“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof. – John Kenneth Galbraith The majority of race tracks are not populated by horses with the qualifications of Dortmund or California Chrome, or by trainers with the name recognition of Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert or Steve Asmussen. The base of the racing pyramid is built with horses named Grant or Get a Notion, animals that are kept in racing condition by trainers who toil in relative anonymity at tracks often ignored by the people who often forget racing occurs at places other than the cathedrals of the sport like Saratoga or Churchill Downs or Santa Anita. The base of the pyramid is built on the blue collar efforts of guys like Bill Brashears, conditioners keeping $3,500 claimers healthy enough to run and plying their trade in the minor leagues of racing at tracks like Turf Paradise, Arapahoe Park, Farmington, Rilito, and Albuquerque. Brashears comes across exactly like what he is. A guy who shoots straight and understands that you treat people with unambiguous honesty and fairness, expecting the same in return. He is guileless and smart and hard-working, a trainer’s trainer. Success in his business is based on relationships, knowing who the good guys and not so good guys are. Who can be trusted and who needs to be taken with a few grains of salt. In Bill’s world you give the good guys the benefit of the doubt until they give you a reason not to. The bad guys – better to just not deal with them. He treats his horses with the kind of care you only see from someone with a love for the thoroughbred and a passion for watching them run. He is not the guy described by a cynical racing executive as being willing to do anything that will allow him to win. It is simply not in his nature to do anything less than treat his horses as if they were family, the core of Brashears Racing. You can see him metamorphose around his horses, the hardscrabble exterior melting away into a doting grandfather, feeding them peppermints and affectionately scratching at their muzzle. He admits that when he climbed over a fence at 13 so he could see horses run, he was hooked. He trains not simply because it is a job, but because it is so much a part of who he is. He’ll never amass a fortune running at the smaller tracks, but that was never his goal. If Bill Brashears is remembered as a trainer who worked his butt off and played by the rules and was an example to any trainer hoping to make a mark in racing the right way, he will be satisfied. What a lot of trainers, including Bill Brashears, are having trouble with is believing they could do everything what they thought was the right way, but have still been hit with medication positives. In Brashears case the offending drug was Banamine, a medication that has been used for years to help control inflammation. Horses are athletes and they suffer from the same affflictions common to all athletes. It is nothing less than humane to treat horses with therapeutic medications, drugs that will provide comfort to the animals while they recuperate. What a therapeutic like Banamine doesn’t do is mask pain in a way that will allow a horse to run as if nothing is wrong. Ask any veterinarian – if you are trying to mask an injury, you would have to use a fairly strong narcotic not the equine equivalent of ibuprofen. Again ask any veterinarian – inflammation is a natural process and it is critical for survival. It is defined as “a protective immunovascular response that involves immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair.” The problem is that often this process becomes excessive, creating a vicious cycle and causing more tissue damage and pain than the injury itself might. Inflammation can produce different products, including prostaglandins and other inflammatory “mediators” that help bring about these effects. According to Thal Equine Hospital in Santa Fe, NM, “This is where anti-inflammatory drugs are helpful. Their role is to dampen inflammation by reducing the formation of these mediators, and thus reducing the signs of disease (swelling, pain and fever, for example) while still allowing healing to take place.” In other words, anti-inflammatory drugs are precisely what are indicated for certain conditions. One might even argue it is cruel not to give a horse with inflammation a medication. Banamine belongs to a class of drugs known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAIDS”), which includes familiar human drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen. They are drugs that have been used safely and effectively for decades. It is generally the veterinarian’s drug of choice for soft tissue inflammatory conditions (sore muscles) and is considered kinder to a horse’s stomach than phenylbutazone (bute) for treating joint swelling. Banamine is also a good choice for horses that have a tendency to tie-up. The Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association has stated, “Class 4 or 5 therapeutic medications (mostly NSAID-type medications such as Phyenylbutazone) are used to ease the aches and pains of training – akin to a person taking an Advil before or after a competition. It will not make that individual run any faster or jump any higher than his or her natural ability to do so.” For those concerned about the welfare of the horse, NSAIDs, when used as prescribed, do not put a horse at substantially elevated risk of catastrophic injury. So if you are a racing commissioner and you believe it is necessary to set a standard for Banamine, the question you should ask is straightforward: at what level is the analgesic benefit of Banamine essentially negligible? Whether or not Banamine might have some residual benefit to inflammation should be irrelevant, since good veterinary practice has already established that reductions in inflammation often speed healing. If a horse is not receiving an analgesic effect, it would be hard to argue the drug is performance enhancing. THAT is the level at which we should set the standard. Most vets and pharmacologists agree that any post-race level below 50ng/ml and a withdrawal time of 24-hours from administration will completely ensure elimination of the analgesic effect Racing is governed for the most part by politically appointed boards and commissions. The commissions are not normally filled with experts on pharmacology, and they are often at the mercy of long-time administrators, people like Rick Arthur in California, Joe Gorajec in