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Racing Integrity Unit general manager Mike Godber is defending his organisation's consistency around cobalt positives. Earlier this week, Canterbury harness racing trainer Cran Dalgety was hit with a $32,000 fine for presenting five horses to race with cobalt levels in excess of the 200 ug/L (micrograms per litre) threshold for the prohibited substance. Importantly, the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) and the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), who handed down the penalty, agreed that Dalgety was guilty of negligence but did not intentionally administer cobalt or any other prohibited substance. Dalgety, a highly successful trainer best known for guiding the career of champion pacer Christen Me, questioned why Southland trainer Shane Walkinshaw escaped a presenting charge when two of his horses returned positive swabs for cobalt in late 2015. But Godber said attempting to compare the two cases was "drawing a long bow". Walkinshaw purchased an over the counter product and the label confirmed a small and legal amount of cobalt was present in the ingredients. However, the batch was contaminated and in fact contained 190 times the amount that was advertised. "In the Walkinshaw case we asked what more could he have done to prevent it and the answer was not a lot," Godber said. A raft of tests were done on the supplement and the Walkinshaw-trained Not Bad to determine that the product had been manufactured incorrectly. Both the supplier and the manufacturer took responsibility. Godber said the Dalgety case was different because the supplement, McGrouthers Equine Mineral Mix, was labelled as containing cobalt but it did not identify the amount. He said that put a significant responsibility on Dalgety to identify the level of cobalt in the product which he did not do. "If you look at the Dalgety case, it did not meet the criteria for there not to be a charge because there was clearly more he could have done," Godber said. He added that Dalgety's case was not helped by the fact the product was not being used by any other trainers in New Zealand and was not sold on a large commercial basis. Dalgety's counter to that argument was that he had been using the product without issue for more than 10 years and the label of the supplement said "will not return a positive swab" and "Licensed under Animal Remedies Act 1967 No 3392". It was later found to have not been licensed since at least 1997. The JCA decision said Dalgety's culpability was his failure to obtain appropriate advice on the use of a product containing cobalt after Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) introduced a cobalt threshold 200 ug/L in May 2015. Godber added that products that were licensed under the act could still contain ingredients that were prohibited under the rules of racing. "It's really a case of buyer beware. The onus is on the trainer to make sure the product is free of any prohibited substances. "The message is, if you are in any doubt do not use the product until you have spoken to your vet." Dalgety also raised another case where two Canterbury trainers were not charged when they returned positive swabs for caffeine in 2013 that was also proven to be from a feed supplement. Godber said that was because the product did not show any signs of caffeine on its label and both trainers had sought veterinary advice. Dalgety described his $32,000 fine as excessive but Godber, who reiterated the value of the fine was set by the JCA, said he did not believe the fine was unreasonable given it was Dalgety's third offence in eight years. The RIU submitted for a fine between $36,000 and $86,250 but because it deemed the offence to be at the lower end of the scale, expected a penalty close to the $36,000 mark. Dalgety's two previous positives (caffeine and bute) were deemed to be unintentional with the caffeine being a result of contaminated feed and the wrong horse being treated with bute by stable staff. The RIU acknowledged Dalgety had been fully cooperative throughout their investigation. WHAT IS COBALT? Cobalt is an essential trace element that is naturally occurring in horses, dogs and other mammals but has been demonstrated to have an effect on the blood system by stimulating the production of red blood cells making for a similar effect to Erythropoietin (EPO) doping. By Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission of Stuff

