MEDIA RELEASE – F PULLICINO
HRSA Stewards have concluded their inquiries into the circumstances that pre-race blood samples from a number of runners from the F Pullicino stable were found to contain cobalt at levels above that prescribed by the Rules. The samples concerned were collected from the following horses –
19 December 2022 – ILLAWONG PHILLIPA - Race 2 at Globe Derby Park
19 December 2022 – JOEY GIRL - Race 6 at Globe Derby Park
24 December 2022 – SCENIC SKY - Race 4 at Globe Derby Park
7 January 2023 – ARTHUR LOWE NZ - Race 2 at Globe Derby Park
On notification of the first irregularities on 19 January 2022 Stewards attended the stable property unannounced and collected blood samples from ten registered horses in work for the purpose of testing for cobalt levels. On 26 January 2023 on another unannounced stable visit Stewards repeated this exercise. Further samples were taken from the feed and bore water on the property. In examining these matters Stewards also sought expert opinion from Dr Paul Mills Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology, School of Veterinary Science, University of Queensland in order to better understand the results and possible relevance between unusually high levels reported from the race day samples and the levels found in the “stable” samples in the investigation of certain assertions on the Trainer’s behalf. In addition, Stewards sought to understand any relevance of the samples being taken pre-race, that all four horses finished last and that ARTHUR LOWE NZ had only arrived in the stable on Friday 18 December 2022 after being claimed that evening.
On Wednesday 22 March 2023 HRSA Stewards completed their inquiries into this matter.
Due to health grounds Mr Pullicino did not attend and Trainer M Borg was authorised to represent him.
Trainer Mr Pullicino was issued four charges relative to the presentation of the registered horses to contest the respective races noted (above) when not free of a prohibited substance, namely cobalt, as evidenced by analytical certificates issued by two approved laboratories. Through his representative Mr Pullicino provided guilty pleas to all charges.
Submissions on penalty were advocated on the Trainers behalf.
Having considered various aspects of these matters including that two samples arose from the same race meeting, noting the apparent similar characteristics, common facts and circumstances in all matters and having regard to the totality principle, in respect of each charge the Stewards announced a suspension of licence for a period of fourteen months. The suspensions were ordered to be served concurrently and to be backdated to 20 January 2023 (expiring midnight 19 March 2024), the date from which the Trainer’s nominations had been refused,
Stewards were satisfied that the levels reported had not occurred through the stable’s feeding and watering regime. In regard to supplementation, the Panel can say that prior to the 19 December 2022 race meeting the routine supplementation regime deployed by the stable had not caused breaches of the prohibited substance Rules and recorded cobalt levels considered as normal. In the absence of a properly completed Logbook the Panel was unable to confidently eliminate the proposition that an additional cobalt containing substance had been provided to the horses. Stewards noted a routine supplementation and treatment regime had previously not caused issues (79 clear samples since 2018) and considered the subjects results to be well outside other recorded results.
There was no evidence available to Stewards to support a theory of intervention.
In determining penalty Stewards accepted Mr Pullicino had participated in greyhound and harness racing interstate for many years and generally held a good record albeit most of the history pre-dated current records. Stewards acknowledged Mr Pullicino’s forthright responses and cooperation during the investigation and took into account various subjectives, including that he had subsequently repaired a security system that had failed.
Stewards note the primary purpose of the imposition of penalties under the Harness Racing Rules is protective rather than being punitive. It is about protecting the image and the integrity of the sport of harness racing – that harness racing is conducted on a level playing field; that horses race without the assistance of drugs; that harness racing is conducted safely and fairly from the perspective of the betting public so that a horse’s performance will not vary from start to start depending on whether or not a particular substance or medication has been administered to it. The Panel considered general deterrence remains relevant and warranted in support those principles so as to denounce offending and signal redress to the industry and the public.
Acting under HR 258(1) the Stewards order that Mr Pullicino not hold a pecuniary interest in any registered standardbred horse nominated to trial or race during the period of suspension.
Mr Pullicino was advised of his right to appeal the Decision.
FAILURE TO PRODUCE LOGBOOK -
Mr Pullicino was also issued a charge under HR 190B (1), (4) and (6) – In that, when requested by Stewards on or about 19 January 2023, he had failed to produce a Logbook. Through his representative Mr Pullicino pleaded guilty to the charge.
In considering the appropriate penalty in respect of Charge 5 the Stewards consider they cannot overlook that a completed Logbook might have greatly benefitted the Trainer, and assisted the Stewards, in this instance. Considering Mr Pullicino’s status as premier Trainer, the Stewards feel that Mr Pullicino held greater accountability than others and feel the message for compliance warrants a greater than usual penalty.
The Stewards announced a fine of $ 400.
DISQUALIFICATION OF HORSES -
In accord with Rule HR 195. Stewards ordered the following horses be disqualified from the respective races. No amendments were required to the official placings.
ILLAWONG PHILLIPA - Race 2 at Globe Derby Park on Monday, 19 December 2022;
JOEY GIRL - Race 6 at Globe Derby Park on Monday, 19 December 2022;
SCENIC SKY - Race 4 at Globe Derby Park on Saturday, 24 December 2022; and
ARTHUR LOWE NZ - Race 2 at Globe Derby Park on Saturday, 7 January 2023.
RECOVERY OF COSTS –
Under instruction from the Board of HRSA, Stewards acting under Rules 310 (1) and (2) order that fees of $ 800 be recovered in regard to the issue of part-recovery of costs incurred in the production of the Certificates of Analysis by RASL and ARFL.
24 March 2023