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Canterbury trainer Nigel McGrath had it all. A successful career, beautiful wife, lovely family, money, and lots of friends. Unfortunately he was also a cheat. MARTIN VAN BEYNEN reports. “Racing”, said the caller as the barrier arms folded and the field of trotters pounded down the first straight of the 2600-metre race at Addington in Christchurch. It was April 6, 2018, and the $200,000 New Zealand Derby, the premier event of the year for Group One 3-year-olds, was under way. The pace was hot, and with 950m to go, spectators were on their feet for a classic contest. Alta Maestro was hogging the lead on the inside. New Zealand's top driver, Blair Orange, made his move to the front with colt Sheriff. Round the final corner and into the straight, Sheriff was fighting for the lead with Pat’s Delight and favourite Sicario. “Pat’s Delight getting through on the inside from Sicario. Sheriff leads, margin ahead, Pat’s Delight, still Sheriff, Pat’s Delight coming, here’s the post. Sheriff won in a nose. What a derby.” After the final frenzy from the race caller, it was clear Sheriff had set a race record and posted what would probably be Nigel McGrath's finest moment in his harness racing career. Well turned-out as usual, McGrath, then 45, punched the air and began accepting congratulations.   Read the full story here!   by Martin Van Beynen Reprinted with permission from Stuff

