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Call To Scrap Barrier Trials

Racing Attorney supports KZN Trainer

A highly strung horse returning from injury and the legal use of a sedative under veterinary advice to avoid the animal injuring himself or others has landed Summerveld trainer Garth Puller with a hefty fine.

The National Horseracing Authority has confirmed Puller was charged with a contravention of Rule 73.2.4, read with sub-rule, in that he was the trainer of the horse Ryker when a specimen was taken from this horse after it had participated in a Barrier Trial at Greyville on 7 December 2018.

This specimen disclosed upon analysis the presence of  2-(1-Hydroxyethyl)promazine Sulfoxide (the metabolite of Acepromazine, a sedative), which is classified as a class 3 substance in terms of the Guidelines, and is a prohibited substance in terms of the Rules of The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa.

Watch Ryker’s barrier trial:

As the trainer responsible for the horse, Puller pleaded guilty to the charge and was found guilty. The Inquiry Board imposed a fine of R34 000 of which R24 000 was suspended for a period of 12 months.

“I used the sedative under veterinary guidance. The use is recorded in the medical register. The excretion period is 3 days. Ryker was administered it 8 days prior to his barrier trial. I have now been informed that in view of the duration of the use, it is possible that this gave rise to the positive – even though we were strictly adhering to the protocols. While I am aware that Barrier Trials are subjected to testing, I feel it is time that this ridiculous situation be addressed – and the trials be scrapped.”

He went on to say that far from being a tool to aid Joe Public, the trials in their present format could hardly be viewed as a demonstration of a horse’s true ability.

Puller questioned what anybody’s motivation would be to give a horse a sedative to manipulate it in a trial. He also said he could merely instruct his jockey to ride the horse accordingly. And he would never have subjected a highly strung horse, such as Ryker, to a 1000m gallop in advance of racing him in the normal course of events.

Specialist Horseracing Attorney Robert Bloomberg (pictured above) agreed with Puller.

“We are not a first world racing jurisdiction where barrier trials work and the exact rationale behind the purported benefits which was to assist punters, is in fact having the opposite effect with the only real beneficiaries being the bookmakers. The average man in the street looks at formlines. And horses being ‘pulled up’ and finishing unplaced and way back in barrier trials are reversing form and winning on debut after big market moves and betting coups.”

He added that a perfect example is the horse Share Holder who could have easily won his barrier trial but had a rather large ‘educational’ run and was then backed from 10/1 – 12/10 on his debut.

Watch Share Holder’s barrier trial:

“The trainer, who is the chief protagonist for barrier trials, kindly informed the public that the horse would win. But he was conveniently 15/10 already when that happened,” he added.

Bloomberg said that Rule 62.1 states unequivocally that ‘every horse shall be run and allowed to run to the best of its ability and on its merits’.

“Following hereon, Rule 62.2.1 states ‘that the rider of a horse shall take all reasonable and permissible measures throughout a race to ensure that his horse is given a full opportunity to win or obtain the best possible placing’ and in terms of Rule 62.2.3 ‘rides his horse out to the end of a race to the satisfaction of the stipendiary stewards’.”

He asked how horses can be tested for barrier trials when the Rules are applied selectively by the NHA and as surely the very definition of what constitutes a real ‘race’ is not being adhered to – so can trials really be regarded as being races?

Bloomberg supported Puller’s observation that a sedative is not a performance enhancing drug and would have the exact opposite effect to ‘stopping a horse’.

“The horse duly won the trial unextended by 3,5 lengths and the trainer gets fined. Whilst some folk like to run around with bibles which is their entitlement, others prefer their Aussie rule books and a set of blinkers. Racing is on its knees and I’m not being melodramatic about this. Yet barrier trials and testing horses participating therein are some of the really unimportant matters focused upon which incurs further unecessary costs for the cash-strapped Operators funding the NHA. I’m led to believe that there are only a handful of KZN trainers who actually back barrier trials so maybe the time is now right for the others to stand up and be counted and say no more!”

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27 comments on “Call To Scrap Barrier Trials

  1. Calvin says:

    Absolutely ridiculous to fine trainer Garth Puller. A real joke.

