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Racing a public punching bag

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Roar Rookie
1st February, 2019
15

It’s been a tough few days for the racing industry.

The movie-like raid on the Darren Weir stables has been national news and its findings have angered and embarrassed participants across the country.

Four jiggers, an unregistered firearm and a small amount of cocaine were seized – none of which has a place in a licensed stable.

A jigger is an archaic ‘tool’ in horse training, outlawed many decades ago, that sends an electric shock down a horse’s neck when applied.

On raceday, when the jockey asks the horse for extra effort and shakes the reins, the horse feels the handle of the whip on its neck and remembers the jolt, kicking into gear. Mere possession of a jigger carries a compulsory two-year disqualification; proven use will be treated more harshly.

In a familiar twist, mainstream media and ‘keyboard warriors’ have gleefully sunk the boots into the racing fraternity. Frothing at the mouth they have trawled back through the archives to find past indiscretions, hoping to justify their outrage.

Many have admitted to not being racing fans and knowing little about the sport yet are unwilling to let that get in the way of a misplaced grudge. Are we to assume that, given their occasional objection to racing, these instant experts remain on their moral high-horse and defiantly work on Melbourne Cup day or Adelaide Cup day?

It’s interesting to note that while the racing media report and comment on racing only, the wider sports community seem to feel it is their duty to step in and have their say when it suits.

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Whilst constantly forgiving participants of their own chosen passion – be it football, cricket or otherwise – many adopt a ‘one in all in’ approach to racing.

‘They’re all cheats!’ How is it that racing, a sport being painted as a pastime for the cruel and greedy, is held to a higher standard than any other?

Take Australian Rules Football for example. It’s difficult to remember many articles, opinion pieces or social media content, accusing the whole league of using performance-enhancing drugs during the Essendon scandal.

It was reported as a one-off incident that has never happened before and never would again – drugs aren’t a massive problem and the League is on top of it.

The treachery of the drug culture at West Coast was reported in a similar fashion – drugs aren’t a massive problem and the League is taking measures to ensure they don’t become one.

Upon reflection, that’s two clubs out of sixteen at the time that that had very separate drug issues which is over twelve per cent of the League’s competitors.

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Now, compare that to every trainer that has been suspended or disqualified over the past two decades in racing and the figures are far kinder, less that one per cent of competitors fall in this bracket.

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Stables routinely have their athletes tested for prohibited substances and malpractice, the industry is hellbent on catching the bad guys.

A quick wander through a stable in the early morning reveals the love and respect these equine gems rightly receive every day. It is starkly apparent that the Weir situation is unacceptable and will be treated as such.

No one in racing is hiding from this. The racing media have been considered and critical of Weir’s actions and, as the story reveals itself, will continue to be honest and factual in their reporting.

Is it too much to ask mainstream media to behave the same way?

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