By Hans Ebert

While many in Hong Kong and his fans overseas wait with bated breath to see which Pakistan Star will show up at Sha Tin this afternoon for the Hong Kong Gold Cup- and try their luck at getting even part of a whopping Triple Trio jackpot that will be close to HK$30 million- those given the job of leading horse racing in Australia are tackling the problem of yet another shoe having dropped earlier this week robbing the country of even more confidence in the integrity of the sport.

Watching things unfold, very telling are the different communications paths taken by Victoria’s Racing Minister Martin Pakula and Racing New South Wales’ man of the people Peter V’landys. Yes, they both have beards and smiles that aren’t really convincing.

Martin Pakula is presently showing restrained indignation and expressing “disappointment” at the timing of the leaks of text messages described as “explosive” thanks to an exclusive story broken by Leo Schlink of the Herald Sun. Yes, some of this news has been making the rounds for well over a decade, but it would be no surprise if Leo Schlink has a new Book Of Revelations in his hip pocket.

Racing writer with The Age, Patrick Bartley, laments that these leaks could ruin the Autumn Carnival and the Victoria Yearling Sales. The Bartman has got his priorities wrong or is living on Planet La La. One can’t help but wonder how he or anyone at Racing.Comradski would have dealt with this story if it had landed on their laps. Would they have sat on it?

There’s never the “right time” for the truth to win out even if Textgate goes back at least eight years and relates to text messages between some leading trainers working in cahoots with enablers to, well, fix/aid/manipulate the outcome of various races, possibly including the Melbourne Cup. It affects the entire image and credibility of horse racing. It demotivates all the good people doing their best under hard conditions because of their love of horses and the sport and thinking it’s a level field. Has it ever been?

If this story was fed to Leo Schink to derail the Melbourne Autumn Carnival, it shows that battle lines have been drawn- and crossed- with RVL now needing to put out a new fire. This won’t be easy as it has to do with having real communications skills and not relying on corporate waffle. This time, the horse racing world is watching. This. Will. Not. Go. Away.

This is not another open-ended circle game and circus like The Cobalt Blues where everything still remains as unclear as ever with no closure. Like casual mentions of random drive-by shootings, it was allowed to die a slow death bludgeoned by boredom. Who did what and why? Who knows? There’s now Textgate.

While Martin Pakula seems to be hoping for the best from his Dad’s Army, The Man From The North employs his usual strategy of showing support for the plight of his neighbours in the South, but is also always eager to point out that “hundreds of thousands of dollars” have been spent in New South Wales to ensure that integrity issues seldom, if ever, fall through the cracks. In other words, “We don’t have these problems, why do you? And with such regularity?” He has a point.

Would anyone expect to hear anything different from the “saviour” of Australian racing who has never veered from this strategy of always coming back to home base and with a lust for more power as there’s no one standing in his way? Who’s there to thwart his lonely Long March?Amanda Elliott? Giles Thompson? Mike Symonds? Michelle Payne? The real owners of Kittens? The Mandarin race caller at Moonee Valley on Friday night? The invisible Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna, pictured below?

What’s happened to Our Gal Sal, anyway? And why did they have Rumpole Of The Bailey leave for an extended vacation during the recent running of some key black type races?

Meanwhile, The Man From The North marches on no doubt chuckling to himself. Who can blame him? When the enemy or the “competition” is in tatters and running on empty, one puts their boot in. Over and over again.

It really is a fascinating tale of two cities and Game Of Thrones with each of its leaders, though seemingly sharing the same beard, giving their territories vastly different brand personalities: The North strides forward purposefully as the only game in town while the South comes across as furiously back pedalling ninnies walking on eggshells and constantly worried as to when some new cracks from the past will make an unwelcome appearance.

Imagine for a second if everything that was ever discussed quite openly during dinners throughout Crown during the Eighties and Nineties before the start of the Spring Carnival between kingpin owners seated with leading and former jockeys, the usual enablers, accountants and dubious “businessmen” were to surface in 2018. Who’s to say it won’t? Imagine if iPhones and social media were around at that time?

Looking at it positively, perhaps what’s unravelling along with Textgate is the best thing that could happen. Maybe it will bring everything out into the open instead of more years of deceit being covered up until it finally bursts open like a festering zit because there’s no more room to hide the cheating? One can only hope for a miracle.

What’s sad is that this case reduces the interest in what should be some very good racing in Australia. On this note, huge congratulations for winning the Blue Diamond yesterday at Caulfield on the Graeme Begg trained Written By to Jordan Childs, a jockey who travels under the radar and delivers winners with a consistency that’s often overlooked.

Textgate is unfair on everyone who has worked hard to compete and be recognised for their efforts. It muddies the waters, but it can’t be ignored or silenced either. It’s unfair on every single person around the world who supports horse racing and believes everything is happening on this so-called “level playing field” that keeps being mentioned. Mention it too many times and it not only loses all relevance, it sounds like another empty corporate soundbite to keep the peasants from revolting. Those revolting peasants…

Leo Schlink was given a story and wrote it. It’s probably the tip of the iceberg. If there’s more information to be drip fed, the question is why. For those in charge of horse racing in Victoria, this time, be good Boy Scouts and Be Prepared. There’s something happening behind the invisible curtain that still cannot be identified. There’s a Game Of Thrones at play- a game that includes power plays, deceit and not playing by the rules because cheaters- and cheaters come in many guises- don’t play by any rules.

This runaway train must be brought to a halt now. There can’t be more dangling conversations. There can’t be more of brushing everything under the carpet hoping everything will just go away. Secrets don’t go away. And that carpet eventually becomes so bulky that people trip over it.

Especially in this day and age of immediacy, there’s a new journalism that not even Tom Wolfe could have predicted. Everyone out there is a reporter. Rumours and truth often become blurred lines.

It’s time for those with secrets to come clean no matter how painful it might be. It’s time for horse racing to start with a clean slate and a few good people. Band aids can no longer stop the haemorrhaging.

#horseracing #Australia #LeoSchlink #RVL #MartinPakula #PeterVlandys #textmessages #HKRacing #integrity #cheaters #SalPerna #JordanChilds #GraemeBegg #WrittenBy #BlueDiamondStakes

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