Bai­ley de­fends Cu­mani de­ci­sion

The Sportsman Weekend - - News - with Neil Evans Fol­low me on Twit­ter @NeilE­van­sMail

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

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