CUSTOMARILY, I do not address personalities in these columns, rather I comment on events and policies. However, some of the stuff going around is beyond a joke. Yes, the industry deserves strong criticism for allowing the live baiting to take place but final judgements should wait until all the facts are on display.
First, Racing NSW CEO Peter V’Landys dumped scorn on the greyhound code about live baiting when a more sensible approach, as an industry leader, would have been to stay out until all the form was on the board. But shooting from the hip is his habit – as evidenced in the way he criticised greyhound officials at the Parliamentary Inquiry for their role in the original intercode commission sharing negotiations. At the time V’Landys was in charge of Harold Park trots and not very popular, according to inside information available to me. So much so that ABC TV prepared a one hour documentary, mainly about the way the Glebe hockey people felt they had been treated. They claimed they had a verbal agreement that would have given them a new field following the greyhounds’ move away from Harold Park. V’Landys rubbished them several times, including at a public meeting, and turned the centrefield into an expanded car park.
Subsequently, V’Landys presided over a major improvement to the grandstand and dining area, only to then see patronage dwindle away, leading finally to a shutdown and sale of the property, and a move to Menangle (by then under new management). En route, V’Landys had also built a poker machine palace into the Harold Park complex – but, sadly, nobody came and the project ended up a financial disaster. Commercially, the entire operation failed on his watch.
By then, Racing NSW was looking for a new CEO, including via a display ad in the Financial Review. The day after that appeared V’Landys was appointed to the job. Hmmm.
More upsets were to come. When the NT bookies started appearing on the scene in strength, V’Landys effectively led the push for traditional Australian racing authorities in rejecting their advances. He refused to negotiate with them, tried to get the Feds to ban them and abused them several times as “parasites”. That term was not only insulting but incorrect. In fact, they had offered from day one to pay fees, only to be knocked back by both RNSW and the Racing Minister. Of course, events proved the customers right and V’Landys wrong. His salary is now part-paid by the same bookies.
V’Landys’ later move in the High Court to sustain RNSW’s right to set fees as it wished was a sound one and, frankly, the bookies wasted an awful lot of money trying it on. Anyway, given the galloping code’s long term fall in market share, in breeding numbers and in field sizes, and the fact that RNSW bludges on takings from greyhounds (several millions per year), V’Landys is hardly in a position to criticise others. Recent unresolved drug issues in three states only add to the challenges.
The second example is even more striking.
In his privileged position as a columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse has not only condemned the live baiting, something we all agree with, but then called for a complete shutdown of greyhound racing. This is pointless. It will not happen and would put many thousands of people out of work. It can only divert attention from the real problems.
This comes from a man who, together with his father Bill, was embroiled in the notorious Fine Cotton ring-in scandal. So much so that he was warned off all racetracks for 14 years and later sentenced to eight months weekend detention for perjury.
Wife, Gai, is no stranger to controversy, being in regular conflict with stewards where she seeks to give priority to her rules rather than those of the umpire. Her failure to advise stewards about the illness and treatment of More Joyous did no good to punters on the following Saturday when the mare was heavily backed but ran like a crotchety old lady. Owner John Singleton took all his horses away from Gai as a result.
She did have an amazing victory after a stablehand was charged with cocaine possession. She mounted a spirited defence on the ground that the guy patronised a nearby hotel and had innocently brushed up against a user while he was there. She won the case, but you have to wonder if that would have been possible in a proper court.
I am not aware that Robbie Waterhouse has any special knowledge of greyhound racing although son Tom has dabbled (and now benefits hugely as the local leader of the William Hill bookmaking group). Either way, both are working on limited evidence while proper investigations are yet to get started.
The whole saga now boils down to only two reasonably certain issues. First, live-baiting offenders are on film and cannot escape whatever penalties are dealt out. At least some of those must be lifetime bans. Second, the supervision of kennels and trial tracks is inadequate so heads must roll (indeed, some already have). Meantime, the best thing any racing identities can do is to shut up, sit back and wait for the results of the exhaustive investigations that are already under way..
However, we are left with a critical challenge. While the disgraceful abuse of animals is a clearcut matter, what disturbs me most is that many of the offenders actually enjoyed what they were doing. That is really sick.
This takes us back to how such people could get a license in the first place. Heaven knows how it might be done but it points to a need to first take psychological or psychiatric readings of potential trainers and their employees. That’s probably more important than police checks.
Trainer does the steward’s job
Thankyou to trainer Shane Fleming for providing some more details about the background of Flash Earner (mentioned here on Feb 15 and 23). He says, “She was out with injury for quite some time, then we moved house, then she came into season. Finally I got her back on the track and went to Nowra for some fitness runs”.
However, Shane is missing some points. (1) The bitch’s “fitness runs” prior to the Wenty runs were awful, which is why she started at double figure odds in her next start at Wenty, and (2) the above comments – and more – should have been drawn out by the stewards, not by me. They are not there to be nice to trainers but to protect and inform the public.
I also need to correct the time run at its last start at Wenty – a very smart 29.94, which kinda proves my point.