A very weird incident took place in the world of New Zealand harness racing last week.
A decision about charges being laid over a horse mix-up could be made by the end of the week, says Harness Racing New Zealand chief executive Edward Rennell.
At a Forbury Park meeting in Dunedin last week a pacer ran in a race for trotters after being confused with another horse.
For those not knowledgable about harness racing, here is how to tell the difference.
Pacers move both legs on the same side forward in unison. Most wear hopples – straps connecting front and rear legs on the same side. Hopples help the horse keep stride without limiting speed. Trotters move left front and right rear legs forward almost simultaneously, then follow suit with right front and left rear.
Usually trotters do not wear hopples, so tend to go off stride in inexperienced or trying to trot too fast. This is called ‘breaking.’
My father owned harness horses off and on for thirty years. Most were Pacers. The only trotter I remember Dad owning was one named Charlie Zam. He raced in the early 70′s at tracks like Freehold(NJ), Atlantic City and Brandywine(DE).
The two horses were from the Canterbury stable of Murray Edmonds and it wasn’t until after the pacer ran in the trotting race that the error was realised.
Edmonds did not attend the meeting himself and left the horses in the care of fellow trainer Darryn Simpson.
One report said the identities were switched when the horse covers, which carried the horses’ names, were placed on the wrong horses by the driver of the truck that had transported them to Dunedin. In the race itself, the pacer refused to trot and was pulled up soon after the start.
The trotter that was meant to have run in the race was reasonably well supported to be the seventh favourite in a field of 14.
Rennell said investigations were under way and a decision would be made in a few days.
AdvertisementIt appears there was nothing sinister in the mix-up and Rennell said it was unlikely any charges would be in the category of serious, which would attract a very heavy penalty.
I’m, pardon the pun, betting there was nothing sinister in what happened. The other drivers probably said nothing because it meant one less competitor to beat.(The pacer would have been disqualified if he hadn’t been pulled up.) Why the pacer’s driver didn’t notice, is a whole other matter. I’ve never been in a sulky for a race, but I was around horses often enough when age 10 or 11 to see the obvious difference. Was the driver inebriated or daydreaming?
As to the bettors, were their tickets refunded? If I had to make a guess, I’d say no.
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