Cloud still hangs over Rocky racing
IT IS almost two years to the day since a race horse under the care of Rockhampton trainer Ricky Vale tested positive to two prohibited substances at Callaghan Park.
The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission has not yet set a date for a stewards’ inquiry into the matter.
Can punters and the wider racing industry have faith in such a sloth-like integrity system?
Would you have a bet on a Rockhampton horse race with such a cloud hanging over the sport?
Are the lengthy delays caused by the current integrity system fair for trainers like Ricky Vale?
As Shadow Racing Minister John-Paul Langbroek has previously stated at Parliamentary Estimates, Vale’s is far from an isolated case in the Sunshine State and there are many other licensees in the same predicament.
It was on October 11, 2018, that a positive to cobalt and dexamethasone was found in a swab taken from the Vale-trained galloper Court Clown at Rockhampton.
Cobalt is an essential mineral nutrient that is toxic at high dosages and is a prohibited substance in excess of 100 micrograms per litre in urine as per the Australian rules of racing.
Dexamethasone can be used to treat inflammatory conditions such as allergies, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis and breathing disorders.
On September 13 last year, QRIC Commissioner Ross Barnett said Vale would face an inquiry “to be scheduled next week”.
We are still waiting.
When previously contacted by The Morning Bulletin, Vale said he did not wish to comment ahead of the inquiry.
Mr Langbroek told The Morning Bulletin the QRIC system was “a joke”.
“It (delays) is something that has been a characteristic of QRIC ever since it was set up in 2016,” he said.
“Like (jockey) Matthew McGillivray who (it) took two years to serve a five-day suspension.
“Some jockeys have retired with suspensions still hanging over their heads - because they keep getting stays of proceedings at QCAT and that’s why it’s a system that needs to get sorted out.”
Mr Langbroek also challenged Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe’s previous appraisal of QRIC.
“He says it (QRIC) is the envy of the rest of Australia,” Mr Langbroek said.
“No-one that I know in harness, or racing, or dogs, thinks it is anything other than a joke.”
Mr Langbroek went on to say Queensland’s racing integrity system “costs double what it costs in New South Wales, and triple what it costs in Victoria, and we (in Queensland) are getting worse results”.
“For example in Victoria they (stewards) rubbed (trainer) Darren Weir out in five days, and here (in Queensland) we’ve got cases that last for years before they’re resolved.
“I’ve spoken to licensees whose lives have been turned upside down because of investigations, because of allegations, had to get other jobs; ended up beating the cases that were made against them but in the meantime their lives have changed completely.
“So it’s not fair to anyone. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe would not comment on the Ricky Vale case or the delays.
He said the Palaszczuk Government made no excuses for establishing a “strong and vigorous integrity body for racing in Queensland”.
“The MacSporran Report in 2015 clearly laid out why such a body was necessary in Queensland and we acted to establish QRIC,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
Mr Hinchliffe said last year QRIC made 1525 official decisions relating to integrity offences. “Only 102 were taken to internal review,” he said.
“That’s 96 per cent of decisions accepted right off the bat.
“Only 40 decisions were the subject of QCAT appeal and only six were found in favour of the applicant.”
Mr Hinchliffe said the Queensland Government had responded swiftly to input from the racing industry about QRIC and had introduced a Racing Appeals Panel with additional independence and expertise.
“Why is the LNP so intent on winding back our highly successful racing integrity watchdog?
“Surely the question is: What does the LNP have to gain from less scrutiny within the racing industry?”
When asked if the LNP would disband QRIC if it won power at the upcoming State Election, Mr Langbroek replied: “I’ve said we’ll fix it – I haven’t said we’ll disband it.”
When pressed further on the issue, Mr Langbroek added: “I’ve been to other jurisdictions like New South Wales - I’ve spoken to Peter V’landys (Racing NSW CEO) about what happens (there).
“I’ve had briefs so I can look at the different ways that they manage their racing in New South Wales and Victoria.
“And I believe that’s the direction that we should be going, but we wouldn’t disband QRIC, because otherwise you’d have to have some kind of fallback system.
“Because we’ve got the separation of Racing Queensland (state control body) and QRIC, and you can’t just disband it (QRIC).
“But obviously it (QRIC) would change if we were to become the government.”