Mike Dillion: Punters do cash cold in track stuff-up

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Disgraceful is the only way to describe Rotorua's posting of the track conditions for Wednesday's meeting.

In a situation that beggars belief the stipendiary stewards' report from the meeting included the following: "The course manager was questioned regarding the discrepancy in track conditions which were officially posted by the club on race morning as a Dead (6) which was downgraded (after one race) to Slow (9) with no rain experienced during that time. The course manager subsequently advised that when re-checking the most recent penetrometer reading which had been done the previous afternoon it was apparent that there had been a miscalculation.

"The course manager further explained that after 15ml of rain overnight no further penetrometer reading had been done on race morning other than to make an adjustment in the track rating based on his past experience of the course."

Breaking every known race morning protocol the course manager decided not to do a penetrometer reading.

Question: (missing from the stipes' report) Why? It is mandatory, not discretionary.

Had there been no overnight rain that would have been unforgivable.

There had been 15ml, an extremely significant amount hours before a race meeting.

He explained he had a "guesstimate".

Many factors in New Zealand racing lately, including the cobalt case, have made us look third-world to those looking at us from the outside.

But this is beyond even that. This is unbelievable and unprofessional in the extreme.

It simply cannot be tolerated.

What it means is that New Zealand's punters betting at Rotorua from 6.30am when the track conditions were posted, until approximately 12.45pm when they were downgraded three grades, were betting blind under the impression the Rotorua track was just dead.

After 400m of Race 1 it became obvious the footing was heavy. The $1.90 fixed odds favourite for the first was Imallowedto, who at her previous start, also at Rotorua, finished a game second, beaten a neck, to a very smart improving horse in Chocante. The official track reading that day had been a Slow 7.

Wednesday's rider Charlie Studd told stewards, after Imallowedto finished well beaten in mid-field, she had failed hopelessly to handle the wet conditions.

Punters did their money cold.

The following has appeared on Thoroughbred Racing's website: "Racing Rotorua would like to apologise for the error made with the penetrometer reading leading up to raceday. This was due to human error made during the calculation of the rating in the lead up to racing. This is out of character for our course staff and procedures have now been put into place to avoid this error happening again.

"We understand how important it is for a club to give accurate information leading up to racedays for trainers, owners and punters etc to make appropriate decisions. With regards to this raceday we feel that we have let the industry down and we sincerely apologise for this."

There is one thing wrong with that apology: It fails to say what procedures have been put in place.

Senior stipendiary steward John Oatham told the Herald when asked if the track manager had been fined, this was a grey area under the Rules of Racing.

"It's really up to the club to action that because the club is his employer. Then if that is not done it is up to New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing to follow it up."

Yes, that's the way it's been done, but trouble is leaving it up to the club almost always leads to sweeping under the carpet.

Licenceholders are fined on raceday, why not officials. Successful apprentice Brendan Hutton was last Saturday at Te Aroha given four days suspension on Bachelor Zeel for a one-stride bump on the home turn when he and Craig Grylls and Quintastics were running last and second last on the home turn.

Hutton is in big demand and his suspension could cost him somewhere in the vicinity of $3000.

Bachelor Zeel finished seventh and Quintastics tenth, so no one was disadvantaged, owner, trainer or punter.

Yet at Rotorua we had an official costing New Zealand's punters tens of thousands of dollars with misinformation, created by a disgraceful scenario that could have been easily avoided.

We need to grow up.

- NZ Herald

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