The Rise and Rise of a Debut Trainer Called Craig – Another Cobbity Classic – He’s Got the Keys, the Keys, the Keys

In Australian racing parlance a bowler is someone who pretends to be doing something, when in fact someone else is doing it. In US racing they call the person a beard.

A lot of people around the traps say that a former long-time stable hand named Craig Cross is a bowler for his relative and friend, the former champion trainer turned driver Luke McCarthy.

To the bemusement of those familiar with the rules, even the Stewards say it, which is why they fined penalised McCarthy rather than Cross when their horses turned up late at Newcastle last week and were scratched, leading to a chain of events that we haven’t seen the end of yet, don’t you worry about that.

I don’t believe Craig Cross is a bowler though.

I don’t even reckon he can even bat.


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Luke and Belinda McCarthy – Craig Cross is out back shoveling manure from the stall

In 2012 Luke McCarthy was disqualified from harness racing for 9 months after his pacer Mach Wiper threw a positive swab to the performance enhancing steroid Boldenone after winning the Newcastle Cup.

McCarthy’s disqualification was overturned on appeal when – in a world first, and a mystery still not solved – the amount of Boldenone found in the secondary (B) sample test of Mach Wiper’s swab undertaken a month later had mysteriously tripled.

999 times out of 1000 the strength of Boldenone dissipates, not increases. It was almost as if someone had tampered with the sample by adding more of the substance for the purpose of raising questions about contamination that might create enough doubt to get McCarthy off the charge.

”This sample is unique and remains the first and only one of a kind worldwide according to the scientists,” then HRNSW chief executive Sam Nati said. ”Usually in these cases the levels stay at the same level or drop off but in this case it was increasing, so we could not be satisfied the level of boldenone was above the threshold when it was taken from Mach Wiper”.

Mr Nati is now working for the offshore gambling company PGI, which is owned in a joint venture agreement by Australia’s largest corporate bookmaker Tabcorp, a leading sponsor of NSW harness racing and the holder of naming rights to Menangle and Melton, the sports premier national tracks.

Less than a year before, in what became known as the ‘green light’ scandal, the racing word had been rocked by revelations that senior NSW integrity officials had been colluding with leading harness racing trainers to manipulate drug testing and swabs so that heavily backed drugged horses would win races and they could share the spoils.

The author and publisher of this website make no suggestion or inference that either Luke McCarthy or Sam Nati were involved in any way in the green light affair.

After his successful appeal Luke McCarthy announced that he would not be returning to training, declaring after being found innocent that

Now I can get back to doing what I do best – driving.

Immediately prior to his disqualification in the 2011/12 season McCarthy had recorded a winning strike rate of 32.15% as a trainer, and his stable runners earned $2.52 million in prize money. In that same season McCarthy’s winning strike rate as a driver was 29.5% and his winning earnings were just $1.88 million, about 2/3rd’s the prize money he he had returned as a trainer.

It seemed a most curious thing to say.

Luke McCarthy’s wife Belinda took out a license and became the trainer of the horses previously prepared by her husband.

To outsiders it seemed an extremely peculiar decision. Belinda McCarthy had no record as a trainer and no known skills, yet here she was being handed the keys and the reins of the State’s leading stable.

Those inside the harness racing bubble said she was a bowler.

If she was she proved to be a pretty quick one, for in her first season as a trainer Belinda McCarthy prepared the winners of 123 winners who earned $2.7 million stakes, more than double that of her nearest rival John McCarthy, her father-in-law.

John McCarthy had taken over the training of Luke McCarthy’s horses while his son was suspended, and was still training many of them. No-one asked why Belinda McCarthy hadn’t stepped in for her husband during his enforced absence from the sport, given her now known brilliance as a trainer.

Perhaps everyone thought it to be too silly a question.

In her second season Belinda McCarthy again trained the winners of more than 100% races and topped the trainer earnings list again, and the year after that lead she lead in the winners of more than a million dollars. Life was good, and the harvest was rich.

But just as the future was looking limitless, the wheels fell off.

In one of the odd cases of dejavu, in August 2016 a horse named Vinny Chase trained by Belinda McCarthy returned to a positive swab to a banned substance after being backed off the map in winning a race at Menangle.

As it was in the beginning, so it shall be in the end.

The substance was Boldenone.

A broom had been swept through the offices of Harness Racing NSW in the wake of the green light scandal, and a new breed of Stewards and CEO who had promised to take no prisoners were running the sport. They weren’t taking any chances on one in a million events overturning their decisions on appeal this time.

When the A sample threw up positive – and before they advised the trainer of their concerns – the Stewards raided Belinda McCarthy’s stables and took an out of competition sample from Vinny Chase, and when it threw up positive to Boldenone as well, Belinda McCarthy was sunk.

Stewards disqualified her for twelve months.

Enter a man who had never trained in his life named Craig Cross.

Who?

Exactly.

And so it began again ……

CRAIGCROSS

 

 

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