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Junior Driver Todd Quate has been suspended for failing to take reasonable and permissible measures to ensure a horse he was driving was given every opportunity to obtain the best possible finishing position. The suspension relates to his drive on Four Starzzz Shiraz at Rangiora on the 23rd July 2017. Quate was suspended for 10 meetings meaning he will be out until after the Methven meeting on Sunday 15 October. Decision of Appeals Tribunal Appeals Tribunal: Alan Harper (Chair) Bryan Scott Dave Anderson Present: Shane Renault – Stipendiary Steward Todd Quate – Respondent Tim Williams – Assisting Mr Quate Nick Ydgren – Registrar Heard at Christchurch on 13 September 2017. Decision given on 13 September 2017. Written decision issued 18 September 2017. 1. Introduction 1.1 On 23 July 2017 the Rangiora Harness Racing Club conducted a meeting at the Rangiora Racecourse. Race 3 was the Kaiapoi Claimers Mobile Pace. Four Starzzz Shiraz started in the event and was driven by the Respondent Mr Quate. The horse finished third of eight. 1.2 Following this race the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) opened an enquiry into the drive of Mr Quate and ultimately laid a charge under Rule 868(2) of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. That rule reads: “Every horseman shall take all reasonable and permissible measures at all times during the race to ensure that his horse is given full opportunity to win the race or to obtain the best possible position and/or finishing place.” 1.3 The hearing of the charge was adjourned and ultimately heard by the Judicial Committee on 30 July 2017. 1.4 Rather unusually the Judicial Committee was unable to agree. In its decision the Chair indicated he would have found the charge proved where-as the other Member did not agree with that. 1.5 Because the Judicial Committee were unable to agree it quite properly then ruled the charge to be not proven and therefore dismissed. 1.6 The RIU appeals that finding. 2. The Appeal 2.1 The provision for Appeals is set out in Rules 1202-1207 of the Rules. Rule 1206 directs the Appeal Tribunal to schedule 5 of the Rules. Clauses 47-53 describe the procedure and in particular clause 44 which directs the Appeal to be heard by way of a rehearing unless the Tribunal directs otherwise. 2.2 Prior to commencing the Appeal Tribunal wished to be satisfied Messrs Quate and Williams properly understood how the appeal by way of rehearing was to be conducted. 2.3 We then carefully detailed the actual rehearing procedure to satisfy ourselves they were both fully conversant with the procedure. 2.4 It is necessary for the Appeal Tribunal to form its own decision on the matters placed before it and apply a standard of proof which takes into account the degree of seriousness of the charge. 3. The Position of RIU 3.1 Mr Renault on behalf of the Appellant being the RIU largely repeated the submissions which were made to the Judicial Committee at the hearing. Those submissions were in writing. 3.2 Mr Renault also added further submissions dealing particularly with comments made by the Member of the Judicial Committee who disagreed with the position of the Chair. 3.3 The race was over 2000m. Four Starzzz Shiraz drew number seven. After the start it took up a position being one out and four back. Immediately ahead of Four Starzzz Shiraz was Alexy and immediately behind Four Starzzz Shiraz was Bevans Cullen. The positions remained substantially unaltered until approximately 500m out when Bevans Cullen commenced a run to improve on the outside of Four Starzzz Shiraz. It was able to continue this run until it had moved past Four Starzzz Shiraz which was then unable to obtain clear running room from behind Alexy until well down the straight. 3.4 The concern of RIU was Mr Quate did not take steps to move Four Starzzz Shiraz from behind Alexy and into clear running once Bevans Cullen had started to make its run. 3.5 We viewed the films which had been shown to the Judicial Committee on the day. These films included a number of angles at the Rangiora Meeting and also at the previous start of Four Starzzz Shiraz which was at Forbury Park. 3.6 Mr Renault made reference to the case HRNZ V H (2005) where it was stated: “The Rule requires both a demonstration of tactics which can by objective standards be said to be both reasonable and permissible. Those have to be tactics which can be seen not only by the Stipendiary Stewards but also those present at the race track and in particular the betting public to be tactics which are designed to give the horse every chance to finish in the best possible position that it can. The informant does not have to prove any deliberate attempt not to win the race. There may be circumstances in which a drivers manner of driving may amount merely to a permissible error of tactics but where that error of tactics amounts to bad judgement that results in disadvantage to his horse then such manner of driving falls within the terms of the Rule.” 3.7 We were also referred to comments made by Justice WR Haylen in a decision of Harness Racing Appeals Tribunal on 20 May 2009 where he stated: “Perhaps to throw my own interpretation into the mix I might view it this way – that the sort of culpable action that is required to amount to a breach of this rule might be such that in normal circumstances a reasonable and knowledgeable harness race spectator might be expected to exclaim with words to the effect “what on earth is he doing” or “my goodness look at that”.” 3.8 It was the submission of RIU that once Bevans Cullen commenced to move to the outside of Four Starzzz Shiraz then Mr Quate should have moved out to give his horse clear racing room and also to force Bevans Cullen who was a favoured runner in the race over more ground. 3.9 The RIU also emphasised this was not the matter of a split second decision but took place over a period of time. In their submission Mr Quate had driven for luck. It was a conscious decision made by Mr Quate to remain in the position he was in. The submission was made that the comments which were made by Justice WR Haylen would be applicable in this scenario. Any reasonable and knowledgeable racing spectator would have been thinking exactly along the lines of those words. In other words “what on earth is he doing and how has he ended up in that position.” 3.10 It was submitted a reasonable and knowledgeable spectator would not be able to understand how Four Starzzz Shiraz was travelling in front of Bevans Cullen and over a period of approximately 200m became not only behind that runner but also to its inside without the benefit of a clear run. 3.11 Emphasis was made that the Rule does not seek to punish mere errors of judgement during the Race but it does require a drivers conduct to be culpable if it is found to be blame worthy. 