Indiana, and Dan Hartman in Colorado. These are the people who populate the Association of Racing Commissioners International (ARCI), a group on the record as calling for “the racing industry and member regulators to embrace a strategy to phase out drugs and medication in horse racing.” (ARCI Press Release March 28, 2011) The chairman of the ARCI at the time of that press release? Dan Hartman, Executive Director of the Colorado Racing Commission. He becomes an integral part of Bill Brashears story. In that press release Hartman is quoted as saying that “a five-year phase out [of Lasix] is reasonable to bring North American racing policies in line with what is going on in other parts of the world like Europe and Hong Kong.” Hartman’s successor, William Koester, Chairman of the Ohio State Racing Commission, added, “Today over 99% of Thoroughbred racehorses and 70% of Standardbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them four hours before a race. That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else except horse trainers who think it necessary to win a race. I’m sure the decision makers at the time meant well when these drugs were permitted, however this decision has forced our jurisdictions to juggle threshold levels as horseman become more desperate to win races and has given horse racing a black eye.” Koester’s statement is meant to inflame (no pun intended) by referencing needles stuck in horses, as if it was some willy-nilly attempt to torture helpless animals. When I was shadowing Doug O’Neill I watched his vet, Dr Ryan Patterson, administer a Lasix shot and if you had blinked you would have missed it. The horse had no negative reaction at all. Koester further pounds home the point that trainers are medicating their horses only to gain an advantage and win races, seemingly arguing they are not doing it to ensure the horse’s health is being managed so that it can race without distress. Not passing the smell test and black eye for racing are the justifications for trying to make all racing drug free. It reminds me of a quote from Arnold Glasow. “The fewer the facts, the stronger the opinion.” As long as administrators with the power to make the rules for racing insist the seamy underbelly of racing is legal therapeutic medication, it can become the facts. The press release states that ARCI intends to move toward “enacting a policy of zero-tolerance.” (Note: Once Koester took over as chair, he quickly backed off that statement, stating the ARCI does not subscribe to a policy of zero-tolerance, but bear in mind it was Hartman who approved the press release.) Hartman concludes, “We regulators are the only voice in racing for the animals and betting public. It’s time we raise the bar in service to both.” To reference the famous Pogo line, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” I have already written about why we cannot be Hong Kong (http://halveyonhorseracing.com/?p=910). Basically, North America runs more races in a week in August than Hong Kong’s entire racing year. To populate those races we need ten times the number of horses in training than Hong Kong does. How does North America compare with Dubai and its 23 racing days a year? I’ll go out on a limb and say if we were racing at a couple of tracks the equivalent of three weeks a year we could have Dubai’s drug policies too. Look at the standards for Europe or Australia. Other than Lasix, there is often not a significant difference between those jurisdictions and North America for therapeutics, and some threshold levels for therapeutic medications are even higher than the ARCI standards. The upshot of the zero-tolerance Dan Hartman favors is almost certainly the demise of small tracks and reduced field size at the tracks that survive, incredibly ironic when one considers one of the small tracks that would suffer is Colorado’s own Arapahoe Park. ARCI has relied on studies commissioned by the Racing Medication and Testing Consortium (RMTC) to establish post-race residual levels and recommended withdrawal times. In the case of Banamine (flunixin), a study done by Heather Kynch, Rick Sams, Rick Arthur, and Scott Stanley on how quickly flunixin was cleared in exercised horses provided the initial recommendation on which the flunixin standard was based. They tested one model (called the sedentarymodel) in which four non-exercised horses were tested and it was determined a probable threshold level of 20 ng/mL with a withdrawal time of 24 hours. For those not familiar with the nanogram (ng) it is a billionth of a gram. However, subsequent testing using a racehorse model took 20 horses in training and determined exact plasma concentrations of Banamine, concluding that 99% of horses would have less than 50 ng/mL, and thus recommended a threshold value of 50 ng/mL 24 hours after administration of the recommended dose. If 20 sounds like a small number for testing animals to set a standard, according to the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products study on the Evaluation of Medicines for Veterinary Use (2000), 19 is the minimum number of animals that need to be tested to conclude a 95% confdence level that 95% of the population will be below a respective standard. Think about this for a minute. Like a lot of ARCI standards, the testing is not to determine at what level a medication stops being performance enhancing (or retarding) but at a level at which almost all horses would have cleared all but a residual amount of the medication by some time in the future. Remember, the ARCI objective as plainly stated by Dan Hartman in 2011 was to eventually rid thoroughbred racing of the scourge of “drugs and medication.” It also points out something else that is critical when looking at new standards – the availability of new mass spectrometers that can measure ridiculously small amounts, even less than nanograms down to picograms – trillionths of a gram. As Dr. Steven Barker said to me once, “show me a lab measuring amounts in picograms and I’ll show you a lab with an expensive new machine they need to justify.” Despite the RMTC study recommendation, the ARCI in April 2013 adopted the 20 ng/mL (with a recommended 24-hour withdrawal time) standard. It is critical to note that even at the time ARCI adopted the standard it was cast as a “95/95 standard.” As noted above, this means there is a 95% level of confidence that 95% of the horses tested would fall below the standard. In plain terms, one in 20 horses would still be expected to fail