By: Adam Pengilly
Racing NSW hasn’t ruled out increasing the number of licensees it tests for illegal drugs after confirming a second sample from a Chris Waller-trained horse returned a positive to the drug ice.
Stewards will convene a hearing on Friday into Betcha Thinking recording two post-race urine samples – from a race at Canterbury on October 5 – that contained traces of the substance.
Waller, who prepares two-time Cox Plate winner and the world’s best turf horse Winx, has not been charged.
An extensive testing regime of staff at Waller’s stable has been carried out and Australia’s leading group 1 trainer expressed a desire to help any person who has an issue with methamphetamine when Fairfax Media reported last month one of his horses had an irregularity.
Racing NSW tested almost 500 licensees during the course of the last racing season, but has warned that number could increase if they felt the need to clamp down on any perceived drug use within the racing industry.
More than 7 percent of those targeted tests – down from 8.61 percent the previous year – returned positive samples.
It is a level racing officials are desperate to curb given the dangers working with highly strung animals can present even without the influence of banned drugs.
“Unfortunately it is a bit of a problem in racing and you can see by those figures [it’s not ideal],” Racing NSW’s chief steward Marc van Gestel said.
“We do a lot of our testing as target testing – we don’t back away from that – and if a person has a history of using banned substances they’re a target for us. Other than that we work on intelligence as a base model.
“We think it’s a pretty good coverage and if it’s necessary to go forward and increase the numbers we’ll certainly put the resources together to do that across the state.”
The issue of a stable employee contaminating a horse before it is due to race is not foreign to Australian racing with hall of famer David Hayes urging fellow trainers last year to drug test their own staff to safeguard their businesses.
It followed a case in Victoria where trainer Matt Laurie was asked to face the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board over presenting one of his horses to the races with ice in its system.
Laurie was charged, but avoided penalty after a teenage former employee at his stable was linked to handling the horse that won a maiden race at Echuca.
NSW trainer John McNair had a fine reduced from $15,000 to $10,000 on appeal after one of his horses was found with the drug in its system last year, but the Group I-winning horseman was absolved of any blame by stewards.
Waller’s Betcha Thinking has had three starts since the race in question, where he ran second to Potent Force, and broke his maiden at Canterbury on November 11, his last race start.
– Sydney Morning Herald