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FROM THE SHERIFF'S DESK: AUTHORITIES AT ODDS ON WHETHER TO DISQUALIFY OR NOT TO DISQUALIFY

By John Schreck | Thursday, November 30, 2017

John Schreck, a former Chief Steward in both Sydney and Hong Kong, has seen both the colourful and the dark sides of racing. His wealth of experience and his deep knowledge of racing matters across the board is unquestioned and the reputation he built as a racing ‘lawman’ remains firmly entrenched in racing’s history. Schreck’s personal blog, ‘From the Sheriff’s Desk', appears exclusively on HRO.

The Azkadellia case continues to provide some intrigue on the back of the ownership saga.

It is quite amazing that racing authorities around the country can’t agree on what to do as far as Azkadellia’s race record is concerned.

The Victorians disqualified the horse from races it had competing in down there and Racing NSW did NOT disqualify it from the races when it won prize-money in Sydney including the Coolmore, the Doncaster and the Queen Of The Turf which earned the horses connections in excess of a million dollars.

I would have thought that the decision by Racing Victoria to disqualify the horse, on the face of it, was the right way to go. Surely if a horse earns money for people, basically under false pretences, you would think that would be the consequence.

We normally associate the word ‘cheating’ with performance enhancing drugs in racing. There was none of that here but there was cheating as far as the public ownership of the horse was concerned and that can hardly be condoned.

In this case it has been clearly established the Azkadellia didn’t run under the rules of racing and the trainer has already been penalised for it but, in the case of New South Wakes, does the buck really stop there?

I can fully appreciate that, with disqualification, getting any money returned from some of those owners involved would be 100-1 and drifting. Also, if that decision is made, the winners’ purse has to be redistributed to the runner-up as well as adjusting the new run-on of prize money to the place getters.

Balancing the books would be a difficult undertaking and that could possibly be the reason behind the New South Wales decision but the reality of the situation is that part of the equation is quite separate from the core principle of whether the horse raced under the rules of racing, or not.

Racing Queensland has yet to announce their ruling on the Azkadellia runs in that state.

They will have to make a decision one way or the other.

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Racing Victoria has announced that it will not be pursuing charges against four trainers who had presented their horses with elevated readings of arsenic ... all the way back in 2015!

Four horses were involved in these proceedings. Three of them won the races in question. One finished unplaced.

Investigation revealed that the horses had chewed on pine fencing which contained arsenic levels consistent with timber treated with copper chromium arsenic.

Further research determined that horses could exceed the allowed arsenic threshold by chewing on this type of timber ... hence no charges are to be laid.

There were two decisions that Racing Victoria had to make with regard to horses who had positives to arsenic which is a prohibitive substance.

One ... was to penalise or not penalise the trainer, and two ... was to disqualify the horses.

When a horse returns a positive test these days there is no discretion allowed. It must be disqualified ... as they were in these four cases.

I have always been of the view those who have the power to penalise should be allowed discretion as each case should be judged on the individual disclosed facts. One day a horse will chew on a rail, win the Melbourne Cup prove positive to arsenic then have to be disqualified.

So while it might at first have sounded strange that horses were disqualified but no charges were laid, these particular outcomes have now been explained and the cases brought to a conclusion by Racing Victoria.

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Hugh Bowman has had a wonderful year in the saddle and his win in the Japan Cup provided another highlight.

It was a great feather in his cap to win that race on a horse (Cheval Grand) that wasn’t all that fancied and, of course, that result was enough to see Bowman named ‘World’s Best Jockey’ for 2017 ... the first Australian rider to gain that honour ... which is a great credit to him.

Bowman won ten of the world’s Top 100 Group or Grade 1 races and his efforts saw him beat off the challenges of Ryan Moore (who finished second in that title race) and Frankie Dettori (who finished third).

Bowman was quick to acknowledge the played by the ‘wonderful Winx’ in that outcome and when asked about the title he replied, ‘it’s got a nice ring to it I suppose, but who can really judge who is the best?’

That response had a nice ring to it.

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