Among the trackside bar bustle, one punter stood out.

Poised with drink in hand, knee-high tasseled boots, she stood watching the screens – one on the trots, the other provincial rugby – with a long racing coat embroidered with 'Love without reason'.

The horses still ran and the punters still punted. Rugby, racing and beer.

Headlines this week yelled "Harness racing race-fixing, corruption probe" and, "Police raid ten harness racing properties", sending shockwaves through the domestic industry. Despite that, the place was teeming.


Friday night trots at Addington. A Christchurch tradition; as red-and-black as anything else.

ITM Group Daffodil Race Night run by the New Zealand Metropolitan Trotting Club. Free parking, free admission, complimentary racebook.

"Let's invest heavily in the favourites, and our faith in racing will be restored," says a tweed-capped speculator, nestling in for the eight-race card.

His first punt, a cheap note-each-way bet, romps home easily.

"See, it's not rigged," he gleams.

The downstairs public bar is full with the post-work crowd: occasional suits relaxing alongside black rugger shell-jackets and sneans. Mullets both tamed and free, kids "knee high to a keg" knocking back raspberry and cokes. Dexter Dunn bobbleheads $20.

Laughter and general murmur muffling the relentless Fred Dagg-style on-course commentary drifting from ceiling speakers. Fried food mixed with equine effluvium wafts around the glass-fronted ground-floor bar overlooking the finishing post.

The pacers flex and stride, flinging their diminutive bouncing drivers atop the sulky carts. Rolled up racebooks urge them home.


A few owners prefer the public bar to the upper floors roped off for private functions, members areas, and the owners lounge.

One experienced backer, with a vertical red ribbon declaring OWNER pinned to his knit jumper, is amiably cornered.

"It is what it is," he says, nodding outside.

"What you see out there, that's all there is. There's no shenanigans. We're just trying our best to make a buck and enjoy ourselves along the way."

So, it's not dirty then?

"Tonight? Tonight'll be the cleanest race meeting we've seen in decades," he laughs heartily, before cutting himself short.

Yes, there are always rumours and scuttlebutt: wonder drugs, whispers of collusion, the tight group seen plotting in the back corner of the bar.

But he reckons "99.9 per cent of us are clean".

One of those caught up in this affair, interviewed and charged by police, doesn't fear a thing.

Sources close to the Canterbury trainer told the Herald on Sunday he thinks it'll blow over – for him anyway.

There's a lot of sympathy out for those caught up in the 18-month police investigation, Operation Inca.

"They're not bad fellas – none of them," one racing insider confides.

"They're all mates. They get on the piss together, they travel round the country together – Reefton one day, then driving the next day down to Winton for a meet, then the next day driving back up to Westport. They're a tight bunch and I bet there's a few nervous types around too."

Race 7 is dominated by First Class Lady – owned by All Blacks and Rugby World Cup winners Kieran Read and halfback-turned-landscape gardener Andy Ellis.

It paid $4.70 to win and $1.70 a place. It's trained out at Woodend Beach in North Canterbury, where several trainers are based and where police raided one property on Tuesday.

"Tough race," says one gambler who plainly didn't fancy it.

"Aren't they all?"

The final race of the night – Bashers & Rangiora ITM mobile pace 2600m. Samantha Ottley drove home Sails, beating home top trainer Robert Dunn's horse Johnny White and Paravani of Templeton's Jim Curtin.

Walking out, an old dear shook her head.

"Can't win 'em all," someone consoles.

"Didn't win any!" she smiles, walking into the cool Canterbury spring night.

The investigation

• Ten people have now been charged in relation to Operation Inca – the National Organised Crime group investigation into alleged corruption in harness racing.

• At least 17 search warrants have been carried out.

• The investigation continues and Police again urge anyone with information to contact or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.