High-profile Canterbury harness racing trainer Nigel McGrath has been disqualified for 8 years for the attempted administration of a prohibited substance to a horse, refusing to supply information to a Racecourse Inspector and Obstructing a Racecourse Inspector during an investigation. Full details below: BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE JUDICIAL CONTROL AUTHORITY Information Numbers: A11684, A11685, A11686 In the matter of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT Informant AND NIGEL RAYMOND MCGRATH Licensed Driver and Trainer Respondent Judicial Committee: J Lovell-Smith - Chair T Utikere - Member Present: Mr S Irving - Informant Mr B H Dickey - Counsel for the Informant Mr N R McGrath - Respondent Mr P H B Hall QC - Counsel for the Respondent RESERVED DECISION OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE DATED 3 JULY 2020 [1] The Respondent, Nigel Raymond McGrath is a licensed Public Trainer and Open Driver under the Rules of New Zealand Harness Racing (HRNZ). He has been a Harness Trainer since 2000. [2] The Respondent admitted three charges of offending deemed to be serious racing offences under Rule 505(1) of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Law. These charges are: (a) Attempts to administer (A11684) Rule 1004(1). On 13 March 2020 at Christchurch together with Robert George Burrows did attempt to administer to “Steel The Show” which was entered in Race 8 at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club’s meeting at Addington that evening, a prohibited substance by way of nasal gastric tube. (b) Refuses to make a statement (A11685) Rule 1001(1)(i). On 13 March 2020 at Christchurch refused to supply information by answering the questions of a Racecourse Investigator regarding the tubing equipment located in his possession and the attempted race day administration of the horse “Steel The Show.” (c) Obstructing a Racecourse Investigator (A11686) Rule 1001(1)(j). On 13 March 2020 at Christchurch obstructed a Racecourse Investigator by preventing him from seizing tubing equipment as evidence in the course of an investigation into a race day administration and ordering Racecourse Investigators to leave his property. The Course of the Proceedings [3] As recorded in the Committee’s Minute of 19 May 2020, the Respondent pleaded guilty to all three charges but disputes two matters in the Summary of Facts. [4] The guilty pleas to all three charges were confirmed prior to commencement of the disputed facts hearing. By consent, charge 1 was amended to record the correct Rule as Rule 1004(1). (Rule 1001(1)(q) having been deleted on 25 November 2019) which states: A person commits a breach of the rules who administers a prohibited substance to a horse which is taken, or is to be taken to a racecourse for the purpose of engaging in a race. [5] Certain facts were agreed in accordance with Mr McGrath’s guilty pleas and a Statement of the Agreed facts was provided to the Committee and is set out in full in this decision. [6] The general matters in dispute are as follows: [7] The first two disputed matters relate to the attempting to administer breach (A11684). [8] First, there is a dispute as to the nature of the substance that was attempted to be administered. The Informant identified the substance as likely to be a solution of chemicals for the purpose of alkalising the blood or increasing the levels of TCO2, which is a prohibited substance. The Respondent denies this and says that the substance is a product known as “Air Support” which can be purchased at equine stores. [9] Secondly, there is a dispute as to the method of administration. The Informant alleges that the substance was attempted to be administered by a nasal gastric tube. The Respondent says that the substance was to be squirted through a tube on the horse’s tongue. [10] The third dispute is in respect of the RIU’s allegation that the Respondent became aggressive and obstructive, after the horse had been recaptured. The Respondent denies that he was aggressive and obstructive. [11] The evidence for the Informant consisted of video footage and transcript of the Informant’s inspectors’ attendance at the Respondent’s stable, transcripts of two interviews by the Informant of George Burrows, Licensed Stablehand, expert evidence from Dr A. Grierson, a veterinary surgeon, by AVL, regarding the likely type of drug administered and the method of administration. The Respondent, Mr McGrath gave evidence. [12] At the conclusion of the evidence, submissions were made by Counsel including submissions as to penalty. [13] The Committee reserved its decision at the conclusion of the hearing. Agreed Facts Parties [1] The Respondent Nigel Raymond McGrath (McGrath) is a licensed Public Trainer and Open Driver under the Rules of New Zealand Harness Racing (HRNZ). He is 46 years old and has been a harness trainer since 2000. [2] Robert George McKay Burrows (Burrows) is a Licensed Stablehand under the Rules of HRNZ. He is 54 years old and assists McGrath and has been employed in a number of different stables over many years. He is also employed as a barrier attendant by the Canterbury Jockey Club. Background [3] Over a period of time the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) received confidential information indicating that the hours prior to the races McGrath would ‘tube’ horses in his shed between the stables and the main road. [4] It is common knowledge that ‘Tubing’ is the process of inserting a rubber or plastic tube through a horse’s nose into its oesophagus for the purpose of administering a liquid substance. A funnel is usually attached to the tube and the liquid poured into the funnel, using gravity to force the liquid into the horse’s stomach. The Facts [5] On Friday 13 March 2020 RIU Investigators conducted surveillance of the shed next to Mr McGrath’s stables. [6] At 5:40 pm Mr McGrath was observed leading the 3yo colt ‘Steel The Show’ from the covered yard at the end of the stable block into the shed, approximately three hours prior to its scheduled race start time. [7] ‘Steel The Show’ was engaged in Race 8 at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club’s meeting at Addington Raceway at 8:48 pm. [8] Minutes later RIU Investigator Simon Irving entered the property and went to the shed. [9] Located in the shed were Mr McGrath and Mr Burrows, ‘Steel The Show’ and a backpack containing tubing gear including a coiled rubber hose, a plastic funnel, a twitch and an empty 800 ml plastic drink bottle containing residue. [10] Mr McGrath immediately walked the horse from the shed and when confronted by another Investigator a short distance away, either the Respondent let the horse go or the horse got loose resulting in it running toward the stable complex. [11] Mr McGrath admitted that the horse was ‘Steel The Show’ and that it was racing that evening. [12] Mr McGrath refused to answer further questions regarding the tubing gear and the identity of his associate. [13] Mr Burrows remained in the shed and when questioned about the activity admitted that they were about to ‘tube’ the horse ‘Steel The Show’ with what he called “air supply”. [14] He acknowledged that this was in breach of the Rules of HRNZ and that it wasn’t the first time he had assisted in the procedure at the McGrath property. [15] Once the horse was recaptured and contained in its yard Mr McGrath’s demeanour changed from being resigned and he became obstructive. [16] He grabbed hold of the backpack held by Investigator Irving stating that it was his private property and initially would not release it even though he was repeatedly advised that it was being seized as part of an investigation into a racing matter. [17] Attempts were made to seize the tubing kit as evidence, but Mr McGrath continued to object and requested that Investigators leave his property and come back later. [18] Mr McGrath was repeatedly warned that Investigators were there lawfully under the Rules of HRNZ and his actions were making the matter much worse. [19] His strong objections continued, and to avoid further confrontation and to comply with his request RIU staff allowed Mr McGrath to recover the backpack and its contents and prepared to leave the property. [20] These interactions were recorded on RIU cell phones. [21] Video containing images of the tubing kit was also recorded. [22] Before Investigators left the property, Mr McGrath was advised that both his horses in Race 8 that evening would be scratched. [23] Due to Mr McGrath’s actions the RIU vet on standby was prevented from attending the property to gather further evidence and conduct drug tests on both ‘Steel The Show’ and Mr McGrath’s other runner engaged that evening ‘Cloud Nine’. [24] The Chairman of Stewards for the race meeting was advised of the incident and attempted to contact Mr McGrath by telephone (three times, two of which went straight to message so the Respondent may have only been aware of one call) and a text message requesting him a call regarding the scratching of his horses. [25] Mr McGrath did not respond to the request. [26] At approximately 3:00 pm the following day different RIU staff returned to the Mr McGrath stable to serve an Exclusion Notice on Mr McGrath and request he ‘hand over’ the tubing equipment from the previous day. [27] Mr McGrath refused to provide the tubing equipment, stating that he would contact his lawyer and that the RIU staff could come back later. [28] The tubing equipment has not been recovered and therefore could not be sent for analysis. Respondent’s Statement [29] The Respondent Mr McGrath refused to answer Investigators' questions on the day, despite being told that he had to respond, other than admitting that the horse he was found with was ‘Steel The Show’ and that it was racing that night. (a) The following day Mr McGrath attempted to contact another Investigator, Kylie Williams. He did not participate in interviews with the investigations involved. (b) He has subsequently provided a prepared, written statement to the RIU. Mr McGrath – Breaches of the Rules of HRNZ [30] Mr McGrath has committed the following offences against the HRNZ Rules: (a) Attempting to administer a prohibited substance on a raceday. (b) Refusing to supply information to a Racecourse Inspector. (c) Obstructing a Racecourse Inspector during an investigation. Conclusion [31] Mr McGrath has a previous serious racing offence charge from 2004 when he was disqualified for three years (reduced to 18 months on appeal) for three counts of administering a prohibited substance. [32] Mr McGrath also recently received a six-month suspension of his horseman’s licence after admitting a breach of the improper driving Rule, a result of Operation Inca. Evidence for the RIU [14] The video recordings of a visit to 502 Maddisons Road on 10 March 2020 made by Simon Irving, Racecourse Inspector were played. The transcript of the video recording was produced by consent. Present were Simon Irving, Nigel McGrath, George Burrows, Neil Grimstone and Oscar Westerlund. [15] Mr Irving introduced himself to Mr McGrath and asked him what was “going on “and “what was in the bag?” [16] George Burrows then hands the back pack to Mr Irving. [17] Mr McGrath walks horse out of shed. When asked what horse is that, Mr McGrath said it was racing tonight and that it was ‘Steel the Show’. Mr Irving asked Mr McGrath “You going to give it a tube tonight?” Mr McGrath said no. Mr Irving followed Mr McGrath with the horse toward the stables when the horse ran off toward the stable area. [18] Once the horse was safely tied up, Mr Irving looked inside the back pack and saw it had a twitch in it. He asked Mr McGrath to talk to him about it which he refused to do. Mr McGrath grabbed hold of the back pack again. Mr Irving said he was seizing the back pack as an exhibit, told him he was a racing inspector and that he must cooperate with them as it was part of an investigation. The request was repeated but Mr McGrath refused to hand over the back pack and asked Mr Irving and Mr Grimstone to leave his property and to give him the back pack. When Mr Grimstone told Mr McGrath they were taking the tube for analysis, Mr McGrath grabbed the rubber tube and walked off. Mr McGrath continued to argue and Mr Irving and Mr Grimstone let him take the contents of the back pack and walked away. [19] The contents of the back pack included a wooden twitch, coiled rubber tube, plastic 800 ml bottle, plastic bottle lid, plastic funnel, 2 x bags. [20] Mr McGrath indicated that he understood that both horses would be scratched that night. [21] Transcript of Cell phone Interview with George Burrows 13 March 2020 in the Green Shed at the stables of Nigel McGrath of George Burrows by Neil Grimstone and Oscar Westerlund was produced as an Exhibit by consent. Mr Burrows did not give evidence. [22] In the first interview, Mr Burrows told Mr Grimstone and Mr Westerlund that it was “stuff for its breathing” called ‘air supply’. When Mr Burrows asked if it was in accordance with the Rules, having said that he thought the horse was “Steel The Show” was running that night Mr Burrows answered, “probably not.” [23] Mr Burrows said that he had been there to do “tubing” the horse “very few times.” He agreed he was tubing the horse, that it was not ideal and that it was breaching the Rules. Transcript of Second Interview with George Burrows 17 March 2020 [24] The transcript of a second interview on 17 March 2020 with George Burrows, Neil Grimstone and Peter Lamb was produced as an Exhibit by consent. [25] Mr Burrows wanted his first statement to be disregarded as he had been smoking weed and drinking and did not want to be there. He agreed he could tube horses but denied ever tubing a horse of Mr McGrath’s. [26] In that second interview, Mr Burrows said he went to Mr McGrath’s premises the previous Friday about 5:00 pm to drop a couple of bridles off. Mr McGrath said he was a bit worried about his horse with a slight snotty nose and it was decided to give it some Air Support, a “herbal thing” to help its breathing. Mr Burrows said they went into the shed which is detached or remote because they did not want to be seen as it is against the Rules. He went under the trees so he could not be seen and Mr McGrath brought the horse around. Mr Burrows had got the tubing bag from Mr McGrath’s wash house in his home where it is kept. He said he did not know if the bag had a twitch in it but said it probably did with the Air Support and two boost tubes used to squirt it down with. Once he had the bag, Mr McGrath said to him “we’ll go to give it the Air Support.” [27] Mr Burrows was asked where was the bottle of air supply. Mr Burrows said it was still in the shed “in the far corner where he had taken it.” [28] Mr Burrows said the bottle was a “normal one.” He just “sucked it out and squirted it down” using the boost tube to squirt it on the horse’s tongue. [29] He said there was no plan with the other horse as there wasn’t any more air supply. [30] He agreed he could not be sure what the horse was given. He said he knew what Air Support smelt like as it has a strong eucalyptus smell and comes in a brown bottle. He did not see the label on the bottle which was used. He had administered the substance with the boost tube not the tubing gear in the bag. [31] Transcript of Kylie Williams, Racing Investigator and Scott Wallis, Chief Stipendiary Steward (Greyhounds) Visit to Mr McGrath’s stable 14 March 2020. [32] The following day, on 14 March 2020 Ms Williams and Mr Wallis visited Mr McGrath’s stable premises at 2:45 pm. On arrival, Ms Williams advised Mr McGrath that the reason they were there was to give him a Notice of Exclusion. She asked Mr McGrath to date it and she put the time on it at 2 56 pm. [33] Mr McGrath then said he was going to give her a statement on the Rule breach. Ms Williams explained that that she could only serve the Notice on him and that they had only one question: “would he give them the things he was using last night, the back pack, the twitch, the funnel, the tube and the bottle.” Mr McGrath said he would give them the bottle but not the tube or the twitch. [34] Mr McGrath was given a Notice of Exclusion from the Races but said he would not sign it. There was further discussion, but Ms Williams and Mr Wallis explained that they could only talk about the Exclusion Notice and ask for the items in the bag he had the previous day. Mr McGrath then admitted he had broken the 24 hour Rule but refused to hand over the bag or the items in it including the bottle. Ms Williams and Mr Wallis left at 3:02 pm. Dr A Grierson [35] Dr Grierson gave his evidence by AVL. He has worked as a racing veterinary surgeon for 20 years in both harness and thoroughbred racing. He was well versed in “tubing” and “milkshaking” from a veterinary point of view and physiologically, as it was not initially a prohibited substance or a prohibited procedure. [36] The mechanics of tubing required a funnel, stomach tube and a twitch which could be used to restrain the horse. It required two people as it could be difficult to hold the horse, the mixture and the tube. It is easier to stomach tube a horse than squirt with a syringe as a horse is able to be stomach tubed with any amount of fluid. [37] With regard to possible substances that could be administered within the time frame of 3 hours before a race as in this case, Dr Grierson identified EPO which is administered intravenously not via tubing but said the most common procedure was to tube alkalising agents in order to increase TCO2 levels. The TCO2 levels were set at a limit of 36.0, but under the Rule the level was limited by a guard band of 37.1. Tubing alkalising substances