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McGrath withdraws application.


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Seems the Social Media Hounds got their way.

 
05:00, Nov 23 2022

 

Nigel McGrath holds the Riverton Cup he won at Ascot Park Invercargill in the heyday of his career.
KAVINDA HERATH/STUFF
Nigel McGrath holds the Riverton Cup he won at Ascot Park Invercargill in the heyday of his career.

The harness racing industry is in uproar over a dispensation granted to former high-profile trainer Nigel McGrath who was banned for eight years for cheating in 2020.

But in a surprise move on Tuesday night, McGrath, speaking publicly for the first time in five years, said he had withdrawn his application to break in yearlings on a restricted basis.

“I have made this decision for my family, my personal wellbeing and for harness racing. The last thing I wanted was to create a stir,” he told Stuff.

Harness racing has been in uproar since dispensation was granted this month to allow the formerly highly successful trainer to break and gait horses after he was banned in 2020.

Trainers bombarded the board of Harness Racing New Zealand (HRNZ) with letters and emails demanding the decision made this month be revisited. Some say the issue has brought unhappiness with industry management to a head.

The controversy comes as Harness Racing celebrates New Zealand Cup Day’s (Addington) turnover of $7.5 million, the largest by any code for a New Zealand race meeting over the last 10 years.

McGrath said the withdrawal was a reaction to the “unfortunate social media commentaries” on the approval.

“At no time was my application to include the jogging or pre-training of horses. It was solely for permission to break in yearlings with strict guidelines prepared by the CEO of HRNZ relating to numbers and stage of yearling preparation before they were to be passed to a trainer. Given this opportunity, my intentions were to break in two to three yearlings at any one time.

“It’s been nearly three years since I foolishly breached the HRNZ rules. There is not a day that goes by during which I don’t regret my actions at that time, and I’m truly sorry to those that have been affected, especially my family.”

 
DEAN KOZANIC/STUFF
McGrath drives a winner at Addington in 2020.

McGrath, a prominent Canterbury harness racing identity with 570 wins, was disqualified from holding a training licence in July 2020 after he was caught red-handed “tubing” a horse on a March race day the same year.

He was also found to have obstructed a racecourse inspector and to have refused to supply information. An assistant told investigators it wasn’t the first time he and McGrath had “tubed” a horse, although he later said the statement was made under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

At a meeting on November 7, the board HRNZ board approved an application by McGrath to break and gait yearling (up to 2 years old) horses.

 
TOM LEE/STUFF
Former school principal John Coulam became chairperson of HRNZ in 2016 and promised to stamp on any unlawful activity.

The board appears to be keeping silent on the issue. Chairperson John Coulam did not respond to messages and board member Cam Bray, a bloodstock auctioneer, said he could not comment but would not say why and then hung up. Another board member, Auckland and Canterbury trainer Robert Dunn, also did not respond to a message. HRNZ chief executive Gary Woodham did not reply either. The board meets again on December 2.

McGrath's application followed a law change passed last year that removed a blanket prohibition on a disqualified person breaking or gaiting any horse. Gaiting is teaching a horse to pace or trot. Some sources say the rule change was pushed through in murky circumstances.

The change said the prohibition could be lifted if the board gave written consent.

Trainer Michael House said he had never seen senior Canterbury trainers so unified by any issue.

“This industry is based on integrity and this is just a shocking look. Trainers are up in arms. Nigel had his chance at redemption and now needs to man up and do his time. There are plenty of other jobs he could do.”

Harness racing doyen Mark Jones said he had “never seen or heard the entire industry stand up so strong together against something that isn’t right”.

“No-one has anything personal against Nigel but whoever supported this have let the industry down... it sends completely the wrong message,” he said.

“If they are going to make an exemption for Nigel they have to do it for lots of others that have been penalised. Who is next?”

McGrath, who is widely regarded as a charming and hugely talented horseman, was previously penalised for cheating when he was found guilty in 2004 of administering the performance enhancing substance Blue Magic (propantheline bromide). He was disqualified for 18 months, reduced by five months on appeal.

