down its Twitter account when the number of “followers” was just a number, it was me saying to myself that I really didn’t care- didn’t care about any “mail” from Oz, who was saying what and all the politics played out by the usual protected species from the old boys club, now decrepit and toothless, and that writing for free in return for ugly criticism as opposed to a mature, healthy exchange of ideas, made no sense.

The same old characters are still out there, still engaging in petty, transparent politics, still following the same divisive strategy and power plays that made TVN self implode, but with no one out there with the chutzpah and gonads to challenge them for the very simple reason that horse racing, especially in the land of Oz, cannot attract good, smart executive talent to create solutions and opportunities. Instead, it brings together the usual suspects from the same old well. Is there even a role for good executive talent? They’ll feel like a fish out of water.

Horse racing way too often attracts mediocrity which is why every few weeks there emerges another brick in the wall from the Victorian capital of horse racing.

Is the latest “bombshell” about the exchange of text messages from some very well known trainers going back to those halcyon days at Crown and their enablers really that surprising? Reading the comments, it’s more like, “It took THIS long for the cesspool of deceit to be made public?”

Far more interesting is the timing for this latest “bombshell” to be exposed. Surely, this is what should be investigated as vigorously as weeding out what’s attacking the garden? And no, Matt Stewart, you’re wrong. Though glad you realise who the character is and how Keyser Soze worked, you’re being hoodwinked. You’re being Keyser Sozed. It was a nice enough story about Robert Smerdon, but have you thought that you’ve got the wrong Keyser Soze? Ever think that maybe there’s more than one Keyser Soze?

After all, someone was the driver in that final scene when he escaped. Who else was in the car?

Again it comes down to timing. With all the big races coming up in Melbourne over the next few weeks, how and why was Operation Texting that goes back decades leaked to someone in the media now? Anyone at Racing.comrades capable of joining the dots? How does any of this enhance the image of horse racing- globally? Instead, it bashes it like Kathy Bates character did in “Misery”.

There’s mean spirited destructiveness to it all. It makes everything seem so hopeless that not even Monty Python’s Brian can give horse racing in Australia any meaning to life and its lifespan.

Coming from two far bigger industries and working alongside street smart and well travelled executives having to be on their toes when dealing with spoilt, arrogant clients and artists, facing up to and challenging the competition and trying to break bread with those early settlers from MySpace, Napster and Facebook who let the genie out that’s now created this unsociable social media world, it only shows up the great- what’s the word?- decencies afflicting horse racing.

If, for example, one doesn’t understand online laws and the problems that will eventually sink these delivery platforms, say nothing. Say something as naive as heard a few days ago on a racing channel from Australia about the cyber bullying of jockeys, and it makes one cringe. It’s people punching way above their weight with no understanding of online laws. How many legal brains in racing clubs even understand these and protecting content? This panel came across sounding like George Castanza. It was amateur hour. Don’t like social media? Stay well away from it. Who needs the unnecessary angst?

Horse racing has a lot of that- many talking in clichés and well rehearsed hand wringing about the same subjects that have run their course- the “level playing fields”, “mum and dad punters”, the ducks, the swans, the unicorn snot and running buck naked with the fairies through the enchanted forest. Please.

Bring out too many clichés and keep bashing the same old me, me, me stories to drum up support, and it doesn’t take an Einstein to see that the cottage industry has more holes in it than a ball of Cheddar cheese.

The Bad News Bears in Victoria are allowed to carry on like Dumb and Dumber jamming with the Keystone Cops as there’s no one out there able to put Humpty Dumpty together again and create something even approaching being inspiring. It’s just allowed to carry on with a few vapid sound bites thrown in to show something is being done when it’s just more hackneyed words falling all around like a vapid Lionel Ritchie song. They’re hardly music to anyone’s ears.

The bottom line is that horse racing in the land down under continues to be seen by many as a crooked little pastime played for relatively big stakes by many formerly working behind McDonald’s milkshake counters and out to cheat and bite the hands that feed them.

It’s a den of equity with so many old guys joined at the hip going around and around the mulberry bush until they finally retire with their golden handshakes. Rock the boat and they all fall down. It’s all about looking after one’s own until someone breaks rank and goes rogue. Do this, and they’re out.They’re sent to swim with the fishes with Fredo.

People watching the well choreographed horse operas and a game of thrones like those affecting racing in Victoria with increasing regularity- hmmm, wonder why- are meant to financially embrace and support something where the odds of winning are heavily stacked against them? Really? Why bother?

Horse racing in Hong Kong might not be perfect, but it remains a fun pastime twice a week that’s not all-consuming. It’s run by an incredibly successful racing club led by a CEO who doesn’t tolerate fools, where cheats don’t come into play, and which is part of a multi faceted organisation that has the unwavering support of the government and, more importantly, the public. Sure makes a difference.

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

#horseracing #Australia #texts #RobertSmerdon #MattStewart #KeyserSoze

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