All indications point to leading trainer Geoff Small landing himself in more strife with harness racing stewards and officialdom after an unfortunate sequence of events at Addington Raceway in Christchurch tonight (Friday 16 October 2009).
That strong indication was issued by Harness Racing New Zealand General Manager Edward Rennell in an explanation on Trackside TV as to the sensational late scratchings ofand stable mate All Tiger from the main event on the card, Race 9, the Wishes Come True Pace (2600m).
Mr Rennell saidwas a late scratching on account of a decision by the Trotting Club's veterinary surgeon Dr Corin Murfitt who ruled the horse was "not in condition to race.''
Evidently trainer Small (who was at Alexandra Park) over-reacted when advised of the situation and told caretaker trainer Jeff Whittaker to also pull out stable mate All Tiger and head home with both horses.
As a result the club lost big money on the two late scratchings and the race was robbed of much interest.
"That conduct from a leading trainer is not acceptable and the stewards in charge will, in all likelihood, lay charges against trainer Small,'' Mr Rennell said.
"We have to rely on the vet's professional opinion and he said the horse was not in condition to race.''
In the final analysis, Mr Rennell said the surgeon maintained's "injury'' was "significant enough to warrant his scratching.''
The damaged skin concerned was the legacy of a superficial blemish incurred recently on the way to Alexandra Park whenrubbed against the side of his float and was late scratched from his engagement.
Mr Rennell could not explain why the horse was not taken out onto the track and walked or jogged to identify any physical problems. That was the unanswered question many on course were asking.
From further inquiries, Harnesslink understands the horse was not even taken out of his stall.
Harnesslink also believes from working officials on course that scheduled driver David Butcher was upset by the late scratching ofand demanded to see chief steward Neil Escott.
Evidently, Butcher was emphatic the horse was in better condition to race than when he finished second a week earlier at Alexandra Park in Auckland.
The race was won by Bettor's Strike (Dexter Dunn) who enjoyed an economical trip behind tearaway pacemakerand stalled off a dour and sustained late charge from Monkey King whose showing was the big run of the race.
Georgetown also rallied solidly from a handier spot in the running for third in a half neck and half head blanket finish that was some compensation for the regrettable pre-race debacle that will impact significantly on harness racing's image.
Mr Rennell hit the nail on the head when he said: "It is a pity that we have to be talking about this (late scratchings) when we should be talking so positively about the great Cup race coming up next month.''
The Stewards report into the Small saga read as follows:
RACE 9: "CHRISTIAN CULLEN" MAKING WISHES COME TRUE HANDICAP PACE:
Advertised start time: 10.00pmActual start time: 10.01.31pmP J Davis was an authorised late driver change for ALL TIGER after G C Small advised he was unwell and would not be attending the meeting.
CHANGEOVER was a late scratching at 9.10pm acting on advice from the Club Veterinary Surgeon. FLYIN INTERSTATE was slow to begin. ALL TIGER was a late scratching at 9.58pm after failing to be presented on to the track. During a subsequent investigation evidence was taken from P J Davis, P L Hilliard and D J Butcher as trainer G C Small was not present.
G C Small was charged under Rule 1001(1)v (i) and (ii) alleging that Mr Small did an act which was detrimental to the interests of harness racing in not presenting the horse ALL TIGER on the track, ALL TIGER was subsequently scratched. Mr Small was also charged with using insulting and abusive language towards officials. The information was lodged with the JCA who adjourned the hearing sine die.
ALL TIGER was the subject of a veterinary inspection prior to leaving the course which revealed no abnormalities. The connections of CHANGEOVER were advised that a veterinary certificate of clearance is required prior to this horse resuming racing.
Results from the New ZealandTrotting Club's meeting tonight (Friday 16 October, 2009) at Addington Raceway in Christchurch were:
Race 1: The Phil Anderson and Tim Butt trained HUNTSMAN () Anthony Butt
Race 2: The Gerard McCrea trained JAMES' JAZZMINE () Kyle Cameron)
Race 3: The Robbie Holmes trained BIELLA STAR () Peter Davis
Race 4: The Graeme Hall trained FINE HOLMES (Live or Die) David Butt
Race 5: The Phil Anderson and Tim Butt trained QUALITY INVASION () Anthony Butt
Race 6: The Blair O'Connell trained TOKYO DRIFT () Stephen McNally
Race 7: The Cran Dalgety trained BUBBA HO TEP (Washington V C) Dexter Dunn
Race 8: The Phil Anderson and Tim Butt trained ROYDON FLASH (S J's Photo) Anthony Butt
Race 9: The Cran Dalgety trained BETTOR'S STRIKE () Dexter Dunn
Race 10: The Glenys and Terry Chmiel trained SMOOTH JULIUS () Terry Chmiel