By: Robert Craddock
QUEENSLAND harness racing has been rocked with the news that Australia’s leading trainer, Grant Dixon, could face two positive swabs charges for arsenic.
Dixon withdrew his horses from the nominations for today’s Albion Park and tomorrow’s Redcliffe meeting as he conducts a forensic search of his stable to try to find evidence for his defence.
He refused to comment on the swabs when contacted by The Courier-Mail.
Arsenic is famously remembered for being the drug suspected to have caused the death of Australia’s greatest racehorse, Phar Lap, in the United States.
It is an old fashioned drug which was used by trainers as an appetite stimulant for their horses. But giving it to a horse is laced with risk because an overdose can be lethal. A small dose would often make a horse’s coat bloom but an overdose would make its hair fall out.
Dixon can be heartened by the fact several southern state trainers have provided positive swabs to arsenic which, testers believe, may have been the result of treated fence posts.
Victoria stewards last week sent a public warning to trainers reminding them the presence of arsenic above a level of 0.30 micrograms per millilitre in a race day swab is prohibited. The stewards warned trainers to be wary of the use of arsenic in supplements. Significantly, the stewards stressed arsenic may be found in pine fence posts.
It is understood the two Dixon horses were stabled beside each other and wood shavings used in their stables have been sent for testing.
Another Queensland trainer, Vicki Rasmussen, had an arsenic charge last year and was disqualified for six months.
Her penalty was quashed due to the possibility the arsenic was ingested from the environment.
Any disqualification to Dixon would severely jolt the thinning Queensland harness ranks. He was Australia’s leading trainer last year and leads the field again this season with 105 winners from 786 starters. Trainer Shannon Price is selling her property and heading to Melbourne while Narissa McMullen, Stuart Hunter and Shane Sanderson are trying their luck at Menangle.