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New Zealand harness racing amateur driver, Gavin Cook, has finished seventh at the World Amateur Drivers Championship in Hungary. The Championship was won by Italy’s Mirko Mariniis, who won the two day series in Hungary’s capital city, Budapest over the weekend. The Montegiorgio reinsman nailed three wins in six races for 61 points - one more than American The bronze medal went to Denmark’s Bitten Jensen (one win) with 45 points. Cook was a further 13 points back in the Eurpean Trotting Amateur Drivers Federation (FEGAT) run event. “I had a horror day on day one with some tough driving horses to handle. Day two saw me get behind nicer horses to drive but tough draws to overcome. I finished the second day with a third, a strong finishing eighth and then got disqualified in the final race for galloping for more than 20 metres,” said Cook, the 2008 World Amateur Driving Champion. He said he ended up a “mixed bag” of drives and barrier draws, with two second line draws and apart from Cook’s first drive he said there wasn’t too much form among the rest.  Cook said Kincsem Park was a unique 1200m track. “On the Friday night we race three races right-handed and then on Saturday afternoon we race three times left-handed. Yes, you read that right, we race in both directions at the same track,” Cook said. Cook also said the whip rules were a challenge to adapt to initially but then seemed to work well once he familiarised himself with them. “When the day arrives when New Zealand is forced to consider a softer perceived option then this European model is worthy of consideration. “A driver is required to keep their hands on the reins at all times and may only use the whip a maximum of three times only in the final 200m with the whip being raised no higher than shoulder height. Prior to the 200m mark the whip can only be used to tap and niggle at the horse to correct them. “Resisting the urge to whip one handed took some conscious thought on my part to avoid the severe penalties or potential disqualification,” he said. Cook also thought the Hungarians multiple use of their race track facilities on the same day was interesting. “On day one we had dogs, gallops, sprints and harness racing plus the Food Truck Show. Whilst day two only had trotting the Food Truck Show it definitely bought in a lot of people for a pleasant and relaxing day in the sun.” The Canterbury horseman said New Zealand’s place in the international community of harness racing nations had been nurtured once again. “The welcome return to the international arena of Australia is fortuitous for New Zealand. Their representative Barbara Barry is enthused to get Amateur racing up and running in Australia which she is confident she can achieve in her home state of Queensland. “It will be nice to have a nation in our own hemisphere that we can introduce a wider range of drivers to international competition.” The next stage in FEGAT championships will be the Gentlemen European Championship in Holland from September 16-19.

Last Sunday saw the first two heats of the harness racing NZ Amateur Drivers Championships of 2015 held at the Rangiora Raceway with full fields of 12 runners in each heat. Thankfully, giving the Aucklanders taking part in the races no cause to moan about the cold, the day dawned a glorious example of Canterbury Autumn weather, and the scene was set for some competitive racing. And that is just what we saw. The first heat, over 2000 metres was a very even betting affair, with no horse standing out on the tote and some good value to be had. One of those slightly over the odds was Mark McNamara’s horse up from the Tony Barron barn, Heretic Franco. It seems that many thought that the big mares’ ‘scorched earth’ tactics that resulted in her recent Forbury win wouldn’t be repeated, but driven perfectly to instructions, Richard Sissons let the daughter of Lis Mara roll, and at the 400 metre mark, she looked home. However, Little Lion Man, under the guidance of Danny Blakemore slowly ate into her lead up the passing lane and actually hit the front short of the post. Not to be denied though, Richard extracted another ounce of energy from his charge and she fought back bravely to take the decision in an exciting finish. The second heat also provided a stirring finish with the two favourites fighting out a nose finish, well clear of the opposition. Daniel Reardon and Gavin Cook kept their favoured charges back off the pace while there was a spirited contest for the lead over the first 1000 metres, and then they swept up together and took over. Turning for home Daniel on Bandana led Gavin Cook on Take After Me, and after another exciting battle up the straight, just clung on for a narrow victory. All in all, two contests worthy of their Championship status. Thanks to the generosity of the Rangiora HRC, drivers and connections of the horses involved we were then treated to a superb lunch and refreshments in a private area to renew friendships, relive their experiences, and look forward to the second round of the Championships, to be staged at Alexandra Park on Sunday 3 May. The current standings on the New Zealand Championships Points Table is as follows: Daniel Reardon 20 Gavin Cook    19 Steve Phillips    18 John McDermott    16 Alan Edge        15 Danny Blakemore    15 Richard Sissons    15 Jeff Darby    13 Gerry Cronin    12 Sue Blake    8 John Kriechbaumer    5 James Brownlee    2 Pete Cook

