Fixing probe 'kick in the guts' for harness racing

Peter Gillespie
Peter Gillespie
Southern harness racing officials have called yesterday's shock police investigation in to racing-fixing as a sad day for the sport.

Police seized evidence when they raided 10 properties, including one in Southland, when Operation Inca went public yesterday.

No Otago stables or horse people were involved in the investigation, which was a minor consolation, Forbury Park Trotting Club board chairman Peter Gillespie said.

''It is just so disappointing.

''Harness racing is a club-based model, with a lot of volunteer support, and this is just a huge kick in the guts.

''It is a tight-knit industry and this just lets the side down.''

Harness racing had been riding a high over the past two racing seasons, with rising stakes at cluibs, particularly in Southland.

The industry got a further fillip with the release last week of the government-commissioned Messara report, which promises to boost industry revenue.

Yesterday's police sting came as a shock and would dent the renewed confidence in harness racing, Otago-Southland Trainers and Drivers Association president Geoff Knight said.

''It is a shock and a disappointment for the industry.

''It is a kick in the guts that the game didn't need. We are at a point where Winston Peters has released the Messara report and things are looking like going forward.

''This has taken the gloss off it.''

Knight hoped the industry would survive the potentially devastating fallout from the scandal.

''Until the investigation is complete you are innocent until proven guilty.

''Our industry will survive regardless of the outcome of it, but it is disappointing.''

Racing clubs rely on betting turnover to fund their race-meetings.

The scandal could dent confidence of punters and put them off betting on harness racing events.

That scenario could see all Southern harness racing participants suffer fallout from the scandal.

''Southern Harness is based on increasing turnover to increase stakes and when something like this happens it doesn't help,'' Southern Harness Racing board chairman John Earl said.

''It is a bitter pill to swallow when something like this is happening.''

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