Bentley drives for national approach

THE rise of "Baghdad" Bob Bentley to chairman of the Australian Racing Board was the best news to come out of a week that promises to lead to massive and, in most instances, necessary change to the industry. Bentley was the prime mover in the coming unification of Brisbane’s "Gaza Strip", the Queensland Turf Club and Brisbane Turf Club. Under his guidance Queensland racing is much better run than that of NSW. Saturday race fields are one example. "If Australian racing can become truly national in every sense then we can succeed," Bentley commented. "That includes calendar dates, programming rules, handicapping, stewards and every other aspect." Being a mover and shaker, Bentley has critics. Gaza is one achievement but he’ll find nationalising other states, particularly Victoria, more like Afghanistan.

POTENTIAL WON’T PAY: Racing, like life, is about compromise, thus the sharing of Easter Saturday between Randwick and Rosehill over the next four years is acceptable. Yes, Rosehill on Easter Saturday just won’t be the same as Randwick but the Australian Jockey Club didn’t put up a strong enough argument to retain it. Events NSW was a major player in the switch, and has the "potential to provide a promotional package of up to $10 million over four years". Potential? Government-department "potential" is about as useful as a tinker’s curse, although more valuable than a politician’s promise. Remember the link jackpots from poker machines that were supposed to come to racing when the TAB was privatised?

NO GO FOR JOE: Obviously conflict of interest didn’t come into play for the selection of the new Racing NSW board. For instance, Arthur Inglis is a major player behind the bloodstock company William Inglis & Son. No concern at all from this quarter, however. He comes with the right pedigree being closely related to old John, one of the true gentlemen of the turf, and Reg, who made a major contribution to the industry when an AJC committeeman. My only query with the new line-up is Ken Brown, AM, a renowned good bloke. He comes from the office of gaming and racing at a time when the industry has fallen into decline like never before. Kim Harding and Alan Brown were shoo-ins and the form of Alan Bell reads well: veterinarian, connected with Paul Sutherland in his best seasons, trainer, owner and breeder. Bell could well give a voice to the bush despite long ago leaving behind his RM Williams gear for some of the best tailoring seen outside of Milan. However, one disappointing aspect is that Joseph Crepaldi, a specialist in corporate and business strategy, who the previous selectors felt was the No.1 choice, didn’t bother to stand. Good judges reckon he had much to offer.

FAIR CRACK: Wonder whether those who backed Testimonial in the last at Rosehill on Saturday would have preferred Josh Parr had his whip over the latter stages? Parr dropped it at the 200m and went down by a half-length. Changes to whip rules coming up are an over-reaction. Surely thoroughbreds, the most pampered athletes, human or equine, are entitled to be given some encouragement. Rules are already in place to discourage flogging. "I’ve been examining horses over decades, going back before Mick Dittman was at his peak, and have only had to treat a horse once due to whip abuse," one of Sydney’s best known vets related on Saturday. "It was caused by a lady jockey."

Dittman was effective and never marked even the thinnest-skinned horse. To modify his style would have been an impertinence.

BOLGER BLUSTER: "The way Aidan [O’Brien] was treated down there was disgusting," Jim Bolger, the Irish trainer and blow-hard, told The Sunday Age . "There are a lot of people who should feel ashamed."

Of course, the 90-minute grilling that poor O’Brien had to endure over the appalling performances of his three horses in the Melbourne Cup because of dumb riding tactics brought the Bolger retort: "I suppose that’s what happens when you get professional stewards. People just have to justify their positions."

The long inquiry, however, was down to O’Brien. He wouldn’t shut up.

HORSE TO FOLLOW: Light Fantastic has returned to the Caulfield stable of Mick Price after being pre-trained at Rockmount in the Strathbogie Ranges north-east of Melbourne. Hopefully, he has recovered from stomach ulcers that plagued his form in the early spring.

DISAPPOINTING: John Messara , who has a superior knowledge of the problems of racing in this state, withdrew from the recently appointed Racing NSW board. Why?