Trainer admits injecting horse with vodka on Cup Day

An assistant starter at Addington Raceway is facing possible sanctions after being charged with...
Rakero Rebel was scratched from a race with a total stake of $140,000. Photo: George Heard / NZ Herald
A harness racing trainer injected a horse with vodka and then tubed it on the morning of the biggest trotting day of the year as he felt “behind the eight ball”, and just wanted to do his best.

Phillip Burrows was disqualified from racing for 10 years by the Judicial Control Authority on Tuesday.

The Herald can reveal the 51-year-old, who has been a harness trainer since 1996 with 1589 starts, was caught on camera by investigators alongside former harness rising harness racing star Matthew Anderson in November last year.

Anderson was at the time a prohibited person under the Racing Industry Act after he was convicted of assault and intentionally impeding breathing by strangulation of a woman at his home in a judge-alone trial. During the trial, Anderson denied he had assaulted or choked the woman. He claimed the woman had grabbed his arm and fell when he moved away.

On Tuesday it was revealed Racing Integrity Board investigators conducted covert surveillance of Rakero Racing Stables in Fernside, Rangiora on November 8.

The footage, which was played during the hearing, showed Burrows and Anderson bringing two horses into the tie-up area of the main stable.

The 3-year-old fillies, Rakero Rebel, and Millwood Indie, were due to race at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club’s Day meeting at Addington Raceway that afternoon.

Twenty minutes after bringing the horses in, Anderson held the head of Rakero Rebel while Burrows injected a substance into the horse’s neck using a hypodermic syringe.

Matthew Anderson was at the time a prohibited person under the Racing Industry Act after he was...
Matthew Anderson was at the time a prohibited person under the Racing Industry Act after he was convicted of assault and intentionally impeding breathing by strangulation of a woman at his home in a judge-alone trial. Photo: NZME
About 10 minutes later Anderson stood next to Rakero Rebel holding a twitch. A twitch is a device that is used to restrain horses for various stressful situations, such as veterinary treatment. It is usually made up of a stick-like handle with a loop of rope on the end which is wrapped around the upper lip of the horse and tightened.

Burrows then emerged from the direction of his feed room with a plastic container containing a ‘milkshake’ or ‘slurry’ and a bucket containing tubing equipment.

Tubing is the process of inserting a rubber or plastic tube through a horse’s nostril into its esophagus for the purpose of administering a liquid substance.

While Anderson held the head of Rakero Rebel, Burrows applied the twitch, tightened it and handed it to Anderson to hold.

Burrows took a white plastic tube from the bucket and blew through it. He inserted one end of the tube into the horse’s nostril, attached a funnel to the other end and tipped the slurry into it before elevating the funnel to allow gravity to feed the liquid into the horse. He refilled the funnel a second time and completed the procedure.

Burrows removed the tube from the horse’s nostril and Anderson removed the twitch.

Rakero Rebel was entered in Race 7 about 3pm, with the injection and tubing being approximately three and a half hours prior to her race. Race 7, was a Group 1 race with total stake money of $140,000.

Anderson then led Rakero Rebel onto Burrows’ horse float, followed by Burrows with Millwood Indie.

Minutes later RIB investigators entered the driveway of the property and spoke to Burrows who was driving the float.

Burrows admitted injecting Rakero Rebel with 30mls of vodka to help calm the horse’s nerves and directed investigators to the location of the used syringe.

He also admitted to tubing Rakero Reble with a slurry of bicarbonate of soda, Epsom salts, brown sugar and water and directed investigators to the location of the tubing gear.

Located in the bottom of the medicine cabinet was a plastic bucket containing the tubing gear, the empty plastic container and the used 30ml syringe was in a rubbish sack.

Also in the cabinet were two 1l bottles of vodka labelled at 37.2 per cent alcohol. One bottle was empty other contained about 150mls.

Rakero Rebel was scratched from the race and Burrows was directed to take the horse to Addington Raceway for the purpose of blood testing and swabbing. The test results showed no prohibited substances.

In explanation Burrows told investigators:

“It’s a group 1 race and you just feel like you’re behind the eight ball sometimes and you just want to do your best, get the best result you can for the owners...”

Analysis of betting records revealed no anomalies with Rakero Rebel.

Initially Anderson said he did not know anything about the allegations and said he wanted to seek legal advice prior to answering further questions. In a statement to investigators a week later he admitted holding the horse while Burrows injected it and to holding the twitch while Burrows tubed it.

He said he did not know what horse it was and claimed Burrows asked him to hold the horse as he was the only one there and he felt pressured to do so.

Both men were charged with administering a prohibited substance on race day and administering a substance by nasal gastric tube in breach of the one clear race day rule.

Burrows, who had previously been issued a formal written warning from the Racing Integrity Unit for utilising Anderson to work racehorses at his stable property, was also charged that by utilising Anderson to assist him in the race day preparation of two registered horses, he has associated with a prohibited person in the care of those horses.

Anderson was charged with acting in contravention of the rules as a prohibited person.

The JCA said on Tuesday Anderson’s lawyer informed them he pleaded guilty to the charges. A penalty hearing will be held at a later date.

Burrows, who was not at the hearing, said in his submission he was “sorry” for his actions.

“I made a poor decision,” he said.

He said it would have been in his best interests if he withheld some information and lied as he would then have faced a lesser charge.

“It seems honesty and integrity is not the best policy.”

His 2004 breach of the prohibited substance rule was so long ago it did not have any bearing, he said.

JCA chairman Warwick Gendall said there were several aggravating features of the offending including the status of the race, the reputational damage to the industry, animal welfare and flouting the warning he had received about his association with Anderson.

The only mitigating feature was his co-operation.

“But, he had no option but to co-operate and given that he knew that his actions and those of MR A had been captured on video and it was impossible for that to be challenged and any defence would’ve been futile,” Gendall said.