Trainer Robert Dunn, who operates stables in South Auckland and North Canterbury, has been fined $7000 after three horses trained there returned positive swabs to banned substance caffeine.
Dunn’s son, John, who manages the Woodend Beach stable north of Christchurch, and in charge of the horses in question at the two-day Nelson meeting last June, was also fined $7000.
The horses – Billy Badger, Hayden’s Meddle and Rishi – returned four positive swabs between them and were disqualified from their four wins.
Billy Badger won on both days, including the Nelson Winter Cup at the second meeting.
Rishi, since sold and exported to Australia, was trained by Craig and Aimee Edmonds, the father and sister of John Dunn’s wife, Jenna, but was under an official horse movement to Robert Dunn for the meeting.
The Racing Integrity Unit (RIU) did not charge the Dunns until February after an investigation lasting the best part of eight months.
According to the official Judicial Control Authority summation of the case, the RIU thoroughly investigated the possibility that the Dunns’ horses were ‘nobbled’ by an outside party.
Ultimately, no evidence was found to support this.
Dunn had previously told the RIU he believed the animals were likely given the caffeine intentionally by an external source.
Stuff understood names were provided to RIU investigators, but RIU general manager Mike Godber has previously refused to confirm this or whether those people had been investigated.
Caffeine is an easy drug to detect, so is not widely used to enhance performance in racing. It can be administered as simply as through feed contamination.
Once charged, the Dunns both pled guilty to four charges each of presenting a horse to race not free of a prohibited substance.
The RIU sought a total fine of $4000 for the offending, but the JCA deemed that figure to be manifestly light and opted for $14,000, split evenly between the father and son.
Recent fines issued to Kevin Townley, Richard Brosnan, Bruce Negus and the Edmonds for breaches of the same charge were factored in to the sentencing judgement.
The RIU did not seek costs in relation to the eight-month investigation, which the JCA called “a generous position to adopt”, but they themselves issued $1000 in costs, split between the Dunns.
Horses promoted to victories as a result of the disqualifications were Ace High, Mongolian Hero, Boults On Fire and Terrier.
Dunn is one of the most successful trainers in New Zealand harness racing and the stable is well-known throughout Australasia.
His sons, Dexter and John, are successful drivers.
Dunn has run afoul of prohibited substances rules three times previously. His trainer’s licence was suspended for six months after he presented two horses with prohibited substances in Australia in 1992.
He was fined $500 after another horse was found with elevated TCO2 [total carbon dioxide] levels at the Westport Trotting Club in 2004.
He was also fined $3000, and son John $1500, in 2017 for instructing employee Craig Smith to be in possession of a prohibited substance, ketoprofen, at a Forbury Park meeting in June 2016.