a post-race test. By that measure, if a track tested the first and second place finishers of a ten race program, and they all had been given 10 cc’s of Banamine, at least one of them had a probability to come back over the standard. Think about this. ARCI had a chance to adopt a standard (50 ng/mL) that would have all but guaranteed no undeserved positives and no performance enhancement, and instead picked a standard where non-pharmacologically merited violations would abound. Dr. Steven Barker at LSU didn’t equivocate on the adoption of the original ARCI standard. “The Banamine standard is too high, and it is because ARCI didn’t pay any attention to pharmacologists. With the recommended dose, there is no analgesic effect 24 hours after administering Banamine.” So with Dan Hartman at the helm, Colorado adopted the ARCI therapeutic medication schedule of 20 ng/mL for Banamine and in March 2014 the Colorado Racing Commission staff and the track stewards had a meeting with the veterinarians who worked on track at Arapahoe Park. Dr. James Dysart, Bill Brashears’ veterinarian in Colorado, and a vet who has been practicing about as long as Bill Brashears has been training horses, was in attendance at that meeting and asked specifically about what treatment changes would be indicated in 2014. According to Dr. Dysart, he was clearly told, if you practice as you did last year there should be no problems. With regard to Banamine, in March Dr. Dysart was told 10 cc’s with a 24 hour withdrawal time would prevent positives. So when it came to Banamine Dr. Dysart did exactly as he did the year before and by July Bill Brashears had three Banamine positives. There were six positives in all in Colorado and half belonged to Brashears. I asked Dr. Dysart why there were not more positives, and based on his practice, he indicated many trainers had thrown in the towel and switched to bute. Whether the reason was the change in flunixin standard, cost or efficacy, trainers made the switch. After Brashears was hit with the first Banamine positive, he and Dr. Dysart huddled and decided to drop the dosage by 20% to 8 cc’s and increase the withdrawal time closer to 25 hours. Amounts and times for all horses are documented on the medication sheets maintained by Dr. Dysart, and there is no disagreement that the dose that was administered had sufficient withdrawal time based on the information Dr. Dysart was given in March. After Brashears had five horses test clean after the first positive, he figured they had found the right formula. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case. Brashears was informed that two horses that raced about 10 days apart in July came back positive (both under 30 ng/mL), even after receiving the 8 cc dosage. Brashears had no way of adjusting dosage or withdrawal time for the third horse since the results of the testing for the second horse had not yet been given to him. In fact, Brashears was informed of the last two violations at the same time, well after he could have made a further adjustment. Based on that Brashears expected the second and third violations to be combined into one. Until he was given notice of the last two positives, Brashears sensibly was given a warning after the first violation, made a documented adjustment in an effort to comply, and as far as he could see had success with the new protocol, so he stuck with it, not realizing at 20 ng/mL he was still in danger of a violation. Meanwhile something interesting happened at the RMTC. The high number of Banamine positives in different jurisdictions in 2013 caused them to reexamine the 20 ng/mL standard ARCI had adopted. Remember, the initial RMTC testing suggested 50 ng/ml would ensure 99% of the horses treated appropriately would test negative, and at best with the 20 ng/mL standard ARCI adopted we would still expect 5% positives. It turned out the reality was alarmingly beyond 5% positives. RMTC then did another study that included 16 horses (less than the 19 required for statistical validity) that were exercised under laboratory conditions, and four (25%) of the 16 showed residual levels over 20 ng/mL after 24 hours. But, given the umbilical tie between ARCI and the RMTC, rather than suggest the standard was wrong, it was determined the withdrawal time was too short. In fact, the subsequent RMTC study concluded at least 32 hours was required to maintain 95/95 compliance with a 20 ng/mL. In April 2014 ARCI revised the recommended withdrawal time for flunixin a mere year after originally adopting it, but left the 20 ng/mL in place. This was a critical conclusion because changing the withdrawal time instead of the residual standard ultimately would have the effect of eliminating the therapeutic value of Banamine. At 24 hours the analgesic effect is essentially gone, and approaching 32 hours really limits the anti-inflammatory effect. In other words, this could be seen as an indirect way to ban Banamine consistent with the ARCI stated goal. This was also critical because the ARCI standard was not actually either 20 ng/mL or 32 hours, it was simply 20 ng/mL. Regardless of when Banamine is administered, 24 hours or 32 hours, if the level is over 20 ng/mL the horse is in violation. According to Dr. Dysart, veterinarians in Colorado were not told the recommended withdrawal time had changed to 32 hours until July. Since the 32 hours was nothing more than a recommendation, there was no need to provide notification of rulemaking. That would only be necessary if the standard was proposed for revision. The new recommendation came too late for Brashears though. He had to hope the Colorado Racing Commission saw that he and his vet had done everything the Commission assured them would maintain compliance and be lenient with their punishment. Brashears asked for split samples to be tested for the second and third violations, and both confirmed he was over the 20 ng/mL standard (but well below 50 ng/mL). Brashears appealed, resting his case on the fact that his veterinarian did exactly what he had done hundreds of times and was assured he could continue doing it before the season without risking a violation. In front of a hearing officer he lost and on he went to his final appeal to the Colorado Racing Commission. Brashears’ attorney made the relevant arguments, and once the testimony and final arguments were completed the Commission voted on a motion to saddle Brashears with both the second and third violations as separate events. One of the five