Rodney Petroff admits he should have dug deeper into the Harness Racing New Zealand rule book before visiting this country for the first time in his 32 years.
The Melton (Victoria)-based reinsman said his initiation into the New Zealand was one he wouldn’t forget in a hurry.
Moments after the third annual running of the Group One Anzac Cup the hooter blew and there was an inquiry was into Petroff’s drive behind Australian trotter, Zedalite.
Zedalite finished a nose second behind Superbowlcheerleader, but his placing wasn’t safe because the protest was lodged by David Butt who was driving the fourth placed Dr Hook.
He alleged Zedalite interfered with Dr Hook by not racing straight over the concluding stages.
The 5-year-old son of Zooma kept second but Petroff was then slapped with a $450 fine by the JCA (Judicial Control Authority) for overuse of the whip.
“It’s totally different to what I’m used to. Racing the right-handed way around is a whole new ball game. I should have known the rules better. It’s a bit different over there to here.
“You can get away with a quick elbow-wrist action here in Australia and in New Zealand that’s what I thought I was doing. But I think you count the number of flourishes here and they are not so much of a flick but more of a hitting action” Petroff said.
He breached Rule number 869(2)(a) which states no horseman shall use his whip in an unnecessary, excessive, or improper manner.
Whereas in Australia the whip rule states that excessive use comes into being if:
Rule 156(4)(a) The tip of the whip is drawn back further than the driver’s shoulder
(b) If the whip action involves more than a wrist and elbow action.
(d) If the whip is used other than a flicking motion.
“Obviously what I done was wrong and the rules have been enforced and I will abide by them. Like I said I should have known better,” Petroff stressed.
Petroff arrived back in Australia the day after his little drama to drive his stable representatives, McRita and Antiquities into third and fourth respectively at Bendigo on Saturday night.
But Anthony Butt will drive Zedalite in Friday's Group Three $30,000 Majestic Horse Floats Greenlane Cup. Petroff hopes to be back a week later for the Rowe Cup.
“This trip is his first time away from home and he’s already acquitted himself extremely well. I’m looking forward to coming back because he’s a good standing start horse and even better over the 2700m than the 2200m.
“Last week’s run showed he’s going to be very hard to beat – even from 30m behind. There’s nothing like experience,” Petroff said.
Tweed Heads (NSW) born Petroff said Zedalite had developed into a much stronger horse every time he got behind him. He believed he would strip even fitter this week and then fitter again for the Rowe Cup the following Friday,” said Petroff.
Petroff moved to Victoria 13 years ago. His family have long been involved in harness racing and his older brother Chris (35) is one of Queensland’s top drivers, having driven more than 1,000 winners.
Petroff (Rod) drives for several trainers including Zedalite’s conditioner Brent Lilley. He also works a team of seven at the Melton track – the best of them being McArdle 4-year-old mare McRita, who has won five of her 29 starts and $31,667.
As for Zedalite the bay gelding has now raced 70 times for 21 wins, 28 placings, and $223,256 in stakes. He’s won two of his seven starts over Friday’s 2700m standing start distance, and also placed twice.
Zedalite is being cared for by Lilley’s partner Tracey Cullen in Cambridge.
By Duane Ranger (Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand)