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By John Schreck | Thursday, November 9, 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.

The first two days of the VRC Spring Carnival have been outstanding and a lot of the credit must go to Amanda Elliot and her team.

It must be remembered that Amanda Elliot, during her time as Chairman of the VRC, has had to find a new CEO, new sponsors as Emirates is giving it away, build a grandstand and meet the challenge of The Everest ... so there is plenty going on at the VRC.

Yet they have been able to put on these meetings under very trying conditions at what is, in places, very much a construction site and they have still been able to attract 180 000 people to the first two days.

I think that is pretty good.


While some things change, some stay the same and the Lloyd Williams factor was again the dominant Cup story.

A lot of people are somewhat critical of Mr Williams ... seemingly, somehow because of his incredible wealth ... but criticism in that regard as relating to his success is a bit unfair.

He is entitled to spend his money how he chooses and just because you have a lot of money doesn’t mean you necessarily achieve the success he has done.

A classic example of this, of course, is Godolphin who have spent considerably more than Mr Williams and have, so far, achieved very little on the Melbourne Cup front.

Even in the broader picture, look at the money Godolphin are spending in Australia and the losses they are incurring. I know they have a bottomless bucket, but some people are starting to wonder how long it can go on.

Mr Williams might have more funds at his disposal to chase Cup glory than most, but you have still got to do it ... and he has.

Being a six time winner speaks for itself.


At the other end of the scale, winning his first Melbourne Cup with his first runner was a wonderful achievement for the twenty four year old trainer Joseph O’Brien.

On top of everything else ... his stellar riding record and his training career taking off ... the way that O’Brien conducts himself is a credit to his family.

He is not built like a jockey at all so, when he was riding, you can only imagine that he would have done it very, very hard to ride for as long as he did.

He has only been training for twenty months and the sort of work ethic showed as a rider, the commitment to the cause so to speak, will certainly serve him very well in his new career.

Interestingly enough, O’Brien was born in 1993 ... the year Vintage Crop won the race ... and his winner on Tuesday, Rekindling, was the first runner since Vintage Crop to win without having raced in Australia prior to its Cup run.


Every year people also seem to like to be critical of the international runners but, if you take away the international runners, this year’s cup would have been a very ordinary affair.

The international runners create so much interest around the world. It would be impossible to measure what they have done for the race.

I think the international involvement in this race is marvellous and it is to be hoped it continues.

With the result they got this year I am sure it will.


Another thing out of the Melbourne Cup that I think people should note ... particularly young people coming into the sport ... was the brilliant ride of Zac Purton on Max Dynamite.

Purton is today probably one of the best jockeys in the world. It is just a crying shame that he is about half-a-stone too heavy or he would just be carrying all before him.

The ride of Max Dynamite ... well, people who want to be jockeys should have a look at it and see the way that Purton went about that particular ride. I know he had a good gate but you can go back to other examples of runners jumping from good gates ... like the United States a couple of years ago ... and have a look where they finished on the track.

This was a wonderful piece of race riding by Purton which showed just how good he is at his job these days.


Purton’s ride aside, some of the experts on Channel 7 on Melbourne Cup day were saying that barriers make no difference.

Well, I beg to differ. Barriers in a Grand National make a difference.

If you haven’t got a good gate you are in trouble. That’s why you’ll never see anybody throw their hands up in the air in delight when they draw 24 out of 24, no matter what the race distance.


Joao Moreira, like Purton, had jetted in from Hong Kong to ride on Melbourne Cup day.

Moreira, unfortunately, was stood down from his Cup ride following a fall earlier in the day which would have given the Hong Kong Jockey Club a concern, given they have such a serious investment in the riders ... particularly the likes of Moreira and Purton who generate so much business for them because of the following they have.

They provide them with accommodation, cars ... and all sorts of things ... so their investment is a significant one, but I believe the Hong Kong Jockey Club will always continue to allow their riders to come away to ride in Group races.

That has been their policy for a while and I think that will continue.


The on-track attendance and the TAB turnover on the Melbourne Cup were both down on last year’s figures.

That is no great surprise.

I would have expected on-track to be down because of the construction that is going on and the weather didn’t help, reportedly being the coldest Cup day in a decade.

So far as the decline in TAB turnover is concerned, that is an indication of the amount of business the corporates are doing these days. If we got the figures that were bet on the race all up (ie TAB and corporates) I would be staggered if there is in fact not a big increase.

For years and years and years the TAB have sat on their hands because of their exclusivity.

Now they have got competition and they have to try and do something differently.


The whip issue raised its head again on Cup day.

For the life of me I can’t get my head around why Australian jockeys can’t all conform to the requirements.

It is just unbelievable that they can’t do so ... and, if they don’t all start to conform, I will bet you that whip use will be further curtailed or even done away with.

Those jockeys not doing the right thing should just pull their head in and conform with requirements.


It is to be hoped that the Racing NSW, if they are doing that well, don’t go to the government looking for subsidies next year when The Championships come around.

If they can find a way to set up $13 million for a race like The Everest they don’t need any subsidies for races in the autumn when schools and hospitals are falling down.

It was interesting to see that Racing NSW saw fit to announce and increase in prize-money for The Everest right in the middle of Cup week.

Make of that what you will.

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