Amanaat powers away to win the Weetwood at Toowoomba. Picture: Grant Peters, Trackside Photography
Amanaat powers away to win the Weetwood at Toowoomba. Picture: Grant Peters, Trackside Photography

Currie inquiry sours winter carnival start

NO matter which side of the fence you sit, events from Saturday's Weetwood were a miserable way to start this year's carnival.

Ben Currie, the state's leading trainer for the past two years, had his best ever day, coming within an inch of winning the three majors on his home town's biggest day.

Bargain buy Amanaat notched one of the most convincing wins in the Weetwood's history, lowering the course record in the process.

But instead of being praised, it came amid the backdrop of a bombshell dropped by Queensland Racing Integrity Commissioner Ross Barnett earlier in the day.

Tony Khoury, Bobby El-Issa and Ben Currie (right) after Amanaat's win in the Weetwood Handicap. Picture: Grant Peters, Trackside Photography
Tony Khoury, Bobby El-Issa and Ben Currie (right) after Amanaat's win in the Weetwood Handicap. Picture: Grant Peters, Trackside Photography
An inquiry had been opened into what Barnett ­described as suspicious activity reported by the Integrity ­Investigations Team (IIT) at Currie's stables that morning.

The allegation is that one of Currie's staff was seen to be treating a horse, or horses, on race day, which is illegal under the rules of racing and one which carries severe penalties. It is understood it is alleged a paste has been used.

The IIT believe they witnessed something that contravened the rules of racing.

Currie denied the allegation, as did the staff member.

QRIC officials are seeking CCTV footage from the stable.

For the sake of uncovering the truth, securing this vision would be the best possible outcome - it can conclusively show which version of events is true. But it's still unknown if the footage is actually there.

Toowoomba trainer Ben Currie.
Toowoomba trainer Ben Currie. Kevin Farmer

Currie has been at the centre of rumours for a long time.

It came to a head last November when QRIC put out a press release rejecting allegations that had been made against him and a Toowoomba-based official.

At the time, Currie confronted the rumours head-on in an article with Ben Dorries on Racenet.com.au.

"I don't know where all these whispers and rumours are coming from but I want them to stop," Currie said.

"I run my own business and maybe some people don't like me for some reason, but it's not as if I've been pushing my success down anyone's throat. I'm not hiding anything."

But five months later, Currie's recent success has only heightened the speculation.

How can punters have confidence if a statement is put out pre-meeting about certain runners being under suspicion?

MONDAY REWIND

LADBROKES WRAP

Blake Shinn rides Happy Clapper to victory in the Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)
Blake Shinn rides Happy Clapper to victory in the Doncaster Mile at Royal Randwick. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito)

WORST RESULT: Happy Clapper, Randwick, Race 9: Outside of Winx, he's one of the most popular horses in the country.

BIGGEST HOLD: Redzel, Randwick, Race 8

BEST RESULT: Trapeze Artist, Randwick, Race 8: After punters got off to a shocking start early in the day, they tried to blast out on Redzel.

MARKETS

SYDNEY CUP, SATURDAY

$3.50 Almandin

$7 Aloft

$9 Prestwick, Sir Charles Road

$11 Auvray, Who Shot Thebarman

$13 Ventura Storm

$15 Libran, Peribsen, Single Gaze

$17 Lord Fandango, Patrick Erin

$21+ Others

Odds: Ladbrokes

AUSTRALIAN OAKS, SATURDAY

$3.70 Unforgotten

$4.40 Luvaluva

$5.50 Aloisia

$7.50 Hiyaam

$8.50 Savvy Coup

$11 Danzdanzdance

$17 Contessa Vanessa

$26 Bring Me Roses, Caricature, Chilly Cha Cha, Jungle Fish

$34+ Others

Odds: Ladbrokes

THIS WEEK

Tuesday: Townsville, Ballina, Moruya, Seymour

Wednesday: Ipswich, Warwick Farm, Sandown Lakeside, Balaklava, Ascot

Thursday: Mackay, Wyong, Kilmore, Pakenham (night), Albany

Friday: Beaudesert, Port Macquarie, Orange, Wangaratta, Cranbourne (night), Darwin

Saturday: Sunshine Coast, Randwick, Caulfield, Morphettville, Ascot, Gold Coast, Blackall, Gympie, Innisfail, Julia Creek, Noorama, Thangool, Warwick, Newcastle, Ararat, Alice Springs

Sunday: Toowoomba, Armidale, Wagga, Terang, Pakenham (synthetic), Naracoorte, Geraldton, Hobart

 

THE QUOTE

"When he came out he said 'just go over and stand there (in the winners' circle). I'll see you there in a minute'. I've had people do it in a maiden at Kembla and get beat. But that's how confident he was."

- Pat Webster revealing Blake Shinn's feelings before Happy Clapper won Saturday's Doncaster.

THE TALKING POINT

The Ben Currie-drama aside, Toowoomba trainers have been carving up in Brisbane of late, so they were always going to have a picnic on their home turf, with the locals winning five of the nine races on the card. Clifford Park is truly a "horses for courses" circuit and local knowledge won the day on Saturday.

THE RIDE

Brenton Avdulla was the toast of Rosehill a fortnight ago with his all-the-way win on Estijaab in the Golden Slipper, but the opening day of The Championships was not one to remember. He got stuck wide on Derby fancy Furore, before failing to see daylight at any stage on Kementari in the Doncaster.

THREE TO BACK

Cuddle Me Tight, Toowoomba, Race 1: Ripper debut and really fought hard when challenged. Spaced the rest.

Jumbo Prince, Toowoomba, Race 8: Back in the swing for another campaign. Will be a nice mile race for him at some stage over the carnival.

Lean Mean Machine, Randwick, Race 1: Heavily backed at just his second start to beat some established stakes horses. Clearly a genuine talent.

RISK

Catchy, Randwick, Race 3: Last year's Diamond winner hasn't lived up to expectations this season. She's shown glimpses of brilliance, but overall she's failed to go on with the job.

THE FLOP

Publishing Power looked well placed after Mr Marbellouz came out on Friday, but the market didn't want a bar of him ($2.30-$2.90) and he ran accordingly.

SHARP SHOOTERS

Trapeze Artist was around the $15-$17 mark for much of the week to win the T.J. Smith. Support rolled in from Friday and he was officially $13 into $8 on track before powering home in a similar vein to what he did in last year's Golden Rose.


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