A wrap of racing’s soap opera: the More Joyous affair

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2012 winner of the Doncaster, More Joyous. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

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If there was any question the once-rosy and all-conquering relationship between Gai Waterhouse and John Singleton was tattered beyond repair, it became abundantly clear at Monday’s inquiry into the poor performance of More Joyous in the Group 1 All Aged Stakes (1400m) at Randwick a week and a half ago.

Waterhousegate, the More Joyous affair, the Singo fiasco – whatever you want to call it, it has irreparably damaged the relationship between the champion trainer and one of Australia’s great larrikins, with the ashes of the great partnership on display for an excitable media corps at Racing NSW’s headquarters in Sydney.

It promised to be a soap opera, and the main characters delivered in spades in what was at times a heated and tense hearing.

Waterhouse told the inquiry John Singleton was “an absolute sham” who put “Chinese whispers from a trumped up, beat-up jockey, a brothel owner and a famous footballer” ahead of “a relationship that had been successful for over 15 years.”

She also suggested he was drunk before the race, which Singleton refuted.

“I had two or three drinks in the lead up to the race, and I had as many as you could get into me after the race,” Singleton said.

But Waterhouse countered that he had a “reputation” and that his word could not be believed.

She suggested he was “insanely jealous” when Pierro managed to defeat More Joyous in the Canterbury Stakes, and that his pre-race rant before the All Aged Stakes had distracted stable jockey Nash Rawiller and caused him to ride a poor race.

Waterhouse then put the boot in once more as the inquiry concluded for the evening, suggesting to Singleton the poor run could be attributed to the fact More Joyous “is a seven-year-old mare and she’s old – like you!”

Singleton had a number of barbs of his own, suggesting Gai’s bookmaker son Tom had “coached” key witness Andrew Johns – who failed to show for Monday’s inquiry – after Johns had used the word “embellish” to describe his subsequent conversations about More Joyous.

“I’ve known him since he was 14 or 15 and embellish is not part of his vocabulary,” Singleton said about Johns.

But Singleton looked as limp as his mare had been in the All Aged Stakes, failing to counter the strong attacks of the first lady of racing.

Barring the theatrics, there were a number of matters before the hearing, which concluded without a definite resolution on Monday evening. I’ve addressed many of the individual elements here separately:

Was More Joyous fit to start?

It seems that everyone who examined More Joyous felt there was no reason why the mare couldn’t start in the All Aged Stakes.

But what is so concerning is that Waterhouse didn’t inform the stewards there was anything wrong, nor did she advise that More Joyous had been administered with an antibiotic only 24 hours before the All Aged Stakes.

That is not against the rules of racing, but in my mind, it is ethically wrong. Surely someone with an understanding of betting knows that transparency is vital?

The chain of events started on Wednesday, when More Joyous didn’t eat all her feed. This is usually the first hint that all is not well.

On Thursday morning, More Joyous galloped on the dirt track at Randwick, coming home her last 200m in 11.3 seconds. It was exceptional work, as noted by Randwick clocker Craig Thomson.

However, as stable foreman Dave Meijer noted in his testimony, the mare had a swollen neck and she wouldn’t pick grass off the ground, the sign of a sore neck.

She was examined by Randwick Equine Centre vet Dr Leanne Begg, who said the problem was minor and administered cartrophen, an anti-inflammatory drug, to the mare.

As it was ANZAC Day, Begg delayed having a blood analysis taken on More Joyous until Friday. The analysis showed a slight elevation of the white blood cell count. An antibiotic was administered under the direction of Singleton’s veterinarian Dr John Peatfield, who was in Mudgee but had received advice of the oncology report on the phone.

Begg didn’t believe the inflammation was a sign of infection and was against administering an antibiotic.

On Saturday morning, Peatfield and Singleton’s racing manager Duncan Grimley inspected the horse, along with Waterhouse.

All three agreed she was fit to start, with Peatfield supposedly saying at the time, “I can’t guarantee she’ll win, because that’s not my job, but I can’t see a reason not to run her.”

Although there are slight variations in the accounts of the main players, all are fairly consistent. What is concerning is the processes involved.

Furthermore, it was not recorded in the stable’s treatment book – a list of all treatments administered to horses – that More Joyous had been administered with cartrophen on Thursday morning.

Waterhouse says it was an oversight by Dr Begg, and that More Joyous had received cartrophen weekly since she was a juvenile.

