31 March 2011

US calls for phase out of drugs in racing

In a major announcement that has grabbed headlines across the US thoroughbred industry, both the out-going & in-coming chairmen of the Association Of Racing Commissioners International "have called for a 5-year phase-out of equine medication in horse racing" reportedbloodhorse.com. Out-going chairman Dan Hartman (from the Colorado Racing Commission) said "a 5-year phase-out is reasonable to bring North American racing policies in line with what is going on in other parts of the world like Europe & Hong Kong." He added a "phased approach" would give horsemen & owners "sufficient time to adjust to the change". New chairman Willie Koester (from the Ohio State Racing Commission) agreed with Hartman & noted: "Today over 99% of thoroughbred racehorses have a needle stuck in them 4 hours before a race. That just does not pass the smell test with the public or anyone else, except horse trainers who think it necessary to win a race. I'm sure the decision-makers at the time meant well when these drugs were permitted; however, this decision has forced our jurisdictions to juggle threshold levels as horsemen become more desperate to win races & it has given horse racing a black eye." Koester declared "change is inevitable" & called for RCI "to take the moral high ground & implement drug rules that mirror the racing in Australia, Dubai, Europe, Hong Kong & even Russia." (Mar 30)

01 March 2011

Slain racing identity's "knockabout" past

The Sydney Morning Herald, reporting on the murder of racing identity Les Samba, offered this potted biography:
"Samba, a former male stripper, ... was described yesterday as a knockabout character. Prominent trainer David Hayes said Samba was ''colourful'' and likeable. Samba started out as a small-time trainer at Morphettville in South Australia, winning races with a very small team. He was one of the main players in a group of nightclubs in Adelaide's Hindley Street, dealings that brought him into contact with notorious Sydney criminal Abe Saffron. He later went to Perth and took over the training of George Way's team after Way was disqualified for 11 years for doping horses with ''elephant juice''. Samba never stopped bragging about how he had made a hit-and-run visit to Victoria with a horse from South Australia in the 1980s and won so much money that not enough bags had been produced to carry the money back over border. His financial dealings have long been of interest to authorities. Between 1999 and 2002, he and his wife, Deirdre, were investigated by the National Crime Authority and the (Australian) Tax Office over their failure to declare $1.2 million in income. Samba, who in late 1999 told authorities that he derived most of his money from gambling, declared bankruptcy to avoid paying tax on the income."

Racing identity Les Samba Shot Dead In Melbourne

B&R Reports: Victorian police are investigating the murder of prominent Sydney racehorse owner & former South Australian trainer Les Samba, who was shot dead "in a hail of bullets" at 9.35pm on Sunday evening in a laneway off Beaconsfield Parade in Middle Park in suburban Melbourne. Police confirmed Samba "had an argument with another man, before suffering multiple bullet wounds to the head & back," reported The Herald-Sun. "He was running when he was shot." Samba, 60, raced Gorky Park, Winter King, Sea Lord & this season's Listed Gimcrack Stakes-winning 2YO filly Defiant Dame with fellow high-profile Sydney owner & property developer Ron Medich (arrested in October & charged with "soliciting to murder" fellow Sydney businessman Michael McGurk, a business associate shot dead outside his Sydney home in September 2009). Samba (who strapped Rain Lover when the champion stayer won his 2nd Melbourne Cup in 1969) was in Melbourne for the current yearling sales & Detective Inspector John Potter noted: "We believe he (Samba) had some sort of connection to this individual (the shooter). Based on the information we currently have, we don't believe it could be a random shooting." The gunman was described as "in his 20s or 30s, wearing dark clothes & a hat, with distinctive light-coloured hair which could have been a wig". Samba apparently parked a silver 2010 Hyundai (displaying NSW number plates) in Beaconsfield Parade & "then had some kind of argument with another man which ended in the shooting". (Mar 1)