3.12 During the course of the Judicial Committee hearing Mr Quate was assisted by Mr Williamson who rather tellingly stated on two occasions if he had been driving Four Starzzz Shiraz he definitely would have moved out at the point when Bevans Cullen commenced to make its move. It has to be said these comments were somewhat unhelpful to Mr Quate. 4. The Position of the Respondent 4.1 When questioned regarding his drive Mr Quate stated “Amber instructed me to drive the horse with a sit and hold it up for as long as possible as it only has a 150m sprint.” 4.2 The reference to Amber is to Amber Hoffman who is the licensed trainer of Four Starzzz Shiraz. 4.3 It is well established that strict following of riding or driving instructions from a trainer to either a jockey or a driver does not excuse actions which would constitute a breach of the Rules. 4.4 We were referred to a decision of the Harness Racing Appeals Tribunal on 29 September 2004 where his Honour Judge Thorley stated: “Whilst the evidence of any such driving instruction is relevant and plays an evidential part in the consideration of whatever charge is at stake the existence of any such driving instruction does not detract from the obligation which the Rule places on the driver.” 4.5 In considering those comments the RIU had viewed the race at Forbury Park which was the previous race for Four Starzzz Shiraz. The horse had commenced a run from the rear of the field from the 600m mark and had continued its run to the finish for fourth placing although well behind the third place getter. 4.6 It was the submission of Mr Williamson which had found favour with the Member of the Judicial Committee that although Four Starzzz Shiraz had been held up during the early part of the run home it would not have won the race as the horse came to the end of its run some 50-75m short of the winning post and really battled from there. There were also some comments regarding the characteristics of the horse which have little relevance as we are here to judge the actions of the driver not the racing performance of Four Starzzz Shiraz. 5. Discussion 5.1 This Appeals Tribunal had little difficulty in agreeing with the submission made by the RIU being the Appellant. We easily formed the view Mr Quate had displayed very poor judgement in not moving out from behind Alexy once Bevans Cullen commenced its run. 5.2 Despite the driving instructions to Mr Quate he could have simply moved Four Starzzz Shiraz into a position where there was a clear run to the line. He could have held the horse up until the point when he had been instructed to move. That would have been at the 150m mark. 5.3 Instead he did not assess the situation correctly and found himself held up behind Alexy until another horse to the inside commenced to give ground and gave space to Four Starzzz Shiraz. 5.4 The opportunity to shift was available for approximately 200m. He not only lost the opportunity for his own horse to have a clear run to the line but also the opportunity to shift a favoured competitor wider. 5.5 We concur with the submission the Rule does not seek to impose sanctions on someone who simply makes an error of judgement when making a split second call which inevitably arises on all race tracks. 5.6 This is a situation where there was the opportunity to make a decision over a period of time and in not taking up that opportunity Mr Quate displayed poor judgement. 5.7 All forms of racing rely on the support of the betting public. This drive would fall foul of the comments made in the two cases referred to earlier in this decision. We do not believe Mr Quate gave Four Starzzz Shiraz every chance to finish in the best possible position. That is not to say Four Starzzz Shiraz would have beaten Alexy but simply he did not give the horse the best possible opportunity he could. The Tribunal agrees with the submission made by RIU that Mr Quate simply followed his driving instructions without exercising his own judgement when circumstances required and in doing so put the chances of Four Starzzz Shiraz to luck. 5.8 That is not acceptable in terms of the Rule. 6. Decision 6.1 We therefore had little difficulty in finding the elements of the Rule to be proven and therefore the Appeal is allowed. Mr Quate is therefore guilty of the charge of a breach of Rule 868(2) with the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. 7. Penalty 7.1 Mr Renault addressed us on penalty. The starting point for breach of this Rule under the Penalty Guide is 15 drives or $750.00. Mr Quate had previously breached this rule on 28 March 2016 where he had been suspended for one month and fined $350.00. 7.2 However given that was in excess of a year ago we consider that to be neutral. 7.3 There were no mitigating factors and the level of breach was at the mid to high end level. 7.4 Last season Mr Quate relocated from Canterbury to Otago. Although he will primarily drive in the Otago and Southland areas from that base he has driven in the Canterbury area on three occasions during this season. However as the Otago Southland racing is really only commencing for this season he has only driven on seven occasions to date this season. 7.5 Given there is no level of mitigation and the breach is at the mid to high level we consider an uplift to 10 days suspension to be appropriate. Although based in the Otago Southland area Mr Quate has driven in the Canterbury area and therefore we apply that suspension to South Island meetings. 7.6 Mr Quate advised us he has driving commitments at the Methven meeting on 17 September 2017. We therefore agree to a deferment to allow him to take those drives and therefore he will be suspended from the conclusion of racing on 17 September 2017 up to and including Sunday 15 October 2017. 7.7 For the purposes of clarity this suspension entails:  Saturday 23 September at Invercargill.  Sunday 24 September at Oamaru.  Thursday 28 September at Winton.  Friday 29 September at Addington.  Sunday 1 October at Motukarara.  Saturday 7 October at Invercargill.  Sunday 8 October at Timaru.  Thursday 12 October at Addington.  Saturday 14 October at Gore.  Sunday 15 October at Methven. 8. Costs 8.1 The RIU did not make any application for costs. 8.2 In the circumstances it is inappropriate for any costs to be awarded in favour of JCA. 8.3 There is therefore no order as to costs. Dated:  18 September 2017   Harnesslink Media