became a bad practice when horses were seen to perform better than their ability and is now banned internationally. [38] Dr Grierson believed that the most likely substance to be administered via tubing was an alkalising agent and sodium bicarbonate was the most common. [39] When asked in cross-examination about Air Support, Dr Grierson said he was familiar with the company but not personally familiar with that preparation. As no analysis had been undertaken by NZ Racing Laboratory Service on Air Support, he was unable to say if it was prohibited. If it was administered within one clear day then it was unlikely to be detected. He accepted that two people could be required to administer 60 mls of Air Support via a Boost tube on the tongue for a fractious horse. [40] When asked if he could not rule out Air Support being administered to this horse, Dr Grierson said without a sample there was no way of being sure what it was. Dr Grierson said he had no idea if energy or stamina in horse was improved by Air Support. In response to a question from Mr Hall he agreed that there was insufficient evidence to say what the substance was. Respondent’s Evidence [41] Nigel McGrath read his evidential statement and answered questions in cross-examination from Counsel for the Informant and the Judicial Committee. [42] Mr McGrath has been a licensed trainer for over 20 years and has trained over 570 winners with $6,000,000 in stakes, including a win in the New Zealand Derby in 2018. [43] He owns his training establishment in Weedons. [44] Although he pleaded guilty to charge 1, namely attempting to administer a prohibited substance by way of nasal gastric tube, he denies that it was the prohibited substance alleged by the Informant which was administered to “Steel The Show” on 13 March 2020 and that any substance was intended to be introduced by way of gastric tube. He did commit a breach of the Rules by introducing or attempting to introduce a substance known as “Air Support” in an oral syringe commonly known as a boost tube, a substance that was vet approved and was not intended to improve the speed, stamina or courage of the horse. [45] The allegation that “he attempted to introduce an alkalinising agent via a nasal gastric tube in order to elevate the TCO2 levels of “Steel The Show” to improve his speed, stamina or courage is “not correct.” [46] Late afternoon on Friday, 13 March 2020 Mr McGrath said he was “getting organised for the races at Addington that evening.” He had “Cloud Nine” and “Steel The Show” engaged in the same race. [47] The horse “Steel The Show” has been marginally slower in recovering after fast work in the week leading up to 13 March blowing more than usual with phlegm and mucous in his nose. [48] Mr McGrath did not consider this too serious but more likely a symptom arising as a result of the abnormally dusty week which was dry and warm. He had been treating this horse with “Air Support”, a herbal remedy he had purchased from Equine 2000. It is a registered horse product which is marketed on the HRNZ website. [49] Mr McGrath said it had been approved by his veterinary surgeon who confirmed this in a letter to the Committee. According to Mr McGrath, it was a substance which contained no prohibited substances and was for the wellbeing of horses. [50] Mr McGrath said that while he was preparing the two horses, George Burrows called in to drop off some mounting bridles he had agreed to deliver earlier. They talked about the evening ahead for the two horses and it was during his discussion Mr McGrath said he “stupidly decided” to give Steel The Show some Air Support as per the manufacturer’s instructions in order to assist his wellbeing that evening and his subsequent recovery after the race.” [51] He accepted “fully that to do so was in breach of the one clear day Rule” and it was for that reason the free standing shed in a paddock behind the main block of stables was used because “we would not been seen.” [52] Mr Burrows was going to assist in introducing “Air Support” because “Steel The Show” can be difficult to handle and is a wilful horse. [53] Mr McGrath said his “motive was not financial or to improve the performance of the horse but rather to aid his post-race recovery.” Mr McGrath described a cupboard in the laundry of his house as “a dumping ground for storing stuff like supplements, empty syringes and tape.” A bag which has “Air Support” in it and equipment for salining of horses was also in this cupboard. Mr Burrows collected this bag from the cupboard and carried it into the shed. [54] Mr McGrath denied attempting to administer an alkalising agent. He said his horses were often swabbed at race meeting and have never returned TCO2 levels at or above the level of 36.0 millimetres per litre in plasma C +/- point for error and usually the levels returned were well below the threshold. [55] He emphasised that he would not put himself or his owners into such a situation. He acknowledged that he was disqualified in respect of three charges of administering a prohibited substance approximately 15 years ago. Mr McGrath said the substance he had administered at that time was “Propantheline” added to horse feed which he had bought from a chemist and cleared with his vet. He believed it did not breach the Rules. [56] Mr McGrath maintained that the Air Support was administered by Mr Burrows via a large plastic tube, commonly known as a boost tube for the oral administration of a paste and liquid substance. [57] Mr Burrows squirted the “Air Support” over the tongue of the horse. Neither a twitch nor a nasal gastric tube was used. There was no damp residue in any of the equipment apart from the boost tube. Mr McGrath said he found the boost tube together with the empty container of “Air Support” on the floor in the corner of the free standing shed where the administration had occurred, after the RIU staff had left. He picked up both items and put them inside his home. He produced both items as exhibits during the hearing. [58] Mr McGrath explained that he “did not want to part with the gastric tube, twitch and bottle because they had not been used by him or Mr Burrows. He said he told Mr Irving who was asking about the tube and twitch in the bag “there’s no substance so I didn’t do it. Out please.” [59] Mr McGrath said that when he led the horse out of the shed, he was “shocked to come face to face with a number of RIU employees.” He said he was overwhelmed at having been caught breaching the Rules, that is, the one clear day administration Rule and felt he had lost everything. His shock and bewilderment was such that he said he was not in the right state of mind at the time to discuss the matter with the RIU and I asked them to leave.” He did tell them to come back later and that he said, “I was also not prepared to part with any of my property and told them so.” [60] Mr McGrath believes that those intense feelings were due to the “stress” he has felt under since 4 September 2018 when the police arrived with search warrants as part of Operation Inca, involving himself and the persons associated with the Harness Racing industry. The only criminal charge against him was dismissed. However, subsequently he was charged by the RIU and pleaded guilty to a charge of improper driving. The penalty imposed was a six-month suspension. The psychological and economic impact on him has continued to today. [61] Mr McGrath accepts his conduct was obstructive due to his state of panic, shock and resignation and was in breach of the Rules. He regrets his behaviour because it inflamed the situation and resulted in the further charges to which he has pleaded guilty. He did expect the RIU veterinary surgeon would return and examine the horse which he was willing to have done but that did not happen. [62] Mr McGrath contacted Kylie Williams the following morning as he respected her and preferred to make a statement to her. When she visited his stables later that day with Scott Wallis, she told Mr McGrath they had been directed not to take a statement from him. [63] Mr McGrath said he has been licensed since he was 15 years old and never charged with offences relating to obstructing racecourse inspectors or refusing to make a statement. [64] His motivation to breach the Rule was solely based on his concern for the horse’s wellbeing. He was not motivated by financial gain as he had no financial share in “Steel The Show” and he does not bet on harness racing horses. If the horse had won the race, he would have earned approximately $400 only. [65] It was his belief that he breached the one day (24 hour) Rule by introducing or attempting to introduce a prohibited substance “Air Support” hence his guilty plea to charge 1. [66] In his statement, Mr McGrath said he “took immediate steps to hand over his Public Trainers Licence and move all the horses due to race in the near future to other trainers to help maintain public confidence in the industry and do the right thing in the circumstances. I very much regret my foolhardy actions. My whole working life has been devoted to the racing and training of magnificent horses. It is a seven day a week commitment to demanding work. However, it is a lifestyle that I am passionate about. I do not want to leave the profession. I believe I have more to offer the industry in the future and I ask for a further chance to prove I am not the cheat as portrayed. I am passionate about horse welfare and wellbeing. I have volunteered my time and resources to the agency HERO which is a recently launched initiative to assist the rehousing of horses after they have finished their racing careers.” [67] Mr McGrath produced an empty bottle of Air Support and a boost tube. Mr McGrath said the “Air Support” bottle and boost tube “lived” in the bag together with funnel, twitch and tube for salining. [68] Counsel for the Informant, Mr Dickey asked Mr McGrath about the improper driving charge penalty hearing in January 2020. At the penalty hearing Mr McGrath had apologised and told the Judicial Committee he was committed to adhere to the Rules of Harness Racing. However, in his evidence at this hearing, Mr McGrath denied responsibility for the Rule breach he had conceded in January this year. Mr McGrath’s response was that he believed he was not guilty of race fixing. [69] When asked by Mr Dickey about the 2004 charge for which he was disqualified for 18 months, Mr McGrath maintained the substance that was administered was an ulcer treatment used for horses. [70] When Ms Williams and Mr Wallis visited his stables the following day, Mr McGrath denied he was abusive or aggressive. He said he never touched or threatened them. [71] Mr McGrath’s explanation for telling both of them to get off the property and refusing to hand over the property the subject of this enquiry, as requested under the Rules was that he could not handle the situation and that he had asked them to come back later. He sought to deflect the responsibility for his response on a friend who was present and who he described as not helpful and if he had given Ms Williams and Mr Wallis the equipment that person “would have been even more abusive.” [72] Mr McGrath agreed that he knew that Mr Ydgren was the Chief Steward and in charge of the race meeting. He was asked why he did not respond to Mr Ydgren’s phone call and text in respect of the harness racing meeting on 13 March 2020. He admitted he did not respond and said there was no urgency in the text and no suggestion that if he failed to do so he would be in breach of the Rules of Harness Racing. Standard of Proof [73] The standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities (Rule 1008A of Rules and Rule 31.1 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure for the Judicial Committee and Appeals Tribunal (JCA Rules). Analysis [74] On Friday, 13 March 2020 the horse “Steel The Show” trained by Mr McGrath was engaged in Race 8 at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club meeting at Addington Raceway at 8:48 pm on Friday, 13 March 2020. There is no issue that Mr McGrath took the horse “Steel The Show” into a green shed some distance away from his stables in order to conceal the administration of a prohibited substance or that Mr Burrows a licenced stable hand was assisting him. Mr Burrows accessed the shed from under some trees to conceal his movements having got the tubing back pack from Mr McGrath’s wash house inside his house, where the bag is kept. [75] The tubing back pack belonging to Mr McGrath was located in the shed and contained tubing gear including a coiled rubber hose, a plastic funnel, a twitch and an empty 800ml plastic drink bottle containing residue. When Mr McGrath was surprised by the racing inspectors in the shed with Mr Burrows and the horse, he refused to answer further questions regarding the tubing gear and the identity of his associate. [76] The transcript of the video footage of Mr Burrows’ first statement records that he was assisting Mr McGrath to tube the horse “Steel The Show” with Air Support to assist the horse’s breathing. [77] When Mr Burrows asked if it was in accordance with the Rules, having said he thought the horse was “Steel the Show” which was running that night, Mr Burrows’ answer was “probably not’. [78] Mr Burrows said he had been there to do “tubing” the horse “very few times.” He agreed that he was tubing the horse, that it was not ideal and that it was breaking the Rules. [79] In his second statement, Mr Burrows clearly regretted making the earlier statement and sought to retract it on the basis he was under the influence of alcohol and cannabis. [80] Mr Burrows said he did not know what the substance was in the bottle as he did not look at the label and could not be sure that what he administered to the horse was in fact Air Support. When asked where the bottle was as it was not in the bag he said it was in the far side of the shed. He claimed that the substance had been administered using the boost tube. [81] Mr Burrows did not give evidence. We accept his account of the events of 13 March in his first interview when he was cooperating with the Investigators. Mr Burrows remained in the shed and in response to questioning admitted that they were about to “tube” the horse “Steel The Show” with what he called “Air Supply”. He acknowledged this was in breach of the Rules of HRNZ and that it was not the first time he had assisted in the procedure at Mr McGrath’s property. [82] We do not accept Mr Burrows’ subsequent claim that he gave the first interview while under the influence of alcohol and Cannabis and that he wished to retract what he said. In our view, the second interview was self-serving and a deliberate attempt on his part to discredit his first interview. We are satisfied on the balance of probabilities that he was in the shed for the purpose of tubing the horse “Steel The Show” assisting Mr McGrath. [83] Once the horse was caught and contained in its yard, Mr McGrath’s demeanour changed from being resigned and he became obstructive. He grabbed hold of the back pack held by the Investigators stating it was his private property and initially would not release it even though he was repeatedly advised that it was being seized as part of an investigation into a racing matter. [84] Mr McGrath refused to hand over the bag as requested by the racing Investigators and would not allow the racing Investigators to take it away. He immediately walked the horse from the shed and when confronted by another Investigator, either he let it go or the horse got loose resulting in it running towards the stable complex. [85] Although attempts were made by the Investigators to seize the tubing kit as evidence, Mr McGrath continued to object and requested that the Investigators leave his property and come back later. [86] The Investigators warned Mr McGrath repeatedly that they were there lawfully under the Rules of HRNZ and that his actions were making the matter much worse. Despite these warnings, Mr McGrath continued to strongly object. To avoid further confrontation and to comply with his request, the Investigators allowed Mr McGrath to recover his back pack and its contents and prepared to leave the property. [87] Ms Williams and Mr Wallis went to his stable the following day to serve an Exclusion Notice on Mr McGrath and request he hand over the tubing equipment from the previous day. Mr McGrath refused to provide the tubing equipment stating he would contact his lawyer and that the RIU could come back later. Mr McGrath’s explanation was that due to the abusive behaviour of a visitor to his stable, he was unable to comply with their instructions. We find his explanation unconvincing. [88] As a direct result of Mr McGrath’s deliberately aggressive and obstructive conduct and refusal to comply with the instructions of the RIU Investigators who were lawfully at his stables, no analysis could be carried out of the tubing equipment and the substance which was to be administered. [89] There is no issue the RIU veterinary surgeon on standby was also prevented from attending the stables to gather evidence and conduct tests on both “Steel The Show” and Mr McGrath’s other runner engaged that evening “Cloud Nine”. [90] We accept Dr Grierson’s evidence and his conclusion that the most likely substance to be administered via tubing was an alkalising agent and that sodium bicarbonate was the most common. Although Dr Grierson acknowledged in cross examination in response to questions from Mr Hall QC, he could not rule out that the substance Air Support was being administered to the horse, he clearly stated that without a sample there was no way of being sure what it was. [91] Dr Grierson was familiar with the manufacturer but not with their product Air Support. He was aware of its contents but as no analysis had been undertaken by the NZ Racing Laboratory Service there was insufficient evidence to say what the substance was. [92] Properly qualified expert witnesses such as Dr Grierson are permitted to give opinion evidence on subjects within their area of expertise beyond the general knowledge of the Tribunal of fact provided a proper evidential foundation has been laid as in this case. [93] We find that there is a clear inference to be drawn from all of the evidence that the most likely substance which to be administered via a nasal gastric tube was an alkalising agent. [94] We do not accept either Mr McGrath’s or Mr Burrows’ evidence that the substance Air Support was to be squirted using a boost tube over the horse’s tongue. [95] No boost tube or bottle of Air Support such as the one Mr McGrath produced at the hearing was visible. Although Mr McGrath produced a bottle of Air Support and a boost tube as part of his evidence at the hearing, we find his actions to be unconvincing and self-serving. Mr McGrath was given every opportunity to hand over the boost tube and the bottle of Air Support to the racing Investigators for analysis not only on 13 March but on the following day, 14 March. [96] Mr McGrath’s explanation was that he was under considerable stress at the time as a result of previous investigation by the RIU and that on 14 March, the day after race day, he was not able to cooperate with the Investigators due to the conduct of another person who was present at his stable that day. [97] In our view, Mr McGrath’s evidence was unconvincing and self serving. Mr McGrath has been a licenced trainer since 2000. He was given every opportunity to cooperate with the RIU investigation, but on being located in the green shed with Mr Burrows, “Steel The Show” and tubing equipment after the horse had been recaptured, he deliberately embarked on an aggressive and disruptive course of action to disrupt the RIU investigation to the extent that neither the horse nor the contents of the tubing bag could be tested. As a direct result, the substance could not be analysed and the horse could not be examined by a veterinary surgeon on behalf of the Informant. Mr McGrath has never surrendered to the Investigators the bottle of Air Support and boost tube he claimed to be the substance and method of administration. [98] With regard to the transcripts of the two interviews with Mr Burrows and taking into account Mr Burrows did not give evidence, we find that in Mr Burrows’ first interview he was cooperative and he admitted that they were about to tube the horse “Steel The Show” with what he called “Air Supply.” He acknowledged that it was in breach of the Rules of HRNZ. Furthermore, it was not the first time he had assisted in the procedure at Mr McGrath’s property. [99] Having considered the strength of all the evidence, we are compelled to reach the following conclusions. We find that there is strong and clear evidence the substance was an alkalising agent taking into account Dr Grierson’s evidence, Mr McGrath’s actions in concealing the horse, “Steel the Show”, the tubing bag, himself and Mr Burrows in the shed some distance from the stables on raceday, the contents of the back pack which contained tubing equipment including a funnel, gastric tubing, twitch and 800ml bottle, the involvement of Mr Burrows, and Mr McGrath’s intentional and deliberate behaviour which included his refusal to answer the Investigator’s questions, his obstructive and aggressive behaviour towards the Investigators including directing the Investigators to leave his property. As a direct result of his conduct, Mr McGrath prevented any analysis of either the substance or the tubing gear in Mr McGrath’s back pack and any veterinary examination of the horse. [100] For these reasons, we are satisfied in respect of the disputed facts on the balance of probabilities that: (a) The substance to be administered was a solution of chemicals for the purpose of alkalising the blood or increasing the levels of TCO2 which is a prohibited substance; (b) The substance was attempted to be administered via a gastric tube; (c) The Respondent became aggressive and obstructive when the horse had been recaptured. Penalty [101] The Appeals Tribunal in RIU v Habraken, 13 May 2019, at [15] stated that: [15] The life blood of racing depends upon millions of dollars wagered in New Zealand. Loss of confidence of punters and the community in the integrity of the sport/industry inevitably carries grave risk to its wellbeing. [102] With regard to the charge of attempted administration of prohibited substance Mr McGrath has accepted through his plea of guilty that the substance attempted to be administered was a prohibited one. Rule 1004(6) contains an absolute prohibition on administering any substance whatsoever to a horse on a race day. [103] We agree with Counsel for the Informant’s submission that Mr McGrath’s motivation for doing so can only have been financial in order to enhance the horse’s performance. [104] Mr McGrath involved Mr Burrows, another licenced holder, in the deliberate administration of a prohibited substance to a horse which was to race three hours later. In RIU v Lawson, 13 May 2019 at [42] an Appeals Tribunal noted that involving other licence holders so as to place them in jeopardy of facing charges was an aggravating feature. [105] Dr Grierson’s expert opinion was that he believes the most likely substance to be administered via tubing was an alkalising agent which improves a horse’s performance and is now banned worldwide. [106] Furthermore, such conduct has a significant impact on the racing industry’s reputation for high standards of animal welfare. The industry cannot maintain its social licence in order to continue to operate without maintaining high standards of animal welfare. [107] We agree with Counsel for the Informant’s submission that in addition to the attempted administration of a prohibited substance, Mr McGrath’s conduct when dealing with racecourse Investigators warrants a condign response. [108] Rule 1001 applies to actions involving some element of dishonesty, corruption, wilful neglect or breaches of duty or Rules, all serious racing offences. [109] The Appeals Tribunal of the Judicial Conduct Authority said in RIU v Lawson at [25]: Proceedings under the Rules are designed “not simply to punish the transgressor, but crucially are to protect the profession/public/industry and those who are to deal with the profession…The Harness and Thoroughbred racing “industry” is a profession where key participants are required to be licenced in order to practice in various ways within that sphere. Comprehensive rules of practice. behaviour, procedure and the like are set down in extensive detail in the Rules which govern the codes and behaviour. As with most professions, a careful internal disciplinary and regulatory process is set up. Those who practice within the professions (whether law, accountancy, medicine, teaching, real estate, and the like) are subject to sanctions for breaches of standards of conduct or rules designed to protect members of the profession as well as the public. Such sanctions can be at the highest end include removal from a profession for serious breaches of professional rules and standards involving dishonest or immoral conduct. Such behaviour if unchecked may greatly harm the reputation of the profession and bring it into disrepute”-that is the public loses confidence in it. [110] Mr McGrath knew that as a licenced trainer that the Rules of Harness Racing requires compliance with the horse Rules and cooperation with the RIU, the industry body charged with managing integrity issues. It is also important that all those in the industry are also deterred from acting in a similar way, contrary to the conditions of their licences and the Rules. [111] The Appeals Authority stated at [25] that disqualification is frequently imposed: Where the professional has acted dishonestly or unethically, or so far outside the standards required of him/her as to forfeit the privilege of working within the profession. Aggravating Factors of the Offending [112] There is no issue that the RIU Investigators who attended Mr McGrath’s stables on 13 March 2020 and were acting lawfully and reasonably and were entitled to take possession of the tubing gear Mr McGrath had concealed and to question Mr McGrath. Mr McGrath’s response was deliberately aggressive and obstructive culminating in him ordering the RIU Investigators off his property. We do not accept Mr McGrath’s evidence that it was not an outright refusal to cooperate, although it is correct that when he declined to be interviewed on 13 March 2020, he did say the twitch and nasal gastric tube had not been used. [113] We reject Mr McGrath’s evidence that he was in no state to be questioned at that time. Given his conduct we do not accept that the RIU Investigators could have arranged for a swab of the horse which was caught when they were present and secured it its stable. His statement was given to the Informant before he was charged with any offence. [114] Mr McGrath’s actions on 13 March 2020 and on the following day 14 March 2020 breached the Rules in ordering RIU Investigators off his property and refusing to supply information including the tubing equipment prevented the RIU Investigators obtaining the very evidence that resulted in the need for a disputed facts hearing. His deliberate actions prevented the RIU Investigators performing their functions and undermine the Rules and Licensing regime which ensure the integrity of the industry as a whole. [115] We do not agree with Counsel for Mr McGrath’s submission that while conceding that the (attempted) administration was deliberate, the nature of the substance and the manner of administration falls at the lower end of the spectrum because the substance is not a drug, rather a multi-herbal remedy which Mr McGrath believed would assist the horse’s recovery and wellbeing after a hard race rather than providing an unfair advantage to the horse. Dr Grierson’s evidence was that the most likely substance to be administered via tubing was an alkalising agent and sodium bicarbonate was the most common. Mr Burrows’ confirmed that he was assisting Mr McGrath to “tube” the horse and that he knew it was breaching the Rules. He and Mr McGrath endeavoured to conceal their actions by taking the horse and tubing gear into a shed away from the stables. When discovered by the RIU Investigators, Mr McGrath refused to cooperate as required by the Rules in any way, including behaving aggressively and obstructing. [116] Further, was Mr McGrath’s deliberate and intentional actions in withholding evidence that prevented the Investigators gathering the very same evidence which has resulted in the need for the disputed facts hearing. We regard this as a serious aggravating feature. [117] In our view there are no mitigating factors relating to the offending. Aggravating Factors relating to Mr McGrath [118] Mr McGrath was suspended from driving for six months on 10 February 2020 having pleaded guilty an improper driving breach. While subject to the suspension from driving, he incurred the current breaches of the Rules as a licensed trainer. [119] In 2004-2005, Mr McGrath was disqualified for 18 months following a breach in which two horses tested positive for Propantheline Bromide, a performance enhancing substance referred to colloquially as “Blue Magic.” [120] The current breaches of the Rules occurred within a few months of the six month suspension from driving for an improper driving breach. Mitigating Factors relating to Mr McGrath [121] Counsel for Mr McGrath, submitted that Mr McGrath’s reaction to what occurred is significant, in that he indicated within a short time he would plead guilty to a breach of the 24 hour Rule and on 18 March 2020 provided a statement to the RIU which included advice that he intended to hand in his public training licence as a demonstration of his remorse and acceptance of the consequences of his actions on Friday, 13 March 2020. [122] Mr McGrath’s reaction was “off the cuff” and later very much regretted. He offered to make a statement and offered to be interviewed the following day but the RIU decided not to engage with him. [123] The attempted administration was not an attempt to gain an unfair advantage over other competitors and the horse was scratched so no actual loss was incurred by the punters although the owners lost the opportunity to a share of the prize money. [124] Mr McGrath’s Counsel submitted a 25% discount was appropriate for his plea of guilty and the attempted administration charge is clearly a less serious charge than an administration charge. [125] Mr McGrath is saddened and apologetic. He had admitted the charges and realises that the consequences of suspension or disqualification of his licence would put his family’s investment in horses and the training facility in jeopardy because he could not meet his business commitments without a training licence. He is passionate about horses and the sport which he loves. Since he became a Licensed Public Trainer, he has had many quality horses and a loyal and long standing customer base. He has trained winners in many of New Zealand’s feature races including the Great Northern Oaks and Trotting Derby, the NZ Derby Multiple Sires Stakes and Yearling Sales finals, the Young Guns, Breakers Stakes, NZ Jewels and over 20 Country Cups in the South Island. [126] With no other qualification or work experience he would find it difficult to obtain alternative employment. The complete loss of his business and income would be out of all proportion to the gravity of the offending, if a disqualification was imposed. [127] The Judicial Control Authority Penalty Guidelines suggest a three-year disqualification starting point is appropriate for a second offence of administering but that the starting point should be lowered significantly if the earlier offending was 15 years previously as in this case. Submissions as to Penalty [128] Counsel for the Informant seeks a disqualification of up to 10 years of Mr McGrath’s trainer’s licence if the substance administered to the horse “Steel The Show” was an alkalising agent and was introduced by way of a gastric nasal tube. [129] Counsel for the Respondent submits that the cases cited by the Informant namely RIU v Morgenrood  (RIU v B Morgenrood decision dated 9 June 2020) and the RWWA case do not involve raceday administration. The RWWA case is under appeal and the Morgenrood case was described by the Judicial Committee as “difficult to find any similar offending by a licenced rider.” Conclusion [130] The starting point for these three offences, before allowance is made for mitigating factors, must be sufficient to reflect the gravity of the offending, the interests of the industry, profession of harness racing as a whole and the need for deterrence, both specific and general. [131] This is a case where clearly the interests of the professional code/industry participants and the sport outweigh mitigating factors in deciding that disqualification is necessary. The evidence is largely uncontradicted and overwhelming. Mr McGrath attempted to administer an alkalising agent via a gastric tube to “Steel the Show” on raceday. In order to do this, he involved another licence holder, Mr Burrows. When surprised by the Investigators, Mr McGrath’s intentional aggressive and obstructive conduct undermined the Rules and the licensing regime and rendered the RIU investigation redundant in that they were unable to perform their core functions. If the industry cannot be effectively regulated, there are serious consequences of public confidence in the sport. In our view, disqualification is the appropriate penalty. [132] We agree with Counsel for the Informant’s submission that licence holders must not be given the impression that they can withhold or destroy evidence, so that they can argue the facts and receive a lesser penalty than otherwise would be appropriate. [133] Taking into account the submissions of Counsel for the Informant and Counsel for Mr McGrath, we adopt a global starting point of 10 years disqualification, which includes a small uplift for previous breaches of the Rules in 2004 and for further offending against the Rules while subject to a suspension as a driver imposed on 10 February 2020. [134] We take into account the fact Mr McGrath is suffering from severe stress and is genuinely remorseful. There will be very significant financial and personal implications for Mr McGrath, as a direct result of any suspension or disqualification. We also take into account his admission of the charges. [135] However, in respect of the mitigating factor we allow only a small discount given the overwhelming and largely uncontradicted evidence that Mr McGrath’s intention was to undermine the Rules and the licensing regime and render the RIU’s investigation redundant in that they were unable to perform their core functions maintaining the integrity of sport/industry and the publics confidence in it. [136] Taking into account all mitigating factors, we order that Mr McGrath be disqualified for a period of 8 years concurrently, in respect of the three charges. RIU Costs [137] The RIU is entitled to costs. The Informant’s submissions as to costs are directed to be filed within 10 days and the Respondent’s submission in response are to be filed within 10 days of receipt of the Informant’s submissions. JCA Costs [138] JCA costs are sought and will be provided to Counsel within 10 days from date of this decision. J Lovell-Smith CHAIR 

Canterbury harness racing trainer-driver Nigel Raymond McGrath has been cleared of a race-fixing charge arising from an 18-month industry investigation. It was the only charge McGrath, 45, faced as part of the police's Operation Inca inquiry into racing industry figures last year. Christchurch District Court Judge Raoul Neave dismissed the charge and McGrath was able to walk away. He had no name suppression, but one aspect of the case remains suppressed. Prosecutor Karyn South told the court the Crown believed there was enough evidence but the "public interest test was not met". Defence counsel Pip Hall QC Hall said the defence position was always that there was not enough evidence for the charge to proceed. Read the full story here.   by David Clarkson Reprinted with permission of Stuff

As reported by Stuff, one of harness racing's brightest young prospects is one of seven people charged after a long-running inquiry into alleged race-fixing and drugs in the industry.  Police confirmed they have charged seven people in relation to Operation Inca, which culminated in raids on 10 harness racing stables in Canterbury, Manawatū and Invercargill on Tuesday. More raids are understood to be happening on Wednesday.    Read the full story here   Martin van Beynen and Mat Kermeen  

Classie Brigade can bounce back from his shock last start defeat at Alexandra Park tonight but he will have to do it without one of his best mates. Because regular reinsman Blair Orange will stay in the South Island to drive at Addington tonight to galvanise his lead in the national driver's premiership which, while still healthy, was cut back by a rampant Dexter Dunn last week. In Orange's absence, Nathan Purdon, who now works for his uncle Barry, will partner Classic Brigade, with Barry having looked after the open class pacer for much of the last month. Nathan was on Classie Brigade when he returned from a 15 month layoff to win two starts ago but Orange was reunited with him in the $40,000 Uncut Gem last start when he dropped out to run fourth behind race rival tonight in Billy Badger. "Initially I was very disappointed but when you analyse it they went 2:38 [for 2200m] on a winter night and he was only second up without any hard racing," says trainer Nigel McGrath. "So I think he just wasn't ready for that sort of time, especially in a race where he had to work. "Barry has been looking after him since and you couldn't ask for a better man for the job so I am sure he will be fitter." McGrath said Orange offered to come north to drive Classie Brigade even though it would have meant passing up several winning chances at Addington. "But I told him to stay down there and keep getting winners for the premiership. I'm sure Nathan will do a great job." The race may not come down to Purdon's skills as much as what unfolds in front of him. If Billy Badger can step well from his 15m handicap and work around to the lead, leaving Classic Brigade to do all his own work, then it becomes a huge challenge. But if natural front runners like Juice Brogden or Seaswift Joy get the lead and their drivers are keen to stay there then Classie Brigade could get the perfect drag on Billy Badger's back and be the horse to beat. Billy Badger's trainer Robert Dunn holds a key hand in tonight's main trot too with Woodstone and Sundees Son both in winning form and with the speed to threaten open class rival One Over Da Moon. The latter has been favourite for similar races recently but not well suited by handicaps. And while the best version of him would win back to the 1700m mobile tonight, Woodstone in particular looks to be racing at least as well if not better. Michael Guerin

After 13 months in the harness racing wilderness Classie Brigade is back where he left off --- trying to beat Buster Brady. The forgotten horse of the open class scene returns at Alexandra Park tonight after over a year on the sidelines with mystery lameness. “He has had every test known to man and we still don’t know what was wrong with him,” admits trainer Nigel McGrath. “But the main thing is he is fine now and ready to race. “He has had a long slow build up, done a heap of swimming and had three workouts. “Obviously nothing gets them as fit as racing and the small field could be tricky but he is ready to go well. But the tactics and tempo of the race could decide things.” Classic Brigade is in tonight’s last race at Alexandra Park to prepare for a $40,000 Uncut Gems race next week, a kind of Jewels consolation race which is a very juicy carrot on the relatively bare winter landscape. Tonight he finds himself against a familiar foe. When Classic Brigade last raced 13 months ago he ran fourth to Buster Brady in the Winter Cup, the start before he just beat him home. And the pair look set to dominate again tonight. Buster Brady is now trained by Barry Purdon and has an obvious fitness edge tonight and with the race only having four starters, whichever of the two favourites is able to dictate to the other will probably win. But while that fitness edge means there probably shouldn’t be much between the pair in the market, on sheer class Classie Brigade is the better horse. A race earlier former Jewels winner One Over Da Moon faces an interesting challenge in the main trot, having to overcome a 40m handicap over 2200m, something very few horses have accomplished at Alexandra Park.   Michael Guerin

Sometimes your dreams come at a cost. Trainer Nigel McGrath will discover the exact price at the Harness Jewels on Saturday. It has been 54 days days since McGrath won the race he has coveted his whole life, the New Zealand Derby at Addington with Sheriff. In one of the great modern day derbies, Sheriff nosed out Pat's Delight and Sicario in national record time, with the trio set to clash again in the last race on Jewels day. The Derby hurt, with the 3:5.4 time for the 2600m mobile akin to what the older horses do to themselves in a New Zealand Cup. His recovery has been slow, giving McGrath one of the biggest challenges of his career. "To be honest, straight after the Derby I would have been happy for his season to be over," says the Canterbury trainer. "It had already been a long season and it was an incredible Derby and he was tired. "So I eased right up on him and while I have kept him fit and happy, I haven't asked him for much since." That was in evidence when Sheriff raced below his best at Addington last start and maybe again when he was a solid but hardly sensational second at the Cambridge workouts last Saturday. "I was initially disappointed but Todd Mitchell drove him and rang me straight away to say it was a good run and I trust his opinion. "And he is a Bettor's Delight, we know they can be different horses on raceday. "So I think he will improve and come out on Saturday and be the good horse he is. But whether that is good enough to win, we will find out." While the front line for the mobile mile looks one of the fastest of the day, McGrath says he may add pull-down blinds to Sheriff's gear to get him keen enough to work to the lead and then give driver Blair Orange a turbo button to hit at the top of the straight. But with Pat's Delight drawn to be close by and Sicario having thrilled his connections with his work this week, anything below the Derby-winning version of Sheriff is going to have a huge fight on his hooves. McGrath actually takes one of the three previous Jewels winners racing to Saturday's meeting, with Dizzy Miss Lizzy brilliant at this meeting last season but missing in action since. She has had nine starts since her Jewels stunner, all this season for a fresh up win and a second in the Sires' Stakes Final, the other seven being unplaced and largely disappointing performances. "She has been terrible for much of the season," is McGrath's blunt assessment. "But she has had all sorts of problems. She has been in season a lot and I think she is over that and she has actually worked the best she has in a long time this week. "I think she might be back to something like her best." From barrier two in the three-year-old Diamond, Dizzy Miss Lizzy has the option to try and lead and could even hand up to hot favourite Shez All Rock, which would make her a value place hope. Michael Guerin

