The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) released its annual report last week.
It might have been better if it hadn’t, for it did little to enhance the reputation of this body that has divided racing administration in this state due to a series of calamitous decisions that have made Queensland the laughing stock of the country.
It could, however, be QRIC’s last annual report. Seems its survival relies on the election outcome.
QRIC chairman Ross Barnett boldly stated his report “highlights the great work achieved by commission staff over the past year including the first race fixing charges in the harness code under the match fixing laws enacted in Queensland in 2014”.
Well, seriously that must have been really difficult for his troops (aka QRIC cops) to track down the culprits. Harness has sunk to the very bottom of despair – at least in Queensland.
The once great harness industry is beyond redemption according to most punters who have abandoned it in droves. So hardly a bouquet for QRIC there.
The general reaction is: Who cares?
The report added Queensland Police Service through the Racing Crime Squad laid 40 charges against a total of 22 offenders over the year.
“This partnership acts as a valuable deterrent to industry participants who might otherwise engage in serious animal welfare and integrity offences,” he pontificated.
What the report didn’t mention, however, was the prosecution of Mackay trainer Buddha Cochrane – a family man who spent nine months on the side line out of work – after the stewards found him guilty of cruelty. It arose out of a steward seeing (from 300 yards) Buddha hit a horse with a piece of polypipe to encourage it to get into the swimming pool.
Polypipe is considered an essential tool at any horse pool and on any racetrack. It doesn’t hurt (nowhere near as severe as a jockey’s whip) but makes much more noise which is the reason for its continued and universal use.
Without any independent or supportive witness or veterinary evidence, Buddha was charged and disqualified.
The new you-beaut Racing Crime Squad also charged him with cruelty, but the magistrate threw it out for lack of evidence.
There was a similar case in Rocky the previous year, with the same result. Cochrane has since had his licence renewed. Hardly a wrap for the very expensive Crime Squad made up of ex coppers and corrective personnel that flit around the state at massive expense to do what?
Waste valuable time (of licensees) and money that could be used on prize money or travelling rebates for the battling country trainers who ironically are the targets for the flying squad – the “new age stewards”.
They turned up on consecutive days at Cluden last week to breath test track work riders and stablehands. It is a task normally undertaken by local stewards, and is accepted by most licensees.
According to the annual report the Racing Crime Squad is set to expand from four to six members and the Commission “will expand the use of body worn cameras to allow officers to make accurate, real-time records of their fieldwork and inspections”, Commissioner Barnett said.
Yet in the next sentence he says: “It is important to remember the vast majority of licensees across the three codes are law-abiding responsible industry participants’’ and that “99.6 per cent of the 19,000-plus swabs analysed by the QRIC’s Racing Science Centre returned negative results”.
He didn’t mention the total stuff-up of the cobalt swabs, however, which has been the source of national ridicule and QRIC’s less than impressive record with QCAT hearings.
The Commissioner said QRIC’s officers supervised 1521 race meetings, conducted more than 955 stable and kennel inspections and carried out 96 welfare and integrity investigations during the reporting period.
QRIC under Barnett has cost the industry an estimated $27 million. Yes, 27mil.
I don’t think we will see another annual report with his signature. A change of government will ensure that.
If a horse returns a positive swab at the races the trainer is held responsible and is dealt with under the rules. That has always been the case.
So why splash all those millions on stable searches all over the state? On fancy spyware, travel, accommodation and hire cars. In a nutshell it is an unnecessary, extravagant waste of much-needed funds.
FOOTNOTE: Your scribe is also a hobby trainer with just a couple in work. He has had two stable inspections in 10 years – until last month. And now he has had three inspections in four weeks, and after this week’s column expects yet another!
It’s not racing any more in Queensland.
It’s fair dinkum Play School.