Day At The Track

Charges laid against prominent horseman

10:23 PM 05 Dec 2011 NZDT
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Mark Smolenski
Mark Smolenski
File Photo

Charges have been laid against Canterbury harness racing trainer Mark Smolenski for injecting three horses on raceday - but vets are mystified by his choice of substance.

Smolenski is one of the first trainers to be caught by the Racing Integrity Unit's new weapon of surprise raids on stables and kennels, a tactic which RIU chief Cameron George says trainers can expect to see more of.

Inspectors found equipment consistent with raceday administration when they paid a surprise visit to Smolenski's Weedons stable a couple of hours before the start of an Addington race meeting on October 14.

The trainer admitted having intravenously injected at about 9.30am that morning a substance into Tip Your Hat Loui, Glenalvon and Awesome Prospect, who were all due to race later in the night.

The horses were immediately ordered scratched but Smolenski was told to present them at the track anyway for blood testing, results of which found the presence of Osmitrol.

While Osmitrol, a brand name for Mannitol, is not a banned substance and could be found in low levels in any sample - Smolenski committed an offence because trainers are prohibited from giving horses anything on raceday.

When his case is heard on December 14 he could face anything from a fine to disqualification, the use of needles on raceday particularly outlawed.

But experts spoken to by the ifStar-Timesnf were left bemused by Smolenski's choice of Osmitrol which he claimed had been recommended by his vet.

Mannitol, a sugar alcohol, is one of the most abundant energy and carbon storage molecules in nature, produced by a plethora of organisms, including bacteria, yeasts, fungi, algae, lichens, and many plants.

In humans it is mostly used to force urine production in people with sudden kidney failure and to reduce swelling and pressure inside the eye or around the brain.

One vet surmised that it might be the diuretic action which appealed to trainers, though it was a strange choice of diuretic. Many believed diuretics were effective in reducing bleeding in the lungs, or EIPH, a common cause of reduced performance in racehorses.

For that role alone, at high levels it would become prohibited because it would also have an effect on the urinary system.

George said it was certainly a worry that in virtually the first few weeks of surprise raids, someone had been caught for a raceday administration.

``Clearly, given the results, it is important that we do more of this - we don't want horses treated on raceday, particularly by way of needling.

``It has been my goal for a while to pick up our surveillance and drug testing and we plan to be unpredictable about what we are doing - and turn up when trainers least expect us or when horses are being prepared for race meetings.''

Extensive stable and kennel inspections were carried out during cup week in Christchurch last month, George revealed.

And the fact that 19 positive drug samples had been detected since the unit came into force in February showed it had been a success.

by Barry LICHTER (Courtesy of the SUNDAY STAR-TIMES)

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