Watching the New Zealand Derby unfold in front of your eyes was something that had to be seen to be believed. Think Terror To Love’s first New Zealand Cup, Flashing Red’s second, and Father Christmas winning on debut at Oamaru. The last race may only be dear the heart of the scribe and his syndicate members, but you get my drift. This race had it all. From go to woe it was electric and by the end you were scrambling to catch your breath. Sitting behind the Chairman of Harness Racing New Zealand, Ken Spicer, I looked down at his reaction at having possibly bred a New Zealand Derby winner. Lips pursed and looking for encouragement, he didn’t find any in the faces of those around him! “I was standing behind Bob Masefield one of the owners of Sheriff. We couldn’t hear the commentary and Bob sought of shrugged his shoulders and slammed his race book and I thought bugger, we had just got beat in one of the biggest races of the season,” said Spicer. “Soon enough as the replays came up on the big screen and it became clear we had won, it was a great feeling and made for a great night.” Ken’s wife and co-breeder of Sheriff, Anne Marie, was a little more confident on the result having the aid of a commentator with an eye for a close finish. “I was standing down the stable watching on the TV so I knew he had won as when Mark McNamara calls a horse home he’s usually pretty much on the money. Watching the race I didn’t think he was going to win, he did so much work going down the back and never had a breather but it was incredible really,” she said. Despite a lot of goodwill on race night from friends and fellow race goer’s, the occasion took a while to sink in for the Spicer’s. “Watching the race was exciting but it wasn’t until a couple of days afterwards that it actually sunk in that as a breeder we’d actually bred a derby winner. It’s really just starting to sink in now, we’ve bred a derby winner and its really cool,” said Ken. It must be bloody cool when the horse who has just broken the clock in the biggest pacing race for three year olds in Australasia was raised in your own back yard. The story behind how Sherrif came about is also bloody cool, and one that goes to show that sometimes everything happens for a reason. “We’ve been friends with the Sandford’s for a long time and when it came time to retiring Inspiring Dash, I said to them that Anne Marie and I would be keen to breed from her with him when she had finished racing. We started breeding and her third foal Jen Marie came about,” said Ken. “The idea was that she was to go to the sales but she had a bit of a twisted front foot and wasn’t the best of lookers and was slightly on the small side.” “She failed the final inspection with PGGW so we paid the Sandford’s out and raced her in David Butt’s care where she won her first start. She had a lot of high speed, and that was shown in the first start where she beat Miss Moonlite who was a pretty good filly at the time. She got a bit crook and never showed her true potential. Her true potential would be in the broodmare paddock being from a prolific family that descended from broodmare gem, Witchlight. The dam of the derby winner Jen Marie is a direct descendant of Witchlight via Lochaime (Lordship), Awesome Dream (Soky’s Atom) and Inspiring Dash (Falcon Seelster). When you throw in her own dam sire, Christian Cullen, there really isn’t a weakness in the maternal line, particularly when you look at some of the other progeny who were around at the time from this family. The likes of Corumba, Flying Sands, Bella Chip (Bella’s Boy, Winter Rose, Bettor’s Strike), Lento and Awesome Armbro had all scorched the tracks prior to Jen Marie’s arrival from Inspiring Dash. Just after making a decision to retain Jen Marie upon her failed inspection, her full sister and first foal from Inspiring Dash was just starting to make some noise from the barn of Michael House. “She had awful front legs as Ken mentioned and when she was turned away from the sales we made the comment that she was always going to be a full sister to Rona Lorraine who at the time had just won the Caduceus Club fillies race for two year olds in Auckland. As it turned it out, she was actually a half-sister to Venus Serena as well. Lightning was to strike twice with another Group One winning daughter to be bred from the Sandford’s and Spicer’s broodmare gem, Inspiring Dash. A similar story to the plight of Jen Marie just about struck again when the Spicer’s took Venus Serena home from the sales. Only this time, the astute breeders were to pull on the wrong rein. “We ended up taking her home from the sales but we had another filly at the time that was a half to Cowgirls and Indians and we decided to keep her and let Bob and Jenny have Venus instead, which was a great choice to make in hindsight,” joked Spicer. Everything happens for a reason as they say and although the daughter of Mach Three would go on to win just shy of $800,000 and Multiple Group 1’s, as Ken said; “That’s just how it goes.” Still with plenty to smile about, Jen Marie was just starting to leave her foals. “In a paddock of 14 mares, Jen Marie would be the last one you would pick out on type and she is also the smallest, but she leaves the most amazing foals every year. “She’s plain but the thing about her is she has a big backside, a big chest and she’s long barrelled but she’s not the prettiest thing as a complete package and her short tail does her no favours,” joked Ken. “We got it wrong slightly with the first mating going to Real Desire but as it transpired that foal won a couple of races (2012 - Real Dash) and she’s done a job with Bettor’s Delight. That she has, with the Robert Dun trained Wrangler being her second foal with earnings in excess of $60,000 in a brief career to date. Standing at 14.2 hands on a good day, Jen Marie might be what you would call a risky prospect for a commercial breeder to be sending to a sire like Bettor’s Delight. Size matters at the yearling sales and selling a small yearling can be a tall ask. Thankfully for the Spicer’s, Jen Marie’s progeny have only inherited the quality traits of their mother. “None of her foals are big but she throws the length in to them and you can see that with Sheriff who isn’t the biggest but has inherited his mother’s scope. Anyone that has been on the Canterbury Yearling tour has had an opportunity to take in the magnificent property that is Rosedale Farm on the outskirts of Christchurch for which the Spicer’s have developed over quite a lot of years.  “We’ve been here 30 years now and did all the planting ourselves, it used to be a dairy farm and only had water to a couple of paddocks and was covered in scotch thistles. It was just four big paddocks of over 40 acres. “We’ve just been around horses all our lives Brad having grown up in Ashburton going to the races and in his later years my dad actually trained a few. Anne Marie’s father was an MP and raced a good horse with George Noble called Seafield Rose. She was actually one of our first broodmares together and we started breeding from one of her daughters Bibi Maizoon,” said Ken. The early interest from both families has transpired into a lifelong passion of breeding commercially and the Spicer’s have been no stranger to success at the sales having bred multiple six figure horses such as Wrangler, Better Think Quick and Corona to name a few of the more recent ones. “We’re breeding from fourteen mares altogether and have some lovely maiden mares in foal for the first time this year. Kate Black who is Kate First’s last foal and Black Rain who is out of Rona Lorraine,” said Anne Marie. “We’re quite excited about a mare called Flo Jo who is an unraced Jereme’s Jet mare who we bought at the Mixed Sale and her first foal is Smokin By with Mitch Kerr who has won his first two starts. She’s a half-sister to Inspiring Dash and Gail Devers. Ken found himself wondering with so many from the same family whether the time had come to diversify slightly. “I was thinking 5 or 6 months ago maybe I had too much of the one breed, and Sheriff comes along and you think maybe it was a smart move. It can go either way cant it, if none of the mares produces quite as you hope then the pages start to look a little thin in the sales book but now we have the derby winner on nearly seven of our sales pages. As they say, you can’t have too much of a good thing! And that good thing has seen the Spicer’s reach the pinnacle in the past fortnight, a height that wouldn’t have been reached without the training brilliance of Nigel McGrath. “He’d been pestering us for 15 years to give him a horse and it was only when Maverick was sacked by Davie and Catherine that Maverick ended up there and he’s done a super job with him. “He deserves so much of the credit because he thinks outside of the box as a trainer and is very particular with minor details and coming up with a plan,” said Ken. “Winning a Derby was special but Maverick winning on Cup Day when he went 3:08 was my biggest thrill,” said Anne Marie. The next big thrill might be just around the corner with some of Sheriff’s younger brothers starting to come to the fore. “We’ve just gone and picked up Sheriff’s half-brother El Dorado (Art Major - 2016) from  Stephen Boyd’s place who we have a small share in with a group of friends that raced Kate Black, Mavericks half-sister with us previously. She’s in foal and has a beautiful Bettor’s Delight colt at foot presently which we believe is her best foal yet,” said Anne Marie.   This article featured in the Breeders Update, click here to read the most recent issue: Click here to subscribe: Courtesy of Brad Reid NZ Standardbred Breeders Association

Harness racing 3yo Sheriff has smashed the NZ mobile 2600m all comers record when winning the $200,000 (Gr1) New Zealand Derby at Addington Raceway tonight . The Nigel McGrath trained pacer ran the mobile 2600m in a blistering 3-05.4 which obliterated the old record held by the Purdon/Rasmussen trained Vincent by more than half a second.  McGrath had three nice chances in the race as he also trained race rivals Aloka and Star Commander, but he rated Sheriff the best of the horses he had in the race. "He has come up nice this year and every start this season he has found the line really well. "He ran a good third in the Northern Derby and I think he is ready tonight," he said before the race. Sheriff (Bettor's Delight - Jen Marie) had to work hard to loop the field on a hot pace and he finally found the the lead with 700m to go. The classy pacer then had to withstand all the challenges in the straight, but lasted to beat a fast finishing Pat's Delight by a nose at the line. Driver Blair Orange was ecstatic after the race and said, "It was a great win and Nigel had him peaking at the right time. "I had a good battle with Dexter up the straight but luckily the coin flipped my way." Sheriff rated 1-54.7 over the 2600m mobile and zipped over his last 800m in 56.4 with a closing 400m in 27.5 seconds.   Sheriff winning the NZ Derby   Harnesslink Media

Blair Orange knows all about beating the seemingly unbeatable. He is doing it right now, day by day, as he continues on his surprising path to the national driver’s premiership, downing perennial champion Dexter Dunn. Barring injury, a huge suspension or a freakish Dunn performance between now and  August 1, Orange will beat the man who has won the last 10 premierships. But at Addington tonight he has to do something even tougher. He has to try and beat the All Stars in a Derby. Like the premiership, Orange thinks he can do just that with Sheriff and like the premiership he knows it won’t be easy. Sheriff has a second line draw and four All Stars runners, headlined by Anthem and Sicario, to contend with in the $200,000 New Zealand Derby. Nobody knows more than Orange how hard it is to beat the legendary stable in the Derby, after all it was working for the All Stars that he made his name. “I think we can win, because they are beatable. Everybody is beatable,” says Orange.   “But I also know how good Mark and Nat are at what they do, how ready the horses will be.  “And they have numbers of their side. We might be good enough to beat three of theirs but you have to beat all four.  “But I think Sheriff is as good as their ones, especially with Chase Auckland out.”  On paper it appears Sheriff has slightly the better draw of the three favourites as he follows out a fast beginner in Pat’s Delight but Orange says that means little.  “You look at these races and think who you are following out matters but it very rarely does,” he says.  “If I try and punch through behind it at the start then I am probably three wide on a hot pace for the first 800m and I think they will go very hard.  “So I don’t see that happening but what it does mean is I might be able to settle in front of Sicario and Anthem and that could help.”  The reality of the Derby is all three favourites are likely to settle in the second half of the field, not a bad thing with a likely hot tempo, then move together and the one who ends up in the one-one with 1000m to go becomes the one to beat.  “That sort of luck will play a huge role but this is a horse who can win a Derby so we have our chance.”  While so many Derbys in the modern era are won by horses on the marker pegs saving valuable ground tonight’s 2600m mobile could be an exception, with Sicario and Anthem such good stayers, but the race looms as one of the more competitive classics in years.  It it matched by the Trotting Derby where the northern stable of John and Josh Dickie have a strong two-horse punch in Girls On Film and Paramount King, with backing both not the worst play.  The Dickies have another group one shot with Speeding Spur, who is the horse to beat in the $100,000 Trotting Champs on form and with the best draw.   Michael Guerin