The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) has opened an investigation into a public fight understood to involve greyhound licence holders. Mike Godber, general manager of the RIU, has confirmed there is an investigation into the nasty incident that took place in front of hundreds of people at the Manawatu Harness Racing Club's night meeting in Palmerston North on March 31. The unsavoury scuffle took place in a public area in front of a sizeable crowd at Manawatu Raceway, mid-way through the last race of the harness meeting. A greyhound meeting was held at the same venue earlier in the evening. Police were called to what was described to them as an altercation between a man and woman. However, the man had already left when they arrived and no arrests were made at the raceway. Stuff understands at least three licence holders and a former licence holder were involved in the incident. As part of the investigation, the RIU is interviewing witnesses. Godber said it was still early in the investigation and the RIU was working to identify all parties involved. All licence holders involved would be interviewed when identified, he said. The dual code meeting was part of the Gold Cup festival in Manawatu, with the Group I thoroughbreds meeting held at Awapuni the following day. Godber said it was too early to speculate on any course of disciplinary action and no further comment would be made until the investigation was completed. The crowd was one of the best of the season at Palmerston North track which is used for harness and greyhound racing. Sources have described the actions of the those involved as "disgusting", especially given how hard many people across the three codes have worked to make the Gold Cup festival successful. Greyhound Racing New Zealand chief executive Phil Holden has been approached for comment. A security company was on course to control the event and there were no other issues at the meeting. Mat Kermeen Reprinted with permission of Stuff

The NZ Racing Laboratory Services has advised the Racing Integrity Unit of irregularities in the urine samples taken from the horses Fatima Siad in Race 11 at the Timaru Harness Racing Club meeting on Saturday 19 November 2016 and Raukapuka Ruler in Race 1 at the NZMTC meeting on Friday 16 December 2016. Both horses are trained in Canterbury by Mr C Dalgety.   The irregularities are to Cobalt which in New Zealand Harness Racing is a prohibited substance at a level above 200 ug/L.    RIU Officials are conducting an investigation and no further comment will be made until the investigation has been completed.    A previous cobalt positive in harness racing was caused by contamination in a feed supplement.    Mike Godber  General Manager  Racing Integrity Unit

The rumour mill in harness racing with regards to the All Stars Stable, Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen has being at an all time high recently with accusations of pending drug charges leading the way.   The extra-ordinary success that they are having with the All Stars Team has bought out numbers of haters, low-lifers and jealous trainers, drivers and owners throughout Australia and New Zealand over the last few weeks. We at Harnesslink have been inundated with weeks of rumours and we have continued to deny any knowledge off any known impropriety. It is unclear if something that may or may not have happened has actually happened or may still happen, if the thing that may have happened ever happened in the first place. What’s been going on is disgraceful”, and the treatment from within a certain part of this Industry shows “a lack of respect” and that “enough is enough”. What drives these haters? Is it just jealousy? What these haters are saying is certainly defamation! You had better be careful if you are spreading the rumours! Defamation is an injury to the reputation or character of someone resulting from the false statements or actions of another. Defamation is a false attack on your good name. Your good name is regarded as a proprietary interest, not a personal interest. Defamation is an improper and unlawful attack against your proprietary right to your good name, your reputation. For us at Harnesslink here today was the tipping point, we heard from four individuals, two from the media in Australia and two in New Zealand, that the All Stars stables had been raided by the police over the last few days, so we decided that we should investigate, as we thought that this is getting out of hand. Maybe there was some truth to the rumours! We contacted the head of the Racing Integrity Unit in New Zealand who stated that there is no investigation of the All Stars Stable or Mark Purdon and that the rumours are just that rumours. The RIU stated also that they have been questioned about the Mark Purdon rumours from other people as well but they have nothing to add except to say that the All Stars Stable has being tested more that any other stable in Australia and New Zealand and they are 100% clean and there is nothing pending. Thank goodness! Just last week a harness racing publication printed an article that stated that 38% of their readers (maybe they only have a few and they are gamblers) says that the biggest problem facing harness racing today is the All Stars Team domination. I disagree completely. Harness racing problems world-wide center on it's unqualified, old and tired administrators and the people that put those administrators in those places of power in the first place. Nothing will change for the better unless their is a revolt against the establishment by concerned players. The biggest problem facing harness racing today is the All Stars Team! What a joke! For any one in the harness racing Industry to be jealous of what I will state as "the greatest Harness Racing Stable on Earth," is alarming to say the least. These people should take a good look at themselves or get out of the game! Most of us are in awe of the All Stars Stable and we should all be proactive in promoting it to all our young drivers and trainers. The All Stars Stable represents many owners and many other people in the Industry and is our Industry showcase and this is the one, true, professional part of harness racing in New Zealand that we should be proud off and want to be a part off. Haters - It is time for you to shut up or get out! Harnesslink Media  

