Racing’s voice of reason, veteran trainer Mick Price, put it bluntly too when asked for his take by The Age.
“They’re all guilty of stupidity,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear for everyone in our Victorian community about a 9 o’clock curfew, so why does it not apply to them? It was a blatant breach.”
Each of the five jockeys will feel the brunt differently. The significant damage to Kah will be to her reputation as one of racing’s few household names, however young riders Brown and Gaudray will feel the financial impacts most severely as their ability to earn an income is effectively taken from them.
Melham and Zahra, both experienced, multiple group 1-winning jockeys, find themselves in embarrassing positions, but have had lucrative careers to date which, like Kah, have set them up financially off the track. They don’t have the same public profiles as Kah, who has carried a burden as the sport’s female heroine.
Racing Victoria also told The Age on Sunday it would consider “in due course” the jockeys’ eligibility or otherwise for awards from the 2020-21 racing season, which includes the Scobie Breasley Medal. Kah and Zahra would be among the leading contenders for the cherished award.
The original quartet of Kah, Melham, Brown and Gaudray also face an extra month on the sidelines if stewards find they were misleading in their original evidence regarding whether Zahra was also there.
With undoubtedly clear community expectations hovering over the heads of Racing Victoria’s stewards, the sport’s lawmakers had to send a strong message.
The scenes at a South Caulfield engagement party, where a COVID-19 breakout put the entire Victorian community at risk, enraged the public.
The revelations over the weekend that five jockeys and two-non racing participants had similarly acted with complete disregard for the government’s restrictions have equally angered the sport’s administrators and participants who have relied on the industry remaining in action.
The issue racing faces in the public eye, however, is that individual acts regularly reflect negatively on the industry as a whole. Regardless of what went on in that Airbnb last Wednesday night – most likely irrelevant, in fact – five individuals made a selfish decision which has damaged the entire sport’s brand once again.
Once they’ve done their time, they will be welcomed back into the industry again, just as Moody was and just as Melham had been after recently returning from betting offences. Racing, like most sports, quickly forgives.
But once again, it’s the industry as a whole that will be left to pick up the pieces.
“We as an industry do seem to have a habit, once a year, to do something incredibly damaging to ourselves as an industry – usually at about this time of year – and for all of us who love the sport and the industry, we’re all as frustrated as each other,” Pakula said on Saturday.
“But racing has an incredible ability to endure and go on.”