Day At The Track
Nigel McGrath,Harness racing

Nigel McGrath disqualified for 8 years

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 

Tymal Tullo,Harness racing

Tymal Tullo shocks field in trot feature

Tymal Tullo (Mike Merton) goes three-wide to win the $7,000 featured harness racing trot at Tioga Downs on Sunday (July 5). Joey Pro (Bruce Aldrich) went to the front and hit the first quarter in :27.2.  He put up a :29.2 second quarter and hit the half in :56.4 as Tymal Tullo ($64.00) sat following in second.  Uncle Hanover (Kyle DiBenedetto) was the first to make a move going first-over on the backstretch.  Joey Pro hit three-quarters first in 1:25.4 but the race was on. As they came down the stretch Uncle Hanover took a short lead.  Tymal Tullo slid out of the pocket and came at them three-wide.  He would blow right on by to win in 1:56.1.  Uncle Hanover held for second.  Bjanthony (Drew Monti) fired late to finish third. Tymal Tullo is a 4-year-old horse by Kadabra.  He is owned and trained by Tony Dinges.  It was his third win this season.  He now has six career victories. Merton drove three more winners on the day.  His other wins came with Whip N Neigh Neigh ($2.90), Barrys Shelby ($7.10), and Too Much Duncan ($5.50). Jins Shark (Jim Taggart Jr.) captures the $6,500 featured pace. Fritzie Pic Up Man (Mike Merton) charges to the front and hits the first quarter in :27.0.  JM's Delight (Greg Merton) took control as they came by the stands for the first time.  He was first to the half in :55.4.  Red Dirt Rocknroll (Renaldo Morales III) came first-over and put on the pressure all the way down the backstretch.  JM's Delight held the lead after three-quarters in 1:23.4. As they made the turn for home Jins Shark (13.20) came flying down the stretch and flew right on by to win in a seasonal best of 1:52.2.  King Corona (Jim Meittinnis) came charging late to finish second.  Harry Terror (Wally Hennessey) finished third. Jins Shark is a 9-year-old gelding by Four Starzz Shark.  He is owned by Joel Warner and trained by Mike Deters.  It was his fourth win in 2020.  He now has 39 career wins. Tioga Downs returns to live racing on Friday (July 10) at 4 p.m. For more information go to   John Horne for Tioga Downs

Pat Stanley,Harness racing

Speedy pacing pair off to the US

Exceptionally talented pacer Pat Stanley, who claimed this year’s South Australian Pacing Cup in brilliant fashion, is off to the US. The five-year-old gelding, sired by Western Ideal, out of Jaz Tanner (Artiscape), will join the in-form barn of ex-Aussies Shane and Lauren Tritton, at Pine Bush, 130 kms from New York City. Accompanying Pat Stanley will be brown gelding War Dan (Bettors Delight-Kalypso (Safely Kept), formerly prepared at Lara by Amanda Grieve. “We’re pretty excited - Pat Stanley is a terrific horse with so much ability. The other one, War Dan, is extremely honest. They will both be suited to the racing over here—we’ve got no doubts that they’ll fit in the classes nicely,” Tritton said. “We’ve known Danny (Zavitsanos) and Warren (Viney), who own War Dan, for a long time, but this’ll be the first horse they have raced in the States,” he said. “This will take us up to 17 or 18 horses in work. The two latest ones coming over are quality and as long as we keep the ball rolling, all is good.” Team Tritton continues to tick along with regular winners. Early last week they broke new ground when USA-bred trotter La Dolfina was successful at Yonkers, driven by regular reinsman Jordan Stratton. “We trained a few trotters over the years when back in New South Wales but this was something a bit different.  We really didn’t expect to pick up one that was bred and owned in the US,” Shane said. “He’s owned by the three Betts brothers.  Scott Betts, the trainer, is based and races The Meadows, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and they thought La Dolfina would be suited to Yonkers. “They actually sent another three down to us as well. They’re hoping they may be better placed down our way.” The husband and wife team travelled to The Downs, Pocono, yesterday to compete at that venue for the very first time. “It was a special day for the country being Independence Day. They are so patriotic over here—they are proud to be Americans with flags outside their homes and buildings. All those things are a new experience for us and we’re just loving it.” The Tritton’s took three runners to the Pocono meeting and got the money with Letspendanitetogetha (1.50-4). It was the pacer’s second victory since making the US his home. Jordan Stratton again took the lines. Elsewhere in the US, former Kevin Pizzuto-trained speedster Majordan (Art Major-Benelise (Vintner) won his first North American start in 1.49-3 over the Scioto Downs 5/8ths mile track at Columbus, Ohio. Part-owner Gordon Banks posted that the pacer, who this year won the $100,000 Newcastle G1 Mile when handled by Todd McCarthy, was in front before the quarter in a zippy 26.2. “He then cut the half in 54.4, pulling away to win by two and a half widening lengths,” Banks added. “Thanks to Virgil Morgan Jnr for a great training job and to Brett Miller for a nice wire-to-wire drive. Also congratulations to our new co-owners in Ned Hodkinson and Milton Leeman.”   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Thomas H Hicks, harness racing

Ulf Thoreson Grand International at Jarlsberg

Today’s Ulf Thoresen Grand International (purse to winner 250,000Nok, 2100 meters autostart, 10 starters) at Jarlsberg, Travbane in Norway, went to the impressive Ble du Gers (9g Quinoa du Gers-Moorea-Baccarat du Pont) timed in 1.11.9kr and reined by Vidar Hop. The Frode Hamre trainee is owned in France by J.M. Rancoule and was developed by J.M. Bazire, and the win was his third in 2020 and 23 in his 74 race career. His earnings are now 9.966,344Nok. He was off at 4.35/1 odds. Ble du Gers made a three wide rush to the lead with about 400 meters remaining and it was no contest thereafter. Varenne FAS (5m Varenne-Miss Muscle FAS-Muscles Yankee) followed the winner with Tom Erik Solberg aboard for trainer Jerry Riordan. Third home was Floris Baldwin (8g Passing Renka-Tanja de Bruin-Dante Buitenzorg) with Kristian Malmin the pilot. Ferrari BR and Lionel finished fourth and fifth. Ble du Gers   Replay - The winner’s pedigree follows.   Earlier in the day the Stayerlopp (100,000Nok to the winner, 3100 meters voltstart, 15 starters) was won by Etna Sisu (6f From Above-Swift Lady Cash-Cash Hall) with Anders Andersen driving. Noble Superb was second despite a 60 meter handicap. Etna Sisu Also, the Anders Jahres (100,000Nor first money, 2100 meters autostart) was on the card and Kick Off Classic (7m Quite Easy-Kicking Promessa-Chergon) scored for Kristian Malmin. Kickoff Classic Jarlsberg Travbane, Maharajah, ATG files/photos by Thomas H. Hicks, for Harnesslink

Since the indictment of more than two dozen thoroughbred and harness racing trainers, assistants, veterinarians, and pharmacists in connection with a horse doping ring this March, rumors have swirled that more names could be forthcoming in connection with the federal investigation. Speaking at a status conference for the case on Tuesday morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Adams told U.S. District Judge Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil that a superseding indictment could be around the corner, but did not provide details as to the timing. “We are looking seriously at superseding indictments,” said Adams. “For the moment, and I made this point at least to some defense counsel previously, the nature of what we're looking at is largely in the same kind of criminal conduct as what is in the current indictment. We're looking at expanding timeframes for certain of the conspiracies. We're looking at potentially adding different statutory charges with respect to certain of the defendants. What I do not anticipate for the moment is that those superseding indictments, if and when they come, would require the production of some substantial large set of materials not already produced to date or already in the queue of things we expect to produce.” A superseding indictment is one which replaces an existing indictment, and could add charges against already-named defendants and/or could name new defendants. Vyskocil reminded Adams that the court would not hold things up while the government finishes its investigation. Adams said he understood and that he would not ask to hold up the proceedings for that reason. The charges on the current indictments, which names former top trainers Jorge Navarro and Jason Servis, among others, focus on drug adulteration, misbranding, and conspiracy. The indictments claim a network of horsemen, veterinarians and pharmacy reps sold, distributed and used drugs in racehorses for the purpose of performance enhancement. Other than a potential superseding indictment, there are not likely to be many updates in the case until late fall. Currently, attorneys are going through the discovery process, meaning each side is requesting and providing requested evidence in the case. Adams said he believes his office will be able to provide the last of the discovery material requested by defendants by the end of September. Already, the office has provided some 90 gigabytes' worth of data to all defendants in three different volumes, and has fielded 20 additional individual requests. That data includes the results of 30 different search warrants, intercepted phone calls and text messages, geolocation information for various devices, email accounts, file transfer accounts, inventory lists, shipping records, veterinary records, drug promotional and marketing material, and much more. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still extracting data from devices like cell phones and tablets seized from defendants at the time of their arrests. Adams mentioned that labs inside and outside the United States had been asked to conduct testing on samples related to the case, although it was not immediately clear whether that referred to samples of substances seized in searches of pharmacies or biological samples from horses, or both. Those results were not all known to the federal government as of yet, and some defense attorneys expressed a desire to work out some sort of split sampling process where possible, acknowledging there was a finite amount of some samples available to test. After the government produces requested evidence, it is sent to a coordinating discovery attorney for organization and distribution. One defense attorney pointed out that it generally takes the coordinating discovery attorney roughly a month to process large document releases before they are given over to defense counsel, so a late September target for discovery completion means they will get a look at the last of the evidence in early November. Vyskocil scheduled a status conference for Nov. 19. Most participants on the call agreed it would be impractical to set a trial date or motion schedule until the defense has seen all the government's evidence against their clients. Read more about the federal indictments in this March 9 piece from the Paulick Report. By Natalia Ross Reprinted with permission of The Paulick Report

MILTON, JULY 4, 2020 – A fluke accident cost Beaumond Hanover a shot at Ontario Sires Stakes glory last season, but harness racing trainer Jack Darling was always confident the pacing colt was Gold Series calibre and that faith was rewarded at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday. Starting from Post 7, driver Jody Jamieson had Beaumond Hanover on the move early and the fan favourite took command from Denali Seelster as the colts reached the :26.4 quarter. From there Beaumond Hanover cruised to a :54.4 half, and when Mayhem Hanover mounted a challenge heading for the 1:22.2 three-quarters Jamieson shifted the strapping youngster into a bigger gear. Powering down the stretch Beaumond Hanover opened up a three and three-quarter length margin on his peers and stopped the teletimer in a Canadian season’s best 1:49.1. Examiner Hanover finished second and Denali Seelster was third. “He’s just a really nice horse. It’s kind of an honour to have a horse like that, he just seems perfect in every way,” said owner-trainer Jack Darling. “He was always our best colt. We had high hopes for him. We were pretty sure he was going to be a good Gold colt last year, but he has come back strong this year. You’re always hoping for it, but you never expect them to be this good.” The son of Sportswriter trained down in impressive fashion and had one qualifier under his belt last June when he kicked the fence in the paddock and suffered a bone bruise that would take two months to heal. Beaumond Hanover returned to action in September and won four of five starts, including two legs and the final of the Harvest Series, before Darling opted to wrap up his freshman campaign. This season Beaumond Hanover opened the season with a five length win in 1:49.4 and then finished third and second in his next two starts. As a result, Darling made a couple of small changes to the colt’s equipment for Saturday’s Gold Series test. Beaumond Hanover “I changed his shoes, I put aluminum shoes on him to get a little lighter shoe, and a little more grab, a little more reach. I let his hopples out a little bit. It seemed to help. He’s a big horse so he can go with a big hopple,” said the Cambridge, ON resident. “He’s just a massive horse, tall, but he’s athletic, he’s got that big shoulder and big hind end that you like. He’s a horse that really stands out on the track. When you’re out jogging him or training him he kind of catches everybody’s eye.” In addition to the Ontario Sires Stakes, Beaumond Hanover is eligible to the Pepsi North America Cup (eliminations August 22, final August 29), Simcoe Stakes (Sept. 5) and the Somebeachsomewhere (Sept. 12). Darling said the colt is easy to train and, as long as he stays happy and healthy, should not need many overnight starts to remain sharp for his stakes engagements. “You can train him all you want, he’s good that way. Easy on himself, a fairly mild-mannered stud, never really acts up,” said the trainer. “He spends an hour out in the paddock every morning from 6 to 7 am. He just loves that. You turn him out and he just trots down to the end of the paddock and starts eating grass for an hour, doesn’t worry about anything. He’s a classy horse.” Unfortunately, Beaumond Hanover’s Canadian season’s mark would stand for just 90 minutes as the He's Watching colt Tattoo Artist roared around the Milton oval in 1:48.2 in the second $107,200 Gold division. Driver Louis-Philippe Roy sent Tattoo Artist straight to the front from Post 8, ringing up a sizzling :25.3 quarter. Keeping an eye peeled for the advance of fan favourite Indictable Hanover, Roy took his foot off the gas heading for the :54.1 and then let Tattoo Artist start to roll again when he caught sight of his rival heading for the 1:21.3 three-quarters. In spite of the sharp early pace, Tattoo Artist had something in reserve and pulled away to a three length victory in a Canadian season’s record 1:48.2. Indictable Hanover settled for second and pocket-sitter Rhythm In Motion was third. “He certainly stepped up tonight. I knew he was a fast little boy when we trained him down this spring, but that’s pretty good to go that fast this time of year,” said Dr. Ian Moore, who trains Tattoo Artist for Frank Cannon of Sanford, FL and Let It Ride Stables Inc. of Boca Raton, FL. “So I guess we’re going to have to try to baby him along and save him for August, the big one I guess. He should do in there anyways.” Like Beaumond Hanover, Tattoo Artist is eligible for the North America Cup in August, and Moore said he will spend the coming days mapping out a schedule that aims to have the Hes Watching colt in peak form for Woodbine Mohawk Park’s marquee event. Saturday’s outing was the colt’s fourth of his sophomore campaign and his third win. Tattoo Artist “I gave him five days off after his last race (June 20), started back jogging him on Friday of last week, and then he had Sunday off as well, and then I trained him on Tuesday a mile and a half and he went the last half in the jog cart faster than I’ve ever been in my life, :56 and a bit,” said the Cambridge resident. “That was the first time he had the ear plugs in. So he seemed very good going into this and hopefully we can keep him that way for a few more months anyway.” Tattoo Artist and Beaumond Hanover will return to Gold Series action on Saturday, July 25 at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Complete results for Saturday’s program are available at Woodbine Mohawk Park Results. Ontario Racing