Racing's co-chief stipendiary steward Ross Neal has resigned for personal reasons and to pursue other interests, he said on Monday. The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) confirmed the resignation of Neal, whose personal life had been in the public spotlight. The RIU polices the racing industry.  In May, it was revealed he was with Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) employee Lyn O'Connell in a Christchurch motel in February when she suffered a heart attack. She died in hospital a few days later. READ MORE: Racing industry anti-corruption boss should resign over fatal affair, says husband Her husband, Blair O'Connell​, a Motukarara breeder and trainer, in May called for Neal to resign. In a statement Neal, who has been in the role for eight years, said he had chosen to resign. Neal, who recently returned from a period of annual leave, described his decision to resign as "extremely difficult". "I am and continue to be passionate about the integrity and performance of our industry and believe I have been true to the intent and purpose of my role throughout my time in this role.    "My commitment to the reputation of the industry has seen me make the extremely difficult decision to resign. However, I will continue to be an avid supporter."  Blair O'Connell said in May his wife, licensing secretary for HRNZ, wanted to become a stipendiary steward and told him Neal was helping her with that process. In fact, O'Connell believed, Neal had taken the opportunity to conduct an affair with her for more than a year. O'Connell could not be reached for comment on Monday. Attempts to contact Neal on Monday were unsuccessful. It is unknown what his "personal reasons" for resigning are.  His mobile phone went straight to voicemail. A recorded voice message said he was no longer working for the RIU and  directed all work-related calls to its general manager Mike Godber​. Godber​ said he understood Neal did not wish to comment further. Godber said he could not comment when asked whether Neal had jumped, or was pushed. Neal had been an excellent co-chief stipendiary steward and was committed to the industry, Godber said. Mat Kermeen

Canterbury Harness Racing participants are starting to talk. *Can we have faith in the Racing Integrity Unit? *Will a racecourse investigator turn up on my home doorstep? Those are just some of the questions being asked by drivers, stable hands and trainers. Those with little faith in the RIU will now have almost none, after it was revealed that Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams turned up on Woodend based driver/trainer Bob Butt's door step and demanded that Butt travel to the Rangiora Racetrack to take a urine and saliva test for prohibitive substances. That was after Butt had called in sick after being struck down with illness, meaning he was unable to take up his drive on Easy Rider at Rangiora. Easy Rider is trained by his parents, David and Catherine Butt at their Woodend training establishment. With the Racing Investigator testing a large range of drivers and stable hands at the Rangiora meeting, and Butt calling in sick, it appears as though they thought Butt had been tipped off and had called in sick to dodge being tested. After arriving at the Woodend stables and repeatedly knocking on the door, the Racing Investigator was unable to raise Butt from a deep sleep, so continued to walk around the Butt's training centre until they found another license holder in Robbie Close, who works for Mark Jones. Jones lease's a section of the Butt's establishment. With the Racing Investigator demanding that Close enter the household and wake Butt up, they then requested that Butt travel to the Rangiora Course to undergo a drug test. With Butt refusing to leave his home due to his obvious illness, Racing Investigator Ms Kylie Williams then arranged for the testing equipment to be transported to Butt's house in Woodend. "I'm not a big fan of them coming to home to do it because I was just sick and only had one drive so didn't bother going. "But I also know why they test for it. So I'm moving on." said Butt, when spoken to by the NZ Herald. With the Racing Investigator also wanting samples from Junior Driver Matthew Anderson, he was forced to travel from his Rolleston base to Woodend after already having left the racecourse after his driving engagement in Race 5. It took over a hour to get the two tests they were after, which both returned negative readings for drugs and alcohol. What were they looking for? David and Catherine Butt were reportedly upset by the events and wrote a letter to RIU general manager Mike Godber and was talked about at a recent HRNZ board meeting last week. The RIU sent Butt a letter yesterday outlining that legal opinion. When spoken to by Michael Guerin from the NZ Herald - RIU's Chief Investigator Neil Grimstone had the following to say:  "When Mr Butt didn't attend the meeting, and only pulled out after it may have become obvious there was testing going on, that may have raised some suspicions," "But his test showed nothing irregular and he has no case to answer, we want to be very clear about that. "We are not looking to catch people inside the racing industry who want to drink, even if they choose to do so to excess. "We are about providing a safe environment at race and trials meetings and that can extend to all licenced racing people, but most importantly trainers and drivers. "But this is not the start of some random, out of race or trials day testing of everybody in the racing industry for alcohol or drugs. "Obviously drugs are illegal but alcohol isn't and what racing people do, within limits of course, away from race and trials days is their business." Other questions that need to be answered: How can Peter Lamb be a “Racing Investigator, Stipendiary Steward and a Starter? Take a look at our recent article on the conflict of interest... Why aren't the other three Racing Investigator's doing their jobs and testing for alcohol and drugs in their areas? Why can't it become policy that each driver must sign in when they arrive on course and while they are doing that, then process to do a alcohol test? Would this not be the best way to show the public that our drivers are free of any alcohol prior to their driving engagements. Harnesslink Media

