The Business of Horse Racing – by Anthony Miller, Principal Lawyer
At Miller Sockhill Lawyers we provide advice and assistance to people undertaking a broad range of business activities. From ‘hole in the wall’ café operators to developers of high-rise buildings, we have a wide spectrum of business clients. One niche area that we have particular expertise in is Racing Law, racing of the equine variety that is. Those who are in the business of horse racing, whether that’s trainers, jockeys or horse owners, utilise our detailed knowledge of the industry to protect their interests.
The Queensland Racing and Integrity Commission (“QRIC”) are tasked with the duty of policing the racing industry, it’s a hugely important job given the money generated by the industry and a job they generally complete with great competence. However, as with any authority they can at times be over-zealous in exercising their duties. This is where we are available to ensure that those in the business of racing receive justice.
One such instance of this was the recently decided case of Hayes v Queensland Racing Integrity Commission  QCAT 94. There are numerous doping offences for which QRIC test and penalise trainers of horses. One particular thing tested for is the total plasma carbon dioxide (‘TCO2’) concentration of a horse’s blood. An elevated level can suggest that an alkalinising agent such as bi-carb soda has been administered to the horse in an effort to improve the horse’s performance. This is prohibited in accordance with rule 178AA of the Australian Rules of Racing which provides that a person must not administer alkalinising agent within one clear day of a race. Separately rule 178C state that for an Alkalinising agent to be deemed a prohibited substance then it must be found in concentrations of at least 36.0 millimoles per litre in plasma.
In this case of Hayes v Queensland Racing Integrity Commission  QCAT 94, the test results came in under the threshold of 36.0 millimoles per litre in plasma. However, in what appears to be a first for QRIC they still elected to charge Mr Hayes with the offence under rule 178AA. Their reasoning was that the sample was higher than usual and therefore the alkalinising agent must have been used. In applying to the tribunal to have this charge dropped and the penalty wiped, we successfully argued that there was no direct evidence of administration, the 36.0 millimole threshold has been set for a good reason, and, numerous external factors can influence the TCO2 levels of a sample as set out by our expert witness Dr Derek Major. QCAT accepted our argument and found in favour of our client. The full decision can be found here – http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/viewdoc/au/cases/qld/QCAT//2019/94.html . Miller Sockhill Lawyers are able to provide expert assistance in any racing law matters.
Miller Sockhill Lawyers is based in Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast and regularly advises clients on Sports Law. Contact Miller Sockhill Lawyers on 07 5444 4750.