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – In what is now unquestionably harness racing’s best rivalry, Atlanta bested Manchego in Saturday night’s $170,900 Arthur J. Cutler Memorial for free-for-allers at the Meadowlands in Round 2 of the rabid duel between the top two trotters in training. Two weeks ago, Manchego held off Atlanta by a nose in the Miss Versatility in the fastest trotting mile of the year of 1:50. Things panned out similarly this time around, except that Atlanta got the better of her foe this time around. Atlanta (post five) was the first away from the gate and led into the first turn. Driver Yannick Gingras was willing to yield to Manchego (post six) and Dexter Dunn, but not before extending that one ever so slightly into a sizzling opening quarter of :25.4. “Maybe not :25.4,” was Gingras’ response when asked about the fast opening fraction. “I didn’t think we’d be going that fast. I definitely wanted to stretch her out. I had drawn inside of her and wanted to take advantage of it.” That took just enough starch out of the even-money choice. While rating the middle half, Manchego took a stiff challenge from 17-1 longshot Chin Chin Hall, who was on even terms with the leader while parked at three-quarters in 1:23.1. Once straightened away in the stretch, Manchego and Atlanta – who opted to get behind Chin Chin Hall coming out of the far turn before swerving three-wide into the lane – would once again duke it out, just as they did on June 19. In deep stretch, it would be Atlanta, the 2018 Hambletonian winner, prevailing by a half-length in 1:50.1, just a fifth-of-a-second slower than Round 1. Lindy The Great rallied to get third. “There were some anxious moments around the last turn,” said Gingras. “We were going pretty slow, and there was strategy on both sides. He was trying to keep me locked in. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze out. I thought I had it won at the top of the stretch when I cleared.” Atlanta The Ron Burke-trained Atlanta, a 5-year-old daughter of Chapter Seven-Hemi Blue Chip, returned $5.40 as the 8-5 second choice in the wagering. She’s won 21 of 41 career starts for owners Crawford Farms Racing, Brad Grant and Howard Taylor, and became harness racing’s newest double millionaire, as her earnings swelled to $2,006,089. WHO WILL GRADUATE? Bettor’s Wish, harness racing’s top earner ($1.6 million) in 2019, won the third of three $50,000 divisions of the second and final leg of the Graduate Series for 4-year-old open pacers in 1:48.2. The Chris Ryder-trained, Dexter Dunn-driven son of Bettor’s Delight-Lifetime Star swung three-wide at three-quarters and stormed home in :25.3 to record a 2-length score over Workin Ona Mystery as the 1-5 favorite. Brassy Hanover came first over around the far turn to pull off an upset in the first division. Driven by Scott Zeron and trained by Jeff Cullipher, Brassy Hanover, sent to the gate at odds of 10-1, stopped the clock in a lifetime-best 1:48.1. Hurrikane Emperor was the 6-5 favorite and led at three-quarters before settling for the show dough. Division two was taken by 12-1 chance Bllack Hole. Tim Tetrick drove the winner for trainer Scott DiDomenico and paced the mile in a lifetime-best 1:48. Dancin Lou, the 3-5 favorite, yielded the front before three-quarters and finished third. The Graduate Finals for pacers and trotters will take place next Saturday (July 11). Each has a purse of $250,000. KEEPING PACE: Brett Pelling’s potent Meadowlands Pace pair did good things, as his Allywag Hanover was shot out of a cannon late to win in a lifetime-best 1:48, while Papi Rob Hanover, currently second-ranked in the track’s weekly Road to the Meadowlands Pace Top 10, went a tough 10-hole trip yet was still crisp late, finishing second to the sharp Tony Alagna-trained Capt Midnight, who won in a lifetime-best 1:49.3. The Meadowlands Pace Eliminations are next Saturday (July 11). A LITTLE MORE: Wagering surpassed the $3-million mark for the fifth time in 2020, as a total of $3,027,797 was pushed through the windows. …  The Late 50-cent Pick-4 took monster action, as $113,121 was put in play. The only Pick-4 to take more action during 2020 was on Feb. 1, when $117,502 in bets were taken. … Racing resumes Friday at 7:15 p.m. For the full results of tonight's program click here By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations

Vernon Downs played host to a July fourth harness racing spectacular on Saturday. It featured three Empire Breeder Classic races for sophomore trotters (colts & geldings had two divisions). Also on hand was two divisions of the New York Sire Stakes (NYSS) for freshman pacing fillies. These five races combined for over half a million dollars in purse money. Hypnotic AM (Brian Sears) captures the $207,250 EBC final for 3-year-old trotting fillies. A wild start saw No Mas Drama (Joe Bongiorno) lead to the first quarter in :27.2. Love A Good Story (Andy Miller) took the top spot right after the first quarter but that was short lived as Hypnotic AM ($3.60) took control as they went to the top of the back stretch. Southwind Fern (Jim Morrill Jr.) was parked outside first over and put on slight pressure as Hypnotic AM hit the half first in :56.1. The field was two by two following Hypnotic AM as they charged around the final turn hitting three-quarters in 1:25.4. Hypnotic AM led as they made the turn for home. Love A Good Story was trapped in the box and finally got free as they reached the stretch but Hypnotic AM was too strong and won in 1:53.4. Love A Good Story settled for second. No Mas Drama finally got free in the stretch as well and finished third.   Hypnotic AM is a 3-year-old filly by Chapter Seven. Owned by Courant Inc. and trained by Marcus Melander. She is now two for two in 2020 with nine wins in 11 lifetime starts. Hobbs (Jason Bartlett) goes three-wide to gain upset victory in $97,750 first division of  the EBC for sophomore trotting colts & geldings. Hobbs ($17.20) went straight to the front and led to the first quarter in :27.2.  Barn Holden (Jim Morrill Jr.) took over as they went around the clubhouse turn with Hobbs settling for the pocket.  Barn Holden hit the half first in :56.3.  Take the Credit (Ake Svanstedt) was the first to make a move on the backstretch going first-over from fourth.  The two battled all the way around the final turn with Take The Credit leading to three-quarters in 1:24.3.   Hobbs came out of the pocket and came at them three-wide as they reached the stretch.  As they headed to deep stretch Take The Credit muscled his way to the front.  Hobbs wore him down and went by just before the wire hitting a lifetime best mile of 1:53.3.  Take The Credit had to settle for second money with Barn Holden hanging on for third.   Hobbs is a 3-year-old gelding by Credit Winner. Owned by Runthetable Stables and trained by Jim Campbell, he won for the first time this season and the second time in his career. Third Shift (Ake Svanstedt) dominates the $97,750 second division of the EBC for 3-year-old colts & geldings. Berkery J (Scott Zeron) and Chaptiama (Trond Smedshammer) battled for the early lead with Chaptiama taking over just before hitting the first quarter in :27.2. Chaptiama led to the half in :57.1 with Berkery J in the pocket and Third Shift ($2.90) sitting patiently in third. As they headed to three-quarters Ballcapsnbluejeans (Corey Callahan) came first up and flushed out Third Shift. Chaptiama still led as they hit three-quarters in 1:25.3. Third Shift moved into second and went a little wide as they made the turn for home. Berkey J tried to split the leaders but went off-stride. Third Shift had another gear and forged to the front and won by over five lengths in a lifetime best of 1:52.4. Ballcapsnbluejeans came up to finish second with Sir Cromwell (Jason Bartlett) getting awarded third place.   Third Shift is a 3-year-old colt by Chapter Seven. Owned by trainer Svanstedt and Melby Gard Inc. He is two for two in 2020 with five career wins. Easy To Please (Jim Morrill Jr.) and Test Of Faith (Jim Marohn Jr.) each take divisions of the NYSS for freshmen pacing fillies. Easy To Please (Roll With Joe-Lorrie Please) wins the $53,100 first division of the NYSS for 2-year-old pacing fillies. She would take over just before the half and never looked back to win in a lifetime best of 1:53.2. She is owned by trainer Michael Hall, Our Three Sons Stable, Brad Grant, and Howard Taylor. She is now two for two in her young career. She paid $2.60 for the win. Test Of Faith (Art Major-Cannae Cammie) goes wire-to-wire to capture the $53,100 second division. Trained by Brett Pelling for owners Melvin Segal and Kentuckiana Racing Stable. He won in 1:52.2 in his first career start paying ($11.00) for the win. Vernon Downs returns to live racing Thursday (July 9) with a 13-race card starting at 4 p.m. For more information go to by John Horne, for Vernon Downs.  

WASHINGTON, PA, July 4, 2020 -- Heavily favored It's Academic cruised to a 5-3/4-length victory in Saturday's $102,245 Currier & Ives for 3-year-old trotters at The Meadows. When Sister Sledge and Crucial waltzed to similarly easy wins in the $64,594 filly division -- each in stake-record time -- they gave harness racing driver Yannick Gingras and trainer Ron Burke a Currier & Ives sweep. Burke's big day didn't end there. He started horses in 11 of the card's 15 races and won a remarkable nine of them. It's Academic entered the Currier & Ives off two strong place finishes in Ohio Sires Stakes legs and looked to lay over the field. In this case, looks weren't deceiving, as the son of Uncle Peter-Annapolis floated to the lead and widened at will, even after Gingras had shut him down. Harley K and Coventry Hall completed the ticket. "He's just a real gentleman -- perfect to drive," Gingras said. "Down by the wire, I left him alone. He's a little bit lazy, but he's a nice horse. To be a top colt, he'll have to go a lot faster, but for Ohio and here, he's the perfect horse." Burke Racing Stable, William Donovan, Joe Sbrocco and Hatfield Stables campaign It's Academic, who vaulted over $200,000 in lifetime earnings. Following last week's facile victory in her season's debut, Sister Sledge continued to roll through the soft part of her schedule, quarter-poling to the point and scoring in 1:53.2. That eclipsed the stake mark of 1:53.4 established about 15 minutes earlier by Crucial. Last year's Pennsylvania champion and Dan Patch Award runner-up, the daughter of Father Patrick-Behind Closedoors will begin a tougher stretch with the July 15 PA Sires Stake leg at Harrah's Philadelphia. Is Sister Sledge where she needs to be to handle more competitive fillies? "She couldn't have been any better today, that's for sure," Gingras said. "It will get tougher; that's coming for sure. There are a lot of good fillies that weren't here today. But her timing is right. She's really good right now." Sister Sledge Sans Defaut (trained by Burke) and Perth Angel De Vie finished second and third, respectively. Burke Racing Stable, Jason Melillo, J&T Silva-Purnel&Libby, and Weaver Bruscemi LLC campaign Sister Sledge, who now boasts a career bankroll of $584,843. Although Crucial's stake record was fleeting, her win after a quarter-pole move signaled that she might be ready for more. "She had a class edge on these horses for sure," Gingras said. "She's grown since last year, of course, and she's stronger. I thought she was very professional today." Petey Sarah and Dune Hill rounded out the ticket. In keeping with Burke's huge day, he swept the top three spots in this split. Crucial, a daughter of Father Patrick-Jolene Jolene, now has banked $159,587 for Burke Racing Stable, Donovan, J&T Silva-Purnel&Libby, and Weaver Bruscemi. Dave Palone collected four wins Saturday while Dan Charlino and Jim Pantaleano enjoyed triples. Live racing at The Meadows resumes Monday when 59 freshman filly trotters will make their stakes debut in a pair of events: a $210,221 PASS and an $80,000 PA Stallion Series stake. In addition, the 15-race card will feature a $9,712.33 carryover in the final-race Super Hi-5 and a $5,000 total-pool guarantee for the Early Pick 4 (race 3). First post is 12:45 PM. By Evan Pattak for The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association  