The Judicial Control Authority(JCA) have been forced to backtrack on their decision to ban amateur harness racing driver Ray Reekie for two and a half years.  Stewards issued him a charge under Rule 869(3)(g) in that he drove in a manner capable of diminishing Zakspatrol's chance of winning a race at Addington last Saturday and the JCA subsequently suspended Reekie's Amateur Horseman's licence from the conclusion of racing that day up to and including 15th March 2020, a period of 2 1/2 years. Chief harness stipendiary steward Nick Ydgren spoke to Harnesslink today and said, "Ray is no longer suspended and that his previous penalty has been cancelled." Ydgren said "there has been a new penalty hearing set down for the 29th September 2017, just before the first race at Addington that night" “His 30-month suspension was not valid in my opinion which is why I applied to the JCA to get a new penalty hearing to be held" Reekie has won twelve races as an amateur driver from one hundred and nine amateur drives over a ten year period. He is known for going for a forward position in the races he drives in. Harnesslink has had a lot of feedback in support of Ray and most people were both saddened and outraged at the severity of the first penalty handed out.    Harnesslink Media  

It is really frustrating at times to be involved in harness racing. You spend the whole year trying to build up the image of harness racing with the wider community and then a couple of misguided articles go viral and the industry has to put up with the media circus that has been the Blair Orange saga over the last few days. Blair made a misjudgement on New Years Day and has paid dearly for it. The upside is he has been dealt with by both the RIU and the JCA involved in this case in a professional and competent manner. All the others tested that day had been out the night before in the same group as Blair which they see as a bit strange as the testing is meant to be random. They all tested negative except Blair due in no small part in to the fact he is barely 60 kg in the view of those drinking with him. Blair has done what he did on New Years day countless times before and has always come up negative when tested the next day. He was as shocked as anyone else by the reading he returned at Omakau. The coverage given the matter by the main stream media is not something they should be proud of. It turned a mistake by one of our leading reinsman into a media storm which became the second leading item on both the TV1 and TV3 news that night. The tone of the items was very negative and did a lot of damage to the image of harness racing. Yesterday they had a second bite of the cherry, again raking over the coals of the case after a couple of follow up articles in the main stream media about the case. All of those articles were written by Taylor Strong, a vastly experienced journalist but in this instance he seems to have completely lost his bearings. Apart from a few comments recorded second hand at the penalty hearing, there is no where in the articles that Taylor Strong had written, any comment from either Blair Orange or anyone else associated with him. Two of the articles gave the distinct impression this was a serious judicial matter when in reality it is not classified as a serious racing offence by the RIU or JCA. Impartiality is the cornerstone of being a journalist and Taylor Strong's effort here falls well short of what is expected.  Sensational headlines like "Failed breath test lands Orange in hot water" just added petrol to the fire and are unworthy of such an experienced journalist. As in all cases such as this there is no free lunch. Taylor Strong needs drivers, trainers and owners to trust him when they speak to him and his performance over the last few days has put a huge question mark beside his name according to the people we have spoken to in the last 48 hours. He has a lot of bridges to mend in the next few weeks or he may find himself interviewing his typewriter a lot more in the near future. JC  

The uproar caused by the decision in the Tim Williams case seems to have even penetrated the concrete bunker that acts as the JCA's headquarters. Today an appeal committee of the JCA varied the penalty imposed on Tim at the original hearing. Tim's appeal was based around the severity of the original penalty he was given which would have seen him miss out on several lucrative drives throughout the Auckland Cup meeting including the plum drive on Have Faith In Me in the Auckland Cup. To say the JCA have recognized that they made a mistake would be going a bit too far but they have changed the penalty to a one meeting suspension plus a fine of $750:00. As a result Tim is now available to drive at the Auckland Trotting Club's big Premier meeting of the year on December 31st where he he will have an opportunity to win back the fine he now has to pay. Tim was happy with the outcome when we spoke with him this afternoon. " I still think it is harsh when you take everything into consideration but it is over now and I can move on." " I am looking forward to getting back to driving on the 31st and hopefully earning enough to pay the fine they gave me this afternoon." " I would like to thank everyone who have given me so much support over the last two weeks," Tim said. Even though the situation with Tim has now been dealt with, there is still the matter of how we got here in the first place. The JCA has dropped the ball badly in two prominent cases in the last two months. If they were to do so again during the upcoming holiday period then maybe the people needing a spell on the sidelines here are those in charge of the judicial process. Harnesslink Media