The NZ Championship for Amateur Drivers commences on Sunday at Rangiora and a young harness racing driver that has drawn the horseflesh to be to the fore is Daniel Reardon. Describing Reardon as young may seem strange when he is thirty eight but amongst the twelve drivers seeking the title he is the baby of the pack. His relative youth by Amateur standards hides a life that has been busy with harness racing driving and training opportunities. When even more youthful he learnt his craft working for Brian Kerr and then Mark Purdon. He is now engaged in training a team of eight horses between juggling shift-work out at Christchurch airport. Originally licensed as a junior driver for seven years prior to 2002 his efforts yielded two wins from seventy nine drives in that time. Frustrated with the lack of driving opportunities he moved into the role of part-time trainer. With the advent of a more regular schedule of Amateur tote races Reardon seized the opportunity to return to what he really loved doing. In his first season back he has already snared two wins behind Franco Tyrone and is now looking forward enthusiastically to the finals series. “I’m really loving being back into the driving” stated Reardon when asked recently, “To be involved in the NZ champs is a dream come true, Amateur racing has really lifted the enjoyment I am getting out of the sport”. “As a trainer it has also helped me with the placement of horses in suitable races which is great for my owners” observed Reardon when considering his involvement in the amateur side of harness racing. With the drivers being allocated randomly a certain amount good fortune is required at the draw. Reardon is well placed after drawing last week’s impressive winner at Banks Peninsula in Bandana from the powerful Hope barn. His second drive Firebreak may lack an impressive form line but when in the right mood is capable of keeping Daniels points tally ticking over from his good draw. A couple of older drivers who are set to make the challenge of becoming the champion even harder for Reardon are Steve Phillips and Gavin Cook. Phillips has drawn two last start winners, one who was particularly impressive is the Bruce Negus trained Highland Reign. Whilst Cook has drawn one of his own team, the in-form Seelster which he backs up with the promising Take After Me in the next heat. Both drivers have vast experience in these types of competitions at both the local and international level so they present a formidable challenge for Reardon to overcome.   But it is a challenge for which the younger Reardon is well equipped for and he is clearly excited to tackle. The four race series concludes with two heats at the Thames TC meeting on 3rd May at Alexandra Park.  Gavin Cook

Following four successful running’s of the Seasonal Super Series held at Addington, the  New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club (Met) will stage a fifth Alabar Super Series on  Friday 10 October 2014.  As well as some leading trainers including Robert Dunn, Terry and Glenys Chmiel, Ken  Barron, Tim Butt, Nigel McGrath, Cran Dalgety, Robbie Holmes, Brendon Hill and Mark  Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen cashing in, wins have been achieved by Peter Bagrie, Brian  Fahey, Gavin Cook, Craig Edmonds, Alex Hastie, Barry Ford, Noel Taylor and Kevin  Townley. Total stakes paid out in the Series will result in approximately $470,000 including  the October round.  The fifth Series, to be staged also at Addington, will once again cater for lower grade horses  with projected stakes totalling greater than $70,000 over three events.  There will be opportunities for:  C0 pacers at 9 August 2014 – Stake $23,500  C1 to C2 pacers at 9 August 2014 – Stake $23,500  C0 to C2 trotters at 9 August 2014 – Stake $23,500 All starters in these races are to receive a minimum stake of $500. There is no enrolment fee payable. Field selection will be based on a points system. To qualify to start in these races on 10 October 2014, a horse must have started at least  once at a Met meeting between 22 August 2014 and 3 October 2014. With five Met meetings at Addington during this period there is ample opportunity for owners and trainers  to prepare their horses for the series. It is the intention of the NZMTC that a similar series will take place early in the New Year on  30 January under like conditions.  Full details and conditions are to follow and can be viewed www.addington.co.nz.  Alternatively, please call Brian, Richard or Colin of Addington’s Racing Department on (03)338 9094. Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager - Addington

