Horse racing, especially in the kingdom called Down Under is under siege. Frankly, more and more, it’s under siege. And always by itself. It’s really not a good ‘look’. Especially from the outside looking in.
Collectively and without exception, this incongruous and motley group, are putting in Award winning performances. For what? To stake their claim in the Top 10 least respected and most disliked category. Add most goofy to that. They really should have an awards show. On Twitter.
There was an extra spring in his step as Zac Purton sashayed out of Sha Tin racecourse on Sunday. After basically calling Joao Moreira a bit of a cry baby in a freewheeling interview the day before for blaming the lack of his usual sombrero of winners on not having enough stable support due to his own inability to choose the best rides, the Australian Zac Attack managed to keep the Brazilian Magic Man’s lead to just three as the Batman and The Joker of Hong Kong racing continue to stir the pot and play mind games with each other.
The remarkable thing about the news that John Size has been inducted into the Australian Racing Hall Of Fame is that most of his success has taken place in Hong Kong. But for a born and bred Australian to succeed so magnificently on “foreign soil” and having started his career here with only 19 horses yet went on to beat the great Ivan Allan by two to win the Hong Kong Trainers Championship in his first season, says much about the man wherever in the world he is.
As then Chief Steward of the HKJC John Schreck aka “The Sheriff” commented at the time, “I think what Mr Size has done reflects greatly on Australian racing people, for which I am very grateful.”
Though news is news and crooks need to be exposed, it’s knowing when to stop. Flogging that dead horse won’t make it get up and say that everything is fine.
The other problem of continuing to flog that dead horse is that it attracts the opportunists standing on the sidelines watching everything unfold and ready to pounce with self-serving agendas.
It’s happened with #metoo along with #blacklivesmatter and other hashtag-driven movements. And though the case of the “Aquanita Dirty Eight” needed to be finally outed and named and shamed, surely this has all happened at least a decade too late- at least- with the barnyard door being closed after the horses have bolted with the moneybags?
“Horse racing in Australia is its own worst enemy”. I’ve been carrying these words with me now for over a week. They keep playing in my head with me thinking when’s all this going to end, where’s it going to crash and burn, when’s Humpty Dumpty going to be an omelette, how did it all become so much of everything, who’s minding the store…
During a recent whistle stop trip to Singapore and then to Sydney for business, I managed to meet up with a longtime friend in racing. He’s given up being in the game, but remains close to some youngsters coming up the ranks who he believes in. More importantly, he understands their need for counselling and mentoring to face what lies ahead. He’s seen it all before- all those one meets on the way up and the sudden lack of a safety net on the way down. As he put it, “That trip to hell is when you’re dancing with the devil because he’s the only company you have.”
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.
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.