Bit of a worry that the finding is based on something he intends to do...
Stepping down lets Moroney dodge ban
By BARRY LICHTER - Sunday Star Times
A COMMITMENT given by Matamata trainer Paul Moroney that he will surrender his licence at the end of the season saved him from being suspended for a second drug positive in eight months.
Moroney and his brother Mike were instead fined $17,500 and $7500 in costs for the breach, which New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing said resulted from gross negligence in a dysfunctional stable.
Judicial Control Authority committee chairman Murray McKechnie said Paul Moroney "very narrowly avoided suspension" and the committee took into account extensive submissions by the brother's lawyer, Richard McIlraith, on how Ballymore Stables would operate in the future.
McIlraith told Friday's hearing in Hamilton that, starting tomorrow, a new foreman, Andrew Clarken, would be taking over at the stables and on August 1 would join Mike Moroney as a training partner. Paul Moroney would return to running his bloodstock agency and acting as manager for a number of horses.
During the transition period, Paul Moroney would remain to clue-in Clarken on the 55 horses and the training regime, but focus less on the day-to-day duties.
Clarken, assistant trainer to Victorian trainer David Brideoake, was the Moroneys' foreman when they set up a stable in Australia.
Mike Moroney had also already brought in another member of his Victorian operation, Stephen O'Neill, who took over as foreman for the No1 barn on January 6 and he was now responsible for dispensing medication.
McIlraith told the hearing how neither Paul nor Mike Moroney were aware that the person previously responsible for giving medications, Grant Long, had inadvertently given the anti-inflammatory CU-algesic, which contains the banned drug Indomethacin, to Mae Jinx two days before she raced at Matamata on December 23.
It was an unintentional mistake because Long knew it had a withholding time of four days.
Ironically, on the very day Long gave CU-algesic to Mae Jinx, racecourse inspector Bryan McKenzie was preparing to visit the stable after then foreman Dwight Shackelford alerted him to concerns about Long's conduct.
McKechnie said the committee was concerned to hear that Shackelford was no longer on the payroll because he was the very person who it was claimed was helping to make the stable more professional, and it continued the history of high staff turnover.
But McIlraith said the new appointments "were serious names". It was not just plugging holes in the dam, but was designed to restore the confidence of owners in the stable.
"We are not talking about fly-by-night operators in the industry. These people have trained more Group One winners (24) in the last decade than any other New Zealand based stable."
Ad Feedback McIlraith said it was not accepted that the system and processes in place at Ballymore Stables were a "shambles" as NZTR had suggested.
But medication that should have been locked away by Long was not, and another system of checks and balances was not implemented on the day.
Photographs presented in evidence by NZTR, which chairman McKechnie said were of concern and suggested that CU-algesic was left lying around unsecured, had been taken on January 11, McIlraith said, and while the shelves were "not as tidy as they should have been," it followed an intensive Christmas holiday racing period.
"The systems failed but Mike and Paul Moroney's conduct could not be described as negligent."
McIlraith said if Paul Moroney was suspended, as sought by NZTR, it would have a significant impact on his brother's business and jeopardise the arrangements planned for Ballymore's future.
"A suspension would be a significant over-reaction to an unfortunate situation."
McIlraith said the damage to the brothers' reputations should be taken into account in sentencing. Media coverage had caused distress and embarrassment to them beyond that which would be expected.
Paul Moroney had also lost business through cancelled sale orders for yearlings.
Paul Moroney said after the hearing that the changes being implemented had been in train since the spring, before Mae Jinx returned the positive test, to allow him time to inspect yearlings.
It was not unusual for a large stable to go through staffing issues, but he believed the wrong message had been portrayed about Ballymore.
One foreman had moved on after seven years, another had "health issues," and there were "other things we'd rather not have happened with an apprentice."
Moroney, referring to the banning of apprentice Mohammed Yusof for a methamphetamine positive, said he knew he had to make changes to prevent rumours from becoming a major issue.
It was unfortunate that NZTR had chosen to blow up a simple charge by referring to Ballymore having a culture of excessive human and horse drug use at the initial hearing.
It had brought a lot of pressure on to stable staff, with "people looking at them sideways."
The Sunday Star-Times reported after the initial hearing how NZTR had launched numerous drug probes into the conduct of Moroney stable apprentices and track riders linked to the stable.
Yusof, who allegedly stole $20,000 from Lisa Cropp, also banned on P charges, then fled home to Malaysia. And a former stable foreman, Rose Grace Steeman, living with Paul Moroney despite having been sacked by his brother, has been charged with possession of methamphetamine.