THE sensible decision taken in Queensland to allow Michelle Payne to ride at the Gold Coast on Magic Millions day has been welcomed by racing fans. But when is RacingNSW going to “bite the bullet” and follow Victoria and Queensland’s lead?
Michelle Payne (pictured) can ride on 2017 Magic Millions day at the Gold Coast, but can't ride in New South Wales.
Last year’s Melbourne Cup winning jockey – the first woman to win our iconic race - now holds a dual jockey-trainer licence in Victoria and created history yet again at Swan Hill last Sunday week when she became the first Victorian to ride a horse (Duke Of Nottingham) she trains to victory.
Racing Queensland’s Integrity Department has given 31-year-old Payne the “green light” to ride at the rich Magic Millions fixture in January.
Thus, she will again be able to partner her trainer brother Patrick’s sprinter Husson Eagle as they attempt to win the Magic Millions Sprint (1100m) for a second year in succession. And she was just as keen to partner Husson Eagle, her recent Sandown Listed Doveton Stakes winner, in last Saturday’s Listed Starlight Stakes (1100m) at Rosehill Gardens as an important part of his lead-up campaign to the rich Gold Coast feature.
But RacingNSW would not budge on their stance of permitting dual licence holders such as Payne to ride in their domain. Integrity, so we’re told, is their sticking point. Oxford Dictionary defines the word integrity as: “The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles”. RacingNSW would not consider Michelle Payne as a person lacking integrity, and we’re certainly not suggesting anything other than that. So what do they mean when they keep trotting out “integrity” as the reason for standing firm? Even Victoria’s head steward Terry Bailey has been quoted as saying he can’t understand RacingNSW’s decision.
If Michelle had a runner in the same race she rode another horse in, then we could in some way understand RacingNSW’s thinking. But that wasn’t to be the case at Rosehill last Saturday. She did NOT have a runner of her own in the same race in which she had hoped to ride brother Patrick’s horse Husson Eagle. So where is the problem? Could not RacingNSW stipulate that a dual licence holder – such as Michelle Payne – was unable to take part in any race where she had a runner or runners and chose not to ride any of them.
Racing Queensland has obviously seen it differently to that of its NSW counterparts – and didn’t dither with their decision making in Payne’s case. Their early announcement in regard to the Magic Millions meeting is to be applauded. It’s time for RacingNSW to do the same. It has been a front-runner in so many areas of racing administration, but continuing to put its head in the sand over this issue is leaving it well and truly marooned.
HOOFNOTE: The Husson Eagle saga didn’t have a happy ending in any way at Rosehill. The gelding pulled up with the thumps – apparently not for the first time – and a veterinary certificate has to be provided before he is cleared to race again