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By John Schreck | Thursday, November 2, 2017

John Schreck, a former Chief Steward in both Sydney and Hong Kong, has seen both the colourful and the dark sides of racing. His wealth of experience and his deep knowledge of racing matters across the board is unquestioned and the reputation he built as a racing ‘lawman’ remains firmly entrenched in racing’s history. Schreck’s personal blog, ‘From the Sheriff’s Desk', appears exclusively on HRO.

There have been hundreds of thousands of words written about Winx’s incredible journey so it hard to find anything new to say about her.

Her stature as an exceptional racehorse is now a given as is the acknowledgement of the credit due to Mr Waller and his people who have been able to plan Winx’s schedule to a nicety, to keep her healthy and happy and to keep her fit without too many concerns about her legs or anything like that.

All of that, away from her ability as a racehorse, is a great compliment to the way she has been cared for by the stable which makes the ‘back story’ every bit as inspiring as her results out on the track.

Even putting his tremendous success with Winx aside, Mr Waller really has much to be proud of the way he has built up his business and made it such a successful one.

He has obviously got good people around him. The horses he has in his care are well turned out and seem to be content and happy.

He is obviously a horseman through and through. He conducts himself with a quiet professionalism. That, and his always humble response to success, also stands to his enormous credit.

He has been very good for the sport ... no doubt about that.


There was plenty of drama behind Winx in the Cox Plate running with Damian Oliver being slapped with, what turned out to be, a very costly improper riding charge.

Clearly Oliver was wide on Happy Clapper and wanted to get in. Royal Symphony wanted to stay off the fence and he clearly was entitled to do that. Oliver was not entitled to try and push him in, importantly, for the length of time that he did.

My view is that if Oliver wanted to give Royal Symphony a little test early and then back off when he saw he couldn’t win the fight ... well, that’s fair enough, but it clearly went on for too long and Oliver has now paid the price with his suspension costing him the ride on the well fancied Almandin in the Melbourne Cup.

Oliver did appeal his sentence but ultimately did have to accept the suspension ruling. Oliver reportedly had argued that he did not put anyone in danger, because "horses don't fall from lateral shifts or bumps.”

I disagree with that. Yes they do.

Horses, if they are shifted off their gait, or bumped off their gait, can easily stumble and fall so, whilst Oliver has ridden a lot me horses than me, I have seen plenty of accidents where horses have been bumped, lose their momentum and either stumble and dislodge the rider or stumble and fall.

The incidence of that might not be as common as when clipping heels, for example, and every incident is different but, in general terms, to say that danger does not exist in the circumstances that played out between Happy Clapper and Royal Symphony in the Cox Plate is just wrong.


A horse’s balance is a critical feature when it is in full gallop out on the track ... and that is why I shudder every time I see one of these flamboyant celebrations in the saddle past the winning post because one of these days someone will throw a horse off balance and there will be an accident.

I understand that we need some colour and excitement in the sport but sometimes I think that exhibition goes a bit too far ... remembering that it generally occurs on a tired horse at the end of a race when all it wants to do is ease down nice and quietly.


Oliver’s loss has proved to be Frankie Dettori’s gain.

Dettori has been given the ride on Almandin. He has his critics but I have seen him ride in Europe and Hong Kong and he is one of the best jockeys ever born.

He is a wonderful race rider and there is a reason why he was selected for the Almandin ride when many other jockeys were lining up for the job.

Dettori will give the horse every chance and his desire to win the Cup, a success which has eluded him over a long period of time, will be second to none.


The Chautauqua incident, when the grey was withdrawn at the start at Moonee Valley on Friday night, understandably made headlines.

I never worry when a veterinarian errs on the side of conservatism. It is better for the punters that way. It is better for the jockey (and the other jockeys) and, although they might not think it at the time, it is better for the connections because, quite simply, it is better for the horse.

In that kind of situation I think it is a case of ... ‘if in doubt, it’s out!’


Finally, I want to comment on an issue which I believe impacts on a person’s fundamental rights to fairness.

Two years ago there were great headlines about an alleged rigged match between Manly and Parramatta. There was supposed to have been something like $700 000 won on the game.

Those headlines have never been able to be substantiated so, to that degree, they were clearly wrong.

Over the next two years the New South Wales police department spent millions of dollars on the investigation and have concluded there was nothing wrong with the game.

They have now come out with a statement referencing seeing some drug use and association with criminals which, again, without specific charges looks to me like some sort of ‘beat up.’

It seems to me that their statement includes the need to justify themselves.

If I spent two years with a staff of twenty or so investigating any organisation, including the New South Wales police force, I could probably come up with some criticisms ... but the people involved have to be treated fairly while that investigation takes place and not hung out to dry.

It really is very sad the way the whole thing has been handled and the way very unfair aspersions have been cast upon those rugby league players from Manly and Parramatta over all this period of time.

It is just another example of people splashing about unfair innuendos and it ought not to happen in any sport, including racing.

It really infuriates me when it does.

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