Since last Friday night and the Summer Cup at Alexandra Park, there has been a cacophony of abuse and vitriol directed at young reinsman Tim Williams for his drive on Have Faith In Me in that race. Plenty of journalists, bloggers and media people have got stuck in and demanded blood. Just about all of the people leading the charge are noted serious punters and in our view it calls into question their objectivity when they are gambling on the races they are commenting and writing on. Gambling losses are known to distort one's viewpoint and in our view that has driven a lot of the vitriol in this case. We like to think of them as "Turf Digest" drivers and treat their views accordingly. The stewards laid a charge under rule 868(2) and the JCA agreed with the stewards. The following extract from the stewards report explains the situation. An information was lodged alleging that driver T. Williams was in breach of Rule 868(2) in that he failed to take all reasonable and permissible measures between 1400 metres and 1100 metres to ensure that HAVE FAITH IN ME was given full opportunity to win the race or to obtain the best possible position and/or finishing place by failing to shift out from the marker line before being covered by BETTOR DREAM. After hearing the relative evidence and viewing the replays the J.C.A. upheld the charge and imposed a suspension of Mr William's driver's licence up to and including 31st December 2015. So when you take all of this into account, the JCA and the stewards are saying a driver must move off the inner if able to do so, if he is to give his horse every chance to win the race Tim had an opportunity for 300 metres to come out and sit parked but he decided he had  more chance of winning the race by staying where he was. The stable had stated several times pre race in both the print media and on Trackside that Have Faith In Me was liable to end up three back on the inner and if that happened, he would be driven for luck as it was his first run for a month Tim was driving a horse who had run a half in 52.5 at Ashburton off a soft trip so chose the short way home because he believed that still gave Have Faith In Me a winning chance. Would he have won the race sitting parked? Highly debatable when you have a talent such as Hughie Green having a charmed run in front.  Hughie Green brushed home in 55.8 and 26.9 without being seriously asked for an effort so Have Faith In Me would have had to produce a career best performance to get close from the parked out position. As it was, Have Faith In Me got a half gap on the inner which would have made the race very interesting but the gap shut just as quickly as it opened. Would Tim have still been charged if that gap had stayed open and Have Faith In Me had roared home late? In our opinion there is no way that Tim would have been charged if he had got that gap What that decision from Friday night should do is create a huge rod for the stewards back. Following the logic of the decision by the JCA, every well supported horse is now obliged to come off the marker line as soon as possible and a failure to do so should result in the driver getting a holiday. Will that happen - NO So the stewards have chosen to target Tim Williams for not coming off the marker line but have turned a blind eye to the numerous other times it happens at every meeting in New Zealand. And then don't start us on the inconsistencies of the penalties handed out in New Zealand. Zac Butcher gets fined $800 for deliberately breaking the rules and ruining Mossdale Conner's winning chance in the Group 1 $250,000 New Zealand Free For All and Tim Williams gets stood down for 12 racing days for not coming off the marker line. The monetary loss to Tim Williams here is huge and seems completely over the top in our opinion. The only disappointing thing for us is Tim after consultation with Mark and Natalie has decided not to appeal For the RIU- JCA system to work, the people working in the industry must have faith that the two bodies overseeing them are competent and independent. When members of the JCA state in decisions that draging a flat tyre for 250 metres doesn't affect a horse's performance as they did in the NZFFA case, their competence is immediately called into question. Now we have them trying to second guess the best way to drive a horse.   The whole judicial system looks fragmented and disjointed from the outside but the good ship JCA Titanic sails on regardless. Harnesslink Media

Just recently, we applauded the JCA for the manner in which they had handled the Kevin Morton 'race cafe' case and how they had enhanced their reputation in doing so. Unfortunately within a few weeks they have had a shocker with the Zac Butcher case in the New Zealand Free For All during Cup Week. The reasoning that the two JCA representatives Mr Jackson and Mr Knowles put forward for their decision in this case shows a complete lack of knowledge and understanding of harness racing. The case revolves around Zac Butcher puncturing the tyre of Mossdale Conner when he went inside the markers before the passing lane in the $250,000 NZFFA. Ricky May was furious post race, stating that Zac had tried to get inside Mossdale Conner before the passing lane was available and in doing so had punctured his trye, costing Mossdale Conner the win. But Mr Jackson and Mr Knowles were firmly of the view that Mossdale Conner's winning chances weren't affected as the hearing transcript shows. "Given the performance of ‘Mossdale Conner’ in the final 250m of the race, it is not clear that that horse demonstrably suffered as a result of the flat tyre." "It cannot be said that the horse would have won the race but for the flat tyre." "On the contrary, after the interference ‘Mossdale Conner’ appeared to continue on with a strong run and was only beaten within metres of the winning post by a fast finishing ‘Tiger Tara’. The margin was a nose." So in the minds of Mr Jackson and Mr Knowles, Mossdale Conner drags a flat tyre for 275 metres and he didn't have his winning chances affected due to the flat tyre. The reality is there is absolutely no doubt at all that the flat tyre cost Mossdale Conner the win. That they think otherwise is to show a complete lack of knowledge and understanding on behalf of Mr Jackson and Mr Knowles of the industry they are meant to be policing. But it gets worse when the two gentlemen come to the penalty for this offence. The starting point for careless driving in a major race is suspension. How long that suspension is should be determined by the circumstances of each case. In this instance Mr Ydgren for the plaintiff suggested a starting point of 3-4 days. Mr Lawson on behalf of Zac Butcher suggested three days or two days and a small fine so he could fulfill commitments he had in upcoming weeks. But Mr Jackson and Mr Knowles ignored those guidelines and imposed an $800 fine instead. So not only have Mr Jackson and Mr Knowles completely misread the impact the punctured tyre has had on the chances of Mossdale Conner, they have then gone outside their own guidelines when it comes to penalty.  Their reasoning is as follows. "However, the committee is of the view that to suspend Mr Z Butcher for this careless driving would be a disproportionate response to his actual culpability and taking into account the overall circumstances, Mr Butcher’s very good record and the practical difficulties in suspending him as outlined by Mr Lawson on his behalf the committee is of the view that he can be dealt with by way of fine." Now contrary to what the two gentlemen say above, Zac has a bit of form when it comes to stepping outside of the rules in big races. Last December Zac pushed The Orange Agent out with over 1000 metres to go in the $138,000 Sires Stakes Final at Alexandra Park which tookThe Orange Agent right out of the race which Zac went onto win with Democrat Party. It cost the betting public a small fortune as The Orange Agent was a hot favourite that day. For that offence Zac was fined the princely sum of $300 which caused an uproar at the time. Now Zac has done it again and he has escaped very lightly once again. There are consequences for drivers and trainers when they get things wrong on raceday. What are the consequences for Mr Jackson and Mr Knowles, when in a case such as this one they got it so terribly wrong. Harnesslink Media.

