And So the Aquanita Circus Ends, Not With a Bang, But a Whimper …… The Hollow Man Terry Bailey Must Now Be Bid Adieu – He Shall Be Missed By None
So that’s it is it?
Is that all there is?
An opening day full of a QC making baseless accusations without a shred of solid evidence to support them.
A second day where only one witness – Liam Birchley – gives evidence and is cross-examined, and says that the Stewards have misinterpreted the texts* and that they refer to topping up the feed and water. This is entirely consistent with the brief answers given by Greg Nelligan at the earliest stages of the inquiry that has resulted in the proceedings.
* Text messages from a telephone seized from former Aquanita truck driver and stablehand Greg Nelligan that are oblique and can be interpreted in a number of different ways.
No admissions by any person.
No signed statements.
No witnesses other than Birchley, who even on the most damning of constructions is simply a minor player in the Aquanita affair, and his travelling stable foreman the former star apprentice whose career was derailed by the handicap of being born with a frame too big for a jockey Aiden Holt.
Holt’s evidence is uncontroversial other than that his recollection of the time that he arrived at the Flemington course with a stable runner on Cup Day is an hour out. He says he arrived at about 7.30am, records show that he arrived at about 8.30am.
Holt is a Queenslander and that State does not have daylight saving, which commenced in Victoria that year just 4 weeks before. It is entirely plausible that he simply forgot to move the time on his watch forward an hour.
No positive swabs.
No evidence whatsoever that any horse has ever received any race day treatment other than the Robert Smerdon trained Lovani that Nelligan was found in the stall with Flemington in the incident that sparked the whole debacle.
Tests conducted on Lovani reveal minor traces of traces of bicarbonate and formaldehyde well below regulated threshold levels. Both are contained in common foods and vitamin supplements.
And that’s it for your couple of hundred thousand dollars and countless pages of newspaper print.
A big fat zero.
Nelligan and Smerdon will be convicted – the former was found in Lovani’s stall with a syringe, and the latter presented the horse to race as a trainer – but that’s a single offence and in many cases a conviction for it only results in a fine. Of course in this case the pair will be hit with a long ban from the sport because they are easy game and don’t care, and the Victorian Stewards need to save at least some face from this total kiss-up.
None of the other trainers or licensees, including Liam Birchley, can be possibly be convicted of the alleged breach of the rules they have been charged with, for their alleged misdemeanours are being party to the administration of a substance to a horse on race day, and there isn’t even the slightest skerrick of evidence to support the charge.
Even taking the prosecution case as its absolute highest and assuming the texts mean what the Stewards say they do – and there is absolutely nil evidence that is the case – then the worst scenario for Birchley and others is that they asked Nelligan to give their horse a bicarb hit on race morning (there is no evidence that this is actually true, but we are pretending here).
That doesn’t mean it was actually given one does it?
I ask Maggie to do things for me all the time and she says sure and then forgets. I do the same, and I am sure that you do too. So how could just asking for something to be done prove in a million years that what you asked for was actually done?
It’s as simple as that.
To prove these charges the Stewards needed to prove 2 elements of the alleged breach: first that Birchley and others were party to the administration of a substance on race day by virtue of them having asked for it, and second that the substance was actually administered.
Racing Victoria haven’t even gone close to proving the first charge, and in the complete absence of any evidence haven’t even bothered trying to prove the second.
The whole thing is a farce and a joke, and a whole lot of people are going to have a whole lot of egg on their faces in about a weeks time when this is all said and done.
People like the racing writer Leo Schlink – who all but called Birchley and others disgraceful criminals, and should be sued by the trainers for plenty – and Marc Van Gestel of the NSW Stewards who banned Birchley from racing in NSW, and the race-hating pontificator from his imagined pulpit Patrick Smith of The Australian, the man who made great play of pounding on about 271 counts but failed to mention that Birchley, Webb, Vasil and Pennuto only face a single charge each, who hates horse racing and calls our great love ‘the dodgy sport’.
Well who is dodgy now Patrick and co? I’ll give you a clue, it ain’t Liam Birchley.
Of course the man most culpable for this highly embarrassing (to RV) and incredibly damaging (to the charged trainers) total debacle and utter farce is the man who started the fire and kept stoking it with leaked information and cryptic public statements Terry Bailey, the Chief Steward of racing in Victoria, but not for very much longer you can be assured.
Bailey has ballsed a major inquiry up again, just he like he did on the cobalt issue and his attempt to induce a stable hand to agree to be planted as a spy in Peter Moody’s stable, and as he did in the early stages of his pursuit of Danny Nikolic before the jockey’s inability to control his temper and a hail of bullets shot into Bailey’s door changed the ball game and gave police the imprimatur to save Bailey’s reputation by recommending the rider’s permanent exile from the game.
If anything useful is to come out of this whole circus it is the message that the new police-style powers granted to integrity officials and the cop-like methods of managing integrity in racing don’t work.
As Peter Moody pointed out in his recent biography most racing people aren’t crooks, yet under the new integrity model everyone in the industry is by default viewed and treated as one. It’s just plain wrong, and horribly unfair. There are bad eggs in every basket but it doesn’t mean the whole basket’s rotten.
Terry Bailey’s track record is rotten though, and his career now lies shredded on the floor in tatters. His departure from Australian racing can’t come quick enough, and save your sympathy for someone else, for Bailey through hubris and arrogance and a lack of respect for the good people of our sport has brought the whole thing on himself.
No-one will be sorry to see him gone.
Postscript: It’s funny how an alleged lunatic picked the truth about the Aquanita affair months before the mainstream media saw the trees through the woods isn’t is sportsfans? Just as it was strange that the same claimed madman was the only one to tell you about the Eagle Farm track and a whole host of other issues. Perhaps the people pointing the finger at the news breaker are the mad bastards after all? Or maybe they are just mealy-mouthed malefactors with a whole heap to hide ……..