BOOKMAKER Tom Waterhouse may be formally prevented from linking his business to the activities of his renowned trainer mother, Gai, despite the bookmaker being cleared at the More Joyous stewards inquiry of passing on inside information about the horse’s health.
Racing NSW is expected to consider what ‘‘checks and balances’’ can be placed on the family, with the chief steward concluding yesterday that the public perception had clearly questioned if the mother and son had a mutually agreeable arrangement.
By the end of the dramatic day, the saga’s two main protagonists, Gai Waterhouse and the horse’s owner, John Singleton, had been charged.
Mrs Waterhouse denied the charge and will fight it next week, while Mr Singleton pleaded guilty and was fined $15,000 for his ‘‘regrettable’’ conduct prior to the running of the All Aged Stakes at Randwick on April 27.
Mr Waterhouse, who runs his online betting business with the help of a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign and appearances on Channel 9’s NRL coverage, was all smiles as he left the inquiry last night.
In his ruling, chief steward Ray Murrihy found there was ‘‘no evidence’’ to justify that Mr Waterhouse ‘‘knew inside information concerning More Joyous’’ when he spoke to Newcastle Knights legend Andrew Johns on the Thursday night before the race.
‘‘There’s simply no evidence ... that between when Mrs Waterhouse found out at midday on Thursday [that the horse was not in peak condition] and you spoke to Andrew Johns at about 4pm [on the same day, that] directly or indirectly, there was communications from Mrs Waterhouse to you,’’ Mr Murrihy said.
However, he cautioned Mr Waterhouse to ‘‘isolate’’ his bookmaking business from his mother’s role as a leading Australian racing trainer.
‘‘You must take care, and we say to you in the form of a direction, you must not in your advertising and commentary get too close to the bone in using the Waterhouse name and using [your] mother’s name,’’ he said.
Outside the inquiry, Mr Murrihy said he hoped the ruling had left Mr Waterhouse with ‘‘the very strong thought that he should ensure public perception doesn’t join Gai Waterhouse Stables with his bookmaking operation’’.
He said he expected Racing NSW might ‘‘add some layers to’’ his ruling, but declined to comment further.
‘‘[There simply] needs to be a clear line between what he’s doing and what his mother is doing being a very successful trainer,’’ he said.
Privately, it’s understood the sport’s senior officials
had noted the perceived encroachment for some time.
The charges related to Mr Singleton exchanging heated words with Mrs Waterhouse in the mounting yard before his horse ran a dismal race in the All Aged Stakes at Randwick on April 27, and for making unsubstantiated claims on television accusing Tom Waterhouse of leaking inside information that his horse couldn’t win.
He was fined $20,000 but this was reduced to $15,000 because of his early guilty plea and good character.
For her part, Mrs Waterhouse has pleaded not guilty to two charges relating to failing to inform the stewards that the mare had ‘‘heat in the neck’’ and was unable to bend to eat grass prior to the race.
She has also been charged with failing to keep proper records of the medications given to More Joyous, a claim she will vigorously contest when the stewards reconvene next Monday.
Earlier in the day, Johns, brothel-owning mega-punter Eddie Hayson and ex-jockey and Newcastle councillor Allan Robinson were asked about the ‘‘Chinese whispers’’ between them that led to Mr Singleton ending his lengthy professional relationship with Gai Waterhouse.
It was all much as had previously been reported, with Mr Hayson adding the curious extra information that it wasn’t just Johns from whom he had heard the horse wasn’t at her best.
He told the stewards two other people – one he described as a friend, the other as somebody with ‘‘a connection’’ to the Waterhouse stables – had told him More Joyous had been treated by vets all week and shouldn’t run.
‘‘Everyone knew the horse had problems except poor Singo,’’ he said.
In regard to the future of Mr Waterhouse’s brand, NSW Sports Minister Graham Annesley said there needed to be ‘‘a clear delineation between sport and sports betting’’.
‘‘The proliferation of betting advertising in sports broadcasting recently has definitely blurred that line,’’ he said.
Independent federal Senator Nick Xenophon went further, saying it was ‘‘an understatement’’ to view the Waterhouse connection as an unholy alliance.
‘‘If there was ever a case for reform of the racing industry to strengthen integrity, this is it,’’ he said.
‘‘It seems extraordinary that they are giving John Singleton a fine for raising a legitimate concern. They are shooting the messenger for speaking up rather than keeping it behind closed doors where racing wants it. Singleton deserves a medal rather than a fine.’’
‘‘Hasn’t the horse bolted?’’ said Stuart O’Brien, from brand, design and consulting firm Houston.
‘‘It’s going to be almost impossible to separate the two entities. He [Tom Waterhouse] borrows from his paternity.
‘‘Often you build from a brand by borrowing and he’s done that with his mother’s name, but that does have a downside.’’