Pukekohe harness trainer Andrew Grant is likely to retain his trainer's licence after having a serious drugs charge downgraded. Grant was to face a charge of drug administration but it was downgraded by the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) immediately before a Judicial Control Authority (JCA) hearing in Auckland on Thursday. When new information came to light proceeding the hearing, the RIU and council for Grant mutually agreed the charges be downgraded to the lesser charge of failing to present a horse free of prohibited substances which Grant was prepared to plead guilty to. Pukekohe trainer Alan Lynch was disqualified for four years back in October after being found guilty on three charges of administration for Aminorex. Pukekohe trainer Alan Lynch was disqualified for four years back in October after being found guilty on three charges of administration for Aminorex. Details of the new evidence will remain murky until the JCA release their full decision, which is likely to come in around two weeks when it hands down its penalty with all parties having the opportunity to make submissions. A fine is likely. Grant was initially charged with drug administration for Aminorex after a trotter he trains and co-owns, Majestic One, returned a positive swab for the substance - that is similar to methamphetamine - in a post-race swab after a two and a quarter length victory at Alexandra Park on July 3. The victory was the only win for the now 5-year-old mare in her seven starts. Fellow Pukekohe trainer Alan Lynch, who was charged by the RIU at the same time as Grant (August 3), for three counts of administration for Aminorex, was disqualified for four years last month. Both trainers are believed to have given their horses the worming drench Scanda, which contains Levamisole and is commonly used for sheep, pigs and cattle. While Levamisole is itself not a banned substance, it breaks down into Aminorex, a class one drug similar to methamphetamine. Over the three charges Lynch was disqualified for 15 months, two years and six months and four years but the JCA ruled that the three penalties are to be served concurrently. Had Grant been found guilty to drug administration, he could have been banned for any period up to and including a life ban. In simple terms, drug administration carries much higher penalties than the lesser charge Grant plead guilty to because it proves the drug was administered by the person charged rather than it inadvertently being found in the horses system by unknown causes. A JCA document that outlines the decision into Lynch's disqualification stated his trotter This Sky Rox returned three positives for Aminorex in post race swabs at Alexandra Park on June 12, 19 and July 10. Lynch did not admit the breaches, but did confirm he accepted swabbing procedures and the results of analysis carried out on post-race urine samples taken from This Sky Rox. At his hearing, Lynch offered several explanations as to how the substance may have inadvertently found its way into This Sky Rox's system but the RIU said it was highly likely Lynch administered Scanda within 24 hours of racing on all three occasions. RIU manager of integrity and assurance Neil Grimstone described Lynch's explanations as fanciful and contrary to evidence given by Dr Andrew Grierson, chief veterinarian for Harness Racing New Zealand. Grimstone said Lynch's explanations around the timing of administration were highly unreliable and had likely been manufactured by Lynch to suit his predicament. This Sky Rox was a race winner on June 19 but was later disqualified from all three races and connections forced to return stakes. Majestic One will be disqualified from her race win with connections forced to forfeit the winning stakes. It is the second time Lynch, 48, has been caught using the drench. In August, 2012, only three months after being licensed in Queensland, a winner he trained at Albion Park, Hitemup, tested positive to Levamisole and Aminorex. He pleaded guilty and was banned for six months. Mat Kermeen Reproduced with permission of Stuff NZ   -   Check site here

Harness racing driver Mike Stratford is free to drive on Thursday night despite admitting possession of a modified whip containing a metal rod. The Judicial Control Authority's (JCA) decision confirms Stratford was found to be carrying a whip on track that had been modified to include a metal rod before the amateur drivers race at Addington last Friday night. In the document, co-chief stipendiary steward Nigel McIntyre revealed stewards "came across" Stratford's whip and removed it from him prior to the race start. Black insulation tape concealed a length of number 8 wire about 330 millimetres long. McIntyre said the addition of the wire on the end of the whip would obviously inflict "undue suffering" on a horse and could be seen as animal cruelty. The strengthened whip would be capable of inflicting a great deal more pain on a horse than a standard whip, McIntyre said. It was an "unbroken whip with a rod on it", he said. In his 12-year career as a steward, he could not recall a similar case. The JCA committee at the hearing were appalled any horseman would take such a whip onto the track. Stratford said he intended to carry the whip in the race but did not intend to use it. He was allowed to start the race with the Bruce Negus-trained Alexy and will be back in the sulky at Addington on Thursday night to drive a horse he trains himself, Oncewerechristians, in an amateur drivers race. The JCA issued Stratford with a $1000 fine but no suspension. At a hearing on Friday night, Stratford admitted the charge but denied knowing the whip was modified when he took it to the races. During the hearing, he acknowledged it felt heavier than a standard whip. The tape and rod was removed at the hearing and the whip appeared to be in good condition. Stratford said a former licensed driver, who had been working his horses, noticed that there was something wrong with the whip so he "strengthened it up" by putting a bit of wire in it and taping it up. He relied on the former horseman to know whether the modification was acceptable. McIntyre said Stratford could easily have replaced the whip, even on race night, rather than attempt to add a piece of wire to it and cover it with black tape to avoid detection by the stewards. Stratford has no prior charges for similar offending but the JCA said there was an aggravating factor of the whip being modified for no apparent reason. It also said it was difficult to accept Stratford's statement that he did not intend to use it. There was no suggestion Negus was aware of the modified whip and the JCA decision said Negus had told Stratford not to use a whip as the gelding, who has had 107 starts, did not benefit from being hit with the whip.  Mat Kermeen Reproduced with the permission of Stuff NZ    Check site here

