New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing investigators have described the leading Matamata stable of Paul and Mike Moroney as ‘dysfunctional’ and claimed it ‘has a culture of excessive drug use by both staff and horses’.

Here is a report run by the award winning news and information website,, which uses the vast resources of Fairfax New Zealand Ltd, involving several hundred journalists around the country providing a single on-line publication.

It reads: ‘At a hearing in Hamilton last week, where the Moroney brothers pleaded guilty to charges resulting from a positive drug test by one of their horses, chief stipendiary steward John McKenzie described the trainers' control and use of prohibited substances as a shambles.

‘McKenzie outlined a history of drug abuse at Ballymore Stables and dissension among staff which, combined with Paul Moroney's repeated absences, meant the stable had not been managed competently for some time.

‘And Sunday Star-Times investigations have revealed that Paul Moroney's girlfriend, a former stablehand 30 years his junior, is the latest to be charged with drug offences.

‘Rose Grace Steeman, 21, who has been living with Paul Moroney in a house at Ballymore, despite being sacked by Moroney's brother, was arrested 12 days ago after a car chase in Matamata and charged with possession of methamphetamine and utensils. She is due to appear in the Morrinsville District Court on March 3.

‘The revelations come less than two months after the Melbourne Cup-winning trainers prepared Monaco Consul to win the Victoria Derby at Flemington for high-profile owners Owen Glenn and Gerard Peterson.

‘But Paul Moroney now faces suspension of his license, McKenzie saying he, not his Melbourne-based brother, is primarily to blame for the ‘gross negligence.’

‘McKenzie says that given the "activities that have prevailed at the stable," it is not surprising the trainers have incurred their second positive test to the same substance in eight months.

‘In April the Moroneys were fined after a positive test to the banned drug Indomethacin, contained in an anti-inflammatory CU-Algesic.

‘And last week they faced identical charges after the filly Mae Jinx, owned by prominent Auckland QC Alan Galbraith, was found to have the same drug in her system when winning at Matamata on December 23.

‘In the summary read to the hearing last week, McKenzie described rampant drug use at the stable, saying investigators were alarmed to discover that, in early December, at least 40 horses were on the same prohibited substance, used as a muscle relaxant. Its use was curtailed only when concern was expressed by their vets Marks-Ewen.’



ALL the major international newspapers found space to cover the operning of the new show-piece of world horse racing, the ostentious Meydan complex in Dubai.

Here's how 'Hotspur' a racing columnist for The Telegraph in London, previewed the big event:

'Meydan throws open its gates to the public for the first time today (January 27) in yet another extravagant show of the confident the ambitioius state of Dubai displays not only in the sport of horse racing, but in its own future.

Against the worrying backdrop of spiralling debt, and the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, only a few miles away, Meydan has brazenly emerged from the sands of the desert looking like a gigantic UFO dropped in from space.

The project is colossal, almost beyond comprehension in the modern context of a racecourse. Frankly, though, nobody in racing would really have expected anything less from Sheikh Mohammed.

His quest for acquiring or developing the best in all aspects of the thoroughbred has long been established, but even by his standards this is huge. It is Ascot multiplied by two, and some more.

Yesterday (January 26), I paid my first visit to Meydan in 11 months. The progress in that time has been staggering, but, as expected with a construction of this size, it is going to take time to complete the detail of a vast interior. Thousands of workers swarmed over every one of the 10 floors of a grandstand that measures five furlongs. But there is still so much to be done before their task is complete.

If tonight (January 27) marks the birth of modern day racing in Dubai, then it can only be considered a premature delivery.

The basics will be there; the paddock, the weighing room, a lavish jockeys' room (one can imagine Dettori's input in the planning), the much-praised all-weather Tapeta track, a well-appointed press room on the fifth floor, and Meydan's own Royal Box, in which members of the Maktoum family and their friends and associates will watch the racing. And, of course, the horses, on an inaugural card that will commence with a race for Arabian-breds.

However, there will be no turf track tonight, only one dining room (near the paddock) is expected to be open, there will be only the basics in the stewards' room, and if you wish to book accommodation in the Jumeirah-run hotel on course, you best be quick as only 20 to 30 rooms are to be open. A decent crowd is expected, but no official was willing to predict just how decent.

Frank Gabriel, the amiable American racing executive in charge of building Meydan, looks like he hasn't slept for weeks; so do his backup team. You suspect not many of the estimated 3,000 laborers working on site have had much rest either. For them, this opening night will mark the start of the final stage of their endeavors. They will be circling 27th March, Dubai World Cup night, on their calendars, as this will mark the track's grand opening.

Global recession has come as a hammer blow to this gold rush town in the Middle East. There are many uncompleted buildings, tourism has taken a downturn, even the traffic on the roads seems lighter, and there are probably more tough times ahead, though even financial experts cannot agree on the severity.

It is hard for racing folk to grasp, but the sport of horse racing and its trappings represent only around four per cent of Sheikh Mohammed's personal investment portfolio, according to informed sources.

