Kavanagh’s bonus payment a public relations disaster

AS own goals go this was a beauty.

Why did the board of Horse Racing Ireland conclude that they should fly in the face of the Department Of Agriculture and award its chief executive, Brian Kavanagh, bonuses on top of a salary which can only be described as obscene in the first place?

Racing, as usual, made the front pages of newspapers over the last week or so for all of the wrong reasons and how Horse Racing Ireland believed this sort of behaviour was in any way acceptable was quite staggering.

A number of questions have to be asked, starting with was this driven by the chairman of HRI, Denis Brosnan, or was he completely unaware of what was going on?

Let’s assume Brosnan didn’t know about it - he should have - then who on Horse Racing Ireland was actually doing the driving?

Or did Kavanagh himself seek the bonuses and, if so, how come no one on the board of HRI told him that it was simply not on? If someone did try to prevent it then they would do well to emerge from the woodwork.

Perhaps, the thinking all along was that this would never come out and what the public didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them. Well, the Irish Examiner didn’t half put an end to that by revealing the sorry affair.

When you glance at the sort of massive figures being mentioned, a reported salary for the chief executive of €190,000 a year taking pride of place, you have to question just what the hell is going on in Irish racing?

We know all about the value of racing to the economy and the amount of people employed in the game.

But the bottom line is that the financing of racing in this country depends almost entirely on hand-outs from the government.

This is a government, admittedly left with a massive mess, who are about to introduce water charges, a property tax and a budget which will surely hammer most workers again.

The vast majority of people who are in employment are just happy to keep their jobs. The idea they might get a wage rise anytime soon is accepted as a complete non-starter.

The bonus for all of us comes in the form of not having to join the other 400,000 plus on the dole queues.

So here we have a government, itself financed by foreigners, who are expected to provide millions to HRI every year and then accept a culture which thinks it is acceptable to give two fingers to the Minister, thus sending out all of the wrong signals to the public, many of whom are struggling to even remain afloat.

Soon Minister Coveney will be appointing a new chairman of HRI, in succession to Denis Brosnan.

He will do well to dwell long and hard before arriving at a conclusion, because we are dealing here with an organisation which is clearly in need of a major overhaul.

This week at Killarney a young trainer posed the question: “why do we need two authorities (HRI and the Turf Club) to run racing in this country?’ Out of the mouths of babes!

He was, of course, in short pants when many of his now colleagues marched on the Turf Club all of those years ago. They were marching in favour of the setting up of Horse Racing Ireland.

Ironically, many of those trainers have since become HRI’s biggest critics. Be careful what you wish for and all of that.

In the greater scheme of things a couple of thousand euro here and a couple of thousand there is of no great importance. It now takes billions to raise one’s eyebrows.

But that is beside the point. This debacle was bad for Horse Racing Ireland and bad for horse racing in Ireland. It was a public relations disaster.

Fame And Glory smarter than average!

HOPE you didn’t fall for Fame And Glory in that St Leger trial at the Curragh last Saturday. He really does seem to be blessed with more intelligence than you would normally associate with a racehorse!

Fame And Glory had plenty in hand at the weights and looked a shoe-in, but there were bookmakers who, for whatever reason, thought he was vulnerable and wanted to lay him.

He ran perfectly adequately, but could not get to grips with Fictional Account and was beaten a neck into second.

He won his first two races of the season, at Navan and Leopardstown, two listed events of minor consequence, just like the Curragh, scrambling over the line narrowly in front.

But when he went to Royal Ascot for the Gold Cup it was like looking at a different horse and he bounded home. Next month he, reportedly, has the Irish Leger as his target. Bet the real Fame And Glory reports for duty then.

Picture: Fame And Glory: blessed with more intelligence than you would normally associate with a racehorse!

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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

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