You are here: Home / Non race day hearings / Non Raceday Inquiry (Request for a Ruling) RIU v C Ferguson - Decision dated 22 October 2018 - Chair, Prof G Hall

Non Raceday Inquiry (Request for a Ruling) RIU v C Ferguson - Decision dated 22 October 2018 - Chair, Prof G Hall

Created on 24 October 2018

BEFORE A JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF

THE JCA AT DUNEDIN

UNDER THE RACING ACT 2003

AND IN THE MATTER of the New Zealand Rules of Harness Racing

BETWEEN RACING INTEGRITY UNIT (RIU)

Informant

AND MR CRAIG FERGUSON

Public Trainer/Open Horseman

Respondent

Informations: A4820 & A4821

Judicial Committee: Prof G Hall, Chairman

Appearing: Mr C Allison, Racecourse Investigator, for the Informant

Ms S Tomlinson for the Respondent

RULING OF JUDICIAL COMMITTEE

[1] The informant, the RIU, has laid two informations with respect to the respondent, Mr C Ferguson.

[2] Information A4820 alleges that pursuant to r 1106(1)(c) that in accordance with r 1004D of the NZ Rules of Harness Racing, the horse BUB’S VC, be disqualified from Race 2, the Letty Ferguson Memorial Mobile Pace held by the Forbury Park Trotting Club at Forbury Park Raceway Dunedin on the 12th of July 2018, following the said horse having been taken to a racecourse for the purpose of engaging in a race and being found to have administered to it, or ingested by it, a prohibited substance, namely O-Desmethylvenlafaxine.

[3] Information A4821 alleges that pursuant to r 1106(1)(c) that in accordance with r 1004D of the NZ Rules of Harness Racing, the horse ROZZANO, be disqualified from Race 5, the Dunedin City Motors Pace held by the Forbury Park Trotting Club at Forbury Park Raceway Dunedin on the 19th of July 2018, following the said horse having been taken to a racecourse for the purpose of engaging in a race and being found to have administered to it, or ingested by it, a prohibited substance, namely O-Desmethylvenlafaxine.

[4] The relevant rules provided at the time of the breaches:

1106(1)(c) An information may: (c) request a ruling.

1004D Any horse which has been taken to a racecourse for the purpose of engaging in a race which is found to have administered to it or ingested by it any prohibited substance shall be disqualified from that race.

[5] There is an agreed summary of facts.

Summary of facts

[6] The Respondent is the official trainer of both BUB’S VC and ROZZANO. Mr Ferguson is the holder of a Public Trainer’s licence and is also an Open Horseman. He recently commenced his training career and his stables are situated at the Wyndham Racecourse. He has a team of around 10 -12 horses in work.

[7] Mr Ferguson correctly entered and started the registered Standardbred BUB’S VC in Race 2 the Letty Ferguson Mobile Pace at the Forbury Park Trotting Club meeting held at Forbury Park Raceway Dunedin on Thursday the 12th of July 2018. Total stake money for the race was $7,830. The breakdown of stake money was 1st $5,350, 2nd $1,000, 3rd $500, 4th $280, others $140.

[8] Mr Ferguson also correctly entered and started the registered Standardbred ROZZANO in Race 5 the Dunedin City Ford Pace at the Forbury Park Trotting Club meeting held at Forbury Park Raceway Dunedin on Thursday the 19th of July 2018. Total stake money for the race was $7,350. The breakdown of stake money was 1st $4,125, 2nd $1,050, 3rd $525, 4th $300, others $150.

[9] Both BUB’S VC and ROZZANO won their respective races and were swabbed post-race.

[10] BUB’S VC urine sample numbered 61650 and ROZZANO’S urine sample numbered 118055 were sent to the NZ Racing Laboratory Services for analysis. On the 3rd of August 2018 the Laboratory formally advised the RIU that both samples had contained a Prohibited Substance namely venlafaxine. Venlafaxine is found in a common human medication used as an anti-depressant.

