Racing administrators look like they’ve given up with ‘on-course’ punters

Racing administrators seem to have given up with “on course” punters. They appear to be resigned to “betting ring” habituates trending to extinction. When a punter takes some time off from going to the races and they return, they mutter things like “it’s better at home, you know more about what is going on”.

It was brought home to me last Wednesday at Warwick Farm, with the Pinchme/Absolutely Empress protest. All punters wanted to talk about after the race was the likelihood of an objection and then its merits. Sydney protest hearings are filmed. Snatches of vision of this were shown over the closed circuit television at Warwick Farm. But it was just a tease. All protest hearing should be broadcast in real time, with sound, into the betting ring. It is real drama and a worthy part of the race-day punting experience. There is no excuse for not doing it. Betting on protests was allowed till the early 1980s when a rule was brought in to prohibit it. It was felt those actually attending the hearing had a huge advantage. I can remember journalists running from the stewards’ room to the betting ring and backing their choice of “upheld” or “dismissed” with great success. The late Bert Lillye was the keenest and best judge. But those days are gone. If there were live coverage, everyone could judge, no one could say betting was unfair. I know if it were re-allowed it would be a fillip for on-course betting and attendance. Drama is a valuable commodity and should be encouraged.

Great tracks
Punters have been treated recently to some great tracks, surfaces without bias, which are good for all concerned. Rosehill last Saturday was a beauty. The best horses won and everyone, especially the punters, thought it was great. Warwick Farm last Wednesday was also at its best. Normally there are fast and slow parts on Sydney courses. What has made the difference in the last couple of weeks is the absence of irrigation – no track watering. Because of there being some rain about neither Rosehill nor Warwick Farm were given the usual watering and the result was tracks raced as they should. In the betting ring we rejoice, saying how good it is when “God is left in total charge.”

McDonald on song

Gun rider James McDonald oozed confidence when winning on odds-on Centre Pivot, a horse he’d ridden to victory at the gelding’s past two starts. Down in the weights, he was expecting to win, and rode him accordingly. Using much of his consummate skill, he saved ground at a critical juncture, cut the corner while building momentum and gained victory with a decisive thrust. A great, assured ride. Without that confidence and the ride, I don’t think Centre Pivot would have won.

MRC chairman saddles up
Melbourne Racing Club chairman Mike Symonds is about to achieve a remarkable feat. He is to ride in an amateur race at next month’s Cheltenham Jumping Festival in the UK, albeit in a flat amateur race. It would be impossible to overstate how extraordinary this adventure is to me. What a hoot. Good on him. Cheltenham is the best race meeting I’ve ever been to and its crowd are the most enthusiastic I’ve ever seen. Mike is a man in his forties only started riding months ago. Former AJC Chairman Bob Charley, as a young man, rode work for himself, but never in a race. In the 19th century, AJC president (as they were styled, in those days), Sir Edward Deas Thomson was a renowned jumps rider, famously winning a Botany to Coogee steeplechase. But that was also long before his administrating days. I believe Symonds’ foray, at this stage of his life, is unique in Australia but there might be examples in England. A marvellous thing.

Nice get-together
Gai and I have enjoyed spending some time last week with Luca and Sara Cumani. Luca has trained two seconds (Purple Moon and Bauer) in the Melbourne Cup. He has trained seven classic race winners, two Epsom Derby winners in Kahyasi (1988) and High-Rise (1998), as well as a Breeders’ Cup Mile winner in Barathea (1994). The Cumanis are a delightful couple. Gai loved it when they came to trackwork last Wednesday, long before dawn. They must find it a huge contrast to the idyllic conditions Luca has at Newmarket. Luca was very polite and was uncritical! Happily, they will become regular visitors to Sydney. Their two, grown-up children, Francesca and Mattie, are in NSW – Francesca with her husband, Rob Archibald, a champion polo player, at Scone, and Mattie who studying to be a trainer under Chris Waller. I am sure, in the future, we’ll see ‘Cesca and Rob as keen yearling breeders and vendors.

Number crunching

I found fascinating a release of statistic data for free on my wife Gai from Paul Daily by In the next few months they will issue free similar studies on many trainers. The nub of what they do is they “crunch the numbers” and answer the question: “How do you go backing each trainer in various scenarios”. Nearly all big trainers’ weak point it is their satellite offshoots. Nearly all trainers’ non-carnival-time interstate horses underperform. A few years ago, Sydney’s largest training business broke up, when the owner pointed out to his trainer the disaster his Brisbane and Melbourne stables were. Nearly 20 years ago, Gai had a Brisbane stable. It was hopeless. But, as the these figures clearly show, Gai has her Melbourne yard firing. It is the result of Gai actually being there very regularly. As my friend, David Baxter, grazier and country bookmaker, says: “The best fertiliser is the owner’s footsteps”.

Joining forces

The Legal Eagles betting syndicate dominated the betting rings of the 1960s and ’70s. It was comprised of the late form-guru Don Scott, barrister Clive Evatt and solicitor Morgan Ryan. The tales of their betting ring exploits are legendary. They stripped fortunes from the bookies, having a monopoly on good form. Morgan won his waterfront home when Dream King won the Australia Cup in the ’60s. Evatt and Ryan have reunited. Ryan has sued book publisher Random House for defamation over a recent book, He Who Must Be Obeid. Ryan, who is 95 but spritely, declared: “This is the most outrageous attack on my good reputation. It has done me great damage. I’ve retained Sydney’s best and most senior barrister, Clive Evatt. I expect to receive a very large verdict.” The book has run into trouble previously, the first edition having to be “pulped” because of defamation issues. My money is on Ryan.

Sale success

The Inglis Classic Sale continues at Newmarket, Randwick, on Monday. It was a good sale on Sunday. In the last five years, this inexpensive sale has produced group 1 winners Brazen Beau, sold for $70,000, Peggy Jean ($46,000), Fiveandahalfstar ($20,000) and Manawanui ($45,000). Great record. The auction has positioned itself as a showcase for new-season stallions and 25 (in 131 lots) are represented over these three days. The Inglis company would have been delighted with Sunday’s Inglis Classics at Rosehill and Sandown, each worth $250,000. It’s great to see fields with trainers coming from far and wide. It should be said, it is hard to understand the poorly endowed $100,000 Breeders Plate is denied the Bobs Bonus but the Inglis Classic, restricted to particular sales graduates, is a recipient of the Bobs. It should be addressed.

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