This is not disputed by Begg.

The stable treatment book is there for a purpose. At a time when scrutiny on racing, and sport in general, is at a higher level than any other time in regards to drugs, it is imperative racing remains on the front foot.

Set an example for other trainers – indicate that all medications applied to horses must be recorded. Failure to do so attracts a penalty. Simple.

As for Waterhouse’s failure to inform stewards, this is a more serious charge under the rules of racing. It depends on the nature of the condition, and given the testimony of veterinarians suggests they both thought she was fine to race, it may be argued that there was no need to inform the regulators.

While I personally believe Gai Waterhouse should have told stewards there was an issue with More Joyous, a charge may not stick.

Likely outcome: Waterhouse should receive a reprimand or a fine for not recording the administering of cartrophen. Whether she is also sanctioned for not informing stewards of the condition of More Joyous, time will tell.

Did Tom Waterhouse have more information that More Joyous was not right?

Short answer, no.

People may like to build conspiracy theories, but I think it is fairly clear that Waterhouse Jr has been the victim of a sad round of Chinese whispers.

Waterhouse told Andrew Johns – the “famous footballer” as Gai called him – that he “didn’t like It’s A Dundeel, All Too Hard or More Joyous”.

Johns mentioned it to “the brothel owner” Eddie Hayson. Hayson mentioned it to “the trumped up, beat-up jockey” Allan Robinson, who then rang Singleton.

It’s hearsay at its finest – or perhaps its lowest.

The ledgers don’t support the conclusion Waterhouse knew “More Joyous was off”, as he was alleged to have said.

Through his online bookmaking business, Tom Waterhouse stood All Too Hard to lose $250,000. More Joyous would have been a $135,000 winner for the joint, while Rain Affair – who he had backed heavily – was his best result.

His father Robbie also had a similar ratio for All Too Hard and More Joyous, although he was fielding in the ring and his book was much smaller.

What wasn’t really clarified was the bets Waterhouse Jr allegedly had on More Joyous. It was clear he had backed Rain Affair heavily, while it was also clear he had backed Epaulette.

The most humorous part of the day was when TomWaterhouse.com’s NRL Editor Nick Tedeschi appeared before the panel.

As the third member of a conversation between Waterhouse and Andrew Johns, he was able to attest to what was said between the pair.

However, it seemed the only purpose he served was to confirm for his employer that he backed More Joyous.

But while that satisfies the cynic in me, there is hardly a shred of evidence to suggest Waterhouse knew More Joyous was “off”. Any legal case against him would be thrown out immediately.

If it is a cover up, they’ve done a mighty fine job. I’m more inclined to believe he’s innocent – well, as innocent as he can be.

Likely outcome: Nothing. Surprisingly, Tom Waterhouse is probably the only person to leave the inquiry with his integrity and reputation almost intact. Others will take greater hits than him.

Did John Singleton bring racing into disrepute?

This is a tough one.

Should he have gone off like an idiot in the mounting yard, yelling profanities left, right and centre? No way.

Should he have gone on television, making allegations about the Waterhouse family? Absolutely not.

Does that constitute bringing racing into disrepute? In my mind, yes, but I’m not sure the stewards will see it that way.

The most interesting part for me is that he said pre-race he had no idea she had problems.

In fact, Duncan Grimley and Dr John Peatfield had informed him earlier in the day that More Joyous had issues with a swollen neck earlier in the week. The problems he’s referring to are more substantial and are based on the information passed to Singleton by Allan Robinson.

These were quite clearly false.

For his tirade towards Gai Waterhouse, he may face a sanction. But it’s unlikely he’ll get any more than a slap on the wrist.

Likely outcome: It’s a line ball call. Would suggest he probably won’t face charges, but he should.

What will happen to the three amigos – Andrew Johns, Allan Robinson and Eddie Hayson – if they don’t show at the reconvened inquiry?

They should get warned off. In a matter of importance like this, where their evidence is crucial, they should co-operate.

Don’t co-operate? Don’t be involved in racing.

Simple choice, but again, whether the stewards see it that way is another matter altogether.

Likely outcome: Who knows.

What happened between John Singleton and Robbie Waterhouse?

This section of the inquiry was held in camera, meaning media weren’t allowed access. It was over in less than five minutes. I doubt either party wants to take it further.

Likely outcome: Nothing.

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