[11] On the 8th of August 2018 Racing Inspectors interviewed Mr Ferguson who was unable to explain how the Prohibited Substance come to be in either of the horse’s system. Both horses were swabbed again at Mr Ferguson’s stable with the horses providing clear samples.

[12] Around 15 persons attached or associated with Mr Ferguson’s stable were interviewed including drivers, stable-hands, farrier, veterinarian, horse transporters, owners and friends to establish if any of them had been taking medication which could have caused the positive tests. None of the persons spoken to were able to assist with the possible contamination.

[13] Racing Inspectors took sawdust samples from all of the boxes at Forbury Park Raceway used by Mr Ferguson. The same boxes were used both nights. The samples were sent to the NZ Racing Laboratory Services for analysis. The Laboratory advised the RIU the samples contained not only venlafaxine but also other human medications including tramadol (painkiller), citalopram (anti-depressant), metoprolol (blood pressure/angina) and temazepam (insomnia). These medications were not in all samples which predominately contained venlafaxine.

[14] Racing Integrity Inspectors interviewed a person who acknowledged they had urinated in the boxes used by Mr Ferguson and they had been taking medication containing venlafaxine. They denied they had been taking any of the other medication which was found in the sawdust samples sent for analysing. Another person acknowledged urinating in the boxes while on another medication at the raceway as well but they were adamant they had not used the boxes used by Mr Ferguson.

[15] Dr Andrew Grierson the Chief Veterinarian for HRNZ confirmed there has been cases overseas where horse boxes had been contaminated by humans who had urinated in the sawdust while taking medication, including venlafaxine.

[16] The Forbury Park Trotting Club have been advised of the contamination of not only the boxes used by Mr Ferguson on the nights but also the possibility other boxes may be contaminated as well.

[17] The Club has advised the boxes used by Mr Ferguson have had the sawdust changed and they were undertaking further processes to minimise a repetition.

[18] Due to the circumstances the RIU do not believe it would be fair or reasonable to charge Mr Ferguson nor would it be in the interest of Harness Racing. The RIU is satisfied there is nothing Mr Ferguson could have done to avoid the contamination. The contamination of the boxes was totally outside his control and not a situation he could have foreseen.

[19] Mr Ferguson was fully co-operative throughout the investigation and he had been at a loss to explain how the positive results occurred.

[20] The RIU seeks the disqualification of both BUB’S VC and ROZZANO.

[21] Mr Ferguson accepts that the disqualification of BUB’S VC and ROZZANO is mandatory pursuant to r 1004D and he does not contest this.

[22] The RIU makes no application for awarding of costs.

Oral submissions

[23] Mr Allison reiterated in his oral submission that the RIU had advised the Club as to the circumstances of the breach and that they had taken remedial action.

[24] Ms Tomlinson said Mr Ferguson accepted that disqualification was inevitable under the rule. The connections of both horses had been understanding of the situation that had arisen. She assured the Committee that Mr Ferguson was not aware that any unfounded cloud of suspicion had been attached to his actions.

Decision

[25] The summary of facts clearly sets out the circumstances in which the two horses came to return positive tests. As the RIU have acknowledged, there is clearly no blame that can be attached to any actions of Mr Ferguson. It was unfortunate that he was allocated the same stall on both nights.

[26] Disqualification is mandatory pursuant to r 1004D.

[27] The official result of race 2 at Forbury Park on 12 July 2018 is now:

1ST NOTAWORD

2ND BUSH MAN

3RD IAMTHEDREAM

4TH BEAUDIENE EMERALD

5TH MISS MUNRO

[28] The official result of race 5 at Forbury Park on 19 July 2018 is now:

1ST LONDON DELIGHT

2ND EVANGELINE FRANCO

3RD ESSENCE OF EASTON

4TH TETRICK

5TH SHEEZA SPORT

[29] Stakes are to be paid accordingly.

[30] The hearing was conducted on raceday. There is no order for costs.

Dated at Dunedin this 22nd day of October 2018.

Geoff Hall, Chairman

Document Actions