THE Darren Weir scandal, racing’s latest front-page appearance, highlights an increasingly incongruous relationship between the sport’s glamourous carnival frolics and made-for-movie tales, and its sometimes murky day-to-day realities, writes RICHARD HINES of Australia’s ABC Network.
It was only a few months ago we were debating the merits of displaying images of the runners in The Everest on the sails of the Sydney Opera House, a decision that highlighted both the vast privately and government-funded investment in racing and the influence of its well-connected benefactors.
At the same time, some were literally weeping each time Winx extended her incredible winning run, apparent proof racing’s heart was still beating strongly.
Yet once again we are confronted with allegations that those at the very peak of a sport that notionally relies more on its integrity than any other have flaunted rules designed to protect punters and, more importantly, the horses themselves.
Which raises a question that could inform racing’s future — is a vast industry at risk of losing the social licence dependent on a public that is growing weary of its constant scandals and, most importantly, an apparently dubious record in the treatment of its greatest stars?
Or, more likely, is the “sport of kings” still the cockroach of sports; one that will survive — even thrive — despite constant scandal because of the general indifference of a wider audience that views the racetrack as a runway for C-list celebrities rather than a sport in which it has a deep-seated emotional investment?