Day At The Track

Punters burnt by builders nail

08:29 PM 12 Jul 2015 NZST
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Cambridge pacer Cullie's Delight who is recovering from an injury sustained during a race at Alexandra Park Injured Cambridge pacer Cullies Delight stands in a bath of epsom salts
Cambridge pacer Cullie's Delight who is recovering from an injury sustained during a race at Alexandra Park
Injured Cambridge pacer Cullies Delight stands in a bath of epsom salts

The connections of Cullie's Delight are waiting anxiously to see how she recovers after the mare stood on a 6.5cm builder's nail which drove into her foot during a race at a harness racing meeting at Alexandra Park.

Worried trainers are seeking assurances from the Auckland Trotting Club that its construction of a new building for the Blues Super Rugby team and future apartment complex won't put the safety of their horses at risk again. 

Cullie's Delight was sent out favourite for the third race last Friday night, carrying at least $33,000 of punters' money in a myriad of betting pools.

However, the mare started pacing roughly 1400 metres from home and driver Todd Mitchell suspected she had broken down.

"I felt her falter between the 1500m and 1400m but she seemed to come right 400 metres later," Mitchell said. "But she started limping on pulling up and I thought she must have cracked a bone. Sometimes they can keep running on adrenalin."

When Mitchell returned to the stables, however, the reason for her distress became obvious with blood coming out of the bottom of one foot.

"When I picked her foot up, I couldn't believe it, a builder's nail was buried about an inch deep and bent over. And when I pulled it out, blood started pouring everywhere."

Mitchell said the course vet told him the five-win mare was very lucky that the nail had not penetrated the foot as deeply as she first feared. A protective pad the mare was wearing might have saved her from catastrophic injury.

"It could have gone into the pedal bone and then it would have been curtains," Mitchell said.

Mitchell reported the incident to the stipendiary stewards because he said the nail was far too big to be anything else but a builder's nail - it definitely did not come from any part of a horse's gear or sulky.

"I know there's a lot of construction going on at the track but, really, the welfare of the horses has to be paramount.

"You wouldn't know if a builder has thrown a nail over the fence or if it's become caught up in the harrows.

"It's bad enough that it happened to a horse like Cullie's Delight, who is close to retirement, but imagine if that had happened to a horse like (champion filly) The Orange Agent who ran at the workouts the following day."

Mitchell said Cullie's Delight had been treated for tetanus and with antibiotics in the hope that the wound would not become infected.

"The nail hole has closed over but there is a bit of a pulse into her leg and she's still a bit tender on it," said Mitchell who has been  bathing her foot in epsom salts.

On Wednesday, five days after the injury, an infection blew out the back of her heel.

"I just hope she's all right - infections can be dangerous things."

Mitchell said the ATC had pledged to pay for the veterinary treatment Cullie's Delight needed on racenight, and the vet checks she's had since.

But it in no way compensated Mitchell or owner Darren Bell for the likely loss of earnings on the night and over the next few weeks while she recovers.

"I was pretty gutted. We wanted to win another race before she went to stud and she was in a race that really suited her."

With five wins, 30 seconds and thirds and nearly $60,000 in earnings, the daughter of Bettor's Delight had considerable value as a broodmare already.

The stewards' report confirmed Cullie's Delight "paced roughly rounding the bend passing the 1400 metres."

It's commentary on the reason gave no more detail than "a post-race veterinary examination revealed a puncture wound to its hoof after standing on a nail." 

Racing Integrity Unit racing investigator Bryan Oliver confirmed he'd taken a picture of the nail, which he estimated to be "two and a half inches long", but he refused to release it to Fairfax Media.

"I don't think it's of interest to anybody," he said.

Oliver might try telling that to punters who, according to the TAB, wagered at least $33,000 on the horse.

As well as carrying $16,200 in win and place bets, the TAB estimates another $16,500 in exotic bets ran through Cullie's Delight, as she was favourite for a double, treble and quaddie leg, and a key horse for trifectas and quinellas.

ATC racing manager Kevin Smith said the incident was a random event which while regrettable and had no obvious explanation.

"We've inspected the track and obviously we'll be taking as many steps as we can to prevent it happening again.

"The track guys are acutely aware now of what happened and will be doing more pre-race checks."

Smith said it would be pure conjecture to say how the nail came to be on the racing surface.

"With all the construction going on it might have got into the tyre of a truck, come out of a driver's pocket or out of the backside of a seagull in the air. It's pure speculation."

Smith said while everything would be done to ensure it did not happen again, no 100 per cent assurance could ever be given and the club had received no other reports of building materials contaminating the track.

Mitchell, however, told Fairfax Media the racenight vet said she'd  found a piece of iron on the track when walking to her ute. 

Trainers have also expressed concern that their horses could be at risk walking along the path from the relocated float park to the stables, directly adjacent to the construction site of the Blues' building.

 Barry Lichter

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