It’s interesting in more than a few ways that trainer Wendy Roche, who won the Doncaster last week with Nettoyer, is married to a very well-connected vet.
Not just any vet either; Roche is married (in the common law sense at least) to Dr John Crowley, the grandson of Brian Hurtle Crowley, owner of the champion mare of the WW2-era Flight, and donor of the name of the until recently classy race for 3-year-olds, the Brian Crowley Stakes.
Dr Crowley is a chap who has got up to a bit of mischief in the past, the not too recent one at that. Last year he was fined $3500 and referred to the Vets Board for prescribing unregulated substances to horse trainers.
One of the trainers Dr Crowley was dealing them off the arm to was Gregory McFarlane, a convicted cheat who in 2013 had been disqualified from racing for 2 years after being caught red-handed drenching a horse named Ferocimo an hour or two before the race.
The good doctor vet was giving McFarlane the substances Pentoflex Gold, Omeprazole and Meloxicam, the latter in pastes he’d used his skills to compound.
Having the Crowley name obviously takes you a long way in Sydney racing circles, for while Dr John only copped a meagre fine, not less than two years before the professional harness racing trainer Joe Pace had been suspended for 9 months for being found in possession of Pentoflex Gold, which wasn’t surprising, given that substance is a banned joint blocker.
“Joint blocker?” you say. “Where have I heard that name before?”
In the US doping indictments last month, that’s where.
The American trainer were using them in combination with shockwave therapy to keep drugged up, overworked and therefore extremely fit horses from breaking down as a result of doing more on the training tracks than their bodies are built to do.
Meloxicam is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which when given to a horse too close to race day allows it to run through the pain barrier, thus bestowing the doped horse a clear advantage over its non-cheating opponents who still feel their legs when the whips are cracking and the going gets tough.
The year before the well-connected Crowley was slapped over the wrist with a wet bus ticket for secretly manufacturing and distributing the substance off label, another professional harness trainer named Shane Hillier has been outed from racing for eight months for using the stuff.
Closer to home former Toowoomba Trainer Ben ”The Tornado” Currie has been banned for 3 years after one of his charges swabbed positive to Meloxicam, and his alleged use of the performance enhancing drug (PED) is central to the criminal counts of fraud that were later laid against him, charges that are still wending their way through the courts.
Omeprazole is a drug that reduces exercise-induced gastric acids. Acids like lactic acid, the naturally occurring substance that in equines (and humans) causes fatigue, a stitch and a loss of speed. It also addresses the problem of excess gastric acids caused by the high-dose ingestion of non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like Meloxicam.
Just like its funny that trainer Greg McFarlane, the convicted drug cheat, was flying in the 12 months prior to he and Dr John Crowley getting sprung on the unlabelled substances. He was even buying non-performing discards from the Godolphin barn (Dissolute and Catesby being two ready examples) and turning their form right around, which obviously means that Hickman is a better trainer than John O’Shea or James Cummings.
Pigs arse he is.
Hickman had start, and the good vet Crowley gave it to him.
Dr John gave the love of his life non-prescribed, off-label substances too, as I guess you’d expect from a man who was that free about sharing his tonics that he was selling them to low down, dirty drench man.
In trainer Wendy Roche’s case the unlawful (because it wasn’t prescribed properly) substance was Iver-Prazi Plus, a synthesis of the drugs praziquantel and ivermectin, commonly marketed as Equibase when its being used correctly and outside of competition.
So aggregate each of these four rule violations, and run through the precedent sentences of everyone else in racing who has been involved with the supply and/or administration of these banned substances, and you will see almost without exception that transgressers are sentenced to long stints on the sidelines out of the game, and in Currie’s case, the laying of criminal charges.
Yet for reasons totally unexplained, Dr John Crowley, the linear descendant of the famous Brian, is ‘punished’ by only a $3500 fine.
And at the same time his no-name trainer of a partner Wendy Roche has emerged from Shitsville, Nowhere, to train a Group 1 Doncaster winner.
And guess who Dr John spent the first ten years of his professional life working with and learning from?
T.J. Smith’s vet Percy Sykes, the greatest steroid hitter ever seen on the Australian turf.
My nose may just be a tad over sensitive, but the whole thing really has a slightly stronger than pungent smell of fish about it, doesn’t it.
Something is wrong in the state of NSW racing, I reckon.
Very, very wrong indeed.