Stable hand linked to ice positive; trainer Matt Laurie avoids penalty: News.com.au 9/24/15

By Danny Russell

AN 18-year-old female stable employee who once reportedly went two nights without sleeping was on Thursday linked to a horse testing positive to ice after winning a maiden at Echuca.

The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board found on Thursday that Mornington trainer Matt Laurie was not culpable for his galloper Shockaholic’s illegal reading on April 24.

The board found that the methamphetamine positive was caused by accidental contamination, was a “minuscule” amount and would not have affected the horse’s performance.

Racing Victoria steward James Ogilvy said a female staff member, who had worked at Laurie’s stables for five months before being sacked for poor work practices, had been a person of interest during their inquiries.

Ogilvy said the girl had denied to stewards using ice, but a urine sample taken after she moved to Western Australia showed levels of amphetamine and methamphetamine in her system.

Stewards said during their investigations they were told she had behaved erratically at the stables, turned up late to work, lost a dramatic amount of weight and often suffered from a lack of sleep, including one occasion when she reportedly didn’t go to bed for two nights.

Stewards found that the teenager, who rode work and swam horses, had contact with Shockaholic in the two days leading up to the Echuca race.

Laurie’s counsel, Barrister Joe Ferwerda, said the trainer had been concerned by the company the teenager had been keeping outside the stables, but had no reason to suspect she was using ice.

He said she had been fired before the positive test was revealed because of her lack of reliability.

The RAD Board found that the contamination could have happened in a number of places and there was no persuasive evidence that the female stable hand had been responsible.

Laurie, 35, said he was relieved he could finally move on from an incident that had caused him and his family a great deal of stress and embarrassment.

“I’m very grateful for the support from my owners, my staff and my family,” he said.

“Anyone who knows me would know that the idea of us trying to give a horse meth to get a result is pretty ridiculous.”

Laurie was holidaying in Queensland when stewards rang him and said his heart sunk when they told him it was a positive to methamphetamine. He said he had been on holiday the week before and after Shockaholic’s Echuca race.

The trainer said when the story was first reported he was treated like a “villain” and copped a string of abusive phone calls from strangers.

He questioned the need to release such issues into “the public domain” before they had been fully investigated.

Laurie said he was also relieved for his staff who had taken the incident “personally”.

“I feel bad for the owners, but I feel horrible for the staff at home because the whole lot of them are just solid people, and just one person makes the whole lot of us look like that we don’t love our job or do our job well,” he said.

A conviction was recorded against Laurie without penalty, but Shockaholic was disqualified from winning the race.

The RAD Board had no criticism of the stewards, saying they had no option but to pursue the case once a positive had been recorded.

Originally published as Stable hand linked to ice positive