Day At The Track

UFO banned in Australia

08:24 PM 14 Mar 2015 NZDT
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ufo sulky.jpg frank ranaldi.jpg sulky compare.jpg
UFO sulky
Frank Ranaldi
The difference between a permitted sulky and one which is outside HRA specifications

After conducting an investigation into the widely-used UFO Alien Sulkies, Harness Racing Australia has banned the cart from being distributed in Australia.

The investigation began following the discovery the sulky is in breach of the national specifications given they are five centimetres wider than permitted.

Harness Racing Victoria stewards thrust the situation into the spotlight when they began measuring the sulkies during the popular Ballarat Cup program last December.

Stewards’ actions led to a host of scratchings, including six from the Cup, with only four runners contesting the Group One.

In the interest of industry participants, HRA then suspended the UFO Alien - which prohibited the ordering, sale and delivery of the cart - during the course of its investigation.

HRA’s research and testing of the sulky found the UFO's had breached the specifications in several areas, including: incorrect/incomplete sulky markings, incorrect shafts fitted to certain sulkies, a lack of paperwork trail and failure by the American operation and its directors to supply assurance or outline quality control processes.

Given the findings, HRA has permanently banned the sale and distribution of UFO sulkies in Australia, with the ban backdated to December 15, 2014.

Those who already own UFO sulkies, which meet HRA specifications, can continue to use the carts. This includes the Alien.

Manufacturers have been given the option to re-enter the Australian market once the sulkies conform with HRA specifications and are approved by the Gear and Equipment Committee.

UFO’s Australian distributor, Frank Ranaldi, has vowed to fight the ban and will be seeking legal advice next week.

“I am not one to lay down,” Ranaldi said. “I will appeal the decision and also seek legal advice.

“I feel it’s a harsh call. There were other options, and yes, there were breaches, but none due to safety or defective parts. In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

“While I respect HRA’s policy procedures, I am extremely disappointed with their decision to ban future sales of all UFOs.”

Given the sulkies popularity and success, Ranaldi believes HRA’s decision will have an adverse effect on harness racing on this side of the equator.

In fact, Ranaldi has gone as far as stating the decision will set the industry “back in time”.

“The bike has been a ‘game changer’, has smashed track records, is a favourite with leading drivers and trainers and has dominated Grand Circuit events,” Ranaldi declared.

“I believe the decision may very well have set harness racing back in time.

“There is no question the UFO has been the number one seller since 2012…the results speak for themselves and I am sure this matter can be resolved.”

  • PAUL COURTS

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