Can you imagine a more dire situation than the bombshell that was dropped last Thursday with Aquis Farm pulling its horses out of running in Queensland due to integrity concerns?
Actually maybe there were more drastic situations. The Eagle Farm track debacle, the wrong horse running in the wrong race, the wrong numbers being declared after a race, a little girl being cleaned up by a harness racing mobile starting barrier – the list goes on and on.
But the move by Aquis, the biggest single investor in Queensland racing, is a watershed moment.
Aquis won’t be racing any horses they are majority shareholders of in Queensland until further notice – and they will be donating prizemoney to charity of any horses that race in Queensland they are minority owners of.
Aquis didn’t make the decision lightly – they are basically flushing money down the toilet – but they decided enough was enough and someone had to make a stand.
It will be interesting to see if any other owners, breeders, and or trainers follow suit.
They probably won’t because they don’t have the financial clout of Aquis, but imagine if they do and racing in Queensland starts to grind to a standstill.
Integrity in Queensland racing has been a hot topic for many months and the unresolved charges against Toowoomba trainer Ben Currie, which date back 12 months, have been central to the discussion.
Everywhere I go in racing, people want to ask me about the Currie situation and where it is at.
Honest answer – I don’t really know.
It’s just about impossible to follow given the flawed structure that the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission – set up in the wake of the greyhound live bating scandal – is operating under.
Long story short, and Currie is still training under a series of stayed proceedings. He has not been found guilty of anything.
There are other integrity issues rumbling around in Queensland but the Curie case is the one that has got everyone talking.
I understand Racing Queensland bosses have been privately pushing for a resolution to the matter because there is no doubt that while it lingers there is a significant stain on Queensland racing.
There are more questions than there are answers.
The bottom line is – whichever way you look at it – it’s entirely ridiculous that someone can be facing 37 serious racing charges and the matter has been drawn out this long.
It would never happen in New South Wales. Even in Victoria, stewards dealt with the complex Darren Weir case in a matter of days (albeit that matter was expediated when Weir pleaded guilty).
Stakeholders are sick of the industry in Queensland being dragged through the mud.
On the eve of the winter carnival, with eight Group Is and many millions of dollars up for grabs, it is hard to imagine a more dramatic step than the one Aquis has taken.
It will be fascinating to see what the flow-on is and if it prompts major action on the integrity issues which are swirling in Queensland racing.
Congratulations @Steve_odea @ProvenTbreds and connections of Scallopini @BrisRacingClub R9. As per @AquisFarm statement and policy our prizemoney as a minority owner will be donated to https://t.co/erY4CLsEk6
— Shane McGrath (@shanemcgrath78) April 13, 2019
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