Punting jockeys have apparently become the current pariahs of Australian racing. Damien Oliver was recently outed for allegedly having a bet and the long disqualifications of Peter Robl and Blake Shinn still are fresh in many people's minds.
My thoughts may be perceived as possibly provocative, maybe trite or even frivolous but is a jockey having a bet the cardinal sin it is painted?
And without attempting to trivialise what is considered a harshly punishable transgression of the rules, I often am reminded of an incident many years ago in Brisbane.
A jockey was being thoroughly grilled by the stewards over what was then termed "the running and handling" of a horse. After a lot of evidence and going back and forth, the jockey, almost exasperatingly, exclaimed: "Are you insinuating I was dead; let me tell you, sir, I had 500 of my own on it."
After a brief deliberation, the jockey's explanations of his ride were accepted by the stewards but he was fined $300 for betting. The final word came from a wizened wag outside the stewards' room: "All of the buggers should be fined -- if they don't bet on all of their own mounts".
During the present controversies there was an interesting aspect reported in the Melbourne Herald Sun quoting Cameron George, a former head of New Zealand racing's integrity unit. Pointing out that it was legal for jockeys in New Zealand to bet on their own mounts, he said their betting accounts were carefully scrutinised to eliminate a lot of innuendo.
More interestingly was his frank comment: "A trainer can present a horse in condition not to win; can influence the result of a race every bit as much as the jockey – but they CAN bet."
When you think about it, betting jockeys would stimulate a considerable betting surge. Just imagine a pre-race announcement: "Jockey so-and-so has had $500 on his mount." The cascade of cash from the punters as a result of the announcement would make the Niagara Falls appear like a dripping tap.
Never let the lack of facts spoil a good story!
There was some sly innuendo this week suggesting that Sky Racing had a somewhat inferior international coverage in the United Kingdom and that forced Dunaden stable representative, Geoffrey Faber, to relay the Caulfield Cup by mobile phone to Dunaden's trainer Mikel Delzangles who was in England.
A couple of commentators made much mirth of Sky's UK service for Australia racing.
They may like to know that Australian racing is telecast extensively in England daily -- This Racing World Australia channel via a partnership with UK-based racing broadcaster, At The Races, is available to 14million homes on BskyB.
(In the spirit of complete transparency and fairness, I must declare I am employed at Sky Sports Radio which, in conjunction with Sky Racing, constitutes the media division of Tabcorp).
The Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Saturday may not have the same extensive depth of class as the Caulfield Cup but it still presents an intriguing contest.
More particularly, this year there will be a record number of three three-year-olds taking on the older, more seasoned horses.
One of the youngsters, Pierro, is the ruling favourite but All Too Hard is coming into calculations. After all, he has a victory over Pierro in the Caulfield Guineas.
However, despite the three-year-olds having between weight advantages up to nine-and-a-half kilograms on the older horses, the value of experience and maturity cannot be denied.
Despite More Joyous falling victim to the Caulfield curse in the Toorak Handicap, I believe she can make amends.
At least she will be at career-best odds because she has been favourite for most of her 29 starts and the double figures about her in the Cox Plate is most inviting.
She is a Doncaster winner with 57.5 kilograms and had two impressive Sydney wins before travelling to Melbourne.
As for the supporting program at Moonee Valley, It's A Dundeel looks a special in the Michelton Wines Vase as a stepping stone to the Victoria Derby but a more backable prospect may be Ironstein in the International Cup.
A fortnight ago Ironstein raced honestly when fourth in the Herbert Power Handicap at Caulfield and this may be a more suitable task around the easier Valley circuit.
G1 - The Bet365 Celebration Steeple Chase (class 1)
G3 - The Bet365 Gold Cup Steeple Chase (handicap) (class 1)
G1 - Aes Champion 4yo Hdle
Grade B - Setanta Sport H'cap Hdle
Grade B - Palmerstown House Pat Taaffe H'cap Chase