Following three very successful runnings of the Seasonal Super Series held at Addington this season, the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club (NZMTC) will stage a fourth Super Series on Friday 8 August 2014. The three rounds of the Series held in October and December 2013 and May this year, proved to be very successful with a good level of runners (an average of 13 starters) competing in both the finals and consolations. It was encouraging to see a “spread” of winners from a wide range of trainers taking out their share of the stakes, providing a number of different owners with a healthy return. As well as some current top 20 premiership placed trainers including Robert Dunn, Terry and Glenys Chmiel, Ken Barron, Tim Butt, Nigel McGrath, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen cashing in, wins were achieved by Peter Bagrie, Brian Fahey, Gavin Cook, Craig Edmonds, Alex Hastie, Barry Ford and Noel Taylor. Total stakes paid out in the new Series will result in approximately $400,000 including the August round. The fourth Series, to be staged also at Addington, will once again cater for lower grade horses with projected stakes totalling greater than $100,000 over six events. There will be opportunities for:    C0 pacers at 3 May 2014 – Stake $23,500  C1 to C2 pacers at 3 May 2014 – Stake $23,500  C0 to C2 trotters at 3 May 2014 – Stake $23,500 Consolations for these races will be run should numbers warrant, with each consolation carrying a total stake of $12,500. All starters in the open race (final) are to receive a minimum stake of $500 and all starters in the consolations will receive a minimum stake of $250. There is no enrolment fee payable. Field selection will be based on a points system. To qualify to start in these races on 8 August 2014, a horse must have started at least twice at a NZMTC meeting between 10 May 2014 and 31 July 2014. With nine NZMTC meetings at Addington during this period there is ample opportunity for owners and trainers to prepare their horses for the series. It is the intention of the NZMTC that a similar series will take place later in the year on 10 October 2014 under like conditions. Full details and conditions are to follow and can be viewed www.addington.co.nz. Alternatively, please call Brian Rabbitt or Richard Bromley of Addington’s Racing Department on (03) 338 9094. Ged Mooar Marketing & Commercial Manager Addington

After twelve days of holiday in balmy Bali, there is plenty to recap. So, here goes... *Wastney knocks down six figures Marlborough based -owner, Brian Wastney, has slammed down a six figure offer for the impressive Rangiora winner (August 18) Strawbs Ideal Act.   The tall four-year-old son of American Ideal was going to, as his trainer-driver Nigel McGrath put it, “Hurt them!” before he scrambled and lost 20 metres at the 250 metre mark. Yet he still managed to regain his composure and power home for 1 & ¾ lengths win over capable maiden, Vice Chairman. The skip was put down to his hopples being too long for the easy track conditions. The offer is said to have been made by a prominent Queensland owner. The impressive type will now line up next week in a Junior Drivers event, where he will attempt to give Nicole Harris her first win. *First driving win for Matt Anderson Junior reinsman, Matthew Anderson, claimed his first winner at the same Rangiora meeting in what was just his second raceday drive.  His first drive resulted in a second on the same horse that gave him win number one – Highview Ember. The 21-year-old, who has got no family involvement in the sport, got into racing through some of his class mates at St Thomas of Canterbury College. His early education in racing was with former Amateur Driving Champion, Gavin Cook, before spending two years with Dean Taylor. When Robbie Close changed stables nine months ago and went to Greg & Nina Hope’s, Anderson took the vacancy he left at Robbie Holmes. “Robbie and Carla are great to work for and have taught me a lot.” “I also owe a big thank you to Highview Ember’s owners Hamish Scott & Kim Lawson. It wasn’t actually a Junior Drivers race so it was very good of them to give me the opportunity.” Anderson was also thankful to his sponsor, major galloping owner, Ray Coupland. *NZ bets of the week ring-around/ Keeping Up Joneses: To the writers of the dozens of emails we received regarding the disappearance of these two segments – don’t threat! They will both be back next week. *For the record: The last ring-around produced six winners and two quinellas. The biggest win divvy came courtesy of Simon Lawson and Surreal Moment ($10.80). While the quinella with Josh Dickie’s tip, Hezadoo Early, returned a tidy $23.70. *Greater Canterbury AGM 2013 A small but select group of members attended the recent AGM of the Greater Canterbury Branch, along with Edward Rennell and Andrew Morris from HRNZ. Subjects discussed included handicapping, turnover, nominations, and opportunities for fillies and mares and lower grade trotters. A suggestion that four year-old awards be handed out for the past season was also made. As reported previously Anthony has decided to stand down as Chairman of the Greater Canterbury Branch, and Ken Barron was voted in to replace him. Anthony’s' shoes will be very difficult ones to fill; he has been extremely active and pro-active as Chairman, both in the public eye and behind the scenes, being part of numerous Committees on a wide range of matters, and handling countless other issues and dramas that have cropped up during the years of his tenure. He has graciously agreed to continue to be part of the Committee, and will no doubt contribute much more in the future. To the read Peter Cook’s full report on the meeting on the NZ Harness Racing Trainers & Drivers Association website click here. by Mitchell Robertson