Yet you sense that Meydan represents his hopes for Dubai as well as everything else he has touched in racing on the global stage. Its scale is symbolic. Just as Godolphin was created as part of a strategy to familiarize the sporting world with Dubai, this gigantic racecourse is saddled with a similar objective. But only time will determine how the world at large views such an iconic construction in the Middle East at this point in history.’



RACING for Change, the project board with the task of widening the appeal of horse racing in Britain, recently announced a raft of small changes. Their headline-catching proposal was to go decimal with betting odds. Bigger, more radical ideas are set for later this year.

But just as it is said the film 'Avatar' may do more for the environment than Friends of Earth has in four decades, if previous form is anything to go by, it is quite possible that Racing For Change’s job will be done for it when author Jilly Cooper's latest‘bonk-buster,’ ‘Village Horse’, hits the bookshops this autumn. In it, she turns her attention to jumps racing.

When ‘Polo’ was published in 1991 it did wonders for popularizing the previously elite sport of polo and the return of Rupert Campbell-Black, albeit not as a main character, will delight fans of Cooper and racing alike and, one hopes, win over a new generation of racing converts.

Cooper is passionate about jumps racing and animals – she was one of the driving forces behind the Animals in War memorial in London's Park Lane. She has a share in the Thoroughbred Ladies syndicate, which owns Island Flyer, a useful chaser with Stroud trainer Tom George.

‘Village Horse,’ she explained outlining the plot, ‘is about a granny who has had all her grandchildren dumped on her and then rescues a horse, Mrs Wilkinson, which has been badly treated. She then forms a syndicate to race the horse with characters from the village.

It then follows their jaunts and adventures together with the horse starting off in a maiden hurdle and working her way to the top. There’s the builder, the Major, the tree surgeon, an actress – of course, they all fight and go to bed with each other.

It certainly sounds like Cooper is on form but is that really what the Thoroughbred Ladies are like in true life? “I'm the only common denominator between the Thoroughbred Ladies and the story,” she replied, laughing.

“It's meant to be a 'bonk-buster' but my memory's not what it was! There's not nearly as much sex as there was in 'Riders' - it is about the same as ‘Polo’, although there is a bit of gay sex when the vicar takes a shine to the tree surgeon!”

The three years she has spent researching the book, a time she clearly enjoyed more than being banged up in an office with her manual typewriter, has brought her even closer to the sport, and with her writer's eye she has picked up on things many of us miss.

“I was there, outside the racecourse stables at Cheltenham, at 6pm in the evening after Denman had beaten Kauto Star in the 2008 Gold Cup and they were loading the horses up to take them home,” she recalled. “Denman strutted out. Kauto Star looked miserable and bewildered, despairing, down cast. It really left an impression on me.

“I've been everywhere. National Hunt people are so lovely. Rupert Campbell-Black is now so rich he's gone to the Flat and has a Newmarket stud with one stallion called Love Rat and another called Lust. I spent a wonderful day at Darley researching that.

“I went to Greatwood (the racehorse rehabilitation centre near Marlborough) and loved the idea of companion animals. They have lots of naughty Shetland ponies, so the heroine in the book has a very good goat.”

What if Jilly Cooper was in charge of Racing For Change for a day? “Well, the language of racing is so beautiful. People love the esoteric. Polo doesn't have its own language or jargon, but racing does and I feel that's a huge advantage. It's important not to lose it. I love the thought of ‘Mrs Wilkinson taking them along.’ I don't know about decimalizing betting. I still haven't got to Centigrade yet.

“What's wrong with racing? Only one thing – there's too much of it. Therefore there are a lot of gorgeous meetings which no one goes to. Above all, though, it's all about the horses. An iconic horse can still put massive numbers on the gates and 2009 was a great year for them. Sea The Stars, who went on and on, Kauto Star, Zenyatta in America. She was heaven.”

We will have to wait and see whether Mrs Wilkinson reaches such star status, or is merely the conduit for her owners to all jump into the hay with each other.

With the deadline for her manuscript approaching at the end of March, Jilly Cooper fears she will be typing ‘all day and night’ until then. “But,” she said, “I expect I'll find time to sneak out to the Cheltenham Festival for a day.”



IT didn’t get much of a run on home soil in Australia but a London Daily ran this report from Victoria RSPCA president, Hugh Wirth, on the jumps racing reprieve Down Under.

Under the headline: ‘Australia – Racing Gets Attacked Again,’ the story read:

‘The RSPCA has declared war on Victorian racing officials after the Racing Victoria Board announced a U-turn on its decision of just seven weeks ago to end jumps racing.

A furious RSPCA Victorian president, Hugh Wirth, said yesterday (January 30) the push to ban jumps racing was now the No. 1 priority for the group.

“It's war, make no mistake about that,” Dr Wirth said. “This is a disgraceful decision from a spineless and weak-kneed board and we will not stop until jumps racing is banned once and for all.

"We already had a campaign in place for the final jumps season but we'll revise that and start protesting immediately. The Victorian community doesn't want jumps racing and we'll make sure racing officials are made fully aware of that at every opportunity.”

Last November the Racing Victoria Board declared the 2010 season would be the final season in Victoria for the 140-year-old sport after a spate of fatalities in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.