BRODIE LOY – HOW THE THOROUGHBRED RACING INDUSTRY SUCCESSFULLY PUBLICLY HUMILIATES 16-YEAR-OLD KIDS

BRODIE LOY – HOW THE THOROUGHBRED RACING INDUSTRY SUCCESSFULLY PUBLICLY HUMILIATES 16-YEAR-OLD KIDS

07/08/13

I make a point of trying to keep out of stewards work. Over the 16 years this website has been operational, I only publicly comment on stewards issues if I think a gross miscarriage of justice has occurred and to that end I’ve had a gutful over three recent incidents – one in each of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, hence I will now pen an article. In all cases each individual matter was dealt with by the Chief Steward in their respective State.

I found it what I call “an absolute and utter disgrace” the way senior jockey Bobby El-issa was treated after completing his term of disqualification over the Bold Glance ride. He served his time yet he was unceremoniously sent back to the bush to ride, basically at the pleasure of the Chief Steward. How the Racing Queensland Chairman Kevin Dixon didn’t get personally involved in correcting that pathetic wrong is to me totally beyond comprehension and served as a sad blight on his leadership. As far as I’m concerned there was no procedural fairness in that “absolute and utter disgrace.”

Then only recently I found the New South Wales Chief Steward’s handling of the Glenn Lynch saga as extraordinary. Lynch rode over the jumps in New Zealand before coming to Australia in the 1990’s and he’s ridden many hundreds of winners since, including big race wins aboard Queenslander Gold Edition. Glenn Lynch has even done what most jockeys never get to do in their lifetime – namely ride a Group 1 winner, as per my photo above. Now apparently Lynch has suddenly forgotten how to ride a racehorse and has to go back to some Skills Panel mob, who are allegedly going to teach him how to ride a racehorse in 2013. I must also say that Glenn Lynch rode horses for my wife and me in the early 2000’s from his Toowoomba base. I never saw him ride a bad race on any horse we owned and he gave each one of them every possible chance to win and in this caper that’s all we can ask.

Down in Melbourne the final straw to leave me with no option but to pen this article came about via the Brodie Loy saga from Moonee Valley last Saturday. I’m glad I’m not a Chief Steward. I obviously don’t possess the required intelligence level to qualify for such a role. I’m way off tangent with each of the aforesaid three rulings as Bobby El-issa would never have been forced to ride at country meetings for longer than War And Peace if I were running the show. He’d have resumed riding in town. As Chief Steward I would have sat down with El-issa before he was allowed to ride back in town and I’d have said certain things to him that I won’t write here publicly. At the end of our discussion he would have accepted that I run the show and I would have asked him to go out of his way to do the right thing by me and my fellow stewards from this day forth. Unless he’s a fool he would understand that I’m there to help him but he must acknowledge that there’s a business to run. “From today we start with a fresh slate – is that fair?” He’d say “Yes sir”. We’d shake hands and that’s the end of it.

Re Glenn Lynch – the same scenario would unfold. I, as Chief Steward, would have rung him and we’d have arranged a quiet meeting in my office in Sydney. At that meeting I would say to him something like “We have a problem. You and stewards find it hard to get on and we can’t keep going the way we are. We need to find some middle ground, so that both parties can have more respect for each other’s role. I’ll explain to you via video evidence what my concerns are as Chief Steward of Racing New South Wales”. After that meeting we would shake hands, I would ask him to “please make a fresh start so that we can both go forward. I run the show, but I respect that you are entitled to earn a living at your chosen profession, so will you try harder to correct these issues I have personally raised with you?”

In both cases when people like Bobby El-issa and Glenn Lynch are literally at the crossroads as far as stewards are concerned, each would have their partner with them at the meeting with me as Chief Steward – and the partner would be privy to the discussion, as that partner needs to hear what is said so that she can help out on the home front. After all isn’t that what family is for?

And I consider I’m qualified to comment on the aforesaid as at age 28 I held a senior role in the largest privately owned company in Queensland. There is a way to get people to work to their maximum ability under you, but Chief Stewards need to understand that you will never get any one staff member or jockey to try to work harder at pleasing them if the staff member or jockey has been publicly humiliated. The staff member or jockey needs to get a “quiet talking to”. It has been my experience in 58 years on the planet that most people on the receiving end of the constructive criticism/advice are happy that you took the time to take them behind closed doors and talk privately to them. “Publicly humiliate” them in front of other staff or their peers and you’ll never win that one. Instead of having one hating you with a passion, you’ll now have 10 pulling against you at every opportunity.