Trainers stung by bicarb allegations want changes in the RIU testing. New Zealand Sunday Star Times Racing editor Barry Lichter investigates TRAINERS UNDER investigation after their charges returned high bicarbonate levels are adamant the Racing Integrity Unit must change the way it uses its new hand-held blood testing unit. Harness racing officials were stunned when the scourge of the 1990s looked like it had returned with positives declared at three successive Sunday meetings in Canterbury. @ At Blenheim on June 23,  hobby trainer Neville Gorrie’s maiden Mattjestic Rebeck tested high after running third @ At Rangiora on June 30, Valhalla was over the threshold when running last for highly respected amateur driver Gavin Cook and @ At Timaru on July 7, Wally’s Girl was over after winning for trainers Jamie Keast and Henriette Westrum. Cook, stunned by the result and 100 per cent sure he did nothing to cause it, wants to know why the RIU is not operating the new i-STAT device as it was first touted, when former RIU boss Cameron George promoted it in May last year as the way to drug-free racing. The advantage of the unit is that it can quickly analyse a drop of blood, so officials know before a race, not days afterwards, if any horses have high readings. Trainers can then be given the option of scratching, protecting punters. But none of the trainers were given that option and stewards were secretive about the levels. Cook, the 2008 world amateur driving champion, said had he known Valhalla had returned a level of 39 when first tested, he would certainly have pulled him out of the Rangiora race. Cook said he actually saw the number 39 on the side of stipe Kylie Williams’ clipboard after the first test and asked if that was his horse’s level. Williams replied no,  and quickly hid it from view, explaining how they did not reveal levels because the confirmatory lab test was usually down a point or two on that  detected on the hand device, because of a number of variables, including temperature fluctuations. ‘‘My level was eventually declared at 37.3, but I was never provided with that information so they [the RIU] were complicit in their failure to protect the public. ‘‘I could have minimised the damage to my reputation by removing the horse from the race. I would still have been charged but it would have been viewed in a different light because the damage was minimised.’’ Cook said he’d been told stewards would not scratch a horse themselves based on the hand-held reading, because it might leave them liable to action if the lab tests later came back with a bicarb level under the 35 threshold. He likens it to a motorist returning a positive breath test, but being told by police to go on their way, with nothing done until the lab results of a blood test came back. ‘‘We should be told ‘here are the results, if you want to race, you understand the implications’. I knew I’d done nothing so if the level had been 35, knowing the lab test would be lower, I might have felt comfortable in still running.’’ Cook was also critical of the RIU not taking further tests, say 90 minutes after Valhalla raced, which was common procedure in the US, to determine if the level was still high. This too, was signalled by George in 2012 as one of the advantages of the hand-held unit. Cook said he now has a lot of apologies to offer to fellow trainers, who have pleaded  innocence after high bicarb tests. ‘‘I’ve always sat on the sideline and thought there’s no way you can get that high a level without tubing a horse. But I now know that’s not true. ‘‘I’ve never stomach tubed a horse in my life, I don’t know how to. It actually scares me – I’d probably stick it in the wrong hole and kill the horse.’’ Cook said while he would have to deal with the stigma of a high bicarb, he had done nothing different with Valhalla than with all his other horses, whose bicarb levels  tested between 31.5 and 33. ‘‘I’m competing at a level where that sort of thing [milkshaking] is not warranted. I’m in the shitter grade with below average horses.’’ Valhalla had been in Cook’s stable for only two weeks since he drove him to win at Oamaru when trained by Geoff and Jude Knight. ‘‘I’ve since found out that the Knights had the same trouble with this horse soon after they got him. He returned a high level, not high enough to be charged, but they were extremely nervous about it. He never tested high again. ‘‘I can only put it down to the stress of a change of environment, the horse does get himself wound up. He was very stressed when I got him to the track that day too.’’ Cook, who floated the horse to Rangiora, later learned the eight-year-old was used to travelling side on in a big horse truck. But worse, he loaded him on the left, which he hated. ‘‘He was scrambling and nearly falling the whole way . I slowed right down but he arrived all sweaty and shaking. ‘‘He felt like a completely different horse in the race, galloped out the back of the gate and didn’t show any gate speed or zip. ‘‘At Oamaru I went to the line with horse in hand and didn’t have to ask him for an effort.’’ Cook said when he had blood tests taken the day after Rangiora his vet reported he’d never seen a horse with a higher haemoglobin level. ‘‘That means he was tied up, and he was dehydrated as well.’’ He thought he had Valhalla back on an even keel again when he took him in to Addington for further tests last Friday night and he tested between 31 and 33. ‘‘The horse was calm and the results were all fine. That gave me a lot of confidence until they told me the levels were 36 in the lab. ‘I’m confused and I think it’s starting to confuse them too.’’ Cook agreed the i-STAT unit was great as a screening device, saving the industry money by reducing the number of lab tests needed. But Star-Times investigations have revealed that each iSTAT test is actually more expensive than the same test in the laboratory. Only one of the machines is in use in the country, and its findings have no validity under the rules.   SCOURGE OF RACING The illegal practice of ‘‘milkshaking’’ racehorses surfaced in the early 1990s.   Unscrupulous trainers would stomach tube their horses on raceday with bicarbonate of soda. It had the effect of delaying the onset of lactic acid in the muscles so horses could run faster for longer. Northern trainer Neil Brady spent 10 years and $250,000 trying to prove the testing system was flawed. In 2001, instead of testing an entire field and scratching horses five points over the mean, a threshold was set. Deliberate cases now are rare but rogue results continue to cause grief. READINGS UP AND DOWN LIKE A YOYO AMBERLEY TRAINER Jamie Keast  doesn’t have a lot of faith in the bicarbonate testing regime after his experience at Timaru earlier this month. It came as no surprise when stipe Kylie Williams took blood from his trotter Wally’s Girl on July 7 – his mare had been tested at both her two previous starts, three nights earlier at Addington, and also at Nelson in June. When Williams came back for a second test 25 minutes after the first, he became a little concerned, but proceeded out on to the track and won the race. ‘‘As I came back Kylie approached me and said ‘you’re fine, the level has dropped’. But she wouldn’t tell me what it was. ‘‘I went home and thought all was good but then a few days later they told me the horse was high.’’ The first test taken on the iSTAT hand-held device read 35, and retested at 35.7 in the laboratory. Inexplicably, the second test on the iSTAT was 34 but the lab reported it as 37. ‘‘We can’t work out how there can be such a discrepancy,’’ said Keast, who has sought the advice of experts. ‘‘They tell me the iSTAT should me more precise, if anything, because it is taken instantly with fewer variables, whereas the lab test is done days later after travel and temperature changes.’’ Yet in both the samples taken from Gavin Cook’s horse Valhalla, and Neville Gorrie’s Mattjestic Rebeck, the level at the lab was lower. Keast said it was with some trepidation that he took Wally’s Girl to Addington to race last Friday night. He had made sure she was well hydrated, as advised by his experts, but had had no time to guard against another factor which he believed caused the high level. ‘‘I don’t want to say too much about it yet – we’re pretty sure we know but being able to prove it is another thing.’’ Keast said he had set the mare for the Golden Girls Final and, knowing he would lose his heat win at Timaru, he had to line up at Addington. Wally’s Girl tested at 33 and 30, but Keast said he had no idea what that would translate to in the lab. ‘‘When they turned up last week and tested her resting in the paddock, she was 32, yet the lab recording was 35.1. Keast said Wally’s Girl, while excitable, was nowhere near as bad as Gorrie’s horse Mattjestic Rebeck. ‘‘I’ve known Neville for years and there’s no way he’s done anything. ‘‘If they’d gone to Neville and said you were 35 on the first day and we’re going to test you again, he could have scratched and taken his horse home to check it out.’’ That’s exactly what Gorrie says he would have done. He’s even too frightened to race the horse again, until he gets to the bottom of it. ‘‘I haven’t worked the horse for a couple of weeks and I didn’t eat for a week worrying about this,’’ Gorrie said. ‘‘Everyone around here knows I’m not a drugs cheat. I can swear to God I’ve done nothing.’’ Gorrie, who has pottered round with horses for nearly 30 years, but officially trained for only the last five,  says he took extra precautions on the second day at Marlborough. ‘‘My horse gets really wound up and sweats excessively and after he got really worked up on the first day I put him into a wee pen, and geared him up at the last minute to keep him calm as long as possible.’’ It made no difference. Mattjestic Rebeck tested 37 on the iSTAT and was confirmed at 36.3 in the lab. Keast said advice from experts he had consulted was that the vials of blood should be put on ice when  transported to the laboratory. Star-Times investigations suggest that is not done.  While samples are kept in fridges on racedays, and stored in fridges at the homes of  stewards before being couriered  to labs, they travel in normal packaging.    HIGH BICARBS A WORRY BUT NO NEED TO PANIC, SAY INDUSTRY REGULATORS INITIAL INVESTIGATIONS by the Racing Integrity Unit have found no common denominator among the three horses who have tested positive to bicarbonate in recent weeks. And, while Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Edward Rennell says it is concerning, there are no alarm bells going off just yet at harness headquarters in Christchurch. RIU general manager Mike Godber said while five recent caffeine positives in greyhounds have been traced to the Australian product Canine EPO, no feed additive had been implicated in the harness code so far. ‘‘Sometimes there is no pattern to these things. In the first six months of the RIU in 2011 there were 16 positives. In the next 12 months there were only eight. ‘‘It would be nice not to have more than one or two a year but there is nothing particularly out of the ordinary here.’’ The last person charged under the bicarbonate rule was Peter Scaife, who was fined $2000 after Innes Lad tested positive at 37.2 when 10th at Manawatu in February, 2012. During the case one scientific paper referred to said with a bicarb level of 37, the chance of an innocent trainer being convicted was less than two million to one. An appeal by the RIU that the penalty was inadequate, and Scaife should be disqualified for four months, was dismissed. Godber said the three recent positives were the first since the hand-held unit was introduced little more than 12 months ago. Between 2500 and 3000 bicarb tests were done in a year in the harness code and up to 1000 a year in thoroughbreds, on top of 9000 urine tests in all three codes. While it was originally proposed that trainers would be given the option to scratch their horses after a high iSTAT test, Godber said that was when it was believed the hand-held units would be calibrated the same as those in the laboratory. Experience since, both here and in Australia,  had shown levels could be significantly different, and New Zealand had followed the Australians in deciding not to charge trainers on the first screening test. ‘‘But giving trainers the option of scratching is something we will now consider as part of these investigations.’’ Meanwhile, Rennell reported that, after a review of the bicarbonate statistics, which showed an average level of 30.7 mmol/l over the last 12 years, the board decided last week not to tamper with the present threshold level of 35. It had been proposed that New Zealand raise the level to 36 to come into line with the international standard, but the board believed the present level sent the right signals to the industry. Godber said to his knowledge no trainer had been charged anyway under a level of 36.2, because of an inbuilt margin of error. Under HRNZ guidelines on graduated penalties for TCO2 offences, levels between 36.2 and 37.2 can be expected to incur a fine of $500; between 37.3 and 38.5 it rises to $2000 and/or a suspension of three months; and for levels above 38.5 a fine of $5000 and/or disqualification of up to six months. JULY 22: GORRIE FRIGHTENED TO RACE HIS HORSE AGAIN Rangiora hobby trainer Neville Gorrie is too frightened to race his horse again until he can solve the riddle of how it came to return a high bicarbonate test - and he says a harsh penalty could be enough to see him give the game away. Gorrie is one of three trainers whose horses have tested high in three successive weeks in Canterbury, his pacer Mattjestic Rebeck returning a level of 36.3mmol/litre before running third at Blenheim on June 23. The Sunday Star-Times revealed the Racing Integrity Unit is also investigating high bicarb tests from horses trained by fellow Canterbury trainers Gavin Cook and Jamie Keast at the two following Sunday meetings at Rangiora and Timaru. But while Harness Racing New Zealand is concerned at the spate of high bicarbs, after the practice of milkshaking almost brought harness racing to its knees in the 1990s, it says it is too soon to conclude the problem has resurfaced. Cook, one of the country’s most respected amateur drivers, and a former world champion, said he now understood the plight of previous trainers who had sworn their innocence and he categorically denied giving Valhalla anything when he ran last at Rangiora.  