Day At The Track

Trainer quits as concerns sent to police

02:34 PM 28 Nov 2020 NZDT
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Mitchell Kerr
Mitchell Kerr with Bettor Pay Me at Makarewa in 2014.
John Hawkins Photo

The career of a rising harness racing trainer has come to a sudden halt amid allegations of serious misconduct.

Mitchell Kerr – who already has 87 wins to his credit and has won nearly $900,000 in stake money in his three-year training career – handed in his training licence to Harness Racing New Zealand last Saturday.

At the same time, the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) has received a raft of allegations about the 28-year-old's conduct as a trainer. Stuff understands the RIU is investigating and has also passed information to police. The police and the RIU declined to comment this week when asked about the case.

A source described the allegations as serious.

Kerr’s father Paul, a veteran licensed trainer based in Ohoka, North Canterbury, said the RIU had not put any of the allegations to his son, and he had not heard from police either.

“I don’t have any respect for the Racing Integrity Unit whatsoever,” he said.

“They have been hounding people for the last three years.”

Paul Kerr said his son had “one or two personal issues going on” unconnected to the accusations. Mitchell was aware of the allegations, he said.

“Until they are substantiated they are just rumour mongering. Things are only just coming out of the woodwork and there is nothing to say they are true.”

Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) confirmed Mitchell Kerr had relinquished his licence and said it was not aware of any investigation by the RIU.

“If there is a breach of the rules of racing then HRNZ will act appropriately.”

Horses stabled at the Mitchell Kerr Racing Stables in Rangiora have been removed to his father’s property in Ohoka. Paul Kerr said not a single owner had removed their horse from his son’s supervision and none had complained about his son.

Mitchell Kerr’s last win was at the Kaikōura races earlier this month when William Wallace, which is part owned by All Black Anton Lienert-Brown, won the PGG Sales Series Classic.

The allegations are the last thing the harness racing industry needs in its rebuilding phase after a police investigation into race fixing followed by charges against various industry figures in 2018.

Canterbury trainer Nigel McGrath was disqualified for eight years in July for attempted doping and not co-operating with racecourse inspectors.

An industry figure, who asked not to be named, said Kerr’s troubles were a major talking point in an industry known for its rumour mill.

“[About] 99.9 per cent of us are working our guts out for little reward and a few people put the sport in a bad light.”

Kerr has worked for his father, and for trainers Robert Dunn, at Woodend Beach, and Gareth Dixon in Auckland.

He went out on his own in 2017 after securing 10 boxes and a barn at Rangiora Raceway and developed the outside yards and paddocks.

By Martin Van Beynen

Reprinted with permission of Stuff

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