commissioners was absent from the hearing, and the vote on the motion was 2-2, which normally would have been a win for Brashears. In a rare occurrence, the Commission moved to go into executive session where they got the missing commissioner on the phone, and re-voted on the motion. When they came back Brashears had lost his appeal 5-0. I asked Dan Hartman if this was a regular practice. He said no, but the Assistant Attorney General was consulted and opined it was a perfectly legal procedure. It was never clear exactly what happened to go from 2-2 to 5-0, but Brashears was ultimately assessed a $1,500 fine and 15 days. One of the people privy to the discussions in the executive session suggested that the Commissioners were advised that letting Brashears off the hook could leave them vulnerable to a subsequent action by Brashears. The concern was that it would essentially be an admission that Colorado had committed an error by leading the veterinarians to believe either historical protocols were sufficient for compliance or that a 24-hour withdrawal time indicated compliance. Brashears is not new to the game, and he understood a violation, even if it is for a bad standard, is a violation. Despite believing he had done nothing wrong, he was willing to bargain with the Commission, offering to pay a fine (less than the $1,500) if the days were waived. It appeared the Commission wanted nothing less than what Brashears was ultimately given. Bill Brashears has paid an even higher price than the fine, the loss of purse money and the cost of an attorney. He’s lost clients. After all, owners don’t want to be associated with someone with a medication positive, regardless of the circumstances. He’s lost the ability to even make a living during his suspension. Most of all he’s lost some of his belief that if you do right by racing, racing will do right by you. For Brashears part, he has sworn off racing again in Colorado. He is firm in his belief he didn’t cheat, and that he was the pawn in a bigger battle over medication in racing. In the end, Colorado not only will lose a long term trainer, but a guy who cares about his horses and about training them the right way. It’s hard to imagine this was a success for anyone. I asked Bill Brashears what bothered him the most. He said, “What makes me the most upset is [Arapahoe Park General Manager] Bruce Seymore telling me at the first Commission meeting that he knew I was innocent but that they were going to hang me anyway. I believe Hartman knows I’m innocent but their grand plan of Colorado being medication free would go down the tank if their first experiment went so wrong. Spending thousands of dollars in attorney fees for their screw-up and I’m still doing 15 days and being fined $1,500 and the division [the Colorado Division of Racing] calling it trainer responsibility. Where’s their responsibility?”
For quite a period now, the future of harness racing in North America has been closely aligned with the Casino Industry. To overcome restrictions on setting up stand alone Casinos, a lot of operators have set up Casinos at thoroughbred and harness racing venues. State governments have required the Casino Operators to support and promote the racing product due to the racing industry being so job intensive which affects everybody's bottom line if they were to fold due to the competition from the Casinos. To get around these restrictions, some Casino Operators have come up with some clever race programming to kill off the racing side of their business. Devise a program schedule that is light on money and very prescriptive as to the race conditions and you make it impossible for racing to survive long term. It is an outcome that some casino operators are trying to achieve. The video below summed up the overall position very nicely. Harnesslink Media
Harness Racing New South Wales has assigned security personnel on all runners engaged in tonight's Gr. 1 Alabar Bathurst Gold Crown. The harness racing event will be run on the new 1000 metre Bathurst track for the first time. The security personnel were in position at 7am this morning and will remain with the runners until they are presented on course tonight. HRNSW's objective in the use of this strategy is to provide a level playing field for all runners under its regulation and control. It is the first time that security has been assigned to monitor Gold Crown runners and follows on from the strong integrity measures undertaken during this year's Sydney Inter Dominion carnival. Greg Hayes | Media Coordinator | Harness Racing New South Wales |
Following a review of the circumstances surrounding Race 3, the Bob Freeman Memorial Monte at Ballarat on 22 February 2015, Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) can confirm the error in failing to review the final 200 metres of the race prior to declaring all clear was attributable to human error. Chief Steward at the meeting Shane Larkins has accepted full responsibility for the error and has been counselled. Ln accordance with the terms of Mr Larkins employment contract appropriate action has been taken by HRV Management. In order to mitigate the risk of such a circumstance occurring in the future, HRV have made a procedural direction to Stewards in regard to all future Monté events, being that all clear is not to be confirmed until the final 200m of each race has been reviewed to ensure that no horse is in breach of Australian Rule of Harness Racing 331. Harness Racing Victoria
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The stewards report from Saturday nights Hunter Cup reads like a harness racing report from the front line at a war. Numerous people and horses were examined, censured or fined and we have to say how refreshing it is to see a group of stewards who seem to take their jobs so seriously. There were so many unanswered questions after the race but reading the stewards report has clarified a lot of those issues for us. We here at Harnesslink are never slow to point the finger at a lack of oversight at times of what happens on and off the track by stewards throughout Australasia. In this case we think they have done an outstanding job and hope they continue the standard of Saturday night's report into the future. The one interesting feature of the report which was unclear is the inquiry into the conduct of Emma Stewart towards the stewards after race 9. A little bit more clarity would have been appreciated. Stewards Report RACE 8 –DEL-RE NATIONAL FOOD GROUP