Following a detailed investigation the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) has charged the trainers Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott with three breaches of Rule 804 (2) of the New Zealand Rules of Thoroughbred Racing.  The charges relate to presenting three horses to race with a prohibited substance, namely, Cobalt at a level above the threshold of 200ug/L.  The investigation showed that the circumstances surrounding the cobalt positives in New Zealand were significantly different to the recent Australian cases, where trainers were charged with the administration of a prohibited substance.  An explanation provided by Wexford Stables was that their horses had been exposed to heavily cobalt dosed water troughs the horses shared with dairy cattle. As part of our investigation the RIU undertook a series of trials that proved that cobalt levels above 200ug/L can come about by the oral feeding of cobalt in high concentrations.  The trials were carried out by Dr Andrew Grierson Veterinary, advisor to the RIU. The trial and its results have been peer reviewed and confirmed by Professor Stuart Paine, an international expert on the subject.    An application has been made for the disqualification of the horses, Sound Proposition, from its third placing in the NZ Derby on 28 February 2015 at Auckland, Quintastics, from its first placing at Matamata on 11 March 2015 and Suffire, from its first placing on 5 February 2015 at Tauranga.    The Cobalt readings for the three horses were -  Sound Proposition 541  Quintastics 640  Suffire 309    The charges will be heard by the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), an independent racing judicial body.    As the matter is now before the JCA no further comment will be made.  Questions and Answers relating to Cobalt and the Charges  1.    What is Cobalt?  It is an essential trace element required for life and naturally occurring in horses, dogs and other mammals.  2.    Why is it a Prohibited Substance?  Cobalt  administered in amounts much greater than required for normal living has been demonstrated to have an effect on the blood system by stimulating the production of red blood cells (erythropoiesis). The effect being similar to EPO. 3.  Why is there a threshold for cobalt?  This is because it is naturally occurring in horses and so a level has been set above what could be considered to be a range for a normal population. The threshold of 200 ug/L has been set for the equine racing codes in Australia and NZ. This was based on a study of 2,000 samples taken from horses across Australasia. The study was carried out by the Chemistry Centre (WA), an internationally accredited racing laboratory in Perth, Western Australia and the statistical analysis of the results was carried out by Emeritus Professor Brynn Hiddert of the University of NSW.  4.    How much Drug testing is carried out in NZ racing?  As drug testing is a key platform of the racing industry’s integrity strategy each racing season over 12,000 drug tests are carried out.  5.    Why has the O’Sullivan/Scott investigation taken eight months?  Cobalt is a newly identified performance enhancing drug and therefore the number of studies on how it can be applied to breach the threshold have been limited. This has meant that both in Australia and NZ significant time has been spent investigating this area and carrying out trials. Trials not only take time to be completed they have to be ethically approved and the results analysed and peer reviewed.    6.    What is the difference in being charged with administration of a prohibited substance and charged with presenting a horse to race with a prohibited substance?  The charge of administration is made where there is evidence that there was deliberate administration of the prohibited substance. The charge of presenting is where there is no evidence of deliberate administration or where the prohibited substance entered the animals system through negligence, contamination or some other means.  7.    What are the potential penalties for the charges?  Up to 5 years suspension or disqualification and up to $25,000 fine. New Zealand Racing Integrity Unit

