The news that leading thoroughbred trainer Ciaron Maher and his stable manager Ben Connolly have been hit with charges by Racing Victoria for allegedly allegedly concealing conman Peter Foster’s ownership of a number of racehorses, including top class mare Azkadelia, comes as no surprise to this little brown duck, and I will go out on an early limb and declare that I reckon Connolly at least is good for it too, and of course there’s a story goes with it.
It dates back to this time last year, which for the benefit of non-punters is traditionally the early weeks of the Queensland winter racing carnival, for a hundred years the apogee of horse racing in the land of maroon giants, but under recent iterations of the outfit that poorly pretends to run the four-legged lottery in the Pineapple State has become merely the spire on a derelict slum’s steeple.
I had a small wad of readies in my sky rocket twelve months ago, and keen to make a quick escape from the locus in quo of my dearly loved and then recently departed Mum’s demise (put that in your pipe and smoke it Mr QC Pie Morris, boys from Geebung State School who shagged hot wog backpacker sheilas down the Goldie at schoolies can speak Latin too) in the hope that I might escape my inestimable grief in the running, I decided to head down to Hobart for a spell at my mate Davo’s Coleridge like joint MONA.
Normally I venture down to the former Sheridan Sheet factory Davo bought so he had a place to his Sydney Nolan snake in summer, but with Mum’s ascension to heaven this year was a bit different, and that – coupled with the fact I was acutely conscious that the punting ledger book during the carnival had been flashing red for the past four decades – led me to break my long held-habit, pack the moth-ridden swag, throw the widower, the bead-twirler and the sprog (these days called the Captain) in the tin can with wings and wheels, and sail south to brave the Tasmanian snow.’
The idea of course was that I’d unfurl the swag in one of Davo’s double story palaces – the one with the weird Charlie Blackman cat on the wall – and hide out in the 700 buck a night central heating from variously the world, the bitter cold and the broken glass of loss that was sharply stabbing me in the heart, the added bonus being that by becoming a high-priced hermit I could at the same time avoid the time-honored annual Brissy races blackout on the punt, and thus despite Davo’s titanic tariffs end up a mile in front.
Ever heard that line about the best laid plans of mice and men? I reckon I should get it tattooed on my arse, because by day three of looking at high brow art and paying three pineapples for a pie and a bottle of plonk for lunch I was bored sh*tless and so, telling the bead twirler I had a spare couple of grey sharks for her to spend on souvenirs and slinging her the readies, I chucked on a dozen jumper and pissed off into the old convict settlement’s capital looking for a TAB, and thanks to a mug punter pushing a motorised hansom cab I found one too.
The Hobart Worker’s Club was the joint’s name and manna from heaven for a Bunger boy it was too. Five dollar schooners, three dollar pies, wall to wall racing and footy on the TV, and hot sheilas pulling the beers behind the bar. ‘What more could a punt-addicted layabout with a wallet full of ammo want?’ I thought to myself as I walked through the hundred and fifty year old swinging doors with a smile as wide as a Straddie sandbar on my dial.
What more indeed? A winning day on the punt perhaps? My best bet of the day not pig-rooting in the straight when six lengths in front and getting pipped by a nose on the post?History not to bloody repeat? All those things and more; but I guess a mug can’t expect miracles, and I had an absolute whale of an afternoon anyway, and there was always tomorrow to win back the suddenly disappeared wad, and let me tell you a secret and sat that anyone who ever tries to tell you that fine art’s more worthy than an afternoon in the pub with a bunch of dinkum Aussie punters is nothing but a bloody idiot and who gives a rat’s arse what it costs ‘cos the best things in life are never free (except of course when the bead twirler’s got the saucy sparkle in her eye, but that’s another story that can only be told after midnight when the tin lids are tucked up asleep in the double bunk).
While I was having an absolute ball turning banknotes into tote tickets and tote tickets into dust I met this cracker cabal of coves cut from the same cloth as myself – which is to say that they loved femmes, footy, piss, and the punt, in reverse order – just like any decent bloke would, and if a few of them hadn’t had two heads I would have forgotten that I was in Tassie ‘ for except for the fact that Kevvy wasn’t there it was for all the world the replica of a glorious afternoon ripping up dough at the Geebung RSL.
One of these fellas – I forget his name, loose lips sinking ships and all that – told me that his nephew had a runner in the big race in Brisbane, or he sort of had anyway and there was a story that went with that too. Ben was the young lad’s name, Ben Connolly, a young lad from Hobart who owned a horse trained by Ciaron Maher that was the tote favourite in the time honoured Doomben Ten Thousand that was due to jump in ten minutes.
Azkadelia was the neddy’s name, and the bloke whose name I can’t recall your honour’s nephew Ben reckoned it was a dead cert. I didn’t quite share the fella’s brother’s boys views on the four-year-old’s prospects of success, but you don’t want to upset new-found friends when you’re in an unfamiliar town famous for lashings with cats of nine tails and structures called scaffolds, so I bit my tongue about my views on the tips prospects of success and merely nodded my head and said that Ben was a bloody lucky young bloke to own such a promising type of four-legged feline, and that his nephew have been dead-set f*cked by a fairy, which is high praise indeed.
‘Well actually’ my nameless new found friend replied ‘Ben doesn’t really own the horse, his mate does, but that bloke’s been in a bit of bother over the years – none of it his fault of course, he’s just been dogged by bad luck; why he even had one big-titted bottler of a girlfriend turn out to be a bloody lesbian! (he told me, truly outraged as you’d expect in such circumstances) – and he can’t have the horse in his own name, so my brother’s young lad Ben’s got his name in the racebook instead’.
‘Geez that’s bad news for the unlucky bugger but great luck for your Ben’ I said, and then without thinking asked ‘what’s the poor punter who porked the large boobed lesbian and can’t own a fast filly’s name?’
‘Peter Foster’ he said.
Discretion being the better part of valour I simply nodded and wished young Ben the best of British non-lesbian luck as I took a big suck on my schooner of Boags Draft, not letting on for a second that that my mate the famous crime writer had a childhood friend who liked horses, and went by the name.
‘Peter bloody Foster’ I thought to myself, ‘What are the bloody odds? London to a Brick, that’s what they are’.
Take a hot tip from me sportsfans – don’t ever let anyone ever tell you it isn’t a small bloody world.