WILKES-BARRE, PA - After posting six winners Friday afternoon at Harrah's Philadelphia, driver George Napolitano Jr. went two better by triumphing eight times on Saturday afternoon at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, including taking both $17,200 featured races and also guiding the two fastest harness racing winners on the card. The features were separated in time only by a fifth of a second, but the "slower" mile was probably the more impressive - because it was posted by a trotter, the talented Explosive Matter mare Pat Matters, who took a new mark of 1:51.4, also the fastest trot mile of the year here. Napolitano made two speed moves with the winner of $263,606 in setting fractions of :27, :55.3, and 1:23.3, who then showed determination to the wire in holding off 36-1 threat Stormy Kromer by a head. Nifty Norman saw his trainee notch her second straight triumph for the Patricia Stable.   In the top-level pace, Napolitano also made it two straight wins for Turbo Hill, whose 1:51.3 victory was his 16th in a 35-race career that has seen him amass $215,745 for owner Tom Hill. There was an awful lot of front-end contention in a contest with such "moderate" fractions as :27, :55, and 1:22.4, but "George Nap" had the winning son of American Ideal racing in the pocket, and he used the Pocono Pike in order to go on to victory with the Jennifer Bongiorno-trained horse.   Fastest winner on the Pocono card was Dealt A Winner, an altered son of the recently-deceased Cam's Card Shark, who has had his share of the spotlight since all the way back to 2015, where he was the fastest sophomore of the year in 1:47.3, faster than Wiggle It Jiggleit. Five years later and now with a bankroll of $1,326.724, Dealt A Winner can still put up fractions of :26.2, :54.2, and 1:21.3 then finish the mile out in 1:49.4, quickest of the year at Pocono while winning for Napolitano, trainer Mark Silva, and owner Jeffrey Snyder. Also drawing attention was the Captaintreacherous sophomore colt Chief Mate, who is undefeated in two seasonal starts and who now has a nice new mark of 1:50. Napolitano sent the fleet colt to the front just after the quarter and appeared to be on cruise control nearing the wire, marking him as perhaps a late-developing factor for stakes competition for trainer Tony Alagna and the partnership of Brittany Farms LLC, Marvin Katz, Brad Grant, and Captain Kirk Racing. The Pocono players have developed the proper respect for George Napolitano Jr.'s abilities - he was favored in each of the octet of races he won. On the other hand, midcard there were victories in successive races by Bay Meadows ($51.40) and Rock Three Times ($54.00). From the PHHA / Pocono Downs  

Ride High gifted sports' lovers another insight into his audacious talent with a dominant display at Tabcorp Park tonight. Having dropped jaws with his 25.8-second finishing burst a fortnight ago, Ride High reinforced his brilliance in the Melton City Council Sprint, with his 1:50.8 mile rate the equal third quickest ever recorded at Tabcorp Park Melton, and produced despite the cool, windy conditions and the plugs being left in. Reinswoman Kima Frenning told Trots Vision post-race “it’s a real privilege to get to drive a horse like him”. “He really is a once-in-a-lifetime horse and to be able to say I won two races on him is pretty special,” she said, having won by 13 metres from Courageous Saint after a 27.3-second first quarter and then getting home in a 53.6-second last half. “I said to (trainer) Clayton (Tonkin) before the race ‘do you want to pull the plugs to see how fast he can go?’,” she said, but again she’s didn’t need to. “It’s scary to think he’s untapped still. It’s pretty freaky. He does this in second gear. “He’s real professional, he knows where the line is and he knows when he has to race. I’m sure there was plenty more there.” RELIVE RIDE HIGH'S FINISHING BURST AND HEAR FROM KIMA POST-RACE: In a soundcloud interview Tonkin told Andrew Bensley post-race that Ride High was “an awesome specimen. He did it quite easily.” “I think you will get a real shock when (Kima) does open him up, what he can run, but we don’t want to break him down. He’s a beautiful big horse, but he’s just such a gorgeous moving horse. He gets across the ground so easily.” Tonkin told Bensley that Ride High was “the best horse I’ve put my hands, just on sheer brilliance and untapped potential”, and that he would now plot a course to the Pryde’s EasiFeed Victoria Cup on October 12. “I have to sit down and decide where I’m going to head before that. He will have a few runs to harden him up so he’s spot on (for) Vic Cup,” Tonkin said. “His work’s always brilliant, but he was on his toes more tonight. Bringing him away and getting him under lights and getting him amongst it all again, it just tightens him up every time.” HEAR THE FULL INTERVIEW OF CLAYTON TONKIN TALKING TO ANDREW BENSLEY: AndrewBensley · Clayton Tonkin   HRV - Michael Howard  