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

Harness Racing New Zealand Driver Natalie Rasmussen, has been found guilty on three charges brought by the Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) that she placed bets on horses in a race in which she was driving.  On Tuesday 10th November 2015, in the Christchurch Casino NZ Trotting Cup, Ms. Rasmussen accepted a drive on the horse MESSINI in Race 10 after having placed a futures bet on SMOLDA, in the same race. At the time this bet was placed Ms Rasmussen had a broken elbow, and was not expected to drive in the New Zealand Cup.    The second charge related to failing to advise the stewards. The third charge related to a bet placed on CHASE THE DREAM in Race 7, a horse that she was driving.    The charges were heard by the Judicial Control Authority (JCA) which imposed a fine of $3750 with costs to the JCA of $350.    You can read a copy of the JCA decision here   New Zealand Racing Integrity Unit

Ryal Bush harness racing horseman Shane Walkinshaw would love to turn the page and put the last few months behind him but at the moment he is stuck in limbo as the wheels of justice turn incredibly slowly. Ever since he got a knock on the door from Barry Kitto, the racecourse inspector that the five year old Julius Caesar gelding he trains, Not Bad had returned a very large positive to Cobalt, Shane has been under the spotlight for being the first New Zealand harness racing trainer to be charged with the use of Cobalt. At first Shane thought it must be an error with the testing or the samples but it quickly became apparent to him that the results were correct and worse still they had come from Not Bad. Shane is known for not having a vet to his small team unless it is absolutely essential and for keeping impeccable records and when Barry Kitto inspected the stables he remarked to Shane that it was one of the most compliant stables they had ever inspected. Shane knew he hadn't done anything wrong so he set out to prove to the Racing Integrity Unit that he was innocent of any deliberate administration. It wasn't long before Shane came across the culprit for the massive cobalt highs that his horses were returning. The one additive that Shane regularly gave his horses who were in work was a blood sachet. " I had brought them off Farmlands for years but when I went in in September they were temporarily out of stock but suggested a blood booster they had there would do the same job." "It was the Equin Blood Booster made by McMillians and after talking to them at length, it seemed perfect for what I wanted." " The label said there was a small amount of Cobalt in the product but it was well within the 200 limit and there was no with holding time on its use according to the label." " To make matters worse Not Bad was one of those rare horses that had a high Cobalt reading even when he was out of work." " They tested him and his resting level was 85 which took the RIU back a bit." "I sent away two samples of the product away to be tested to different laboratories and the RIU sent one away to be tested." " One of my samples came back 355 times over the legal limit while the RIU sample was 190 times over the legal Cobalt limit." "Once I had those results, I thought the RIU in conjunction with Harness Racing New Zealand would publicise the fact that the blood booster was potentially a major problem as I was aware that there were other trainers who had brought the product but todate there has been a deathly silence," Shane said. As for any progress on his case, Shane has heard nothing from the RIU about a possible hearing date. " It is just dragging on and on and the longer it does that, the more damage it is doing to my reputation." " I want the facts out there so people can see that see that I didn't give Cobalt to my horses deliberately," Shane said. The delay seems hard to justify at this point with all parties agreed on the facts of the case. The case should be dealt with urgently and it is time for the RIU and the JCA to get on with it. Harnesslink Media

