By Hans Ebert



Where does one start? Though hindsight is a wonderful thing and talk from the land Down Under about a character in horse racing known as “Darren Gear” has been circulating for over two years, all the space devoted to the investigation and charges laid against champion trainer Darren Weir is a body blow to the image of horse racing.

It’s especially damaging for racing in Victoria which has been battered and bruised for almost 4-5 straight- but crooked- years for what could be described as a comedy of errors starring a constantly changing cast of inept clowns.

This cast though led by racing administrators in Victoria along with their partners in crime-think about that- includes the Great Pontificators on Twitter with various axes to grind and seemingly desperate to be seen as being relevant. There’s some weird competition going on in the Self Promotion Stakes for also-rans and never-beens. Harsh? No. Everyone has got something to hide except for me and my monkey. Hypocrisy is on overload.

The Weir case has seen the usual opportunists jump aboard the Woodward and Bernstein bandwagon, headfirst. There’s seemingly a need to be seen as being “first with the news”. At least on that handwringing world known as Twitter.

The winner by twenty lengths and going hard: Matt Stewart.

His soliloquy on RSN about being right there at the Pythonesque RAD Board Meeting in front of Chairman- Judge and horse owner John Bowman- and mentioning how awful it was to watch such a big man break down and cry, along with some weird passing mention of Jesus, someone named “Whitey”, and other Big Thoughts and scoops of Matt Unchained must have had Global Blockhead Shaneo in a tizz. Seeing someone often described as The Village Idiot of horse racing now elevated to Godlike status?

Suddenly, much of that old dirty laundry is getting another damn good airing, which opens up another round of questions without answers whereas some “underpants” have been quietly swept under the carpet- like drive-by shootings that just went Poof in the night.

Where’s former Racing Victoria Chief Steward Terry Bailey? Ah, yes, he’s enjoying the great expat lifestyle found for him
in Singapore. Good for him. He’s worked damn hard for his retirement.

Though the hills are alive with silence from Bailey, nothing about the Aquanita lambs and its Hannibal Lecter etc etc, there’s been the usual serving of waffles from RVL CEO in the tough-talking, no-nonsense Giles Thompson and the always, er, measured Racing Minister of Victoria Martin Pakula plus the Sideshow Bob supporting acts. Often it’s like an old episode of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Or horse racing’s version of Spamalot.

On a more odd note was the burst of self-promotion that came across as a campaign for support for another Big Man in Australian racing who’s become somewhat of an unofficial roving ambassador for the game.

Some describe him as a moving target- another of those “knockabout blokes” who escaped with his legacy intact because of a technicality. Because of another boo boo by the Keystone Cops.

There he was on Twitter recently with a pious, sanctimonious announcement about how he was coming to the help of all those left stranded by the Weir fallout.

It came across like Jesus waving to his flock and saying, “Yoohoo, everybody. Look what I did for the forty thousand! Only me, me, me.” If it was a campaign, it didn’t work.

As for Darren Weir, who really is who and was he? How did he manage to hoodwink so many- racing administrators, the racing media including race callers, tipsters, so many owners in very high places and other Mini Me “knockabout blokes” who have quietly gone underground? Maybe they’re regrouping at the Emerald?

Those above ground and trying to outdo Leo Schlink who broke the weirdly “Weiry” and his allegedly enablers story, they have come across as, well, fawning sycophants now turned serial hypocrites.

Wasn’t it only a couple of weeks ago that those now fighting for “investigative reportage
honours” were tripping over themselves to interview the “master trainer” and proud to be paid up lifetime members of Team Weiry?

Michelle Payne finally popped up saying something innocuous while “Ride Like A Girl”, the film about her fairytale win in the Melbourne Cup aboard the Weir-trained 100 to 1 runner Prince Of Penzance, might need a serious rewrite. Like giving the script a cliffhanger ending. Or turning the movie into a Reggae musical, mon?

As for Darren Weir, more and more, he’s coming across as horse racing’s Keyser Soze. Is he calling in favors? Is he still pulling the strings? Are there puppets and muppets and the Swedish chef under his control? Maybe he was crying with laughter at the RAD hearing? Four years for finding three jiggers in the “master trainer’s” master bedroom? And members of the RAD Board arguing whether it should be FIVE years instead of four? Nice try.

As for the non-stop interviews on the Dead People’s Sports and Racing station, what did any of the interviewees have to say?

Head of Integrity at RVL Jamie Stiers said as much as he could for the time being before passing the baton and everything else to the capable hands of the RAD Board.

Was RVL Chairman Brian Kruger convincing? Guess as convincing as any corporate man could be- lots of words, but nothing to stop anyone in their tracks.

Wait: I lie. Talking about how to restore the image of horse racing to those outside of the “racing bubble”, the first thing mentioned was the running of the All-Star Mile. It showed just how many in executive roles in horse racing are clueless about those outside of the “racing bubble”.

Having said this, what else could Kruger say other than talk in clichés about “better communications”, integrity issues, no one person is bigger than horse racing, and mentioning all the good people involved in the sport.

Haven’t we heard all this before- but parroted by different players? Same corporate script, different cast and with there still being no answers? No closure? Nothing concrete. Just more daft crisis mismanagement.

Horse racing is not known for its effective crisis management. It usually surfaces after the horse- and cheats- have bolted. And while this latest horse opera in Victoria is far FAR from over, the fat cat racing executives and their Goon Squad are, one is willing to bet, already strapping on their golden parachutes and getting ready to do a David Copperfield. What about all the “good people in the sport we love? Not our problem, mate.” Everything changes, but nothing does. Not with racing in Victoria.

#DarrenWeir #horseracing #RacingVictoria #RideLikeAGirl #horseopera