MILTON, JULY 3, 2020 - There is an alchemy involved in teaching a yearling how to be a racehorse - the top tier of the Ontario Sires Stakes is, after all, the Gold Series - and last winter harness racing trainer Casie Coleman Herlihy though it might actually take supernatural power to transform Springbridge Duel into a racehorse. As a result it felt like a bit of a miracle when the two-year-old pacing gelding captured one of the season opening Gold Series divisions at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Friday night with an impressive 1:51.3 victory, six and one-quarter lengths ahead of Magnum Moon and Twin B Heart Throb. The time is the fastest for a two-year-old in North America in 2020. "He was a terrible horse to break. I think it took two to three weeks before we even got a jog cart on this horse. I literally had to geld him before we hooked him in a jog cart. I had a horse whisperer work with the horse. He was nuts, he was just absolutely insane," said the trainer. "He's got to be the worst horse, or very close up to the worst horse, we've ever broke and I definitely said to myself, over and over again, what the hell was I thinking." Coleman Herlihy's typical selection process during yearling buying season is rigorous. She studies pedigrees, she visits farms, she looks at horses repeatedly, but on the final day of the Harrisburg Yearling Sale last November she realised she had not filled her quota of Ontario Sired horses. "I love the Ontario Sires Stakes program, but I was focussing more on Betting Line's and I simply didn't have very many Ontario Sired, so I was literally doing last minute shopping, which I never do," said Coleman Herlihy, with emphasis on the never. "I was looking at every Ontario Sired horse there was basically, and seeing him - he's a gorgeous colt, he's big, good looking, perfect conformation, he's gorgeous - I ended up buying him." The trainer would question her last minute purchase repeatedly through the winter as her Florida-based team of second trainer Ray Domenico, caretaker Evelyn Harms and driver Steve Condren wrestled with Springbridge Duel, trying to channel his raw talent into a usable form. "If they weren't as patient with him he could have been ruined very, very easy. Even myself, I owned him and trained him, and I was ready to just say I'm done, give up, sell him, move him or whatever," said Coleman Herlihy, who shares ownership of the colt with her partners in the West Wins Stable of Cambridge, Steve Heimbecker of Conestogo, ON and Mark Kantrowitz of Delray Beach, FL. "And saying that, he's always showed the speed. He has a great gait on him and he's wicked, wicked fast, but it took a long time to get him there and we just had to be so, so careful with him. He's a ton better than what he was, but it was a tough winter, for sure, breaking that colt." Once the son of Big Jim and Stonebridge Damsel returned to Ontario second trainer Mark McKinnon and caretaker Kayla Chappell took up the task of keeping Springbridge Duel on an even keel and on June 20 Bob McClure piloted him in a two-year-old qualifier. The colt finished second and returned to Woodbine Mohawk Park for a second qualifier on June 27, which he won by 16 lengths. On Friday, knowing nothing of his winter-time struggles, fans at the Milton oval sent him off as the favourite in the second $105,600 division. Starting from Post 6 McClure floated Springbridge Duel off the gate, but many of his peers had the same idea and a there was a crowd around pacesetter Dietrich Seelster as he reached the :28.1 opening quarter. Stuck on the outside, McClure put Springbridge Duel on the front before the :56.1 half and the gelding had opened up a two length lead by the 1:24.4 three-quarters. Without urging, the pacer rolled home in :26.4 to claim his first victory. "All I told Bob, in the qualifiers and that, all I ever said was, he likes to be first on the gate and then just take him off. Do not leave with him, do not move with him, just sit him in a hole and keep him calm, keep him relaxed, because as soon as somebody leaves with him you're never going to take him back again, he's going to get nuts," said the Cambridge resident. "The way that he was tonight, it's not like he blasted off the wings, he was floating, looking for a spot and he couldn't find a spot, and so I really don't think that's going to stir him up any more than he already is. I did not want him on the front, but he looked like he was pretty calm and relaxed and Bob had him under control. "When I saw Bob stop, and he was still checked up and Kayla wasn't there yet, I was like, 'Oh God', and I couldn't believe how good he was. He actually was very, very good," she said of the gelding's winner's circle behaviour. "Like I said, his manners are getting so much better no doubt, but I've got his very first video on my phone still from where he ended up laying on the ground." Springbridge Duel will now begin preparations for the second Gold Series Leg at Woodbine Mohawk Park on July 18. He will be joined by the first division winner, Desperate Man, who was equally impressive for driver Trevor Henry, trainer Kathy Cecchin and her co-owners John Cecchin and Nicole and Paul Davies of Arthur, ON. Starting from Post 2 in the first $104,800 division, Desperate Man got away fourth as Vino Louie charged out to a :26.2 opening quarter. Henry edged the fan favourite off the rail just after the :55.4 half and was putting the pressure on Vino Louie by the 1:24.4 three-quarters. The Shadow Play son unleashed a :26.3 last quarter to claim the 1:51.4 victory, two and three-quarter lengths ahead of Twin B Fighter and Next Big Thing. "He is probably the nicest two-year-old I have sat behind. Very smart and professional," said Arthur resident Henry. "I'm so glad for John and Kathy and their kids. It's really well deserved." Complete results from Friday's program are available at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Video: Race 2 - Desperate Man; Race 8 - Springbridge Duel OSS Program Information For rules, notices, Program changes, up-to-date point standings, race replays, and more, visit: Ontario Racing

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Meadowlands played host to four New Jersey Sire Stakes Finals for 3-year-olds Friday night, and driver Tim Tetrick was on his game, grabbing two victories and a second on a night that saw him win four of the 13 races on the harness racing card. Tetrick's twosome began with Odds On Sarasota, who won the $160,000 Filly Pace in a lifetime-best 1:52.2 for trainer Ross Croghan. She returned $3.80 to win in scoring for the fifth time in seven lifetime starts, good for earnings of $131,200. The daughter of Rock N Roll Heaven-Odds On Charmaine, who also won the first two NJSS legs to complete a three-race sweep, followed live cover to get to the top at the half in :56. When even-money second choice Kelly's Champ went on a wild break scattering the field at the five-eighths, it was a walk in the park for the 4-5 public choice. At the wire, it was 4¾ lengths back to Thundra. Wynona Strided finished third. "She's been steppy off and on at times," said Tetrick. "But tonight, she was really good and got the job done pretty impressively. [After making the lead] I was pretty sure they would be happy to follow me. I worked my way to the lead, and after that, she kind of coasted and drew away from them. Last week, she got a real easy trip [winning in 1:55] and I didn't have to use her. So I thought tonight she could wear them out." Odds On Sarasota The completion of Tetrick's NJSS double came in the $160,000 Filly Trot, as the 38-year-old pilot guided Ab'sattitudexpress to a 1¾-length score over 7-5 favorite Dubai Princess in a lifetime-best 1:52.2. Common Sense S was third. Tetrick, driving the Lucas Wallin trainee for the first time, had the 4-1 third choice in the wagering right where he wanted him: Tracking the public choice. "Last week, my horse looked really impressive [winning in 1:52.4]," said Tetrick. "But it was going to be tough beating Dubai Princess. We got a great trip and my horse trotted well to the finish line." Tetrick's formula for success was to sit a pocket trip and strike late. "Lucas said I could do whatever I wanted," said Tetrick. "That gave me a lot of options, so I got out of there and followed the favorite. That mare [Dubai Princess] came up a little off nearing the wire and run out a little bit, so I had to go up the inside. She shot right through there and we got our picture taken." Ab'sattitudexpress, a daughter of Trixton-Abbie'sgotattitude, paid $10.60 to win and now has four wins from six lifetime outings and earnings of $111,000. Ab'sattitudexpress Tetrick's bid for a Sire Stakes triple was foiled by Rockin The Aces, who gunned down Tetrick and even-money public choice Rock Me Hard by a half-length in a lifetime-best 1:49.4 in the $160,000 Colts and Geldings Pace. Rockin The Gates was third. Rockin The Aces, driven by Brian Sears and trained by Robert Cleary, went a perfect second-over trip around the far turn, getting a perfect tow from the first-over favorite, before ducking inside late to record the score. The gelded son of Rock N Roll Heaven-Mattaroni won for the fourth time in nine lifetime outings. His earnings stand at $176,278. Rockin The Aces Chalk players were no doubt nervous in the early going but Play Trix On Me lived up to his 1-9 post-time odds promise in taking the $128,000 Colts and Geldings Trot. "That's not what I expected," said winning trainer Toscano of her prized pupil's trip. "Last year, he was much the best in this division, so he was winning on the front end. It's important for him to go both ways. He is learning well." Play Trix On Me, who is now a two-time NJSS champion, was pushed extremely wide into the first turn and had to take back to fifth at the quarter before driver Scott Zeron moved the son of Trixton-Lima Playmate to the outside at the three-eighths to start his march toward the leaders. 'Trix' was still 2½ lengths behind leader Toccoa Falls at three-quarters, but once straightened away in the stretch, it was no match, as Play Trix On Me stormed home to record a three-quarter-length win in 1:53.3. Jula Trix Treasure rallied for second with AP Hall Of Trix grabbing the show dough. Play Trix On Me paid $2.20 to win while winning for the seventh time in nine lifetime starts. His bankroll now stands at $204,850. Play Trix On Me A LITTLE MORE: The Meadowlands welcomed back fans into the track for the first time since the coronavirus shutdown, with the grandstand available to 25 percent capacity. Many others watched and wagered on the races outdoors. ... Volatile weather, which saw lightning strikes close by, caused a lengthy delay before the third race, which made it necessary to move quickly from post parade to race for the rest of the night, causing handle numbers to suffer. The total wager of $2,451,141 ended the Big M's streak of 15 straight racing programs with at least $2.5 million in action. ... The night got off to a big start as a season's-best $98,037 was poured into the 20-cent Pick-5 pool. ... Racing resumes Saturday at 7:15 p.m. By Dave Little, Meadowlands Media Relations  