HUNTER CUP (GROUP 1) (3280 SS) Arden Rooney NZ, Adore Me NZ, Restrepo, Im Corzin Terror NZ and Washmepockets NZ all began badly and each will be drawn wide for standing start races. Adore Me lost considerable distance while galloping and took no competitive part in the race. Christen Me NZ raced roughly after the start and inconvenienced Guaranteed. Flaming Flutter broke after the start and will be drawn wide in future standing start races. Philadelphia Man over-raced in the middle stages. Easy On The Eye was inclined to pull hard in the middle stages. Driver Joshua Aiken was fined $200 under Rule 168(1) which deals with careless driving in that he drove Smudge Bromac NZ forward at the 250m when held up behind Philadelphia Man resulting in Philadelphia Man carrying a flat tyre for the remainder of the race. Im Corzin Terror NZ was inconvenienced when Terror To Love and Guaranteed gave ground before being held up behind Washmepockets in the early stages of the home straight. Driver Kerryn Manning was fined $500 under Rule 156(2) for using her whip with a free hand prior to the 200m. Ms Manning was also fined $500 under Rule 156(3)(b) for her excessive use of the whip, which included her whip action in the early stages of the home straight and a breach of Rule 156(3)(f) for two strikes after the winning post. In assessing penalty, the level of the breaches and status of the race were major considerations. Driver Luke McCarthy was questioned about the tactics he adopted on Restrepo, particularly his decision to shift three-wide at the 1800m and challenge for the position outside the leader before restraining to the rear. Mr McCarthy explained that he thought Terror To Love would not get the parked position from Guaranteed and made the decision to be the first trailer in the three-wide line. When it became clear that Terror To Love obtained that position, Mr McCarthy had lost his position in the running line and tried for the parked position knowing that Terror To Love had done some work and may surrender. When it became clear driver Ricky May was intent on holding that position Mr McCarthy tried to gain a second three-wide trial which did not eventuate before restraining to the rear of the field. A post-race veterinary examination failed to reveal any significant abnormalities and given Restrepo was beaten 186m, the horse will be required to trial satisfactorily prior to future nominations being accepted. Guaranteed ($6.80) also gave ground over the latter stages after working three-wide between the 2300m and 1400m to be beaten 62m into eleventh place. A post-race veterinary examination revealed Guaranteed to be suffering from a suspected respiratory infection identified by abnormal lung sounds. As such Guaranteed was stood down pending clearance by way of a veterinary certificate. Driver Ricky May could not offer an explanation for the performance of Terror To Love ($7.40), stating that it was one of the worst performances of the horses career. Terror To Love worked three-wide with cover from the 2300m to obtain the position outside the leader for the final mile before giving ground over the latter stages and being beaten 71m into twelfth place. Mr May advised that he was instructed to work forward when given the opportunity and sit parked. Mr May said that with those tactics in mind he did not consider Restrepo was a suitable horse to surrender to when the opportunity arose. A post-race veterinary examination revealed a delayed recovery. An inquiry was adjourned into the conduct of trainer Emma Stewart upon leaving the Stewards Room after Race 9.
An investigation, commenced by the Harness Racing Victoria Stewards’ Department, and continued by the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit of Victoria Police, culminated yesterday in Victoria Police advising that criminal charges have been issued against licenced harness racing trainers Shayne Cramp and Greg Cramp. Upon receiving this advice, HRV Stewards have invoked the provisions of Australian Rule of Harness Racing 183 and suspended the licences of Shayne and Greg Cramp with immediate effect. No horse trained or owned by Shayne or Greg Cramp is able to race or trial. HRV Stewards have ordered the scratching of all of Shayne Cramp’s runners engaged at the Mildura meeting tonight. Any change of trainer requests from owners who have been impacted by these events must be approved by HRV. Shayne and Mr Greg Cramp have also been excluded under ARHR 15(1)(e) from attending any harness racing racecourse. HRV CEO John Anderson said: “It is important that the tireless work of Integrity Manager Andy Rogers is recognised. He initiated this exercise almost a year ago and has maintained a confidential vigilance throughout. I also commend the Chairman of Stewards Neal Conder and his panel for their ongoing contribution to the investigation. “I also wish to acknowledge the extensive commitment, dedication and tireless efforts of the whole team at the Sporting Integrity Intelligence Unit led by Detective Sergeant Kieran Murnane.” HRV respect the matters are now before the court and will be limiting any further comment. Harness Racing Victoria
Ex-Harness Racing NZ boss says he set up trust at centre of allegations to help clubs starved of funding. A stalwart of the racing industry among those facing claims of a $30 million pokie fraud has spoken of the sport being starved of cash. Former Harness Racing NZ chairman Pat O'Brien, 82, told the Herald he set up the pokies trust at the centre of the allegations to get cash for race stakes and other purposes after funding dried up. "The taxes the government take out of it don't leave enough for the clubs to exist on," he said. Click here to read the full article written by David Fisher for the New Zealand Herald
