Bailey defends Cumani decision
RACING Victoria Chief Steward Terry Bailey has blasted widespread critics of a decision to allow suspended Ballarat-based trainer Matt Cumani’s role to be filled by a “caretaker” during his absence, saying it was driven the trainer’s fulltime employer OTI Racing and Bloodstock.
“People must understand the facts. Matt is a fulltime employee of OTI Racing and as such paid wage, they have employed another trainer ( Simon Morrish) in his absence, which was approved by us,” Bailey told Sportsman.
“I understand all managing owners were given the option under the new employment arrangement and most have agreed to stay, some not.
“We have been guaranteed Matt has vacated the property and all his branding the like removed. It’s a fulltime employment situation taken by OTI and, people must remember, this is a suspension period not a disqualification.”
Mr Bailey rang me at 10.30am yesterday to refute criticism that Victorian racing had again used a feather duster when brick would have been more appropriate.
Cumani was outed until August 1 – the final nine weeks of season – by the Victorian Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board for the non-reporting of the highly-infectious strangles disease which broke out in his stable last November, instead keeping it a secret and trying to deal with it himself.
“I made a blue. There were potentially serious consequences for other stables,” Cumani, 36, admitted.
“I have appreciated the support and advice from fellow trainers vets regarding their experiences with strangles. If I had my time again, of course I would have handled it differently.”
Please! Most well-read folk will tell you strangles could easily shut down racing.
In fact, one industry expert told me it is potentially worse than Equine Influenza (EI) which infamously brought the wider industry to its knees 10 years ago.
But what really got under the skin of most was RVL allowing fellow Ballarat trainer Morrish to run his operation in the interim, considering this was the second time Cumani’s stable had been shut down.
Among many disbelieving reactors, one prominent Victorian owner wrote: “Cumani gets a three-month suspension and his horses are allowed to stay put. My trainer got three months. Why the double standard?”
Countless others cried similar in comparing suspension rules imposed on other bigger-performing trainers.
And being the son of renowned UK trainer Luca Cumani and brother racetrack regular Francesca, you can see why the fuse was lit.
But Bailey was adamant Cumani’s situation as a full- time employee of OTI was different to a self-employed or freelance trainer. In fairness, shareholders
investors in any operation are entitled to a professional choice the advent of any pivotal figure being sidelined.
But the length of the ban does seem light.
Then again, we are talking about the state who gave leading rider Damien Oliver virtually a Winter carnival for illegally betting $10,000 on the favourite in a race he was riding another horse in when plenty thought he should have got up to five years.
If I had a dollar for every time hot-under-the-collar Victorian said “don’t come down here and tell us how to run racing” I could buy half the industry.
Of course, there’ll be no time for self-pity.
Cumani is already planning to fly to the UK for the Newmarket Festival in July, attend yearling sales and take in stud tours.
And they wonder why the rank-and-file punter foams at the mouth.
BACK on the track & a big three weeks at Eagle Farm in Brisbane ignites with the Group 1 Kingsford-Smith Cup (1300m) highlighting a bumper card with seven Group races on a track that should improve from a Heavy 8 on Thursday to Soft 6/7 by tomorrow.
In the feature, Clearly Innocent ($5.50 early at betting. club) produced the win of the Scone carnival second-up and, while he’s not overly suited at WFA, he’s unbeaten on soft ground and gets his chance to crack the Group 1 nut.
Counterattack ($7.50 into $6.50), also a superior wet-tracker, was terrific behind Redzel in the Doomben 10,000 and looms as the big danger. My KINGSFORD-SMITH CUP Tips: 1. CLEARLY INNOCENT; 2. Takedown; 3. Derryn; 4. Black Heart Bart.
Elsewhere, in the Group 3 Grand Prix – time-honoured lead-up to Qld Derby – I’m very keen on Kiwi raider and last-start Doomben winner Shocking Luck ($3.70 betting. club) who looks well placed again; while watch out for massive improvement from Morton’s Fork ($12) in the Group 3 Fred Best Classic (1400m) late in the day. My GRAND PRIX Tips: 1. SHOCKING LUCK; 2. Prized Icon; 3. Violate My FRED BEST Tips: 1. MORTON’S FORK; Dreams Aplenty.
Neil believes Matt Cumani’s punishment was light after he neglected to repor t an outbreak of the strangles disease at his stable