Huge harness racing fan Stevie Blacker has shown an expert eye when it comes to buying former Kiwi pacers and now he's successfully branched off - as a driver. The likeable Blacker, who hails from Mortlake in Victoria's western district, had his first-ever official race drive at Mildura yesterday afternoon and came up trumps. He handled four-year-old gelding Kolovos (Bettors Delight-Queen Camille (Christian Cullen), a horse he owns, for his good mate, Horsham trainer Aaron Dunn. "The COVID-19 has played a bit of role because normally I'm right into football during the winter months and I'm usually umpiring," Blacker said. "But it was probably Aaron's father Barry who got me into it, because he was saying that there were very few trials drivers at Horsham, so why didn't I give it a go?" he said. So Blacker took his advice and got his licence to drive in trials. "After three drives I wasn't fussed either way, then I drove one of the horses I own, which I think was Cool and Calculated and he went super! That was the turning point. I thought: 'Wow! How long's this been going on?! "I started thinking about maybe driving in races, so I went to a lot of trials and there were heaps of people like Geoff Senior and others who were terrific in putting me on." Blacker said he had only recently been licenced to drive. "I sort of picked out the Mildura meeting for my first race drive. It did work out well when Aaron put Kolovos in with my five-point concession claim," he said. And Blacker did the rest...with all the poise of a veteran. Pushing Kolovos out of the gate, Blacker was unable to cross Tracer Bullet to get to the lead, but he didn't get flustered by having to race in the death-seat. When Tracer Bullet kicked to a narrow advantage on the home corner and appeared the winner, Blacker got to work urging Kolovos, who found plenty over the final stages to post a memorable and popular win. Watch the race replay here. Kolovos and Stevie Blacker after their memorable win Blacker grew up around horses. Some of his family was involved in thoroughbreds, but others were caught up by the legendary deeds of the mighty trotter of the 1970s, Maoris Idol (40 wins from 46 starts), trained by Ric Healy at Marnoo. "My brother and I spent hours when we were young playing around with an old cart, built like a sulky, that was made specially for us," Blacker said. "I suppose I did have in the back of my mind that one day I would like to have go at driving - but I really did think I'd missed my chance!" the 47 year old said.   Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

CHESTER, PA - Harrah's Philadelphia will be hosting one of its strongest non-stakes harness racing cards in quite some time this Sunday afternoon, with three $20,000 events for the fast-class older horses set to go, topped by an appearance from the 2019 Harness Horse of the Year, Shartin N. Now seven, Shartin N is a New Zealand import by Tintin In America, and she certainly has been a ruthless force at the very top of the older pacing female ranks in North America the last two years. She has won 43 of her 58 lifetime starts, and she has bankrolled $2,153,030, the vast majority of it for present owners Richard Poillucci, Jo Ann Looney-King, and Tim Tetrick LLC. She is the fastest pacing mare of all-time by virtue of a 1:46.4 victory at The Meadowlands last year, and she also holds her division's track record at Philly, 1:48. Shartin N has been assigned the outside post in the field of eight - but she has shown he can handle tough starting assignments in the past. In fact, she showed that fact as recently as this past Tuesday, where she won from the eight post at Yonkers despite a grueling trip. Co-owner Tim Tetrick will again be guiding the champion for trainer Jim King Jr., the husband of another co-owner. Shartin N's race will be race ten on the fourteen race card. The first of the three $20,000 events, a handicap event for older male pacers in race three, will also find the favorite starting from post eight. His name is Dorsoduro Hanover, a Somebeachsomewhere five-year-old gelding who has earned over $1.6 million, most of that during his three-year-old season, when he was named the top three-year-old pacing colt in North America. Yannick Gingras is listed to drive for trainer Ron Burke, with major opposition expected from the consistent Highalator and Shake That House, making his 2020 debut after a top campaign as a sophomore last year. The sixth race high-class trot finds a Canadian import, Run Director, accorded early favoritism. A son of Kadabra, Run Director comes to Philly from Woodbine Mohawk Park, where he has been triumphant in two of three seasonal races, including a 1:52.2 mile in his last start. To be driven by David Miller for trainer Andrew Harris, Run Director at his best would be right there with Eurobond, Muscle M Up, and other top contenders. The Sunday card at Philly Sunday is so good that Western Joe and Rock The Devil, both of whom have won in sub-1:50 this year, are part of the undercard! Post time for the first event is set for 12:40 p.m. From the PHHA / Harrah's Philadelphia  

