Mike Dillon: Waterhouse soap opera has wider implications

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Trainer Gai Waterhouse (centre) arrives. Photo / Supplied
Trainer Gai Waterhouse (centre) arrives. Photo / Supplied

Excuse me, but I feel sorry for John Singleton. He's done nothing wrong in the Waterhouse bunfight and he's the only one who has so far been fined - A$15,000 ($18,000).

Although that might change when Gai Waterhouse faces stewards with a couple of charges on Monday.

Okay, Singo might have picked a better place than the Randwick birdcage to vent his spleen to Gai Waterhouse when he learned he was the only one of the More Joyous inner circle who was unaware the mare had problems going into the All Aged Stakes.

But Singo has always shot from the hip, so successfully that he made millions with his own special brand of promotional hype that helped promote two Australian politicians to Prime Minister.

This latest bunfight must surely be Australia's greatest soap opera that probably should never have made headlines.

The whole affair is ridiculously simple, although underlying it is a wider issue - not addressed in full - with the potential to be very sinister for punters.

What was addressed was: what was the veracity of the rumours that More Joyous could not perform at her best in the All Aged Stakes at Randwick because she was not physically at her best and did those rumours stem from Gai Waterhouse's bookmaking son Tom.

And if they did, how did that occur.

Chief steward Ray Murrihy concluded this week's hearing with: "There is absolutely no evidence that information was passed on to Tom Waterhouse that More Joyous was not at her best."

Don't read from that it didn't happen, only that there was "no evidence".

Well, how could there be.

Only if Tom Waterhouse said: "Mum told me", or Gai Waterhouse said: "I told my son".

Neither was going to happen.

The fascinating part is the bit players, knockabout former jockey Allan Robinson, league immortal Andrew Johns and big punter Eddie Hayson (doesn't the Sydney media love describing Hayson as 'brothel owner', then why not Singo as 'brewery owner', aren't both businesses legal?).

Johns saw Hayson at the footy on raceday eve, heard More Joyous was "off" - a terminology he now regrets - and Robinson relayed that information to Singleton at the races, apparently after hearing it from Johns.

None of that is dodgy - which makes Johns' reluctance to front the inquiry odd - but where that info originated from is sus, given Gai Waterhouse had told Singleton she thought the mare could win.

Hayson claimed it was from an employee of Gai Waterhouse's stable and passed a slip of paper to Murrihy at the hearing, apparently revealing the person's name.

The Sydney Morning Herald declared it feared for the mental state of Johns after he gave evidence, but did not specify why.

More Joyous received antibiotics early that week and Gai Waterhouse will almost certainly be fined on Monday for not declaring that.

But the underlying worry is the relationship between Australia's biggest bookmaker and one of Australia's biggest horse trainers, his mother.

At the inquiry, stewards warned Tom Waterhouse about the perceived conflict of interest between his business and his mother's stable.

What does a warning of that mean other than the hope that stewards will be seen to be doing their job.

There is an enormous opportunity for a bookmaker who has prior knowledge of a $1.50 favourite which is probably not going to be able to do the raceday job.

Hanson said at the inquiry: "Everyone knew the horse had problems, except poor Singo."

He seemed to be forgetting the punters who spent A$4 million on her that afternoon.

They were entitled to know the mare was "off", because clearly she was.

- NZ Herald

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