Thumbs Down, Down Under - by Dan Liebman

Air travel has made the breeding, racing, buying, and selling of Thoroughbreds an international endeavor.

Decades ago, it allowed stallions to be imported and exported, forever changing pedigrees across continents. A few brave horsemen began shipping to the first international races, and as such paved the way for events like the Breeders’ Cup, Arlington Million, Dubai World Cup, and Hong Kong International Races.

There are trainers with stables in multiple countries, jockeys who ride in numerous jurisdictions, and stallions that stand both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere breeding seasons.

As racing and breeding have become more global enterprises, authorities have collaborated on many issues to protect the integrity of all jurisdictions. Which makes two recent actions in Australia all the more curious.

First, officials with Racing New South Wales thumbed their collective noses at the Hong Kong Jockey Club by not upholding the length of a suspension handed to jockey Chris Munce. The Hong Kong stewards suspended Munce, found to have breached the rules there in a “tips for bets” scandal, for 30 months, his penalty to end Sept. 1, 2009.

The 39-year-old jockey, who was born in New South Wales, was arrested in July 2006 and found to have HK$250,000 and pieces of paper allegedly filled with notations about wagering in his pockets. Charged with providing tips to a local businessman between December 2005 and May 2006, Munce was found guilty and served 20 months in jail in Hong Kong and Australia, and was released Oct. 30.

Following his release, the Hong Kong Jockey Club leveled 36 charges against Munce, to which he pled guilty. The rub came when Racing New South Wales reciprocated on 35 charges, its belief being the 36th charge was related to a breach of Hong Kong’s criminal code that it claims does not exist under Australian law.

In a strongly worded release, Hong Kong Jockey Club chief executive officer Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges, noting Munce did not appeal the ruling by the Hong Kong stewards, called the decision by the New South Wales officials “disrespectful to the core value of due process.”

Engelbrecht-Bresges pointed out that both Hong Kong and the Australian Racing Board are signatories to the International Agreement on Breeding, Racing and Wagering, which is article 10 of the rules agreed to by members of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities.

Incredibly, New South Wales officials argue they are not a party to the agreement.

Even if the two authorities do not agree on whether or not the criminal code applies in New South Wales, racing authorities, be they in countries, provinces, or states, should honor suspensions through the principle of reciprocity.

Engelbrecht-Bresges stated in the release the decision by the New South Wales officials “threatens the relationship between Australia and Hong Kong.” Considering Australian jockeys and trainers work in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Jockey Club buys horses in Australia, that statement cannot be welcome news Down Under.

The same week in Australia, it was announced Melbourne Cup (Aust-I) runner-up Bauer would not be disqualified despite proof the horse received shockwave therapy within seven days of the race, which violates the country’s rules of racing.

British trainer Luca Cumani was unaware of the rule, and the horse was treated by a veterinarian employed by the Racing Victoria club. In the ruling, the chief steward stated that because the actions were taken by a veterinarian assigned by Racing Victoria, who should have been aware of the rules, the rule could not be applied.

The correct action should have been to fine and/or suspend the veterinarian, disqualify the horse, and redistribute the purse.

In 2006, Brass Hat finished second in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I), but was disqualified for a medication positive, despite the fact the trainer administered the drug according to withdrawal guidelines provided him by the Emirates Racing Association.

Brass Hat was properly disqualified; Bauer should have been as well.


Leave a Comment:

needler in Virginia

Without wavering, without equivocation, without question you are correct. If NSW is NOT a signatory to the International Agreement, as they claim, then racing there is not a viable option for anyone who breeds, owns, trains or races horses.

As far as I know, there are very few, if any, "yes, but" clauses in contracts. The International Agreement was drawn and signed for a make horse racing around the world a level playing field. NSW can't now claim that they "agree with ALMOST everything" or that they are not covered under this umbrella, as are all other racing venues. What makes them so damned special??

Well said, AGAIN, Dan.

09 Dec 2008 11:23 AM

None of this surprises me.  I have dealt with racing people from New South Wales and they think that they are above and beyond any law or rules.  That horse in the Melbourne Cup would have been disqualified very quickly anywhere else but not in Australia.  That jockey wouldn't be allowed to ride in any other country in this world.  We would have honored the HKJC's suspension.  But the Aussies find ways to get around just about everything.  Thankfully I don't deal with this person anymore.  Well said Dan.  

09 Dec 2008 12:53 PM

No, no, no, Bauer should not have been disqualfied. It was agreed that the treatment he recieved never enhanced his performance significantly, and crucially a RVL vet advised Cumani to give him the treatment. If RVL disqualfied Bauer then it would quite simply have been overturned for that very reason, it was RVL's fault.

The comparison with Brass Hat is a rather extreme one. You have to ask why was Brass Hat even having medication before such a big race, even the prescribed 23 days. In truth, American horses should be banned from racing anywhere else in the world why Lasix, Bute and any other drug is allowed on raceday's for no good reason.

10 Dec 2008 8:44 AM
international citizen

maybe the case of p/val being allowed to ride in Louisiana after being banned in california should be brought up here.

those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

10 Dec 2008 12:04 PM

The racing authorities in Australia are ,to quote jockey John Egan "tin-pot Hitlers",who was fined for saying this in a media interview regarding the interference of the racing authorities with his mount Yellowstone.They believe they can do no wrong, and hold those they have authority over to a stricter standard compared to those who make up their own ranks.

Trainer Rod Douglas was fined this year for calling (in a radio interview) the actions of  Racing Victoria stewards "dummy" "numbskull", when these stewards forced him to run his first time starter in racing gear the horse was not supposed to wear.

Of course like the case of the horse  Bauer ,the offending individual ,an employee of the racing authority was not disciplined or fined in any way.

In the Bauer incident,an article in the Herald Sun said that the trainer agreed to the shockwave treatment "on the advice of an RVL-contracted veterinarian."

The racing authorities in Australia should be more concerned with keeping the sport safe and fair, rather than fining people for knocking the authorities off their pedestal of self importance.

11 Dec 2008 5:14 AM

p-val is a great case. why should a rider be given this many chances?? he has done everything to not comply with racing rules in california, so why is he allowed to ride anywhere?? he should have been given a life sentence years ago BUT. the wimps in california wouldnt do it, now louisiana is doing the same thing. i say B--L S--T. any other rider doing it after 1 time would have gotten life he has had how many chances??20??

15 Dec 2008 6:25 PM

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