And without being arrogant, from a racing industry perspective, no person in the media in Queensland has remotely done anywhere near the amount of work that I have done via this website to bring the stories of little-known jockeys and/or apprentices to the attention of the public. As recently as a few Saturdays ago I attended a non-TAB Beaudesert meeting and profiled six jockeys for website readers from that trip, including four apprentices. I could have gone to the Brisbane races or taken the wife out to a long lunch, but instead I felt obliged to help some battlers out. At the time I must say I had no intention of penning this article.

To set the scene on the latest problem that arose in Melbourne last Saturday, I wouldn’t know Brodie Loy, the New South Wales apprentice who is now based in Melbourne, from Adam, but I’ve raised young children through to adulthood and I’ve helped raise two young grandchildren under our roof for six years or so, so I do understand what is fair in life and what is not – and to that end I regard the Racing Victoria Chief Steward’s decision to refer the ride of Brodie Loy on The Cleaner last Saturday to the Apprentice Skills Panel as being grossly unfair on the young man. I’d have approached the situation totally differently. I’ll explain my thoughts on the matter and you as the reader can decide if this 16-year-old teenager was your son, or was apprenticed to you as a jockey, or had no connection to you whatsoever – which way you would prefer to have the matter approached – the Terry Bailey Chief Steward way, or the Phil Purser Chief Steward way.

These are the facts that I’ve been able to research from Google on the apprentice in question. Brodie Loy turned 16 years of age in early December 2012, so as at last Saturday the young teenager is confirmed as being 16. At 16 years of age a young person in our society can apply for a Learner’s Permit so that they can learn to drive a motor car. At all times that same 16-year-old must have a person with a full licence in the car with them. When a male or female apprentice jockey is 16, they obviously can’t be afforded the same privilege of having the advantage of having a fully-fledged jockey sit with them on the racehorse and point out specifics in a 2040-metre race like The Cleaner was in. Put simply, two people don’t fit in that silly little pad that jockeys are supposed to control a fractious grain crazed racehorse from. It is my considered opinion that thoroughbred racing simply ignores the safety of its jockeys by even allowing them to control a 550 or 600-kilo racehorse in such a stupid small piece of gear. But that’s another story for another day.

Back to the score at the Test and Brodie Loy is 16 and he’s just starting off being able to ride in town at Saturday city meetings. As we are all blatantly aware, apprentices in that situation get a three-kilogram claim off their mount’s handicapped weight, as it’s taken as read that the kid still has their training wheels on – they are serving an “apprenticeship” and as such they are deemed to be “learning” things on their way to becoming a fully-fledged jockey. As the 3-kilo apprentice gets more skilful and rides winners in the city, their claim decreases to the point where some apprentices like say current Melbourne based apprentice Chad Schofield outride the claim whilst they are still apprentices. As a rule of thumb, across the annals of thoroughbred history, most apprentice jockeys never get to outride their claim before they become fully-fledged jockeys.

Brodie Loy has done very little riding in Saturday city races. I went back over the last few weeks Melbourne results and found out that he got beaten a wart riding 8/1 chance Bombsquad at Caulfield on 20/7/13, meaning he nearly won a Saturday city race 14 days before he rode The Cleaner. For the record, Bombsquad was his only city ride that Saturday. That’s surely not a bad effort on Brodie’s part, given many senior riders had a plethora of rides at Caulfield on the same day and yet they never got as close as second on any of them. Seven days later on Saturday 27/7/13, Brodie Loy had one city ride on 80/1 chance Unique Assassin for the same trainer as Bombsquad – former jockey Frank Stockdale. Unique Assassin ran 14th of 16. Then last Saturday Brodie Loy had just one ride again – this time aboard The Cleaner. One doesn’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to conclude that if the young man gets one ride per Saturday in town he’ll be about 85-year-old before he gets the opportunity to outride his claim and that’s only if they all win. So as an outsider looking in, we need to help the young man out. He’d hardly be a smartarse, if the master that he’s on loan to in Melbourne, trainer Steve Richards, was speaking factually when he told TVN’s Adrian Dunn on 10/6/13 of Brodie Loy, “He rides very well this boy, he’s got good ability. He’s got a brain, he’s very patient, he’s a strong rider and he’s a good kid to go with it.”

