Addington Raceway official may face sanctions; illegal substance suspected; driver banned

An assistant starter at Addington Raceway is facing possible sanctions after being charged with...
An assistant starter at Addington Raceway is facing possible sanctions after being charged with betting on races at New Zealand Trotting Cup Day. Photo: George Heard / NZ Herald
An assistant starter at Addington Raceway is awaiting possible sanctions after being charged with betting on races during New Zealand Trotting Cup Day last month.

Sharon Donnelly was charged with an offence under Rule 310 of the Harness Racing New Zealand Rules, which stipulates no person acting as a starter or start’s assistant can bet on any race at any race meeting where they are officiating.

Donnelly, the wife of Addington Raceway starter Ricky Donnelly, faced an Racing Integrity Board hearing last Friday, where a panel reserved its decision.

It is believed the investigation followed an unsuccessful all-up bet on two horses during the November 9 meeting.

The RIB is also determining whether charges will be laid after a horse was suspected of being administered with a prohibited substance before being scratched from a race at Addington last Friday.

Johnny Nevits, one of two horses injected with embalming fluid by disgraced former trainer Jesse Alford earlier this year, was scheduled to run in a New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club meeting.

However, the horse was scratched after RIB investigators raided the Woodend headquarters of trainer and junior driver Cam Jones, who took over the care of Johnny Nevits after Alford was banned for seven years in May.

Johnny Nevits was scratched by stewards under rule of racing 213 (1) (c), which relates to horses that have had or may have had a prohibited substance administered.

Under HRNZ rules horses are not allowed to be administered any substance on race day.

The Star understands a syringe was found by investigators and it is believed another harness racing trainer was at the stables at the time and is assisting with the inquiry.

He hung up when called by The Star for comment.

RIB chief executive Mike Clement would not comment on specifics of the investigation.

“When the investigation is complete a decision will be made in respect of the basis for any charge under the racing rules,” he said.

Alford was banned after investigators caught him injecting two horses – Johnny Nevits and Jimmy Cannon – with the prohibited substance formalin on February 25, two hours before they were due to race at Addington. Formalin is used to prevent bleeding.

Meanwhile, an amateur harness racing driver was suspended until April 7, 2022 and fined $400 for her drive during a Timaru Harness Racing Club race at Phar Lap Raceway on October 3.

Colleen Negus was penalised after Dreaminsover was deemed to have challenged for lead prematurely before the horse, trained by her husband Bruce, weakened to finish ninth in the 10-strong field, 13.8 lengths behind the winner.

Her failure to give the horse respite meant she breached Rule 868 (2) by driving in a manner well short of what would reasonably be expected of a driver in her position.

Clerk of the course Craig Wiggins told the panel he heard Andrew Fitzgerald, at the reins of leader The Naenae Express, yell “Don’t do it Colleen don’t do it” while shaking his head as the field passed the 1800m mark.

Negus denied the breach but in the RIB’s view she unreasonably overraced her horse.

Stewards had called for a 24-drive suspension – amateurs are calculated to have two drives per month – meaning she would be suspended for 12 months. They also sought a $1000 fine for what they considered a mid-range breach.

But the RIB panel determined a 12-month suspension “would be manifestly harsh”.

Negus was suspended from December 6 up to and including April 6, 2022.