Nigel McGrath isn't giving up. And the 16 new horses he has in his stable are proof of that as much as the two he has in Friday night's $250,000 Woodlands Derby at Alexandra Park. McGrath has Sheriff and Aloka in the classic, again up against the might of the All Stars stables, who have the favourites in Chase Auckland and Sicario. The All Stars pair relegated Sheriff to third in last Friday's Derby prelude, a position McGrath was not unused to. But he and fellow Derby trainer Cran Dalgety are two southern horsemen who in recent years have been able to, at least on occasion, halt the All Stars domination of our classics and Jewels. Dalgety has Pat's Delight in this Friday trying to emulate Raukapuka Ruler's shock Derby win of 12 months ago, while last season McGrath trained Dizzy Miss Lizzy to win a Jewels and Sales Series Pace over the best of the Purdon-Rasmussen fillies. He says training in such a rare, elite era is a challenge rather than discouraging. "It has been said by a few people before but it is like finding a way to beat the All Blacks, it's not easy but it's not impossible," says McGrath. "We did it a couple of times in major races last season and we have done it before in Sales Series races up here (Auckland). "I think you can only keep analysing what you do as a trainer and keep trying to get better. "But of course it also comes down to what stock you have and that is why the yearling sales are so important. "I took 16 yearlings home this year from the sales and I bought them to win Derby and Sires' Stakes races, not run second or third. "Those yearlings are my future and my owners' future so we are in for the fight," McGrath says. McGrath is bringing that attitude to Friday night's Derby, saying he will instruct driver Blair Orange to use Sheriff's barrier draw to try and stay in front of the All Stars pair. "I think often if you hand up you are running for second or third at best. "And sometimes that is fine because each horse has to be rated to its strengths. "But I think Sheriff is good enough to try his luck and make them work." McGrath's second-stringer, Aloka, cost punters plenty when galloping in front in a lower-grade race last Friday but the trainer is not expecting a repeat of that problem: "He is a place chance at least ..." While Chase Auckland lost his unbeaten record to Sicario last Friday, he will open as Derby favourite, having been forced to sit parked, and should improve with the run, his first in two months. This Derby has real depth, incredible because it is an unusual year for our elite pacing three-year-olds, with sales, sickness and exports having halved the number of stars available. Of the 13 top juveniles who made it to the Jewels last June, only two return for Friday's Derby while Australasian Breeders Crown winner King Of Swing has been sold to Perth. So the fact Alexandra Park has been able to attract nine genuine top-class three-year-olds is surprising. The classic is the highlight of a huge meeting, with two rich juvenile finals, the City of Auckland Free-For-All, Greenlane Trotters Cup and Northern Mares Classic making it the strongest Alexandra Park meeting for the rest of the season. Woodlands Derby Alex Park, 8.48pm Friday $250,000, 2700m mobile The field 1: Culpeka (1) 2: American Brave (2) 3: Triple Eight (3) 4: Sheriff (4) 5: Aloka (5) 6: Chase Auckland (6) 7: On The Cards (7) 8: Pat's Delight (8) 9: Sicario (1 second line) Michael Guerin

Matt Anderson, who is a regular visitor to the south as he chases the junior drivers premiership, has a bit of a following. When he returned to the stabling area with Invercargill Cup winner Maverick he received plenty of calls of ‘well done’ from those in the South Stand.  Maverick, who started off the 20 metre mark with favourite Robbie Burn, stayed out of the early action as Hopes And Dreams and Nathan Williamson set the pace in the 3200 metre Group Three feature. Inside the last 800 metres Anderson sped the six year old forward. By the time the horse had reached the 400 he had his head in front of a tiring Hopes And Dreams. He held on tenaciously to beat stablemate My Wee Man and Robbie Burns, who both fought bravely. The winning margin was a length and a quarter.  Maverick (8) and Matt Anderson winning the Invercargill Cup - Photo Bruce Stewart. “We navigated around the handicap and picked our time to move. When we did I asked plenty of him and he delivered,” said Anderson. The winner is trained by Nigel McGrath who won the Invercargill Cup last year with Classie Brigade in a sensational time of 3-23.5. Today's winning time was 4-05.2. It was Anderson's second winning drive in the cup. He won with the Brent Shirley trained Costa Del Magnifico in 2016.  "I owe Brent Shirley a big thanks. He’s worked on my relationship with Nigel McGrath. I’m really grateful.” Maverick has now won ten races and $121,065 for his connections which include HRNZ Chairman Ken Spicer and his wife Anne- Marie who also bred the gelding. He's by Bettor's Delight out of the Auckland Cup winner Kate's First.   Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing  

The most impressive winner on Cup Day at Ascot Park yesterday was the Nigel McGrath trained Sheriff which won the McKnight and Brown Mobile Pace. Driver Ricky May drove the three year old colt like he was the best horse in the race - which he was. He blasted out from gate six, took the lead and went to the line untouched to win by four and three quarters of a length from Ana Malak which came from last to run second. The winning time on an off track was 2-40.2. “It was a pretty easy drive really- he just went super. He was jogging all the way to be fair. He’s got a bit of a future this fella. If he keeps improving he’ll be right up with the top ones,” said May. Heading back                         - Photo Bruce Stewart. This was the second time May has driven the colt. He also drove him when he ran sixth in Chase Auckland's PGG Wrightson New Zealand Yearling Sales Three Year Old Final.  “He drew bad, had no luck and he ran on really strongly.”   May says that Sheriff will make an ideal Southern Supremacy Stakes runner for McGrath later in the season. Winning connections with sponsor Bernie Brown - Photo Bruce Stewart. Like Maverick, he was also bred by Ken and Anne-Marie Spicer. He's out of the Christian Cullen mare Jen Marie. The Spicers are offering a half-brother by Art Major in next month's sale in Christchurch. His name is El Dorado.  Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing    

It's great when a plan comes off - and it did yesterday when the Nigel McGrath trained three year old Aloka won the House Of Travel Lakers Summer Cup at the Northern Southland Meeting.  "Nigel wanted the race run at tempo from the front. He was on his hands and knees at the finish but everything else was as well luckily," said driver Blair Orange. Orange took the Bettor's Delight colt straight to the lead and made sure the race was run at even quarters.  "He's not with the top tier of three year olds but he is with the ones in the middle. There's still a few things he does wrong but I think he'll get better and be a better horse in twelve months." The winning margin was two and a half lengths with a game The Big Boss, which sat parked for most of the trip, finishing second.  The overall time for the 2700 metres mobile was 3-21.0, a second outside the track and Southland record for three year olds of 3-19.1 held jointly by Highview Tommy (2009) and Eamon Maguire (2017). Aloka remains unbeaten at Ascot Park. In his only other start on the track last April as a two year old, he won the Diamond Creek Farm Two Year Old Classic. Returning to the birdcage                                           - Photo Bruce Stewart. The win was one of three for Orange, the country's leading reinsman. The others were with the Clark Barron trained Giftofjoy and another McGrath trained runner Gore Bay.  Orange says it's likely Aloka will be back in late April to contest the $45,000 Group Two Alabar Southern Supremacy Stakes on Diamonds Day.  Aloka has a full-brother in next months Sale of the Stars in Christchurch. Meanwhile Ryal Bush trainer Brett Gray and stable driver Brent Barclay scored a treble at the meeting yesterday. The three winners were Bettor B Ready, Zealand Star and The Heart Rulz. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing Aloka winning his race.

"I thought the other horse had won actually. Blair told me he'd got me," said trainer driver Nigel McGrath after backmarker Maverick beat stablemate My Wee Man in the Sir Lincoln at Alabar Riverton Trotting Cup at Ascot Park on Sunday. The winning margin was a nose. "He (Blair Orange) goes round more than me so I thought he must be right." The six year old Bettor's Delight gelding which is part-owned by McGrath with Ken and Ann-Marie Spicer has now won nine races. "He's had a Methven Workout and he's been to the beach a few times and he's started to work really good in the last few weeks. I thought 35 (metres) might be a bit tough today." He now carries a rating of 102 and McGrath says it'll be very hard to place Maverick in races that he's competitive in. "Very hard. He's not very far away from being retired. He'll go away and a be a hack. He's a lovely quiet horse." McGrath has had the gelding since he was a late three year old. He won one race for David and Catherine Butt. He's out of the nineteen win Holmes Hanover mare Kate's First whose wins include the 1997 Auckland Cup.  The win on Sunday was McGraths 500th. His first was Lasting Vance at Westport in December 1999.  Meanwhile quality colt Franco Santino won the SBS Bank Nugget Final holding off a late charging Lawrence to win by a length. He's owned by Riverton fisherman Neville Cleaver. As part of the Riverton Trotting Clubs Owner For The Day promotion the horse was also 'gifted' to Monique and Christian Harvey. Oliver Kite, Franco Santino, Neville Cleaver and Monique and Christian Harvey -  Photo Bruce Stewart. Bruce Stewart Southland Harness Racing

Harness racing trainer Nigel McGrath trained his 500th winner yesterday when Maverick, a six year old gelding won the Riverton Trotting Cup for him at Ascot Park.  McGrath started his training career in 1999 and racked up 9 wins in his first season, with his first training win coming on Lasting Vance at Greymouth on the 26 December 1999.  He has been stacking up the wins ever since, with his best season coming in 2004, which provided him with 46 wins and a further 46 placings. Maverick a son of Bettor's Delight won his ninth race yesterday and took his stake earnings past $100,000. He had to be good to win the race after starting from a handicap of 35m and working hard during the running. McGrath also in the sulky for the win, was up parked with a lap to go after beginning quickly from the standing start. In the straight Maverick was pressured by the stablemate My Wee Man and Blair Orange, but dug deep and fought back to win by a nose at the line. The winner paced the 2700m form the standing start in 3-25.4, with the last 800m cut out in 58.2 and the 400m in 28.2 seconds. Maverick winning at Ascot park yesterday! Harnesslink Media

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