In the business environment, fostering the free market is as American as apple pie. When everyone is given an equal chance to develop and sell items of a certain product line, the quality of the items offered are invariably enhanced, while the price tags on the items become competitive, to the benefit of consumers. It is because of this that 125 years ago Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act; the first federal law of its kind promulgated to prohibit monopolistic activity in business that would tend to stifle competition. Yet, not every regulation that limits product development can be considered monopolistic. In the governmental realm, for example, consider that certain states license marijuana sale and use solely for medicinal purposes. While many entrepreneurs see this strict limitation as impinging upon free market retailing and a restraint upon trade, there exists a distinct countervailing state interest in protecting the public health through limiting the sale of cannabis-based products. Like everything else in law, there are few absolutes. What about limitations on the production of horses? Several years ago, our Association limited the stud books of stallions. The regulation was fashioned after genetic research disclosed that lack of diversity in our closed breed could be deleterious to the health of the progeny of a diminishing number of sires. Here, the regulation was not intended to limit production of foals or harm stallion syndicates, but rather to force breeders to make decisions that would ultimately promote healthy hybrids. Our Association has also prohibited cloning. In September 2013, we wrote about a successful challenge to the cloning ban established by American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) on antitrust grounds in a federal trial level court in Texas. At that time, we stated that taking reasonable steps to ensure the longevity of our Standardbred breed and breeders is our obligation, and is hardly monopolistic, and hoped that future judges and juries would recognize this fact when dealing with regulations prohibiting cloning. Click here to read the September 2013 Racing and the Law installment on Cloning: http://xwebapp.ustrotting.com/absolutenm/templates/article.aspx?articleid=55416&zoneid=29 Last month, the federal circuit court of appeals covering Texas unanimously reversed both the jury’s verdict and the judge’s injunction against the AQHA’s cloning ban. The court’s reasoning is as important as their resulting decision. The allegation by plaintiffs, a breeder and veterinarian, was that by refusing to register foals they create through cloning championship Quarter Horses, the AQHA is monopolizing the so-called “elite Quarter Horses” market. First, plaintiffs claimed that members of the Stud Book and Registration Committee (SBRC) of the AQHA actually were in a monopolistic conspiracy with the AQHA itself, because alleged vocal and influential member of the SBRC had strong economic interests in keeping cloned horses out of the AQHA registry. The plaintiffs argued that although the AQHA was a single entity, its members were in competition with one another and that the breeders were being protectionist in their prohibition against cloning. In support of their position, the plaintiffs cited a 2010 United States Supreme Court decision that found 32 National Football League teams to be in potential competition with one another when it came to producing and selling team logo wearing apparel and headgear. While the court agreed that the claim was plausible in a vacuum, it found that the facts simply didn’t support the assertion. The court declared that the AQHA is more than a sports league and is not a trade association, and that its quarter million members are involved in a variety of non-breeding activities such as ranching, pleasure riding and training. Further, plaintiffs’ own expert conceded that in the breeding segment less than .5% of the yearlings sold each year fall with the plaintiffs’ self-styled “elite Quarter Horse” submarket. Thus, the court concluded: “Under such circumstances, it is difficult to draw the conclusion that because a tiny number of economic actors within AQHA may “pursue their separate economic interests,” the organization has conspired with that minority.” Further, the court pointed out that no other case has yet held an animal breed registry in violation of antitrust laws because of passing qualifications regarding the specific breed. The court recalled its own 1977 ruling in which it found that the AQHA was not being monopolistic by refusing to register the progeny of “elite” lineage because the horses had white markings above the permissible places on its legs. It also discussed decisions involving breed restrictions in the dog registry realm. Plainly, the court grasped the obvious practical ramifications that flow from the actions of a breed registry: “Whenever an organization devoted to the preservation of an animal breed revises its standards, exclusions from the relevant “market” will occur… breed standards for these volunteer groups should often be immune from antitrust scrutiny because they are essential to ‘creating the product’.” In sum, and the arguable restrictiveness of the cloning prohibition aside, the court found no conspiratorial intent on behalf of the AQHA or its members and components in establishing and repeatedly reaffirming the cloning ban. The court found that SBRC’s members were constantly rotated, that many members had no involvement in breeding and, of those that did, only a handful were involved in so-called “elite” breeding. Finally, the court found that the AQHA is a member organization, and the organization does not itself compete in the “elite Quarter Horse” market. Click on the link below to read the Fifth Circuit United States Court of Appeals decision dated January 14, 2015: https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=7090613983668169594&q=American+quarter+Horse&hl=en&as_sdt=3,33&as_ylo=2015 It is important to caution that the AQHA case does not stand for the proposition that cloning is bad, or that cloning racehorses should be considered impermissible breeding. Basically, the proof offered by plaintiffs failed to exclude the possibility that the alleged conspiratorial conduct in banning clones was in fact the result of independent action without nefarious intent. In this, the case and its reasoning bears striking similarly to a 1999 federal appeals court decision which fully exonerated our Association from all antitrust allegations when it voted to ban what it found to be an inherently dangerous sulky design. The action was done to, among other things, protect the safety of drivers. The great news is that a high level court has reaffirmed that an otherwise restrictive regulation imposed by an animal breed registry will not be considered an illegal restraint of trade, so long as the regulation has a rational basis and was developed in a non-conspiratorial fashion, the complaints of a few disgruntled folks notwithstanding. Chris E. Wittstruck is an attorney, a director of the Standardbred Owners Association of New York and a charter member of the Albany Law School Racing and Gaming Law Network.
