The untold story of the week was how close Hugh Bowman came to losing the ride on Winx. But the real question is why shouldn’t he be staring down the barrel of missing the mighty mare’s Warwick Stakes return?
The bizarre chain of events started at Canterbury on Wednesday when Bowman, Australia’s leading group 1 rider, was outed on a careless riding charge.
Asked by stewards how far he had commitments up to considering jockeys suspended in NSW have nine days to begin any suspension, Bowman asked to ride at Warwick Farm this Wednesday to help owners who had booked him.
That was notwithstanding the fact his appearance at Coffs Harbour for the second of the two-day carnival on Thursday had been trumpeted in various quarters, the day he would begin his ban.
Overnight he lodged an appeal against that suspension, likely to be heard later this week, and was granted a stay of proceedings to continue riding.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. Bowman was also suspended at Gosford on Thursday, less than 24 hours after his Canterbury misdemeanour. Realising if he was to lose his appeal over the first incident, the back-to-back suspensions starting on Thursday would have meant he forfeited the ride on Winx on August 20.
So what did he do? Completely flipped his position and asked stewards if he could start his Gosford suspension on Sunday, despite them only a day earlier letting him honour a commitment to those who wanted his services at Warwick Farm this Wednesday.
And they let him, keeping in mind the most prized seat in Australian racing was potentially riding on the decision.
But should that even be a consideration? I wonder how the owners who had wanted Bowman for the Warwick Farm meeting feel?
Does Bowman have any blame in this? Absolutely not.
He is massaging the system to work best for him. And to preserve the most cherished ride in the country, which he is entitled to do under the current rules.
But how can a system – and stewards – allow suspension dates to be a moving feast at the expense of forward-thinking owners who perhaps a couple of weeks in advance were clamouring for him to be on their horses at Warwick Farm?
Contrast that debacle with the situation in Victoria earlier this week where apprentice Michael Dee was hauled off six rides – on raceday no less – after losing an appeal over a careless riding ban. I wonder how punters and bookmakers felt about that?
There needs to be some consistency … and fast.
Overhaul called for
The conference of the country’s racing ministers at Darwin on Friday received submissions from a number of industry representative groups challenging the governance models in each state and Racing Australia.
This column understands written representations were made from the national trainers, jockeys and breeders associations to the men who matter urging for an overhaul of administrative systems.
It is no secret all have had major issues bubbling beneath the surface in the last 12 months. How much will their voices be heard by those who walk the halls of power in parliaments across the country?
What was interesting to note is Racing Victoria’s announcement during the week of a more hands-off and independent approach to board member appointments. Victorian racing minister Martin Pakula is one listening.
Wheeler has his say
Australian greyhound racing’s biggest owner-breeder Paul Wheeler has, understandably, tried to refrain from publicly charging into the debate over Mike Baird’s intention to ban the sport from next year.
But the Boorowa-based greyhound kingpin, who has bred 675 greyhounds in the last two years and houses up to 550 on his property in country NSW, has crafted a measured 14-page response to the Special Commission of Inquiry’s report into the industry.
It is considered response from a man who stands to lose more than anyone else if Baird’s push to outlaw the sport from July 1 is ratified in parliament.
Most notably, Wheeler refutes some of the figures bandied about in the report about wastage. Wheeler is particularly critical of the report’s figures which suggest 40 per cent of greyhounds whelped never race.
“A review of my own breeding records show that in my case 85 to 90 per cent of greyhounds bred race,” he wrote.
He also argues tax parity – which has been rushed through for the other two codes – and a redrafting of the Intercode agreement for TAB distributions, a recommendation by ex-High Court Justice Michael McHugh, would help the industry financially flourish.