Geez that’s not a bad rap from Steve Richards. There are only two possible deductions to make from those quoted words. Either Steve’s a total dill and just aimlessly parrots on, or this kid Loy is a chance of making it. So if Loy’s “a chance of making it”, the industry as one needs to help the kid out and all kids like him all around the nation. Well-known industry figures like Lee Freedman instead of tweeting his thoughts publicly, in my opinion would be far better off ringing the kid up and talking to him off the record and approach the young man on the basis he’d like to help him out. The kid would hardly be likely to say, “Ah you’re Lee Freedman. Piss off Lee.” He’d probably listen and learn. Hopefully the kid wouldn’t even have heard about Lee’s recent failed “training partnership” in Sydney with Graeme Rogerson. What went wrong there I wonder? Maybe it would have been more relevant for Lee Freedman to tweet something along the lines of: “Ah I reckon that kid Loy stuffed up on The Cleaner. Went out too fast. Geez I can relate to that, so don’t worry Brodie, you are only 16. We all make mistakes. I’ve made plenty of them in my time and I’m nearly four times your age. Made one just recently thinking Rogie and I would kick arse in Sydney”.

Instead of the stewards basically publicly advising the whole world that they think the ride on The Cleaner was so incompetent they are referring it to the Apprentices Skills Panel, why doesn’t the Chief Steward get the young man and his master into his room and advise them that he thinks the apprentice erred by going out too quickly?

Brodie Loy is the son of a former jockey Norm Loy and he’s been riding horses for former jockey Frank Stockdale, so he wouldn’t have to go too far to get some advice. Sadly – thanks to events like tweets from Lee Freedman, along with stewards actions, this young man is now highly unlikely to get a fair go at anytime in the near future. And at 16 that’s hardly fair. I wonder if anyone publicly humiliated any of Lee Freedman’s children when they were 16? I’ll take any amount of even money they didn’t. Sadly 16-year-old kids are easy targets in racing. At 16 they are still two years away from even being able to be called an “adult”, so if we are going to publicly humiliate people, can we at least please restrict it to “adults”, who have at least had some life experience and who are old enough to look after themselves?

And I must say that I find it totally remarkable that the stewards are the very ones who solely determine when the provincial apprentices are right to take the step up to riding in the big smoke, but then when they get beaten on one like The Cleaner, the stewards are the very ones who call the kid’s ride incompetent. It’s all so stupid it defies belief.

So Brodie Loy got beaten on The Cleaner. Before the Chief Steward referred the kid’s ride to the Apprentices Skills Panel – I wonder did he realise that The Cleaner has been in the stable of Robert Smerdon for three runs? This alleged hopeless ride, by all these self confessed experts who probably cumulatively have never ridden a thoroughbred winner in their life, and who in fact may not even be able to ride a horse at full gallop, remarkably was the closest the horse had finished to the winner in three runs for Smerdon. Loy got beaten officially 1.2 lengths on The Cleaner last Saturday. At the horses previous start The Cleaner got beaten 1.5 lengths with fully-fledged rider Jason Maskiell on him on 20/7/13 at Flemington. Was Maskiell’s ride inept and did it get referred to any panel? The start before The Cleaner got beaten a whopping 12.4 lengths at Flemington with Craig Newitt employed to do steering duties. Was Newitt’s ride inept and did it get referred to any panel?

Amazingly had Brodie Loy ridden The Cleaner exactly the way he did last Saturday – and gone on to win the race – both Lee Freedman and the Chief Steward would have possibly thought the kid was a genius? In this thoroughbred racing game you become a genius or mug virtually in the blink of an eye. I would have thought both those people had been on the planet long enough to understand that point. And even if the kid did let the horse run along too quick in front, wouldn’t it be fair to conclude that at 16 years of age he might automatically learn from his mistake without such a publicly embarrassing and publicised episode needing to take place post race?

And what about all the senior riders who I watch stuff up every Saturday that I’ve had a bet on in the last 40-odd years? Who’s sending them anywhere to improve their skills? Senior jockeys are slaughtering horses in Saturday city races each and every day of the week, yet it seems to me that no one sends them anywhere to improve their skills, unless their name is Bobby El-issa or Glenn Lynch.

