If you ever thought things weren't quite perfect in Hong Kong racing, a visit to an alternative jurisdiction will quickly change your perspective - for the better. Melbourne is the barometer for quality racing in Australia, but even here the industry is beset with problems and fighting between key groups. Mark Read, one of the country's biggest bookmakers, took no prisoners in a broad swipe at industry personnel, claiming race-fixing and the use of performance-enhancing drugs was rife in Australia. Read, executive chairman of publicly listed International All Sports, said he had spoken to administrators at the highest level but claimed they 'run and hide for their lives' when the topic is raised. Read has a leading-edge database and rating system which scientifically measures thoroughbred performance. It makes him well placed to identify peak performances from horses which go way beyond accepted normal parameters. And as a bookmaker, he is also right in the middle of the money trail. So if a horse is heavily backed beyond what is reasonable for its form and then turns in a performance that reeks of chemical enhancement, Read is in a better position than most to identify the possible skulduggery. However, despite the wake-up call - as distasteful as it may have been - Read's claims were effectively dismissed by Australian racing administrators. Ray Murrihy, chairman of stipendiary stewards in Sydney and former mentor of Hong Kong stewards Jamie Stier and Kim Kelly, challenged Read to 'put up or shut up'. 'All I can say about Mark Read is we are in constant contact with all betting agencies, including his, and he has never expressed those views previously. I would like him to put forward any information to support his claim but I suspect that will be negligible,' Murrihy summed up. Melbourne's chief steward, Des Gleeson, called Read's comments 'nonsense', because of the number of 'checks and balances' they have, and the fact that Melbourne has recently stepped up the level of pre and post-race testing. What Gleeson didn't say, but every veterinarian can tell you, is that the best-available scientific testing equipment may not pick up unidentified drugs - the analyst must know what he is looking for before he can accurately test for it. Read's call comes shortly after the move by another prominent bookmaker, Michael Sullivan (of Sportingbet), to refuse to offer a service on racing in Brisbane, claiming price manipulation and a general lack of integrity in that jurisdiction. But wait, there's more. On Monday, Andrew Ramsden, chairman of the Australian Racing Board, proposed a ban on English horses racing at next year's Melbourne spring carnival if a ban on betting exchange Betfair was not applied by English authorities. Robert Nason, chief executive of Racing Victoria, agreed with Ramsden but went further. 'If Betfair [becomes] licensed in Australia,' Nason said, 'racing would soon be dominated by organised crime lords who would decided which horses win races.' If you thought that was a bit over the top, Nason was only getting started. On Tuesday, he went on radio in Melbourne and talked about shutting down the entire Spring Carnival - the biggest single event in the southern capital every year - if it meant getting rid of Betfair. 'It's that big an issue to Australian racing, if that's what it took we would do it. We would take whatever action is necessary to eliminate this threat - whatever action is necessary,' Nason raged. 'They can wheel in [Australia's richest man and new Betfair shareholder] Kerry Packer, they can wheel in the Queen if they want to. But we will not be backing away from this stand.' And on it goes. Meanwhile, the unbiased professionals in Hong Kong racing will reliably tell you that Hong Kong is a very clean product, of high integrity and consistency. Yes, Hong Kong betting turnover has come off significantly in recent years in the face of stronger competition for the consumer's wagering and gaming dollar, but we still have much for which to be grateful.