NSW Back in the Saddle with APEC


If you like bad news, then you’ll love what the Iemma Government’s got in store for Sydney: the APEC 2007 ‘Great Wall of Sydney’ will stay up until the end of the Spring Racing Carnival which starts in Macquarie Street next Monday.

In a deft move that combines astounding vision and nifty cost management, the current APEC no-go zone has been officially designated as the only part of Sydney not contaminated by the equine influenza virus.

It’s a shock announcement, but it will bring blessed relief to problem gamblers across the country and anyone deeply depressed at the prospect of not seeing lithe horse flesh pressed up against the barriers.

Legal eagles in Sydney were preparing a veritable carnival of class actions including: jockeys unfairly penalised for having no other employment prospects; racing industry ‘identities’ unfairly exposed for leading completely boring existences outside of racing; and gamblers seeking loss of income for income not lost.

With the Iemma Government’s decision, these legal proceedings have all been scratched and punting can now re-commence.

The behind-the-scenes architect of this announcement is Peter McGauran, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. McGauran’s resignation as Science Minister in 1997 over the so-called ‘Travel Rorts Affair’ provided an excellent apprenticeship for understanding the inner workings of something as complex as the Australian racing industry. But what many don’t know is that McGauran really loves horses so much so that whilst boarding at Melbourne’s Xavier College, he starred in the school production of Equus. Xavier’s Drama Department at the time was a hotbed for the Stanislavskian Method, so you can imagine how well McGauran knows horses.

McGauran’s NSW counterpart, Labor’s Minister for Primary Industries, Energy, Mineral Resources and State Development, Ian McDonald has also been tireless in his efforts to manage the equine crisis. A stable and avuncular presence in the skittish world of horse owners and trainers, McDonald pushed for mandatory blood and urine testing in some stables, with the realisation that many thoroughbreds were so juiced up that there was no other way of detecting signs of equine influenza.

Under McGauran’s direction, Australia’s Chief Scientist Jim Peacock took a three-day spell from studying pulp mills to bone up on equine flu. He has confirmed what everyone suspected if the Melbourne Cup were not to be held this year, planet Earth would cease rotating on its current axis. As almost all Australian media outlets have already suggested, this would result in the collapse of civilisation and initiate ‘the end of days’.

With Armageddon potentially deleting the entire racing calendar, the Howard Government has done what it does best: set up an inquiry. Recently retired High Court Justice Ian Callinan had nothing scheduled for a week or two, so he gets to lead the inquiry. We also know, from Callinan’s decisions in judgements such as NSW v Commonwealth (2006) what the findings will be (which is always useful): namely that it’s all the States’ fault.

By Race 1 on Monday morning, Sydneysiders will be delighted to hear that familiar trumpet call booming through the new speakers, courtesy of APEC. In addition, the AJC will be modernising the Spring Carnival playlist to suit the new CBD track. We can expect to hear such favourites as, TISM’s ‘They Shoot Heroin Don’t They?’ along with the entire Cowboy Junkies album, ‘The Caution Horses,’ and of course Willie Nelson’s ‘Horse Called Music.’

Unfortunately, the Australian media has all but ignored the one group this affects most — the horses. And who better to have the last word on the crisis than that young, rising colt, Frisky Bachelor. I visited Frisky in his stable to find him with the sniffles and a bit achy, but looking well rested.

Frisky has never enjoyed the 4:00 am starts, and was adamant that he needed a break, regardless of the spread of equine flu. He went on to say that, having a trainer who believes stress fractures are the equine equivalent of chronic fatigue and just a state of mind, does not motivate him to race.

Frisky was clearly on the Sudafeds, as he prattled incoherently about not minding race prize money being spent by someone else, as long as he got his special Bircher muesli after training.

What does bother Frisky (and, he believes, most Arab thoroughbreds) is that, since the Melbourne Cup began in 1861, not a single horse has ever been invited to the Emirates Tent. He says, this year the quadrupeds have had enough and regardless of the AJC decision to go ahead with the Spring Carnival, they may just go to the dogs.

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