Last Saturday “one of the best stewards in the world” allegedly, Sydney’s Ray Murrihy, in the Rosehill stewards report made a big song and dance about overseas jockey Thomas Huet’s ride on the Gai Waterhouse trained Under The Sun in Race 6, noting the ride “was not up to metropolitan standard.” Furthermore the Chief Steward signed off on a stewards report that noted that Huet had ridden Under The Sun in such a way that it “was not conducive to giving his mount full opportunity to win or finish in the best possible position” – Murrihy’s words not mine. What an extremely serious charge that is to level against any jockey, whether they are fully-fledged or an apprentice. By that very wording, I guess that Thomas Huet will be charged under the relevant rule of racing and will do time over that charge? Exactly what penalty did Murrihy issue after his enquiry into the ride of Huet? Absolutely none. But all the hullabaloo looks impressive to the outsider looking in. I’ll tell you what I found extremely strange about the Huet/Under The Sun case. Chief Steward Murrihy asked Huet the reason he “finished three wide from barrier 2 entering the first turn”, but Sydney stewards simply don’t normally care how wide horses are in the run. The name of any horse that travels three or four wide, with no cover in the run, is never mentioned in the Sydney stewards report, so that must mean it is irrelevant how wide Huet was on Under The Sun, as according to them that particular aspect of sitting wide with no cover has no impact on the end result of a race.

Australia-wide it’s simply a fact of life that stewards lose a plethora of Appeals lodged by licensees. Put simply does their losing so many Appeals equate to the fact that many stewards are not up to the job? I wonder would the establishment of a State based “Stewards Skills Panel” along the eastern seaboard help them to overcome their distinct lack of success in that area?

How would I have approached the Brodie Loy ride last Saturday if I were Chief Steward? I’d have simply hauled the owners, trainer and apprentice Loy and his master into my room after the race and told them that “Brodie tells us that he had a problem controlling the horse and forthwith I think it is in the best interests of the owners, the trainer and the punting public if this horse The Cleaner is not ridden by three-kilo claiming apprentices, whilst he races in my jurisdiction. I note in his form the last time he won a race with a three-kilo claimer on was nearly two years ago, on 23/11/11 in fact – and maybe the horse is more headstrong now as he’s got older. Does that seem fair to all parties”? They’d have all said “Yes”, seeing I was trying to sincerely resolve the problem – and the world would have moved on. My stewards report – instead of all this other tripe – simply would read: “At a post race enquiry it was agreed that The Cleaner when racing in Victoria will not be ridden by any three-kilo claiming apprentice, as historically he can overrace on occasions”.

And if I were Chief Steward I’d also approach the governing body in my State, which would obviously also be my employer, and I’d ask them to pay former, or present jockeys, who have proved over a long period of time that they could ride front-runners, blokes like Brian York and Jimmy Cassidy, to go to apprentices school in each State, once a quarter, or once every half year, or whatever and pass on some of their vast knowledge about riding front runners on to these young people to help make them better riders.

At the end of the day I also wish to acknowledge that everyone who backed The Cleaner to win last Saturday lost their money. That’s no great disaster, as that is part and parcel of betting. No one holds a gun at our head every Saturday and forces us to bet. Unless we are mentally deficient, we all accept the fact that we back lots of losers and the odd winner. But one thing is for sure and that is that those who backed The Cleaner last Saturday sure had plenty of adrenalin pumping through our veins at the 600. It was an exciting race to watch. If we had more frontrunners like that, which would take off and try to pinch the race, how much more exciting would thoroughbred racing be? At least no one dozed off during The Cleaner’s race – like they do in many of those other boring Melbourne races – when they go out their first 1000 metres in about 63 seconds on a good 3 track and they may as well stop the race at the 600 and hand the leader at that point the winning cheque.

And I accept that not everyone who reads what I have written will agree with my view. As an “adult” I can accept constructive criticism, but even if for those that take the view that young Brodie Loy made an error last Saturday on The Cleaner, isn’t it a fact that as we go through the journey called “life”, strangely the only way we learn anything is from making things called “mistakes”?

Today on www.brisbaneracing.com.au there is the second montage of photos from Doomben last Saturday. On www.sydneyracing.com.au Brian Russell looks at the subsequent stud success of some of the colts that won Golden Slipper in its formative years, whilst on www.melbourneracing.com.au Matt Nicholls looks at the nominations for two of the big three upcoming Melbourne features.