Keast has serious concerns over the validity of the testing, given the second test from his mare Wally’s Girl at Timaru fell to 34 on the RIU’s hand held device but when it was retested at the laboratory had somehow jumped to 37. Gorrie says he is determined to get to the bottom of why his seven start maiden tested high on both days at the Marlborough meeting, narrowly escaping breaking the threshold twice.  ‘‘I haven’t worked the horse for a couple of weeks and I didn’t eat for a week worrying about this,’’ Gorrie said. ‘‘Everyone around here knows I’m not a drugs cheat. I can swear to God I’ve done nothing.’’ Gorrie, who has pottered round with horses he breeds for nearly 30 years, but officially trained for only the last five, bagging two winners, says he took extra precautions on the second day of the Marlborough meeting after his horse’s level was raised when second on the opening day. ‘‘My horse gets really wound up and sweats excessively - he’s completely different from any of the hundreds of horses I’ve worked with in lots of leading stables. ‘‘The sweat used to drip off him. He has got better but after he got really worked up on the first day I put him into a wee pen on the second day and geared him up at the last minute to keep him calm as long as possible. ‘‘The first test they took at 10.30am on the second day came back 35 and they took another one just before the race which was 37 on the hand held machine.’’ But Gorrie said, like Cook with his own horse nervous horse Valhalla, he was never told the levels on the day or given the option of scratching Mattjestic Rebeck. When the hand held i-STAT device was introduced a little more than 12 months ago, the then RIU boss Cameron George declared its great benefit was trainers could be given the choice of pulling their horses out, thus protecting punters. Gorrie said after the high level was reported the next week, he removed all the salts from his feed and gave the horse only hard feed for the next five days. ‘‘I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be the salts though. Even though I mix my own I had them tested by my vet a couple of years ago and they were fine.’’ When Mattjestic Rebeck was taken across the road to the Rangiora course and tested again, after nearly a week on plain feed. his levels were consistently high at 35 and 36. Because the horse was sweating badly again, Gorrie was told to take him home where he still tested at 35. Gorrie then asked the RIU to take the horse away and conduct more tests, and a week later the levels fluctuated between 32 and 35, he said. Gorrie said he knew RIU officials had interviewed his Marlborough driver Jamie Keast, whose own horse Wally’s Girl tested high when winning two weeks later at Timaru. ‘‘But Jamie had nothing to do with my horse up there, I know he never touched him.’’ Gorrie said he’d since heard of another frustrated trainer who had shot two horses who were returning high levels. Another trainer had advised him to try giving his horse two preliminaries to calm him down on raceday. ‘‘But you couldn’t do that with this horse. A woman I know has a natural herbal product I’m going to try but I can’t race him if his levels might still be high.’’ Gorrie said in researching previous bicarb cases he’d discovered one judge described how the system would inevitably catch a few innocent trainers whose horses’ bicarb levels fell outside the bell curve normal distribution of the horse population. Gorrie says that isn’t  fair and if the fine comes to several thousand dollars as was now being suggested, ‘‘that will tip me over the edge.’’ RIU general manager Mike Godber said the three recent bicarb positives were the first since the hand held unit was introduced a little more than 12 months ago. While it was originally proposed that trainers would be given the option to scratch their horses after a high iSTAT test, Godber said that was when it was believed the hand held units would be calibrated the same as those in the laboratory. Experience since both here and in Australia  had shown levels could be significantly different and New Zealand had followed the Australians in deciding not to charge trainers on the first screening test. ‘‘But giving trainers the option of scratching is something we will now consider as part of these investigations.’’ by Barry Lichter (SUNDAY STAR TIMES)

The New Zealand Racing Laboratory Services has advised the Racing Integrity Unit of an elevated TCO2 result from the blood sample taken from the horse Wally’s Girl following its win in Race 6, the Breeder’s Golden Girls Mobile Trot at the Timaru Harness Racing Club’s meeting on Sunday 7 July 2013. Wally’s Girl is trained by Mr J T Keast & Ms H Westrum. Wally's Girl's high TCO2 is the third in the last month, the first was the Neville Gorrie trained Mattjestic Rebeck who return one when finishing third at Blenhiem on the 27th of June while the Gavin Cook trained Valhalla also returned an elevated level when unplaced at Rangiora on the 30th of June. RIU Officials are conducting inquiries into all three cases.  

The defending harness racing NZ Amateur Champion, Jeff Darby, leads the 2013 competition after the first two heats of competition at Addington last night.

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