Five men have been arrested in raids over race-fixing allegations in Victorian harness racing. Police hit properties in Merbein, Birdwoodton, Irymple, Mildura and Bolinda about 6.45am on Monday, seizing documents and other items. Superintendent Peter Brigham said the 10-month investigation involved owners, trainers and drivers. "Match or race fixing is a crime and police will actively work to target and disrupt it right across the state," Supt Brigham said on Monday. "It doesn't matter if it's happening at major events in Melbourne or events at our smallest country towns." A 29-year-old Merbein man, a Birdwoodton man, 57, a Bolinda man, 54, an Irymple man, 52, and a Mildura man, 34, were arrested and will be interviewed. Reprinted with permission of AAP
Victoria Police officers have raided the properties of top Australian harness racing figures over their alleged involvement in a race-fixing scandal. The Monday morning raids have targeted the racing operations of the Cramp family in Mildura. Shayne Cramp is one of the state's leading harness racing drivers, while both he and his father Greg also run a major training operation as well. Fairfax Media was to publish an investigation about the pair's links to suspect betting activities and alleged corruption a fortnight ago, but was requested by police to stall publication. The Fairfax Media investigation can reveal that Shayne and Greg Cramp are alleged to be involved in a suspected illegal betting syndicate that has been attempting to manipulate the outcome of races for several months. No other members of their family are alleged to be involved. Fairfax Media is seeking comment from the Cramp family. Click this link to read the full article written by Nick McKenzie Richard Baker Matt Taylor in The Sydney Morning Herald
A horse trainer has told how he was at a harness-racing meeting on Friday night when his mother was fatally struck by a hit-run driver only a short distance away. Earlier, Betty McArthur, 84, had watched her son Mick Darling’s horses in two races on the program at Phoenix Park in Port Pirie. She was walking back to her car parked in its usual spot outside a friend’s house, in Grey Terrace, when she was hit by the vehicle about 9.30pm. This is only about 100 metres from the entrance to the trotting park – and Mr Darling was still at the track when he got the news that someone had been hit. “It was straight after race five,” a shocked Mr Darling told The Recorder Editor Greg Mayfield on Saturday afternoon at his home at Bungama on the outskirts of Port Pirie. He spoke just after police released the news that a suspected offender was being interviewed over the hit-run. Mr Darling said he had ”mind-boggling” support from the community after the tragedy. “You don’t know how many friends you have got,” he said. He said it would be difficult on Christmas Day with an empty seat being there for Mrs McArthur. “All Christmases are special,” he said. Mrs McArthur is a former president with the Women’s and Children’s Hospital auxiliary and used to make dinners for drivers and trainers at the trotting track until a few years ago. She was a regular supplier of delicious nut rolls to a local delicatessen. Mr Darling agreed his mother was proud of him and always watched his horses go round the track. “I drove one horse in one race and another driver drove one of my other horses in the other race. They were the fourth and sixth races on the program and she watched them both,” he said. Mr Darling is president of the Port Pirie Harness Racing Club and president of the South Australian Country Harness Racing Clubs. “Mum and Dad had horses when we were kids. I originally raced her horses,” he said. “We went to school at Snowtown and Lochiel and shifted to Port Pirie for the last year of high school. “Mum didn’t work – looking after six kids was a big enough job.” It is not the first time that tragedy has truck the family. Mr Darling’s brother Robin died 17 years ago from an asthma attack. Later, Mr Darling’s mother remarried and became Mrs McArthur. “When she remarried there were 13 of us,” he said. “It was a big Christmas and a big day at tea-time. “Everyone knows her. She worked so hard for the trotting club. “She had been president of the Women’s and Children’s Hospital auxiliary for eight or nine years. “She was inspired to do this by her two disabled grandchildren. One of them can’t speak, but recently had a long “conversation” on the phone with Mum’ and was laughing and smiling. “Because my wife and I are shifting to Moonta, Christmas celebrations were going to be at Moonta. “I asked my mother when she wanted to be picked up to travel to Moonta and she said she was going to drive down - at the age of 84 - but we would have driven her anyway.” He said his mother always attended the trotting meetings. “She was actually a life member of the harness racing club,” he said. “I suppose that indicates how much work she did for the club. “She always made nut roll for the delicatessen – one of her loves was cooking. “She was proud of all of us.” A 40-year-old Port Pirie man was charged with causing death by dangerous driving, failing to stop and render assistance at a collision, and leaving the scene of a collision. He will be granted bail to appear in court at a later date. by Greg Mayfield Reprinted with permission of the http://www.busseltonmail.com.au/ Major Crash investigators continue to examine the circumstances surrounding the collision, and ask anyone that may have seen a dark-coloured Ford station wagon in the area to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000, or online at https://sa.crimestoppers.com.au
The former chairman of Harness Racing New Zealand and members of a prominent horse racing family, Patrick O’Brien, along with his son, Michael, Nelson’s Paul Max and a former gaming inspector who could not be named, have all been issues summons on charges of fraud in one of the country’s largest gambling sector investigations. Called “Operation Chestnut ” the investigation was started back in June of 2012 according to the Serious Fraud Office, Department of Affairs and the police. The investigation alleges that more than $30 million in gaming grants were made by the New Zealand Community Trust, Infinity and Bluegrass Trusts, dating all the way back to 2006. Scheduled to appear in court in February, the four men could face at least 20 charges of obtaining by deception, which could carry up to seven years in jail. "If you don't think you've done anything wrong, it's a bloody shock to get a summons, said Patrick O’Brien. “I'll be defending the charges." Paul Max also said he would defend the charges against him. "It's before the courts so on that basis it's completely inappropriate for me to make any comment." Michael O'Brien said he had been instructed not to comment by his lawyers, but said the charges would be "vigorously defended". The trusts had its gaming license taken away earlier this year after the Gambling Commission found that it provided false and misleading information to Internal Affairs. Harnesslink media
