The NHA Is Not The Taxman!

Brutal action required!

Lots of smart accountants make fortunes for themselves and their affluent clients by finding ways to the help those clients avoid paying taxes – by legal means.

This is substantively different from evading taxes – which is strictly and justifiably illegal and punishable by heavy fines and other harsh sanctions.

Of course the collection of taxes is made for the benefit of all – well in theory! Roads, hospitals, education, police, etc. etc. – all totally creditable destinations for our taxes – provided they are not diverted through corrupt practices.

When tax avoidance is successful, all other tax payers end up paying a tad more. It all happens at a very impersonal level – nobody knows who is paying less tax than they might, or who is paying more than they need.

C John Smith MBE, an Owner, Steward and Chairman of the Centaur Syndicate writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that the work of the NHA should not be considered in this same context – though there are those who don’t get the difference.

The NHA has been established by the racing industry itself – to police itself. How cool is that?

The concept is very simple, the racing industry wants to ensure that horse welfare is paramount, followed very closely by the integrity of the sport where the interests of owners and punters are protected.

Fundamentally these key players have only two dangers – trainers and jockeys – these are the only people who can compromise those interests.

In order to safeguard the integrity of the sport, key players are required to sign up to the rules as developed and published over the decades by the NHA – they don’t have to but if they want to train of ride there is no choice. In signing up to the rules, they are committing to abiding by them and it pre supposes they have actually read those rules.

Penalties for non-adherence are clear. In such instances, the events are intensely personal, everybody knows everybody in racing, so every instance has known collateral damage.

The foundation of the rules is to ensure that all horses compete on terms that are understood and well published.

We all know about weights, merit ratings, draws, whip rules, medications, etc. etc. It should be straightforward – and I am pleased to say that the very large majority of trainers and jockeys comply with those rules to the letter.

Occasionally mistakes are made – offenders are caught and duly punished. A jockey pitches up overweight, a jockeys may use his whip seven times instead of six or a trainer may not have disposed of a drug residue after a course of treatment in his stable.

And why is this so important?

Well it’s simple.

As indicated, we all compete on understood and agreed terms. For example, many races are won and lost on small fractions – a short head, a head, a neck even a length is just a fraction of a second. So as owners, it is vitally important that the rules are observed.

Remember, one or two extra cracks of the whip can get a horse past another – illegally. The temptation to ignore the whip rule is greatest when the purse is highest.

John Gosden is a man of great perspicacity and common sense – he says if a jockeys is found to have breached the whip rule, he and his mount should lose the race.

As a losing owner or punter in such circumstances, I would agree, I would want the winning horse to be disqualified – a fine is not enough for me, nor is a period of a ban for the miscreant jockey. It is the owner and the punter who have been prejudiced and need restitution. It’s all about discipline – I would take no prisoners when it comes to rule breaking.

Now we come to the more invidious area of doping.

In discussions with top UK trainer Mark Johnston, he advised me that not only is Lasex a great mask for other administered drugs but such is the pace of development of dodgy potions that authorities around the world are struggling to keep up with detection technologies.

That situation is seriously worrying.

Performance enhancing drugs and those that stop horses cannot be tolerated at any level – even less so those that kill pain. It is for this reason why I believe folk like Bob Baffert should have been warned off for life and sent to prison.

Bob Baffert

His colt, Medina Spirit was tested positive for the banned substance after winning the 2021 Kentucky Derby – just one of dozens of historical positive dope tests.

Trainer, Jason Servis was found guilty of a similar drug offence when Maximum Security won the 2020 Saudi Cup – which had a purse of $20 million. He, Jorge Navarro and 25 others were sent to prison for several years for their involvement in widespread doping activities.

All these skates adopted doping practices which compromised the chances of all their competitors fulfilling their true potential – records were besmirched, owners lost purses and punters lost fortunes. To add to that, is the validity of the stud book – what do the records of performance really represent now? Jeffrey Archer fiction in all probability.

To me the answer needs to be brutal – to deal with what may be happening now and to deter those thinking about pursuing such low life cheating practices before they do so.

Failure cannot be contemplated as to do so would be to rock the very foundations of a proud and respected industry.

If the sentiment begins to develop that racing is rotting to the core then who will buy race horses, who will bet with confidence and who will want to breed this fine species?

In the field of doping we need to be acting and we need to be seen to be acting – right on the ball.

It remains to be seen what the outcome in the current Trainer Tony Peters affair will be, but for me the NHRA are on point.

The investigation process will be complex and thorough – and whilst minor errors will be made – I am confident that the direction of travel is clear and the outcome will be sound.

Despite the rubbish pumped out in the media, it must be said that the NHA staff, ably led by Mr Integrity, Arnold Hyde, are highly experienced and professional people who do a thankless task with great fortitude and forbearance.

We should be grateful that we have such folk in place. Their mission is the same as the vast majority in the southern African racing industry – to protect the integrity of the sport.

I believe the industry as a whole, particularly owners and punters, fully support the NHRA and its efforts to succeed in its mission. Find out what has been going on, if anything, then act, acquittal or maximum sanction for any rule breached.

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