Trainer at center of Fine Cotton scandal dies at 72

Hayden Haitana with his daughter, Mandy, in 2015.
Hayden Haitana with his daughter, Mandy, in 2015. © Mandy Haitana

The horse trainer at the center of the Fine Cotton ring-in scandal that rocked Australian racing in the mid-1980s has died at the age of 72. Hayden Haitana died in South Australia after battling health issues and suffering a stroke eight years ago.

Hayden Haitana at the races in 2015.
Hayden Haitana at the races in 2015. © Mandy Haitana

Haitana received a life ban from the Queensland Racing Board for his part in the 1984 scandal, in which open-class performer Bold Personality was made up to look like Fine Cotton, a novice. The ring-in horse duly won a race at Eagle Farm in Brisbane, on August 18, 1984 and backed from 33-1 to 7-2 in a nationwide plunge.

The scandal rocked the racing scene in the mid 1980s, and Haitana was one of six people banned for life by the Queensland Racing Board. The Australian Jockey Club warned off bookmakers Bill and Robbie Waterhouse and seven others for having prior knowledge of the ring-in.

Four years ago, in December 2013, Haitana’s life ban was lifted, after he had served 29 years of the ban and six months of a 12-month prison sentence. The Waterhouses were reinstated in 1998.

Bold Personality was a desperate last-minute replacement purchased with a cheque that bounced after the original ring-in horse Dashing Solitaire was injured.

Fine Cotton was at the time aged eight, and was brown with white markings on his hind legs. Bold Personality was aged seven and was bay with no white markings. Reportedly Clairol hair colouring was applied to Bold Personality. But on race day, someone forgot to bleach his legs to match Fine Cotton, so white paint was applied. The enamel paint failed to stick to the horse’s hair.

The substitution was noticed before any money was paid out.

Hayden Haitana collaborated on a tell-all book about the Fine Cotton ring in affair.
Hayden Haitana collaborated on a tell-all book about the Fine Cotton ring in affair.

Haitana’s daughter, Mandy, paid tribute to her father, saying “How do I say goodbye to you forever? Never hear another one of your stories, go driving with you on one of your short cuts or crazy adventures when you would try so hard to stay out of trouble but trouble would always fine you!”

“Laughter is one of many massive memories I have to treasure so I thank you dad for that. I am forever grateful for the colourful memories throughout life and for being such an awesome and one-of-a-kind grandfather that was the biggest kid of them all!

“You’re a stubborn shit that fought too hard for too long! In your last weeks you were surrounded by all of us that loved you dearly. I’m sure I can speak for us all when I say that it hurts like hell losing you but thank god your suffering is over and you are now at peace.”

A memorial service is being held for Haitana at the Gawler and Bar­ossa Racing Club on Saturday.

He is survived by three children and nine grandchildren.

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