The judicial system in harness racing in New Zealand is one of those creatures that attracts criticism from time to time when it is seen to do little about incidents sometimes while at other times appearing to be heavy handed in their decisions. It is a fine balancing act to try to be even handed and at the same time protect the all important image of the industry we are all involved in. The stewards have to rely on the JCA to get it right and when they don't everybody wears the blowback that follows. Most of the time you could argue they get it right but the volume of emails we have received since the final of the Sires Stakes final for 3 year old fillies at Auckland on New Year Eve would suggest that in relation to that particular race, the JCA have erred badly. When Maurice McKendry on The Orange Agent went to improve three wide 1200 metres out in that race, he did so in the knowledge that he couldn't be pushed out wider under the current rules until 1000 metres from the finish . What his move did do was flush Mark Purdon on Supersonic Miss out three wide in front of him at the 1150 metre mark which should have given Maurice a nice drag into the race. Instead Zac Butcher on Democrat Party  pushed him out four wide at that point and he got onto the back of Supersonic Miss instead of Maurice. Maurice had no option but to drop back but couldn't slot in as Fight For Glory had legally got on to the back of Democrat Party in the three wide line which meant while his opposition was going forward, Maurice was dragging The Orange Agent back so he could drop into the three wide line. With the last 800 metres off the front being run in 54.6 and the 400 metres in 27 flat, The Orange Agent was no chance to run in the money from the time she was pushed out four wide. Instead of being handy when the speed went on at the 800 metres,The Agent Orange was well back in the field and wide. As to be expected the siren went and the stewards looked at the video and applied the rules as they stand. With The Orange Agent finishing 5th some 12 lengths from the winner they were never going to be successful in having Democrat Party relegated before the JCA. They did however charge Zac Butcher under rule 869 and its various sub -sections in that between the 1100  metres and the 1000 metres he had pushed Maurice McKendry and The Orange Agent out four wide when not entitled to do so. Zac pleaded guilty before the JCA and was fined the sum of $350 - and that is what has so many of our emailers so upset. This was a Group 1 race worth $150,000 and is keenly sought after by owners of fillies for their resume later on. In this case The Orange Agent was the dominating favourite and basically had her chances extinguished when shunted out four wide by Zac Butcher on Democrat Party. The penalty must fit the offense in these cases and to fine someone $350 for breaking a longstanding rule in a $150,000 Group 1 race is manifestly inadequate. The owners and trainer have done nothing wrong and to penalize them in circumstances such as these would be wrong. But the driver is guilty in this instance of a major infraction of our rules and the penalty should have reflected that. The message that the $350 fine sends to all drivers in major races in New Zealand is that if you do happen to knock the favourite out of contention, the consequences are likely to be very minor. A more appropriate penalty in our view would have been a fine in line with the drivers percentage that Zac will receive for driving the winner. That would have sent a clear message that major infractions are going to have major consequences. Not that the stewards covered themselves in glory with the other issue raised by a lot of the people contacting us. Kate Perry drew barrier eight in the race and was sent forward bigtime to grab the lead after 200 metres and then refused to hand up to the favoured runner Classical Art for the next 400 metres as the two fillies drew clear in a lead time of 40.3. Natalie Rasmussen had an excuse on Classical Art as one of the deafeners had come out and she started to badly over race. Todd Mitchell on Kate Perry had no such excuse and having run her first 600 in 40.3 from barrier eight, she predictably started to give ground from the 700 metres mark, finishing last 47.4 metres from the winner. Kate Perry was no show of playing a part in the outcome of the race after 600 metres and that was due entirely to a miscalculation on Todd's behalf. The stewards inquired of Todd re Kate Perry's performance but accepted his explanation that she was disappointing. Surely he should have been charged with failing to give Kerry Perry every chance to win the race and their failure to even charge him has left a lot of industry insiders shaking their heads. We must add that this is not and should not be construed as an attack on either Zac Butcher or Todd Mitchell. They are both outstanding drivers but like all human beings they make mistakes occasionally. Like everyone else in the wider community you have to be accountable for your actions. What the stewards and the JCA have done on this occasion is badly let everybody else in the industry down. It is a bad look for harness racing when industry participants are either not charged or fined a miniscule amount for serious misjudgments. JC

The leading New Zealand jockey David Walker was today found guilty on the charges brought by the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) They claimed that Mr Walker placed bets on another horse to beat the horse he was riding in a head to head contest and then rode to ensure his horse was beaten. The charges were heard by the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), an independent statutory body established under the Racing Act. The JCA panel hearing the case were, Mr M McKechnie (Chairman) and Mr N McCutcheon. The JCA’s in its verdict disqualified Mr Walker for 7 years, and also charged him costs of  $ 3,000 ($1,500 to the JCA and $1,500 to the RIU). RIU General Manager Mike Godber said the RIU was very pleased with the result. “Mr Walker’s actions threatened the very fabric of NZ racing and the strong penalty applied by the JCA  panel sends a signal that the industry holds the integrity of racing at the highest priority.” “The message is clear, serious breaches such as this case will have severe consequences for those  involved.” “The Walker case serves to illustrate the effectiveness of the RIU’s systems of surveillance of racing and  betting and its investigation processes. These processes and the penalty imposed will act as a deterrent to anyone contemplating similar action Racing Inegrity Unit

