Greyhound Racing New South Wales have this morning confirmed that the stewards inquiry in to the presence of the “stopper” drug Timolol in a greyhound from a Gardens meeeting on the 15th January 2010, has been adjourned at the request of the trainer charged.
New South Wales greyhound trainer Matthew Moncrieff has been charged by GRNSW Stewards with presenting his greyhound, Shesa Shopper, to race while under the influence of the drug Timolol.
Timolol has no therapeutic application in a greyhound and is the famed drug of choice used by “fence jumpers” and race fixers. It was used extensively throughout the 80’s and 90’s to “pull up” horses and greyhounds.
The drug Timolol only rose to wide spread public awareness as a “stopper” when in January 1990, the AJC laboratories detected the Beta-Blocker in three beaten favourites competing at Sydney racetracks over the Christmas-New Year period 1989-1990.
This was the first recorded detection of a Beta-Blocker in racing anywhere in the world.
In June 2009, Victorian greyhound trainer Graeme Brereton was disqualified for five months when his greyhound, Budeful, returned a positive swab to Atenolol, a drug from the same class of drugs as Timolol.
This current positive swab to Timolol stems from a maiden greyhound race at Newcastle’s The Gardens greyhound track. Coincidentally, the original perpetrators of the race fixing in greyhounds and horses, or “fence jumpers”; originated from the Newcastle and Central Coast areas of New South Wales.
On the day in question related to the Timolol positive, GRNSW took the unusual step of swabbing all greyhounds engaged in race four at The Gardens, a maiden 515 metre event; and pre-race swabbed Moncrieff’s greyhound Shesa Shopper and the John Vanderburg trained Pure Muscle, one of two first starters John Vanderburg had engaged in the race, along with Flaming Lips.
Moncrieff and another greyhound training Vanderburg, Wayne, are known to be close associates and share in the ownership of racehorse Sharp As Ice. Wayne also had several greyhounds engaged at the same meeting with the Vanderburg’s collectively starting five greyhounds on the day and Moncrieff starting three, or at least trying too.
Moncrieff had his greyhound Just Bella also engaged in the race four at The Gardens, but had rung GRNSW Stewards prior to kenneling to advise that Just Bella had vomited and was unfit to race. GRNSW Stewards requested the greyhound be presented to the track for veterinary inspection, but the vet was unable to diagnose any illness or abnormality with the greyhound. GRNSW Stewards erred on the side of caution however and scratched the greyhound from the race. The greyhound was not swabbed.
That left the two Vanderburg trained greyhounds and the Moncrieff trained Shesa Shopper engaged in race four, with Vanderburg’s greyhound Pure Muscle starting as second favourite.
None of the three greyhounds were competitive in the race and Vanderburg’s Pure Muscle finished third last, and Moncrieff’s Shesa Shopper finished second last; both more than 15 lengths from the winner. The other Vanderburg runner in the race, Flaming Lips, finished a distant last, more than 40 lengths from the second last greyhound.
Flaming Lips stumbled at the start of the race, and then tailed off when unable to keep up with the other greyhounds as they raced through the catching pen the first time. GRNSW Stewards accepted The Gardens club veterinarian Dr Garratt’s assessment that Flaming Lips had cramped.
Flaming Lips subsequently never raced again in New South Wales, and appeared in Western Australia one month later under trainer Lexia Isaac. Pure Muscle has never raced again, nor has Moncrieff’s greyhound Just Bella.
Shesa Shopper won her very next start at Richmond two weeks later as a well supported second favourite in a 535 metre maiden race. The favourite Tiger Lee was a well beaten last, being last away and not making any impression on the scratching depleted field. A subsequent veterinary inspection could not demonstrate any injury, and both Shesa Shopper and Tiger Lee were swabbed.
However, back on the 15th January at The Gardens, the run of bad luck and coincidences did not end for Moncrieff and the Vanderburg’s with race four. Just two races later in race 6, the 5th grade 515 metre race, Moncrieff had Very Expensive drawn in box one and Vanderburg had Sweet Fenoir drawn in box two. Sweet Fenoir was expected to go very well at just her second start based on her very fast debut effort at Coonamble winning by over 6 lengths as an odds-on favourite. Both greyhounds dominated the betting with Moncrieff’s Very Expensive receiving heavy late support to start favourite ahead of Sweet Fenoir for Vanderburg.
Very Expensive jumped quickly and led all the way for Moncrieff, while Sweet Fenoir was last away and running waywardly unable to keep up with the rest of the field, before running errantly on the first corner and collapsing in the catching pen the first time around. The greyhound then became disorientated and tried to hurdle the inside running rail, again falling, this time in the infield. Sweet Fenoir failed to finish the race.
Stewards immediately directed Sweet Fenoir be examined by the the club veterinarian and that the greyhound be swabbed. The club vet Dr Garratt determined that Sweet Fenoir had received deep lacerations and despite GRNSW directives to swab the greyhound, administered local anaestethic and penicillin and stitched the wounds closed, rendering any subsequent urinary swab useless. No swab was taken from Sweet Fenoir, although Moncrieff’s winner, Very Expensive, was swabbed.
At a post race inquiry in to Sweet Fenoir’s racing actions, Vanderburg claimed the greyhound must have hit its head on the starting boxes in the lure run up, suffering some form of concussion; but this was not supported by the race replay.
The stewards inquired of the club vet, Dr Garratt, as to his opinion of the greyhounds actions but claimed to have not seen the race, and claimed to be doing a swab at the time. For some unknown reason, according to the stewards report, no opinion was either asked of him nor forthcoming regarding the greyhounds action on the basis of the race replay.
Dr Garratt aslo told GRNSW he had failed to examine the greyhound for any abnormality, injury or neurological disorder which might have explained or offered some indication of the cause of the greyhounds strange behaviour.
Sweet Fenoir was ordered to undergo a satisfactory trial before racing again, but to this day has never undergone that trial nor raced again. Very Expensive, despite the impressive all the way win, has never raced again and is now no longer trained by Moncrief, but according to GRNSW records is trained by John Vanderburg.
Yesterdays adjournment was the third time this stewards inquiry has been adjourned, with previous submissions being heard on 26th March 2010 and 28th April 2010.
Over the course of the three sittings of the inquiry so far, evidence has been taken from trainer Mr Matthew Moncrieff, registered trainer Mr Wayne Vanderburg, registered owner Mr Brad Canty, Mr T Brewiss, GRNSW Steward Mr S Wallis and The Gardens kennel attendant Ms J Rodgers.
Moncrieff has pleaded not guilty to the charge of presenting Shesa Shopper to race other than free of prohibited substances, in that the urine sample taken from the greyhound had been confirmed to contain Timolol.
This latest adjournement comes as the result of GRNSW Stewards acceding to a request from Moncrieff for a further adjournment in order for him to present submissions in defence of the charge.
The inquiry was previosuly adjourned back in March 2010 so that GRNSW Stewards could take the unusual step of examining CCTV footage taken from The Gardens track on that day.
The inquiry has been adjourned to a date to be fixed, but stay tuned as this inquiry looks set to run far deeper than a simple positive swab penalty.