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Should trainers be accountable for their comments to the media?

Peter Moody has quit training in the wake of the Lidari cobalt trial. (AAP Image/Julian Smith)
Expert
31st August, 2014
41
1365 Reads

As evidenced on Saturday, trainers have such a strong influence on markets that it is only a matter of time before racing’s integrity comes under fire.

In an industry where freedom of information is paramount to how markets are shaped, Peter Moody’s comments leading into the Group 1 Memsie Stakes must be a concern.

After his two Memsie runners, Moment Of Change and Dissident, had their final pieces of work leading into the Memsie, Moody addressed the media.

“Moment Of Change worked super here at Caulfield this morning and he’s trained-on nicely since his first up run,” Moody said on Tuesday.

“He (Moment of Change) is certainly the pick of my two and I’d be disappointed if he’s not in the mix.”

Moody was then asked about his other runner, Dissident.

“He actually got a bit lost working at Caulfield this morning.

“Dissident hasn’t been in the Melbourne direction for a while and he hasn’t really been in Melbourne much since he was a two-year-old so he might take benefit out of the experience.”

Not even a Rhodes Scholar could have interpreted Moody’s comments in any way other than a prediction that Moment Of Change will beat Dissident. It’s why Moment Of Change opened at $6.50 while Dissident was understandably less fancied at $17.

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When the gates opened, Moment Of Change had firmed into $5 SP while Dissident came in late to $12 SP.

Dissident comfortably won the Memsie, while Moment Of Change finished stone motherless last.

Two potential explanations are Peter Moody is a shocking judge of trackwork, or he misled the media and subsequently the punters. Considering he has 44 Group 1 wins under his belt, the former is hard to believe.

According to the official stewards report, a post-race veterinary examination of Moment Of Change showed no abnormalities. Rider Luke Nolen could not offer stewards any explanation and Moody was calm and collected in his post-race interview.

Scrutinising trainer comments is a fine line to tread because most trainers are very generous with their time to the media and it’s difficult to believe one would deliberately mislead others for the sake of self gain. While Moody’s Tuesday interview was just one example of wayward comments, his influence on the markets was substantial.

Late mail is the biggest indication of a market move and it is something highlighted across all racing media broadcasters for the sake of market transparency.

While jockeys in Australia cannot bet, there are very lenient guidelines for trainers and stable employees. Persons registered to a certain stable can bet freely so long as they do not lay a horse from their stable.

What made the Memsie even more interesting was that there is a Mr P G Moody listed as the first owner of Dissident among ten others.

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Trainers tend to avoid racing their horses against each other because it means there will be at least one unhappy set of connections. His decision to do so had to have been influenced by honest belief of Dissident’s chances.

Generally speaking, one of the greatest benefits of being an owner is having the inside information on a horse. Owners know how the horse has recovered from their last run, how they have worked at trackwork and ultimately, how they will go in their next race.

The best trainers are the honest ones.

Moody can be given a reprieve on this instance because there was no major move in fixed odds betting between Tuesday and Saturday. Any inside information was not leaked until race day but if Moody could influence the market with his comments on Tuesday, there is little stopping other trainers from doing the same and potentially profiting big at the expense of gullible punters.

Although most bookmakers have limits on fixed odds betting, there are still plenty of loopholes due to the amount of bookmakers out there.

Something which could be worth looking into is adopting principles from the New Zealand racing model.

In New Zealand, jockeys can freely bet on their own horses but only if they bet into the tote. This way, any large market movements are accounted for in the final dividend.

If the same rule was applied to trainers and stable employees, the tote dividend would be an even more accurate reflection of a horse’s winning chance than it is already.

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The media is not the same placid entity it once was.

Nowadays, it is a whole new beast that produces information at rapid speeds. Comments made by trainers spread through television, radio, internet and print faster than ever before courtesy of social media and Freudian slips become so much more.

Although trainers are in not responsible for decisions made by punters, it has become very clear that their comments are reflected in betting.

The disparity in Moment Of Change and Dissident’s market prices would probably fall on the lower scale of racing’s integrity alarm scale but it is only a matter of time before a much more controversial case arises.

Update – Alfred has since approached Peter Moody, and has offered the following statement:

The purpose of the article was to create discussion around the issue of media accountability and by no means did I maliciously intend to single out any trainer or stable. I acknowledge that Peter Moody should not have been isolated in the context and apologise for any damage caused.