Weeks after Black Caviar’s final run, Racing’s biggest news has been a spat between its best-known names.
It was the furthest thing imaginable from a discrete parting of ways. Ad man John Singleton fired racing royalty Gai Waterhouse as his trainer last weekend in full view of the crowd at Randwick – and in front of TV cameras – claiming her bookmaker son Tom shared inside information about his prized horse More Joyous.
As it stands, the story now involves a brothel owner, a Ruby League immortal, a retired jockey and the ubiquitous Tom Waterhouse, as well as host of players. They’ll all square off against each other at a Stewards Inquiry on Monday.
It’s a dramatic turnaround for Australia’s racing industry which just weeks ago was reveling in the glory bestowed by Black Caviar, the horse that captivated a nation.
Singleton summed it up well himself last night, speaking to Fairfax Media at the launch of his Marlborough Hotel in Newtown, when he said racing has never been short of colourful characters, and that if he were alive, legendary Australian poet Banjo Paterson would probably be “writing some good stuff about it.”
While the legal proceedings will play out, the Australian racing industry is left to consider the impact press of this sort has on its reputation so soon after Black Caviar’s 25-from-25.
“There have always been people with tarnished reputations in racing. They’ve owned horses, raced horses,” said thoroughbred trainer of 30 years Paul Cave.
Cave, who said he has trained horses for Singleton in the past, added that while the press coverage centres on negative allegations, the industry needs high-profile, colourful figures, dummy-spits and all.
“John’s Passionate about racing. He’s been very good for racing.”
“We haven’t got enough of people like him in this country.”
Economic conditions have taken their toll on Cave’s business, and he said the publicity – regardless of what it is over – is good if it alerts people to the opportunities in racing, like buying a horse as an investment.
Thanks to tough economic conditions, “I have half my normal number of horses,” he said.
One bookmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity as the Singleton-Waterhouse spat is still before racing authorities, said: “Inside information is something that needs to be taken seriously [by the racing industry],” adding that – as it is in financial markets – all information should be given to all punters at the same time.
“It’s a very challenging problem to manage. It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds.”
Another trainer, David Payne said: “It’s [the media coverage] an overreaction, it will all blow over.”
“If he [John Singleton] wants to take his horses away, he can take them away,” he said.
Payne, a former jockey who according to his website has trained 100 Group 1 winners, said he did not think the public dispute between the two giants of Australian racing would have a negative effect on the industry’s image.
A racing administrator, who cannot be named, told Business Insider: “It looks like a case of a major owner feeling a little unloved by his trainer.
“I do think it’s a setback. But the industry is bigger than just two people,” the administrator said.
Another ex-jockey Ron Quinton, who has been inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, said this: “Look, all I want to say is normally any publicity is good publicity, but in this instance I think it’s a little bit of bad publicity.”
“It’s been a little bit negative for racing,” said Quinton, who has trained multiple group one winners, with his stable located on the centre of the Randwick Racecourse.
Warwick farm trainer Jason Coyle was upbeat, saying: “My only comment would be, I don’t think it’s a let-down at all. It didn’t take away from the races or the Carnival.
“The Carnival speaks for itself.”
Singleton, as well as Tom and Gai Waterhouse have been approached for comment.