Well known southern harness racing identity Donny McRae has copped a 12 month ban and a fine of $800 for his part in New Zealand's first case involving EPO to be heard before the Judicial Control Authority. Donny McRae supplied the EPO to Dunedin owner Calvin Fisher  who then passed it on to the Ashburton based thoroughbred trainer Len Faber, The three men became implicated in New Zealand's first suspected case of blood doping when a syringe of EPO was found during a raid on Faber's stables last September. Donny McRae, who held a trainers licence until 2011, is no longer actively involved in harness racing. He maintained he gave Calvin Fisher the EPO in the belief that it might be used to treat a horse that was unwell. New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing's chief vet Andrew Grierson said that internationally EPO had the highest possible classification as a class one drug and controlling bodies worldwide viewed it as a grave offence to even have EPO in your possession. The JCA said it must be plain for all to see in the industry, that there was no place for EPO whatever it's claimed medicinal qualities might be. The JCA recognised that there were differing levels of culpability between the three men involved but disqualification was appropriate in each case. Harnesslink Media 

A Canterbury trainer has been suspended for six months for breaching harness racing's drug rules - but under proposed changes future offenders could be banned for up to 10 years. Amberley based horseman Jamie Keast and his partner Henriette Westrum were outed for six months and fined $2000 after one of their horses, Westburn Creed, returned a high bicarbonate level at a Kaikoura race meeting last November. And while the level was just 0.2 above the permitted 36mmol/l, Judicial Control Authority committee chairman Geoff Hall said an aggravating factor was that it came just two weeks after they had been fined $2500 over another of their horses Wally's Girl recording a level of 37. It was Keast's third TCO2 charge, and Westrum's second, but Harness Racing New Zealand says it has no evidence that there is any resurgence in the practice of milkshaking which was the scourge of racing in the 1990s. Even though bicarbonate was found on Keast's property, his counsel Mary-Jane Thomas argued there was no evidence of  administration and the Racing Integrity Unit had been unable to determine the cause of the elevated level. She submitted Westburn Creed had been suffering from a respiratory problem, and that an obstruction in his nasal cavity could explain the elevated TCO2 level because it made it more difficult for the horse to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. But Christopher Lange for the RIU submitted the results indicated the TCO2 level became elevated during the period Keast and Westrum trained the horse - and reduced after it left their care. HRNZ will put a remit to the annual meeting of clubs next month that the threshold of 35 be raised to 36 (with a margin of error of one) to bring it into line with the thoroughbred code and overseas jurisdictions. That, says HRNZ chief executive Edward Rennell, will reduce the risk of a false positive from one in  15,973 to one in 2,021,729. The new level would, however, carry a significantly higher deterrent. First offenders would be disqualified for a minimum of two years, second offenders five years and third offenders 10 years. But Keast is against automatic minimum sentences - ''We reckon we're innocent and there have been a lot of other people crucified for this already.'' Courtesy of Barry Lichter Reprinted with permission from Fairfax media

In case you have not already signed up for Harnesslink’s great new newsletter called Insider Access, then here is your chance.  Just click here and within seconds you will be on track for the latest news in harness racing that you will not see or read about anywhere else, even on our own website. This past week’s newsletter contains the following feature stories: Somebeachsomewhere – It is becoming harder and harder to ignore the difference in performance that the sons and daughters of Somebeachsomewhere deliver in the Southern hemisphere compared to their record breaking feats in the Northern Hemisphere. What was the big rush at Pocono Downs Saturday? – Read about how great the Sun Stakes were at Pocono Downs this past weekend yet why did track management run the races off so fast like the building was on fire? Vindication regarding Arya disqualification? – The Judicial Control Authority in New Zealand now promises to do a thorough investigation into the questionable decision on Harness Jewels Day. How fast can Sebastian K really go? – The trotters in North American can no longer keep up with Sebastian K. What if the other top trotters from Europe were to come here and race? Grinfromeartoear Stallion Report/Review – Has he been as good in the sack as he was on the track? Don’t miss out on the next edition of Insider Access. The newsletter currently comes out every other Tuesday morning (North America), Tuesday afternoon (Europe) and Wednesday morning (Australasia).

Top harness racing horseman Mark Jones was confident Master Lavros would be declared Rowe Cup champion before entering the inquiry room at Alexandra Park, Auckland, on Friday, May 10. Dexter Dunn, driving runnerup Sheemon, put in a protest after Master Lavros drifted outwards under pressure in the run home, but there wasn’t enough in it to change the result. Mark says the professionalism of all participants in the inquiry was pleasing. “Not just because I won, but it was probably one of the best inquiries I’ve been involved with,” he said. “Everyone stuck to that facts. Dexter was very good. He never went out of his way to overturn it and Kevin Townley (Sheemon’s trainer) was extremely good.” Mark said John Muirhead (Stipendiary steward) was very good and fair with his interpretation of events. “He said Mr Jones had run out but has not made any contact and I cannot say that Mr Dunn would have beaten Mr Jones.” “I would have hated the backlash if we’d been put out,” Mark said after delivering with the $3 favourite. “I think Kevin Townley felt a bit bad about it, but you have to look at it from their situation. They’re doing their best to win the race too.” “Even before we went in there Kevin said I don’t want to protest and I don’t want to win a race like that.” Kypros Kotzikas, the owner of Master Lavros, was asked for his interpretation of events and according to Mark quite simply told the inquiry: “I don’t know why we are here. We did nothing wrong and did not interfere with that horse.” The Judicial Control Authority agreed the home straight movement wasn’t enough to change the placings, although they took $450 from Mark for allowing Master Lavros to shift outwards. Mark says there are adjustments to turn a trotter like Master Lavros around from racing left-handed at Addington, which he prefers, then rig him differently to race right-handed. Mark says Master Lavros was running on empty the final 100m in the Rowe, but when Sheemon challenged, he put his head down and toughed it out. “Probably six months ago he wouldn’t have done that,” he said. “All it boils down to is that good horses just want to do it.” Master Lavros, three back on the outer, zipped up a lap out and strode to the front at the 700m. He held the booming finish wide of Sheemon by a neck, trotting the 3200m in 4:06.4 (2:03.4 mile rate), the last 800m in 60.1s During the race, Mark says it was as good as Master Lavros had trotted. “During the running he felt a million dollars,” he said. Master Lavros had mixed his gait in the Greenlane Cup, and has also broken at other times during the season, but Mark says he can’t find anything wrong with him. “He has a few niggles but nothing that you could say is a problem. What probably makes things a lot worse is that mentally when he does make one mistake and gallops, he loses the plot.” He expects him to come back better at six and is looking forward to the horse proving himself in Australia. The Rowe win was very satisfying for Mark as a horseman, emulating father Peter, who drove Tussle to win the 1985 Rowe and 1986 Dominion, and also won the 1990 Dominion with Sundon. It also came as a bonus as it was a late decision to keep him going another month for the Rowe. He now heads to the spelling paddock the winner of 15 races from 31 starts for $351,468 in stakes. Mark, who was recording his 61st training win of the term in the Rowe, with the team earning over $680,000 in stakes, says the season had exceeded expectations. “We’ve probably won the right races with the right horses,” he said. “But it will probably be my best for a few years. Numbers-wise we’re way down,” he said. However, having a “flagship” horse and the raging favourite to be crowned NZ Trotter Of The Year, is the icing on the cake. “Cran (Dalgety, former boss) always said that. You can win 100 races in a season but no-one really remembers it unless you have a flagship horse that wins some big races.” Maximising their potential takes skill and management. Mark continues to make most of the right calls with Master Lavros and providing he stays sound, the huge Sundon gelding will cement his claim as NZ’s leading squaregaiter. By Jeff Scott (MARK JONES RACING)