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

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

The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) has charged Mr Alan Lynch, Licensed Trainer Pukekohe with three drug administration offences relating to the horse This Sky Rox. The races concerned were at Alexandra Park on 12 June (3rd placing), 19 June (first placing) and 10 July 2015 (6th placing). Mr Andrew Grant, Licensed Trainer Pukekohe has also been charged with one drug administration offence relating to the horse Majestic One when it won at Alexandra Park on 3 July 2015. In the case of both trainers the positive drug test was for Aminorex, which is a prohibited substance due to the effect it has on the nervous system and its action as a stimulant. As the matter is now before the Judicial Control Authority the RIU will make no further comment. Mike Godber

Harness racing chiefs are pushing for a new rule to prohibit the administration of alkalising agents for one clear day before a horse races to stamp out the practice of "half-shaking." The move is a precursor to the introduction of far tougher penalties for high bicarb levels and is expected to generate the most debate at the annual conference of racing clubs in Christchurch next month. The remit, recommended by the Racing Integrity Unit and the equine codes' veterinary advisor Dr Andrew Grierson, seeks to amend the current rule which prevents alkalising agents being given on raceday. The "milkshaking" of horses has been a significant threat to the integrity of the industry since its height in the 1990s when unscrupulous trainers loaded their animals up with bicarb to stop the build-up of lactic acid and delay muscle fatigue. But while high levels are rare these days, persistent cheaters have been known to give lower doses, known as "half-shakes". And it had been shown internationally that by prohibiting the administration of alkalising agents on the day prior to the race, the incidence of "half-shaking" is significantly reduced. In most horses, the beneficial effect of a milkshake peaks six hours after administration and the TCO2 level returns to normal after 12 hours.  The rule change is designed to bring New Zealand into line with overseas racing jurisdictions and further enhance stakeholder confidence in the harness industry. Grierson believes now that the TCO2 threshold has been raised to 36 - and trainers aren't prosecuted unless the level is over 37 - the next step is to bring in the one clear day restriction so "there was not a shadow of doubt that breaches signalled "intent". "The previous system wasn't working because we were still getting TCO2 anomalies occurring and the one thing we don't want is to have innocent people being charged." Grierson said the chances of a TCO2 level of 37 being a naturally occurring event were one in two million and, at the actionable level of 37.1, the chances were one in 3.9 million. The stats were one in 5893 million for a level over 38. "A lot of people in the industry believe the JCA shold adopt penalties reflecting those statistical odds," said Grierson who believes the authority is receptive to the call. Grierson said under the present rule it was possible for cheats to shake a horse the night before raceday in the hope its level would still be raised slightly for competition. Ironically, there was no data to support the theory that "half-shaked" horses performed better. Horses with levels of 34-35 did not win more races than those with levels closer to the national mean of 30.6. And the levels of horses who finished in the first five were not higher than the also-rans. "There is no medical justification for treating your horse that close to a race and, if you have to, is your horse suitable to race anyway?" Horseman should have no concern that the rule might impinge on their animals' welfare by preventing traditional treatments when away at a two-day meeting. If a trainer felt a horse who'd raced say on a Friday needed a drench the next day to help it recover for a Sunday race, they could still seek an exemption from a stipendiary steward. The clear move in international circles was to extend the previously accepted no-treatment-on-raceday to one of no treatment for one clear day before racing. Already Australian authorities had moved to make it illegal to administer any cobalt-raising supplement for one clear day before competition. In other remits to go before the conference: ■ It will be an offence for a person to not only acquire, but attempt to acquire, an out-of-competition banned substance. Those substances are the ones for which there is no therapeutic reason for use at any time. ■ Horses injected with corticosteroids in the preceding eight days will be banned not only from racing but also from being trained on a club-run track. While a valuable way of managing inflammatory joint disease, corticosteroids can be undetectable in urine but still having an effect, thereby hiding impending failure and increasing the risk of catastrophic events.   ■ The 30 metre distance stipulation for horses being disqualified if their sulky wheels track inside the marker line will be removed. The rule change seeks to have horses able to be put out if they are deemed to have merely gained an advantage, rather than focusing on the distance covered inside the markers. Judicial committees would have more discretion to deal with individual cases. Horses whose wheels go inside the markers trying to force a run they are not entitled to inside the passing lane could then be disqualified, regardless of distance travelled.  And, on the other hand, horses three back on the markers, who go inside markers but cannot possibly benefit from it, do not have to be automatically put out.    ■ To clarify a rule introduced last year,  the connections of a horse which is interfered with can seek compensation from the owners of  the culprit, but only if its chances of receiving higher stake money are prejudiced. Owners have until 30 minutes after the last race to lodge an information with the stewards who may order that a portion of the stake money earned by the transgressor be paid to the victim. Under the new rules, horses cannot be promoted ahead of those who interfere with them unless it can be proved they would have beaten that runner home without the interference. Barry Lichter