In February 2020 he was suspended from driving for six months for breaching racing rules.pixel?mid=0078c40ea964a99524a9e6feea5ac1

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Completely wrong.  I do accept people do wrong.  I just don't do the over the top denigration and abuse that many of you aim at those that have done wrong.  I don't have a problem with authority

Based on your criteria and moral high ground you wouldn't have any champion trainer training your horses.  Not that we are sure you have the intent to race any. Moody did his time and has come ba

I say well done to Nigel for not dragging this issue out. I am sure his announcement will hurt both financially and emotionally

3 minutes ago, Chief Stipe said:

Trainer Michael House said he had never seen senior Canterbury trainers so unified by any issue

Bit of Pot Kettle going on here.

Mmmmmm where is the unified action against the real fundamental issues affecting the industry?

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I see the usual suspects have gone off piste and are attacking individuals rather than debating the real issues.

The whole world has become tribal.  Isn't it hilarious when you see posters whose usual focus is commenting on how great things are going for the Thoroughbred Industry attacking the Harness Industry?

I wonder 🤔 why that is?

world of warcraft legion GIF

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I'm not interested in Mr Mcgrath, but I did note that cup day turnover was the highest for any meeting in the last ten years, that's worth some news but I ain't seen nought, maybe it's been reported, I ain't noticed.

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17 minutes ago, mikeynz said:

I'm not interested in Mr Mcgrath, but I did note that cup day turnover was the highest for any meeting in the last ten years, that's worth some news but I ain't seen nought, maybe it's been reported, I ain't noticed.

Then why don't you start another Topic on that subject?  Instead of posting in topics you "have no interest in"?  

If you need assistance in how to start new topics then don't hesitate to ask.

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Martin Van Beynen has done a great job in the article.!! 

Points out>> McGraths penalty , his history is listed, and his almost remorse at getting 'special' treatment if allowed back early . Good on him (Nigel)  for withdrawing the application to break in horses. Shows he actually does have some thought for his peers (fellow Trainers) who were against him returning early before DQ penalty served.

Points out >>The 'silence' of the named Board members is mentioned. so shows they were making an 'error'. and hopefully will learn from this to avoid future recurrances.

The situation now resolved thankfully 😊, and the positive image of harness racing restored , as it is shown to be still 'removing the Cheats' for a DQ period, that break the rules. and keeps it fair for all competitors. 

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14 minutes ago, Gammalite said:

Points out>> McGraths penalty , his history is listed, and his almost remorse at getting 'special' treatment if allowed back early . Good on him (Nigel)  for withdrawing the application to break in horses. Shows he actually does have some thought for his peers (fellow Trainers) who were against him returning early before DQ penalty served.

Perhaps he could break in Thoroughbred horses.  Do you need to be licensed to do that?

McGrath was sentenced for charges related to racing horses.  Arguably breaking in and gaiting horses is far removed from racing them!

To draw another Thoroughbred comparison.  Peter Moody was convicted for administering Cobalt - positives were actually returned.  After two years he is back training Group 1 winners.  I'd gladly let him train any horse I owned.

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Van Beynen has taken a bit of literary license with his statement that McGrath was caught "red-handed".  The charge sheet doesn't read like that.

Arguably the "star witness" in McGrath's case was under duress and unreliable.  A method that ex-Detective Grimstone has used before.  In a criminal court the charges would have been on shaky ground.

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39 minutes ago, Chief Stipe said:

Perhaps he could break in Thoroughbred horses.  Do you need to be licensed to do that?

McGrath was sentenced for charges related to racing horses.  Arguably breaking in and gaiting horses is far removed from racing them!

Great question Chief !! !!!!  can you move to another code if Disqualified?  don't know for sure. probably not. the licencing folk would frown at the application ?

maybe Darren Weir could of played with trotting horses past 4 years after being jiggered out 2019?. he was listed as training over 700 thoroughbred horses at the time. back next year too.

Still definitely 'Part of the process' of preparing standardbred horses for racing is the initial breaking in, and the possibility of interacting with older horses is 'through the ceiling' high, if you dabble in the area where horses are on premises still . Impossible to police his actions (without the stipes in trees thing you guys are always on about)  Disqualified = No horse Involvement

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59 minutes ago, Chief Stipe said:

Perhaps he could break in Thoroughbred horses.  Do you need to be licensed to do that?

McGrath was sentenced for charges related to racing horses.  Arguably breaking in and gaiting horses is far removed from racing them!

