Wade Birch (pictured) is back at work at Racing Queensland, which is all good, so that means that as at today, no one from Racing Queensland is 1) currently stood down or 2) has been dismissed over the Four Corners greyhound story.
As we all know, right across the three codes of racing - roughies get up at the races all the time. Only last Saturday a despised 50/1 outsider named Red Bomber ran down all the “experts” horse that they considered a “weighted certainly” and all this allied rot, Trust In A Gust, the odds-on favourite in Race 6 at Caulfield. At Doomben in Brisbane a 70/1 shot named De Lago Jet only went down by half a head in the opener at that track. Had that colt won it would have been a bigger boilover than when Polly put the kettle on that time. Then there’s been the odd time in greyhound racing that greyhounds have finished in their rug number order of one to eight inclusive, the odds of which are obviously 40,320/1.
But I fancy many punters and pundits would have gone the wrong way after Racing Queensland Integrity boss Wade Birch was stood down by the Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board on 22 February. Racecourse rumour suggested Wade Birch would struggle to return to the fold, but many got it wrong again as Wade Birch has been welcomed back to the Racing Queensland fold just yesterday - 22 April – ironically exactly two months to the day after being stood down.
Just to refresh the mind of readers, on 22 February this year Racing Queensland issued this Media Release in respect of Wade Birch being stood down after the Four Corners story on greyhound racing. Unfortunately Mr Birch’s face was displayed all over 6pm news broadcasts that particular night and the State-wide fish and chip wrapper, The Courier Mail the next day, with television viewers and newspaper readers able to draw their own conclusions:
The Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board (QACRIB) advises General Manager of Stewarding and Integrity Operations Wade Birch has been stood down pending an internal review of the integrity department and its inspection procedures.
QACRIB chairman Kevin Dixon said in the wake of evidence of live-baiting occurring within the greyhound industry, the procedures of the integrity department needed to be addressed.
“Information that has to come to light in the past week suggests there are procedural issues within the integrity area of the business. As Mr Birch is the officer responsible for that department, the board has taken the decision that it is appropriate to stand Mr Birch down while those short-comings are further understood,” Mr Dixon said.
“There is no allegation of improper conduct on Mr Birch’s part, however in the board’s view, it was appropriate he be stood down until the review is completed.
“Racing Queensland will be making appropriate arrangements in the next day to cover the position, with the view to implementing the recommendations of that internal review.”
Then the Racing Queensland Media Release last night stated:
Racing Queensland advises of the return to duties of General Manager Integrity and Stewarding Mr Wade Birch.
Mr Birch was stood aside while an internal review was conducted into the systems, procedures and organisational structures within the integrity and stewarding department relevant to greyhound racing.
The review found a number of the concerns relevant to greyhound racing within the department pre-dated the current management. Mr Birch had begun to undertake significant work to re-engineer these systems during his short time in the role of General Manager of the department.
Mr Birch has returned to continue this work.
The findings of the review have been provided to Mr Alan MacSporran QC as part of Racing Queensland’s submission to the current Commission of Inquiry.
Queensland All Codes Racing Industry Board Chairman Kevin Dixon said:
“I thank Wade and all involved in the review and look forward to working with him as we begin the process of moving forward.”
So there we have it. Wade Birch was obviously undertaking “significant work to re-engineer these systems during his (Wade Birch’s) short time in the role of General Manager of the department” for Racing Queensland. That’s just all such rotten luck for the industry as it seems to me from what Chairman Dixon is saying, that if only Racing Queensland had appointed Wade Birch to that role say six months earlier, maybe now the industry wouldn’t have been embroiled in all the current controversy, as the Integrity Department would have been on top of all the issues in the greyhound industry in particular that have surfaced in that Four Corners story. Racing Queensland must have been in the throws of working out which kennels to raid and which greyhound trial tracks were registered and which ones weren’t - before the story surfaced.
And now Wade Birch is back in his old role he might be able to work to speed up some of these cobalt positive test inquiries. He was probably doing “significant work” on those positives and may have been just starting to warm to the task regarding that problem before he was stood down. We all know that Racing New South Wales was about a furlong ahead of Racing Queensland on the cobalt issue, but as we know leaders can all be run down and Racing Queensland might get around to holding an inquiry into some of the cobalt positives reasonably soon. There’s certainly no rush from an industry perspective. We don’t expect Racing Queensland to rub anyone out over cobalt too quickly. It’s fine to just take your time. In your own words they’ll hold the inquiries “when practical” even though the sample that eventually tested positive was taken maybe six months ago.
And whilst it didn’t make The Courier Mail today - real news outlets have reported 12 horses – “11 horses were adults and one was a foal” have been found “dumped at a conservation park south of Adelaide”. So 55 greyhound carcasses up Bundaberg way which accumulated over an as yet unspecified timeframe, is front page news in The Courier Mail but 12 horse carcasses, including at least “two horses (that) have been identified as unraced thoroughbreds” and “a foal” is not newsworthy.
Thoroughbred Racing South Australia (TRSA) is apparently all over this story like a bout of the measles with “TRSA stewards chairman Johan Petzer” telling ABC news he was “very concerned about the discovery”. TRSA Chief Executive, Jim Watters, told ABC news, “At this stage, two horses have been identified as unraced thoroughbreds”. The report went on to say that “the two horses (those already identified as unraced thoroughbreds) were among those that were less decomposed”, the inference being that it’s possible all 12 horses are thoroughbreds. The story also quoted Environmental Protection Authority investigations manager Stephen Barry as noting, “We think some of the horses have been there for maybe in excess of a year. There are some horses there that still have hide and hair and hoofs so they might have been there for a shorter period of time”.
News will hopefully filter through to The Courier Mail by carrier pigeon or via a telegram through Australia Post later today or tomorrow about the story. But I guess by then it will be old news so they won’t have to print anything about it, which will help keep the public image of Australian thoroughbred racing squeaky clean. Although I must say that thoroughbred racing is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons in Victoria after a jigger was found on the track at Mornington. Matt Nicholls has that story on my Melbourneracing website link below.
Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there’s the first of two montages of photos from Doomben last Saturday. On www.sydneyracing.com.au there a harness story whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Victorian racing is perused.