Trainer Danny O'Brien. Photo: Vince Caligiuri
TOP trainer Danny O'Brien yesterday rejected suggestions that his criticism of the Flemington surface on Saturday was motivated by a personal feud with course manager Mick Goodie.
The Flemington-based trainer said that he and other trainers and jockeys were entitled to use social media and other communication tools to make their views known about what they considered an unsatisfactory racing environment. He said putting the issue on the public agenda was the best way for it to be addressed.
''To say that it's personal is wrong. Mick Goodie came to my wedding and helped me set up the turf track at Barwon Heads [O'Brien's other training establishment on the Bellarine Peninsula].
''This is about the surface of the course and the lack of kikuyu grass, not personal feuds.''
Saturday's meeting was marred by horse deaths, jockey falls and other injuries to horses.
O'Brien's critique is based on his contention that without kikuyu grass the track does not race fair, with ''fast lanes'' of better ground emerging. This means that jockeys ride in bunched fields as they search for the optimum path, which can cause interference. It often means that races can be won by the horse which finds itself on the best bit of the track, not necessarily the best horse.
''In 2007 this was the best turf surface in the world but then the kikuyu was taken out and it has been unsatisfactory since 2010,'' O'Brien said.
Several leading riders and trainers have agreed with him, but this is an issue that has polarised opinion. Not all jockeys concurred, with several other prominent riders saying they had no problems with the track.
Goodie stated his case on Radio Sport National yesterday, explaining why he had made alterations to the surface leading up to Saturday's fixture. He said he had no regrets about his preparation, stressing that given the chance again he would not do anything differently.
Goodie refused to buy into talk of a personality clash with O'Brien. He added that he had received phone calls from jockeys and trainers to signal their support for his approach to track maintenance before he appeared to break down mid-interview and end the conversation.
Leading owner Nick Williams, son of Lloyd Williams, took to Twitter to support Goodie. ''Mick Goodie is a star. VRC/RVL need to make sure he is properly resourced to provide a perfect surface.''
Dale Monteith, chief executive of the Victoria Racing Club, said climactic conditions in Melbourne made it hard for kikuyu grass to come through.
''It is difficult, and it's a grass that doesn't react to pressure and stress. After the carnival we planted 350,000 small punnets of kikuyu but it did not grow or thrive,'' he said.
''People assume grass tracks just happen, but they are living things that change weekly.''
O'Brien's complaints led to him being hauled before the stewards on Saturday and an inquiry into his allegations is ongoing.