ABC program throws little new light on crime lords

Jim Cassidy, an angel on horseback, has been known to pull the wrong rein at ground level, again emphasised by the ABC’s Inside Mail report on Four Corners on Monday.
Nanjing Night Net

The program has been criticised by insiders, although the general viewer would deduce racing is the playground of drug runners and hit men. Still, little has changed. Oscar Wilde once said the racecourse was ”a sunny place for shady people”.

At times Cassidy, one of the saddle greats, has been known to associate with characters who ended up with form that placed them at Long Bay or Pentridge, not that he necessarily was aware of that at the time.

Most of what was reported on Monday was history but the Tony Mokbel connection kept the organised-crime aspect on the boil. ”I watched the program after the sensational billing with a mixture of anger and fragility that they could present 45 minutes of television which was just a rehash of scandals of the past,” said Peter McGauran, the former federal politician turned Australian Racing Board chief executive.

Perhaps it could be deduced McGauran would say that, but not Peter Mair. ”I am unrelenting in asking for the racing stewards across the nation to show some semblance of intelligent dedication to finding and penalising the misbehaviour routinely, day to day, bringing racing into disrepute across the nation,” Mair emailed. ”The Inside Mail program aired on ABC1 was contrived nonsense – it had nothing directly to do with the murder of Les Samba, it was mainly rehashed anecdotes about a likeable criminal, now in jail, predictably asking jockeys for advice about how to minimise the risk of his dirty socks being lost in the local laundering wash.

”Presumably, the police and AUSTRAC [Australia’s anti-money laundering unit] are now monitoring the casinos. Tonight’s Four Corners was all smoke and no fire – complete with cameo appearances from keystone members of the Victorian police force.”

Bad guys are drawn to the racing honeypot. Many preceded Mokbel and others will follow. Some like the punt, coupled with laundering. Most are looking for an edge, which obviously prompted the Inside Mail title.

Aussie Bob Trimbole and his racing connections got a mention. Trimbole was much appreciated by bookmakers. He lost heavily and paid, albeit with ill-gotten gains. Was he outlaying a cartload to get a handful of useable cash in return?

What is inside mail?

Being assured of the try and the strength of the tip helps, but few horses with a winning chance are sent out with the jockey asked to apply the brakes. In the good old days, much hinged on connections getting their price. If not, drastic action was taken.

Blood counts being right or bad and ”the horse doing well” are bandied around but a good thing livened up with a jigger (battery) in a lead-up track gallop has more traction.

Information like that once sent me into full gallop towards the nearest bookmaker, mostly to end up sizzled more than the poor horse. Horses get immune to it.

Being closest to the horse’s mouth, jockey information is eagerly sought. Great horsemen aren’t necessarily good judges …

”Jockeys especially will send you broke,” George Freeman, who had a certain notoriety, once exclaimed. ”They ring you up and say this will win and they haven’t even ridden it [in track] work.”

Perce Galea, also a big plunger of his era, would only bet for them if the jockey put his own money in. Thus if the jockey had $500 on the horse, Galea would bet him the odds to $500 plus his own outlay. Of course this is highly illegal and the jockey would serve serious time if caught.

However, the structure of racing has changed. Prizemoney and strike rates play a greater role than the punt. Not that deaduns are extinct. Having been reared on the doctrine of good losers die broke, I can usually sort out a couple, and fume in two-chance races when one, carrying mine, gets left at the start. Stewards’ inquiries, explanations and replays, though, can provide a reasonable doubt.

One aspect of Inside Mail that initiated a personal colic attack was stewards didn’t have the necessary interviewing technique to get the truth out of those questioned. I’d back John Schreck and Ray Murrihy for a better result with a jockey, trainer or licensed person because of their turf knowledge than any interrogator who didn’t have the assistance of waterboarding or electricity to a tender spot.

Schreck was responsible for the Fine Cotton finding and Jockey Tapes, the two beacons of racing investigation. Fortunately, he had the support of the Australian Jockey Club committee. Today’s system, more democratic, doesn’t give Murrihy the same back-up.

Murrihy once outed a jockey after a performance that entitled the hoop to get a ”would hold a burning hot stove” rating. During an interval at the appeal, I mentioned to him that he wasn’t going to win because turf lore went out and the law came in.

Racing doesn’t need more integrity bureaucrats or too much police assistance unless it’s a jockey tape (bugged) left in the steward’s letterbox. Good stewards are our best bet.

And Cassidy will be back on August 22 after a sabbatical, taken not to polish up his acting for a coming Underbelly episode, but to get the pump again working smoothly.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.