Sicario, one of the runners under a cloud. Photo: Trish Dunell
The Harness Jewels have been thrown in to chaos less than three days out with a shipment of ten horses, including nine from the All Stars stable, having emergency swabs tested for a prohibited substance.
The Racing Integrity Unit ordered the markets for five of the nine races by suspended while the tests are undertaken with results expected to be back by Friday afternoon.
The ten horses are Princess Tiffany, Kayla Marie, Bubbled Up, Winterfell, Sicario, Cheerful, Funatthebeach, Stress Factor and War Dan Delight from Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen’s stable as well as Dibaba from Terry and Glenys Chmiel’s stable.
Two of those horses, Princess Tiffany and Winterfell are short-priced favourites in their races while Sicario is strongly in the market as well.
The unprecedented move came after co-trainer Natalie Rasmussen contacted head harness steward Nick Ydgren mid-afternoon.
“Natalie has phoned me concerned that some of their horses may have come in to contact with a contaminant which is prohibited under the rules.
“We have decided our best course of action, on what she’s advised us is to swab all nine horses for that substance.”
Ydgren commended Rasmussen for her approach to the possible situation and was quick to confirm this is not a case of suspected ‘nobbling’, or intentional contamination.
He wouldn’t be drawn on specifics but noted the situation was related to the horses potentially being in contact with a human that may have been contaminated.
What that human’s role was, or what the substance is, he was not prepared to disclose.
It is understood that the measures have come about after drug testing of certain staff members in Purdon and Rasmussen’s stable.
On closing over half the betting markets for two full days leading up to the second biggest race meeting of the year, Ydgren said it was a tough decision but the only one that could be made.
“It’s not a decision we took lightly; we discussed it at length and felt it was the best course of action.”
Earlier today, Rasmussen and training partner Mark Purdon received the all clear to line up retiring mare Partyon in the 4YO Diamond after she suffered an atrial fibrillation at the Pukekohe workouts on Saturday.