Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cup horses get 24-hour guard

Chief steward Terry Bailey.

Chief steward Terry Bailey. Photo: Penny Stephens

The runners in this year's $6 million Melbourne Cup will, for the first time, have 24-hour guards – a move never before used in Australian racing.

And the around-the-clock security watch is just one of a number of tougher measures that Racing Victoria integrity officers will have in place this spring.

Chief steward Terry Bailey said on Sunday that the 24-hour lockdown before the race was an important measure in keeping some of the best racehorses in the world secure. "Formerly we would send security out to the 24 runners at about 5 o'clock in the morning but we've brought that time back to midday on Cup eve, which means they'll be under constant attention until they arrive at Flemington at midday on Cup day.

"I don't think any states have done this before, but we feel it's an important move and that won't be the only strengthening of integrity this spring," Bailey said.

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The chief steward maintains that those who wish to offend by having horses undergo race-day treatment are risking their livelihood – especially over the next few months. "I am concerned at the rise of race-day treatments and this has got to stop. We have got the tools in place to apprehend and prosecute those who flout the law.

"We have a compliance assurance team and we now have two new additions to the team and they are two former members of Victoria Police.

"They bring much experience to an already powerful compliance team and one of them worked on the Purana taskforce and his experience and know-how is invaluable," he said.

"We will be as vigilant as ever as we come into the spring carnival. There's a lot of prizemoney at stake and we seem to have seen the number of offenders spike when the richer races and the bigger prizemoney is there to be won.

"But the rules are firmly in place and we will be in many parts of the state if need be, to apprehend those breaking the law.

"We have the numbers, the experience and the know-how and trainers must now know that the penalties are far stronger."

Recently trainers have been facing charges related to TCO2, with Racing Victoria integrity officials believing that the new minimum penalties will help curb this trend.

"Formerly we had penalties at between six to 12 months' disqualification for treatment offences," Bailey said. "Those penalties are now up to three years and that's the minimum so these are very serious sentences.

"These are severe fines, three years out of your livelihood will certainly impact on anyone's business, but we are determined that race-day treatments will not occur.

"We've got the numbers in our compliance team to be totally unpredictable and we saw last year how effective these race-day inspections can be.

"It's important that all our teams have that element of unpredictability. It will mean that trainers will not know if we are or when we are coming. This is a vital ingredient to try and curb these race-day treatments."

Bailey also said that the practice of retaining horses after they've raced would also be used again this spring.

"We make no apology for this. If it takes, one, two, three or even four hours it has to be done," he said.

"We want to monitor any change in the horse's condition and we've found this is an effective way of finding out if a horse has been treated."


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