Circus comes to town but Currie’s overseas

The start of the phone hook-up at Thursday's Stay hearing between Ben Currie and QRIC provided an anecdote that perfectly illustrates the circus this long-running affair has become.

After being sworn in from his base in Bali, where he was for a friend's wedding, Currie was asked by his legal representative Jim Murdoch if he had with him the affidavits with the relevant evidence for Thursday's hearing.

"No I don't," Currie responded.

"I had to drive on a scooter quite a distance to be able to get phone service and I wasn't able to bring that affidavit with me.

"But I'm across the affidavits pretty well, so I know what's in there. I've read it recently."

Trainer Ben Currie gave evidence via phone from Bali during last week’s Stay hearing. Picture: Mark Cranitch
Trainer Ben Currie gave evidence via phone from Bali during last week’s Stay hearing. Picture: Mark Cranitch

Incensed, QRIC's legal representative Scott McLeod tried to work out why the affidavits weren't in Currie's possession.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but I understood when you flew overseas you took with you your two affidavits? Was it impossible for you to have those in front of you today?" McLeod asked.

As always, Currie had the answer.

"The problem was I just moved into a new place for the wedding and I woke up this morning and thought I would have had phone service there and I didn't, so I had to get on a scooter and go back into town and find service," he explained.

"I was probably just in a bit of a panic making sure I was able to make the call and just forgot to bring them with me."

The fact Currie was overseas in the first place earned him a brickbat from QCAT Member Steve Holzberger, declaring the trainer's approach to the proceedings as "cavalier".

Ben Currie has been hit with a string of charges by Racing Queensland stewards.
Ben Currie has been hit with a string of charges by Racing Queensland stewards.

The Member said "the evidence by Currie on the telephone hasn't assisted him" but flagged the likely outcome of the hearing by adding, "I don't think it will affect the final decision".

It didn't, with Holzberger making a clear ruling in Currie's favour to grant him a stay and continue training.

That paved the way for a new chapter in the saga, with Racing Queensland hours later issuing the trainer with a Show Cause notice as to why they shouldn't effectively ban him from racing in the state.

That scenario will come to a head next Friday, while in the interim, Currie will face stewards again on Wednesday, in a continuation of two charges alleging the use of a jigger.

That still leaves Charges 1-28 from May last year and the seven charges issued in February unresolved, along with the five swab irregularities, which date back to 2017.

Ben Currie continues to train under a stay of proceedings.
Ben Currie continues to train under a stay of proceedings.

If that's not confusing enough, there's also a Directions hearing looming to kick off proceedings around the suspension of his license, for which he secured the stay on Thursday.

And the RQ AR55 move is also certain to end up in the courts.

What a mess.

For his part, Currie continues to staunchly plead his innocence and vigorously fight all allegations.

Murdoch said the charges laid by QRIC did not paint the picture of a person who was systemically using "such devices."

"These are taken out of many thousands of text messages," Murdoch said. "These historical charges have no basis for threatening the integrity of the industry."

Murdoch said Currie had not been found guilty of any of the seven charges, nor any of the charges laid against him over the past 11 months.

"Ultimately, there has been no hearing, Mr Currie has not been found guilty of any charges and he is entitled to a presumption of innocence," he said.

More strife for Currie

Another win at QCAT on Thursday led to Ben Currie facing a fresh battle on a new front, with Racing Queensland issuing the trainer with a Show Cause notice.

RQ has asked the trainer to offer reasons why his nominations shouldn't be rejected under AR55(1), which states a Principal Racing Authority may decline to receive or after receiving reject any nomination in their absolute discretion and without giving reasons for so doing.

Currie has been given until 2pm on Friday to provide a response as to why the rule should not be invoked.

The RQ letter, which was signed by chief operating officer Adam Wallish, said Currie's "ongoing participation in racing is eroding public confidence in the racing industry in Queensland".





Earlier, QCAT member Steven Holzberger said Currie had an arguable case (regarding the seven charges issued against him in February) and ruled there was a "very heavy balance of convenience consideration".

"I can't see how granting the stay undermines the integrity of racing, particularly when none of the charges have been proven," Holzberger said.

Under examination, Currie's explanation for one of the texts where he used the term "harped up" was that it meant "change our technique a little and fine tune him to get a result for the owner".

QRIC's legal counsel Scott McLeod described Currie's explanation as "utter nonsense when you look at the totality of the evidence".

Jim Murdoch QC, for Currie, said an affidavit with sworn statements from a number of jockeys and trainers "compelling". "Each and every one denied Currie had ever asked them to use (a jigger) or use it on his behalf," he said.