To draw another Thoroughbred comparison.  Peter Moody was convicted for administering Cobalt - positives were actually returned.  After two years he is back training Group 1 winners.  I'd gladly let him train any horse I owned.

That really surprises me you would give a horse to him,  it dearly does say a bit about you. 

 

Hj

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29 minutes ago, Honestjohn said:

That really surprises me you would give a horse to him,  it dearly does say a bit about you. 

 

Hj

Based on your criteria and moral high ground you wouldn't have any champion trainer training your horses.  Not that we are sure you have the intent to race any.

Moody did his time and has come back better than ever.

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45 minutes ago, Gammalite said:

Great question Chief !! !!!!  can you move to another code if Disqualified?  don't know for sure. probably not. the licencing folk would frown at the application ?

The question is do you need to be licensed to break in Thoroughbreds?

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7 minutes ago, hunterthepunter said:

this van  Beynen  should be sued saying he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol what a pack of lies 

Yes he was a bit misleading with that statement.  It wasn't McGrath that said it but the "star witness".

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1 hour ago, Gammalite said:

Still definitely 'Part of the process' of preparing standardbred horses for racing is the initial breaking in, and the possibility of interacting with older horses is 'through the ceiling' high, if you dabble in the area where horses are on premises still . Impossible to police his actions (without the stipes in trees thing you guys are always on about)  Disqualified = No horse Involvement

Why does it matter if he breaks in a yearling or three?  He can't train them or drive them in races.  I'm not sure he can even own one. 

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2 hours ago, Chief Stipe said:

Then why don't you start another Topic on that subject?  Instead of posting in topics you "have no interest in"?  

If you need assistance in how to start new topics then don't hesitate to ask.

Ok Mr smartarse lol, I was merely pointing out in the article written it stated that cup day was the biggest turnover for 10 years, which is newsworthy I would have thought, I'm done on this thread, have a happy day all.

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1 hour ago, Chief Stipe said:

Based on your criteria and moral high ground you wouldn't have any champion trainer training your horses.  Not that we are sure you have the intent to race any.

Moody did his time and has come back better than ever.

I'm racing one ATM,  so invested in the game.  And no I would not give a horse to a convicted cheat.  You say you are quite happy to.  I thought you might draw a line,  apparently not.  I'm no one with a high ground,   I just hate cheats. 

 

Hj

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16 minutes ago, Honestjohn said:

I'm racing one ATM,  so invested in the game.  And no I would not give a horse to a convicted cheat.  You say you are quite happy to.  I thought you might draw a line,  apparently not.  I'm no one with a high ground,   I just hate cheats. 

 

Hj

Where do you draw the line at "cheating"?  You must have a very very limited choice of Trainers or Drivers.  I guess you were never a fan of Richie McCaw either!

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5 minutes ago, Chief Stipe said:

Where do you draw the line at "cheating"?  You must have a very very limited choice of Trainers or Drivers.  I guess you were never a fan of Richie McCaw either!

I've only raced with trainers that havnt  been convicted of cheating . Bought up by  my  mother and grandparents. School of hard knocks has treated me well. Never would I give a horse to purdon  and Co. So maybe I'm guilty of a " high ground " as you say. 

 

Hj 

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1 hour ago, mikeynz said:

Ok Mr smartarse lol, I was merely pointing out in the article written it stated that cup day was the biggest turnover for 10 years, which is newsworthy I would have thought, I'm done on this thread, have a happy day all.

It deserves a Topic thread of its own.  I guess on topic the turnover shows that all the negative press is proving beneficial.  As the old saying goes "there's no such thing as bad press"!

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10 minutes ago, Chief Stipe said:

Where do you draw the line at "cheating"?  You must have a very very limited choice of Trainers or Drivers.  I guess you were never a fan of Richie McCaw either!

There plenty of honest trainers out there.  One of my first experience the trainer was what I'd say was dodgy, I never went back.  Don't know  what your inference to mccaw has to do with it?? 

 

Hj

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1 minute ago, Chief Stipe said:

Mmm they can't be all that successful or use top line drivers.

They used the good guys to drive,  I got to have a say as well. Cj and CD thornley honest enough for you,?  I gave junior drivers a chance as well. 

Hj

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