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)

Trainers who innocently take a panadol on race night risk contaminating their horses and getting a positive swab under the racing industry's controversial super senstitive drug testing regime. That warning came after a judicial hearing in Auckland yesterday when it was revealed how Waikato pacer Precious Mach almost certainly came to test positive to the human pain medication Tramadol. Cambridge trainer Nicky Chilcott told how she was flabbergasted when told her pacer, after testing clear in New Zealand, was found on restesting in Hong Kong to be positive to her own back pain pills. The horse had not been treated for any injury before she won a race at Auckland on April 27, 2012, no equine preparation contained Tramadol, and her pills, kept only at her home and in her driving bag, had never been near the stable. But evidence was given that an infinitesmal amount of the drug most likely entered the horse's system when Chilcott put her hands in the horse's mouth to fix her tongue tie immediately before the race. And in supporting evidence from Kentucky authority Professor Thomas Tobin, it was revealed that contamination from human medication was an emerging problem worldwide - because of new, sophisticated testing - with most of the cases traced back to tongue ties. ''Never in a million years would you think you could do that,'' Chilcott said afterwards, relieved when told by Judicial Control Authority (JCA) committee chairman Geoff Hall that she faced only a fine, not a suspension or disqualification as had been sought by the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU). ''People must take open pills all the time at the races and this highlights how careful you have to be. I'm over the top now. I wash my hands every time after taking my pills.'' Chilcott told how she suffered from chronic back pain, couldn't get out of bed in the mornings without taking Tramadol, and 99 times out of 100 took some on racenight. The only logical explanation for the contamination on April 27 was that she inadvertently got some of the pills' contents on her hands from a damaged blister pack of  pills. ''I'm just so thankful that I took some of them back to the chemist or they'd have thought I was making up the story,'' Chilcott said. An affidavit from Duke St Chemist pharmacist Grant Clayton confirmed Chilcott returned a packet of damaged Tramadol capsules some time near the end of April. The foil was open and the contents of the decaying capsules exposed with the gelatin casing damaged either by water or heat. Chilcott's counsel Murray Branch told Hall and fellow JCA member Murray McKechnie that rather than the high degree of negligence argued by RIU lawyer Chris Lange, this was an outcome which could not reasonably have been anticipated. ''No one could ever have suspected that a drug used in humans could be transferred to a horse in this way. The New Zealand lab couldn't even pick it up. It was the minutest of traces,'' Branch said. Tobin's evidence said the 100 picograms per millilitre of the metabolite O-desmethyltramadol detected in Hong Kong was equivalent to one second in your life if you were 320 years old. One picogram is one part per trillion. ''To my knowledge it is the lowest concentration of O-desmethyltramadol ever reported in a horse. There is no possibility whatsoever of a pharmacological effect on the racing performance [of the horse].'' It was also 500 times less than the now well established 50 ng/ml cut-off point set by the British Horseracing Authority for morphine metabolites in urine. Tobin said, in another illustration of how tiny the amount detected was, airline pilots could legally fly with a cocaine concentration 1000 times higher than the Tramadol found in Hong Kong's exceptionally sensitive analysis. Tramadol was poorly absorbed orally in the horse (3 per cent) and experiments he and his colleagues at Michigan State University undertook showed no statistically significant changes at increasing doses. Harness Racing New Zealand veterinary consultant Andrew Grierson said while few studies had been done on Tramadol and it was not his field of expertise, he did not agree with some of Tobin's statements. It was impossible to tell from one urine sample, how much of the drug had been given to a horse. ''There is good evidence showing certain opioids of this group can have an excitement effect on horses at extremely low doses,'' he said. ''In my opinion it cannot be inferred that when a very low level is detected, it is not likely to have an effect.'' Chilcott pleaded guilty to breaching the prohibited substance rule after the RIU dropped the more serious charge of administration, Branch critical of that charge having being laid in the first place. ''There is not one scrap of evidence to support it,'' Branch said. Hall said he would quantify Chilcott's fine after submissions on costs at the end of next week. Courtesy of Barry  Lichter - © Fairfax NZ News  

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