The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) today launched an anonymous 0800 number for the racing industry to report integrity concerns. Based on the NZ Police Crimestoppers 0800 number, the 0800 RIU 123 Integrity line will gather information volunteered anonymously from industry participants, employees, punters and anyone with an interest in racing a proactive way to pass on information with guaranteed anonymity. The service will be run through the Crimestoppers operation. All calls are received by trained call takers. They record the information offered and the intelligence provided is then forwarded on to the RIU for investigation. As a new service based on anonymity the integrity line will add to the Racing Integrity Unit’s intelligence gathering. “The guarantee of absolute anonymity provides a way for people to feel safe about passing on what they know, so we are likely to receive information we haven’t had before and from people who in other circumstances would not normally come forward” says Neil Grimstone, Manager of Integrity Assurance for the Racing Integrity Unit. “There is no visibility or record of the phone number the call is being made from, so it cannot be traced back, however the caller is given the opportunity to leave contact details if they wish to be contacted further about the concerns they raise.” For any further information regarding the implementation of the 0800 RIU 123 Integrity line please email email@example.com or call Neil Grimstone on 021 272 6009
THE Queensland Racing Disciplinary Board has quashed a five-year disqualification for a harness racing trainer who admitted backing his own horses to lose. Justin Abbott pleaded guilty to three charges of laying his horses on Betfair in races at Redcliffe and Albion Park in February and March this year. For each charge, Racing Queensland Stewards Kwan Wolsey and Paul Zimmermann disqualified Abbott for 12 months, to be served cumulatively. Stewards also handed out a two-year disqualification, to be served concurrently, for behaviour prejudicial to the industry and another two-year cumulative stretch for intimidating stewards. Abbott pleaded not guilty to those charges in the initial inquiry and the RDB found in his favour at appeal and quashed both convictions and penalties. “There is nothing to support the contention that the trainer has behaved in a way which was prejudicial or indeed detrimental to the industry,” RDB Chairman Brock Miller wrote in his judgment. In respect to the penalties for laying his own horses, the RDB knocked the penalty down to time already served, dating back to March, when Abbott was stood down by stewards, effectively making it a nine-month penalty. “There are circumstances where one can envisage significant long term disqualifications being imposed. However, those circumstances would demand that there be unmistakably serious contraventions involving significantly large amounts of money that had been wagered and won,” Miller deemed. “That is not the situation in the matters that are currently under review by this board. The three amounts of money that had been wagered and won are all below $1000.” The three lay bets admitted to by Abbott were to win amounts of $235, $97.55 and $811. Evidence was also tendered at the stewards’ inquiry whereby two associates of Abbott’s also layed the horse Foldem at Albion Park on March 10. In that race, Foldem took a sit three back on the marker pegs after starting from barrier one. A week later, Foldem was driven forward to lead from barrier six. Abbott backed the horse to win $810 in this race. Stewards submitted there was an “irresistible inference from these facts that Mr Abbott deliberately caused the horse to race inconsistently”. The RDB did not accept this submission, finding “there is no evidence that there was any such conduct on the part of the trainer or the driver”. The RDB said stewards should have charged Abbott under a merits or reasonable measures rule if the charge of prejudicial behaviour was to stand. By Nathan Exelby Reprinted with permission of The Courier Mail
Integrity will be at a premium for the annual Garrards 2YO Trialling Sale to be conducted at Tabcorp Park Menangle this Sunday. HRNSW will take a select number of samples in consultation with the Sales organisers including the fastest horse of the morning. In addition to this any buyer will be able to have their purchase tested for Steroids by notifying the HRNSW representative at the sale and paying the appropriate fee. This is the first sale in which buyers have had this opportunity. The 51-head catalogue has brought together two-year-old colts, geldings and fillies from every Australian eastern Mainland State as well as New Zealand. Included in the draft are sons and daughters of such notable sires as Beautide's sire, Bettors Delight, Courage Under Fire, Mach Three, Rocknroll Hanover and Rock N Roll Heaven. HRNSW CEO John Dumesny said the controlling body want to make it clear that all prospective owners, stakeholders, participants and supporters that they can have faith in harness racing in NSW. "As has been acknowledged nationally HRNSW has the strongest approach of any jurisdiction to integrity processes." "The HRNSW commitment covers every aspect and it is with the support of the Ready To Race Sale organisers that swabs will be taken, tested and if required stored for future analysis." Only graduates are eligible to nominate for the associated Group Three feature, the C.J. Garrard Classic, to be held at Tabcorp Park, Menangle, next August. NSW Breeders Challenge Owners Bonus certificates can be used as legal tender at the sale. By Dale Walker