Day At The Track

Slack NZ cup security locks out Smoken Up

09:14 PM 29 Oct 2011 NZDT
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The harness racing trainer of champion Australian pacer Smoken Up has warned his trip to Christchurch for Tuesday week's New Zealand Trotting Cup could be scrapped, if the NZ Metro club does not hire security guards to protect all runners.

Lance Justice was gobsmacked when told the club's chief executive, Shane Gloury, was having a battle with the NZ Racing Integrity Unit to get raceday guards, a practice it had employed for several years.

Justice said after the trouble at the Interdominion carnival in Auckland earlier this year, when Grand Final winner Smoken Up inexplicably returned a positive drug test, and no guards were on duty, he would have thought Integrity Unit chief Cameron George would have insisted on the extra security, not questioned its need.

"My owners will go off their trees when I tell them this tonight," said Justice. "They're already upset enough as it is over how long it has taken to get a decision on the Auckland charge.

"It was part of our deal with Shane Gloury that they would put on guards - it's common practice in Australia for the big races. Sure, we could get our own guard, but why should we have to? I'd say the owners would rather pull the pin on the trip."

Justice and his owners still don't know if they will keep the Grand Final stake, despite their argument that the lax security at Auckland could have resulted in Smoken Up being tainted with the easily transmitted banned substance DMSO, maybe by a pat from a racegoer or rival stablehand.

"I can't believe this, after what we went through. How stupid and narrow-minded."

Gloury told the Star-Times he was still in negotiation with the Racing Integrity Unit, but he didn't have any confidence that guards would be approved.

In previous years, the club had control over raceday security, and it and Harness Racing New Zealand believed that guards were essential on such a flagship day. The $6000 cost of individual security from 6am on raceday until after the race had been met from the stipendiary stewards' budget.

But since the introduction of the tri-code Integrity Unit earlier this year, the club had lost control of integrity issues and, even though it was putting on the meeting, the responsibility fell with the RIU.

"We've told them the club is willing to put money towards the cost but I still don't have any confidence that we'll get guards. I hope commonsense will prevail.

"It gives Joe Punter confidence that it's a level playing field and trainers like it too - it eliminates the possibility of anyone getting at their horses." George said the RIU had met the club to plan raceday security, but no final decision had been made about employing guards for the cup runners.

"We're still considering what measures, if any, we should have.

"But it's the trainers' obligation to present their horses drug free - and that's the expectation for thousands of races round the world.

"Why pick one race out? What about the other Group I race on cup day, the Sires Stakes Final, you could argue from a breeding perspective it's more important. Should we do it for all Group I races?

"We don't have security at Riccarton for the galloping cup, or for the derby."

George said there was nothing to stop the connections of any cup runner from employing their own security guard if they felt it necessary.

Justice said George used the same argument during the Smoken Up hearing in Wellington.

"To me Auckland was a muck-up. They should have said `win, lose or draw, let's get it right next time'.

"This is just bureaucracy gone wrong. There's obviously so much depending on the outcome of the inquiry."

Smoken Up, the ruling cup favourite at $4, is scheduled to arrive next Sunday morning.

Courtesy of Barry Lichter and the Sunday Star Times

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