In January of this year, we raised the matter of the starter Peter Lamb being used as a steward at a harness racing meeting at Nelson. When we approached Harness Racing New Zealand about the conflict of interest that existed between the two positions, we were assured it was a cost saving measure at the busiest point of the holiday racing period and that it was only a temporary measure. Unfortunately that has not turned out to be the case. Peter Lamb continues to be both a starter and a steward on raceday and in our view he cannot be both. The response from HRNZ about the obvious conflict of interest should a complaint be made against the actions of the starter to the stewards panel of which Peter Lamb is also a member was that he would excuse himself in such circumstances. But the point we made then and which we still firmly believe is it leaves the whole system open to allegations of favouritism and corruption. Peter works very closely with his fellow stewards for weeks on end and then when a complaint is made against his performance as a starter, the people to decide weather to charge him are the same people who he works very closely with at every race meeting. We firmly believe that there has to be a separation between those who enforce HRNZ regulations and those who work under those rules. We have had numerous approaches from horsemen/trainers who are unhappy about the current situation but are reluctant to speak out for fear rightly or wrongly of antagonizing those who have control over how they earn their income. Is HRNZ that cash strapped that it cannot afford to adequately staff its stewards positions and therefore needs to have staff multi tasking.? Mike Godber, the head of the Racing Integrity Unit gave Harnesslink the official explanation for the change when speaking to Harnesslink today. " Including the starter as a member of the stewards panel is a very common practice at most Australian harness racing meetings." "With costs being what they are today we have to look to make savings where ever possible." "It is only for racing over the holiday period and at low key meetings and won't happen at Premier meetings or any of our other feature race meetings." "We understand that some people may see a conflict of interest but we are doing our utmost to make the new arrangement work," Mike said.  We must add that having known Peter Lamb well before he became the starter at Addington, he is a man of the utmost integrity and would make a great steward. Peter is also widely recognized as the best starter in harness racing in New Zealand. However he can either be a starter or a steward but in our view he can't be both. We are all for cost efficiencies in the administration of harness racing but starters acting as stewards is a step to far for us. There is a massive conflict between the two positions and in an age where perception is reality to a lot of people, it is not a good look for harness racing in our view. Finally we think by making this change, Peter Lamb has been put in the unenviable position where his integrity will be questioned by some in the industry and that is not something that any employee should have to suffer. JC

The Racing Integrity Unit has filed an application with the Judicial Control Authority (JCA), for a breach of Rules 1004(1A) and 1004D of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing. They are requesting the disqualification of Ventimiglia (trainers A P and L M Neal) from Race 2 at the Waikato Harness Racing Club’s Meeting held at Cambridge Raceway on 30 January 2015.  This follows confirmation that a post-race sample taken from Ventimiglia had tested positive to a prohibited substance.  As the matter is now the subject of a JCA hearing no further comment will be made.  Mike Godber   

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