  2. H. Kuhn says:

    Barrier trials where do i start ?
    Although this in theory is a good innitiative it leaves much for the imagination , i have not seen or heard one form punter to use this race as a guideline for structuring his or her exotics or bets so who bennefits from this.
    I am an owner of race horses in Natal and across the country and know of a couple of cases where horses get their barrier trial and end up breaking down before even seeing their first run on the course.
    The problem that i have with this is neither the punter nor the owner bennefits from this .
    The owner buys a horse possibly spends hundreds of thousands of rands in purchases and keep to end up with a horse broken down for no other reason than ego and the trainers like Garth left to pick up the pieces.
    Let’s be real, the owner gets no stake cheque , in many cases the poor horse suffers fatal injury and the punter is none the wiser.

  3. beatle says:

    I would agree with Mr Puller – barrier trials are a waste of time and need to be scrapped

  4. Brian says:

    Barrier Trials. Absolute rubbish. Can’t use them in a form line and when one listens to the race build up even the presenters quietly brush over that aspect. In Rykers’ video the Plattner horse wasn’t even being ridden.

    A complete waste of time

  5. Jay August says:

    Whether by oversight or because they are not worth much, the NHA does not even show barrier trials in the racing calendar. They simply don’t exist in the official record of horses. So why are they still being held up as a valid measure of form?

    I have yet to see any commenter on any website state that BTs are useful in assessing form. Even the mighty Winx does not “win” her BTs, and they serve merely as a public gallop for her. In 24 BTs she has finished “first” just twice!

    Perhaps the name says it all “Barrier Trial”. If the horse jumps successfully from the barrier then trial over.

  6. cor teunissen says:

    I will never understand Barrier Trials! All a horse has to do is to run 1000m within a certain time, no matter whether that horse is a sprinter, a miler or a long distance runner. There are no incentives to win, so I find it hard to stomach when Deez, Sheldon, Kevin or Warren refer to these trials as pointers for a race. What a joke! My sympathy goes to Mr Garth Puller and all those trainers struggling to survive. Trial Run? Additional chance of an horse being injured either in the float or on the track. Why do these trials have to be run at Greyville or Scottsville? Wouldn’t it be much easier ( and convenient for the trainers) to hold them at Summerveld or Ashburton? Mr Puller’s fine could be compared to our fine Metro Police Force, handing out parking fines, while the mayhem on our roads continues!

  7. Gary says:

    Barrier trials are a complete waste of time and money

  8. Randal Gregg says:

    Scrap em…never used then once as form guides…

  9. David says:

    The debate rages on. Some trainers believe that the barrier trials serve a useful purpose whilst others consider it a waste of time. However the vast majority of punters place no reliance on barrier trials and consider them a total waste of time. Surely the solution is to make them voluntary? The punting stables will simply stop participating in the barrier trials and those trainers who believe that the trials serve a purpose can continue to do so. However if you voluntarily take part in a barrier trial then your horse should be subjected to random drug testing. The drug testing is in place to protect the welfare of the horse and that is of paramount importance . I expect that were they to be made voluntary then barrier trials would die a natural death.

  10. Steve Reid says:

    I am hearing stories about barrier trials being used to stump horses and then sell them on. Always an angle in this game that 40k soup gets sold for a lot more and then the fun begins for the new owners. Time for egos to be put aside, in the current format barrier trials are an absolute waste of time and money.

  11. Louis Goosen says:

    Barrier Trials are a waste of time and money in SA. Just read what Robert Bloomburg says. There are bigger issues in Racing and the money spent on Barrier Trials could be far better utilized.

  12. hilton witz says:

    Barrier trials was doomed from the start and it doesnt help turnover or make the game transparent in its current format…Unfortunately those who pushed for it clearly never thought through it properly and never involved the punter in it…Scrap it before it does more harm to the industry and going forward CONSULT WITH PUNTERS dont make decisions for them ..

  13. Joao says:

    Im sort of glad this has made headlines because RB and GP are NOT alone in this camp. Many have fought this for months behind the scenes yet it has fallen on deaf ears.

    What i find astounding about barrier trials (in SA) is that every single day the TOTE still holds quite a substantial amount of money wagered by “the masses” (the clevers use the open bet which kills the sport they love but i digress)

    Now if anyone can please tell me how a barrier trial assist Jubulani Dlamini who resides in Orlando Soweto and uses the citizen to FUND OUR SPORT and has no access to Youtube / telly track or any visual aid pertaining to the Barrier Trial , well I would like to know the answer.

    I as a top heavy supporter of KZN racing (20 odd horses) cannot think of 1 good thing that barrier trials offer under the current guise.

  14. Ian Jayes says:

    Barrier trials were introduced in Gauteng more than twenty years ago. They were scrapped after a period of time because they were found to be of no use to the punter and were either an unnecessary interference in a horses preparation for a race or they were used as exercise gallops. In short they were a total waste of time and money. Why Kwa-Zulu-Natal had to re-invent the wheel decades later only they know.

  15. kzn avo packers says:

    Firstly, barrier trials are a waste of time and money.
    Secondly, the owner is the one that spends millions on buying horses and paying monthly keeps and paying exorbitant vet bills so the owner should be the first to have a bet on his first timer if decent and punters can follow the money.
    the bottom line is that no owner means no horse racing and no punter.
    Think about it.

  16. Wayne Fouche says:

    As I have frequently said – no use to man nor beast – or something like that.

  17. Cecil Pienaar says:

    Let the Trainers vote on this one. Only Laff and G van Zyl will be for it.

  18. PL.NEL says:

    Bull# amateurish# tainting a true stalwart.
    Mr Puller deserves more respect than this hogwash. Have some respect.

  19. Mashie says:

    Ask Laff and Rivalland why there are barrier trials.

    Highly strung horse and sedative go hand in hand – just saying.

    And any drug that has a 3d detection time after a once off administration may well have a longer detection time following repeat use – your vet should inform you

  20. Lionel Clark says:

    I totally agree with all the above sentiments. Bt is misleading and should be abolished
    Mr Puller is a thorough gentleman who is a devout horseman of great esteem

  21. Joe says:

    Barrier trials are an absolutely brilliant concept for young horses and for owners and trainers to view their horses in action. Firstly just arriving at the track on race day is an experience for the young horse,going around the parade ring,cantering down to the start and then finally jumping out the pens and running with a pack of horses around them. It doesnt matter if the horses are all held together the barrier trial is an incredible experience for a young horse. The horses well being
    is far more important than the punter.

  22. Pmb says:

    Barrier trials are not form nor anything to do with form per se. They are there for the public to asses a horses soundness or ability , much as a trainer or bookie spy will do in private .
    I can see why a trainer or owner may not like the idea or hassle and argue against them , but I wager most of the negative comments of punters are from people who don’t make a habit of watching them ,but only look at the result of them, and bet solely on the numbers printed on a form guide and who is on board.
    The problem is not with the trials, its with the uneducated punters, so yes, perhaps they are a waste of time in SA racing because if the majority are unable to use information correctly, that information is worthless.
    Kind of sums up the present and future of thecountry as a whole

  23. Kenny says:

    keep them open but allocate stakes and allow betting on them then you’ll get true run races. More like the assessment plates but for first timers and layed off horses.

  24. Donald says:

    Barrier trials serve no purpose , what is the point of only having them in K.Z.N. and the rest of S.A. owners & trainers do not have this obligation foisted upon them – that in itself is illogical as N.H.A. is responsible for governance of horse racing in the entire country ?

  25. Rikesh says:

    The irony of all these well made comments supporting the abolishment of barrier trials is that the so called “powers to be” remain notably silent. Instead they continue to postulate an obligation of a barrier that’s well publicized as simply a means to an end for the marketing hard to sell or spec horses, by a handful of trainers. That’s a selfish motivation considering that no more than 4 or 5 conditioners support the unenviable obligatory barriers! The trainers should take a stand and with the permission of owners, boycott any future nominations pending a resolution to this farce. Transparency has always been quoted as the name of the game. Accordingly, the majority should have a say in what’s best for all stakeholders…

  26. Barry Irwin says:

    Barrier trials were in vogue in America 40 years ago. They ostensibly were used by horsemen to give their horses some experience before they ran. But sometimes horses “ran in on them” and spoiled a betting coup, so they stopped them. Racing worldwide is an insiders’ game. Only when it is truly run for the good of all will the game have any chance to regain its former glory. Treating punters like rubes only serves to alienate them.

  27. Rod Mattheyse says:

    Loved Craig Peters’s rant on Scottsville today – absolute poetry. Not sure his bosses liked it much.

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