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Crockets Cullen N (Christian Cullen) has been an absolute force in the Open Pace at Saratoga Casino Hotel for the last year and continued his harness racing dominance in Sunday afternoon’s feature. Larry Stalbaum owns, trains and drives Crockets Cullen N who finished up his 2019 campaign on a nine-race win streak in the local Open Pace. He began his ’20 season in style by winning yet another feature before going on what was, for him, a cold streak. Heading into last Sunday’s (June 28) Open, Crockets Cullen N had gone four starts at the Spa without a victory but broke that rare losing streak after getting a pocket trip behind the race’s betting favorite Hudson Phil (Shawn Gray) and besting him in the stretch.   On Sunday afternoon, Crockets Cullen N took on Hudson Phil once again as the top two pacers from 2019 at the Spa wound up squaring off in the stretch for yet another time. Stalbaum moved Crockets Cullen N out to the early lead in the $8,500 feature and after setting first-half fractions of 27.1 and 56.2 cruised past three quarters in 1:24.3 before facing his first challenge. Hudson Phil came from off the pace and followed live cover into a striking spot before fanning three-wide around the final turn. The chase proved to be in vain as Crockets Cullen N dug in to win yet another installment of the Saratoga Open Pace, scoring in 1:53.1. Hudson Phil came up second-best and now has been the runner-up in all three Opens since the return from the pandemic shutdown. Deetzy (Jay Randall) earned the show spot for the second straight week in the pacing feature.   OpeCrockets Cullen N paid $4.90 to win as the 7-5 second-choice in the betting. The exacta with the favored Hudson Phil second returned $10.20 while the triple with Deetzy third came back $30.40. Live racing resumes on Wednesday afternoon with a 13-race card featuring NY Sire Stakes action. Two year old trotting fillies will be featured on Wednesday with first post time set for 12 noon. by Mike Sardella, for Saratoga Raceway
WILKES-BARRE, PA – The Betterthancheddar mare Miss You N, given a fine pocket trip by driver Scott Zeron, gained into a :54.3 last half to catch pacesetter Vorst by a half-length while taking a new mark of 1:51.2 in winning the $14,000 pacing feature for mares during the Sunday twilight card at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono. Miss You N was away quickly and stretched Vorst to a :27.2 opener, then yielded and sat in the two-hole as Vorst got a breather to a :56.4 half. Favored Apple Bottom Jeans made a good first-over move to and past a 1:24 three-quarters to challenge, but eventually the race came down to the first two inside horses, and Zeron utilized the Pocono Pike to catch the pacesetter. Ross Croghan trains the winner for the partnership of Let It Ride Stables Inc. and Bottom Line Racing LLC, who saw their mare boost her bankroll to $181,430.   The Irish-bred mare Blackwell Ruby IR showed no rust after a near-four month layoff, brushing to the lead in front of the stands and going on to a career-best 1:51.2 triumph in a $13,600 distaff pacing class. Jim Marohn Jr. drove the winner of 12 for 16 lifetime for trainer Bob Cleary and owner Gavin Murdock, and she shows every indication of being a threat to tougher mares (though she can still win in this class twice more based on her meager earnings before going westward across the Atlantic). Stopping the clock a tick faster than the featured females was the Captaintreacherous sophomore colt A Positive Hanover, who was pointed right down the road by driver Corey Callahan upon coming in from Canada and kept on rolling to a convincing 1:51.1 triumph for a new lifetime best. Third in a division of the Bluegrass at two, A Positive Hanover looks ready to fulfill his potential now for trainer Blake MacIntosh, co-owner with Steve Heimbecker, Touchstone Farms Inc. and Larry Denley. From the PHHA / Pocono Downs
Grove City, OH – The Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association (OHHA) will continue its live streaming coverage of Ohio county fair races with two races cards from the Trumbull County Fairgrounds in Cortland, Ohio, July 6.   Live coverage of both race cards in Home Talent Colt Stakes will be shown on the OHHA Facebook page and the OHHA YouTube channel. Post times are 12:30 PM and 5:30 PM.  The first card will have ten races while the nightcap will have six. Replays of the races will be available on the Trot and Pace Marketing website,, following the completion of racing.  The Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association will be live streaming Ohio fair races throughout the summer.  For a complete schedule go to by Frank Fraas, for the OHHA
Tymal Tullo (Mike Merton) goes three-wide to win the $7,000 featured harness racing trot at Tioga Downs on Sunday (July 5). Joey Pro (Bruce Aldrich) went to the front and hit the first quarter in :27.2.  He put up a :29.2 second quarter and hit the half in :56.4 as Tymal Tullo ($64.00) sat following in second.  Uncle Hanover (Kyle DiBenedetto) was the first to make a move going first-over on the backstretch.  Joey Pro hit three-quarters first in 1:25.4 but the race was on. As they came down the stretch Uncle Hanover took a short lead.  Tymal Tullo slid out of the pocket and came at them three-wide.  He would blow right on by to win in 1:56.1.  Uncle Hanover held for second.  Bjanthony (Drew Monti) fired late to finish third. Tymal Tullo is a 4-year-old horse by Kadabra.  He is owned and trained by Tony Dinges.  It was his third win this season.  He now has six career victories. Merton drove three more winners on the day.  His other wins came with Whip N Neigh Neigh ($2.90), Barrys Shelby ($7.10), and Too Much Duncan ($5.50). Jins Shark (Jim Taggart Jr.) captures the $6,500 featured pace. Fritzie Pic Up Man (Mike Merton) charges to the front and hits the first quarter in :27.0.  JM's Delight (Greg Merton) took control as they came by the stands for the first time.  He was first to the half in :55.4.  Red Dirt Rocknroll (Renaldo Morales III) came first-over and put on the pressure all the way down the backstretch.  JM's Delight held the lead after three-quarters in 1:23.4. As they made the turn for home Jins Shark (13.20) came flying down the stretch and flew right on by to win in a seasonal best of 1:52.2.  King Corona (Jim Meittinnis) came charging late to finish second.  Harry Terror (Wally Hennessey) finished third. Jins Shark is a 9-year-old gelding by Four Starzz Shark.  He is owned by Joel Warner and trained by Mike Deters.  It was his fourth win in 2020.  He now has 39 career wins. Tioga Downs returns to live racing on Friday (July 10) at 4 p.m. For more information go to   John Horne for Tioga Downs

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