Stewards will open an inquiry into the controversial $75,000 Tasmania Cup final in Hobart on Saturday night that could see the result over-turned.
In shades of the 2004 Tasmanian Grand National Steeple case - which had a protest decision reversed three months after the race - harness stewards are now looking into whether the Tasmania Cup winner Bullys Delight should be disqualified.
They have the power to do so under AHRR 174 (1) but, as was the case with the Grand National Steeple decision, it would have no bearing on betting on the race.
Bullys Delight won the Tasmania Cup final by a clear margin but the drivers of the runner-up The Shallows and third-placed Lip Reader both lodged protests.
The grounds of the protests were -
THAT Bullys Delight shifted up the track in the home straight impeding their runners;
THAT winning driver Rhys Nicholson used his whip in a manner contrary to the rules;
THAT Nicholson was guilty of hocking (allowing his foot to contact the hind leg of his horse).
Although both protests were dismissed, Nicholson was suspended for two months and fined $4000.
The result of the race stood.
However, on Sunday, chief steward Steve Shinn sent a text to the participants involved.
It stated that stewards would be conducting an inquiry into the Tasmania Cup final, the purpose of which would be to give consideration to invoking AHRR 174(1) as the driver of Bullys Delight had been found guilty of a number of charges relating to his actions during the race.
It further stated that the connections of Bullys Delight would be given the opportunity to attend the inquiry and address the issues raised.
Shinn later explained the difference between Rule 66 that applied to the protest hearing and Rule 174 (1) that will apply to the inquiry.
"Rule 66 requires you to prove that a horse has received an unfair advantage," he said.
"Based on precedents from around the country, both in thoroughbred and harness racing, you cannot prove definitively that excessive whip use, or in this case, hocking, results in a horse improving its performance.
"There are cases where a horse actually goes slower if it is hit.
"Rule 174 (1) does not require you to prove that the horse has received an unfair advantage at all. It strictly relates to when a driver is found guilty of an offence and, if they are found guilty, the horse may be disqualified or placed in a lower position."
In other words, stewards have the power to disqualify or relegate Bullys Delight if they deem that to be the appropriate action.
Going back to the original protest decision, Shinn said the case was "not terribly difficult."
As whip use and hocking could not be considered grounds to alter the result, the protest decision came down to whether or not Bullys Delight shifting up the track had affected the placings.
In fact, it was clear it had not - there was no contact with any other runner and Bullys Delight was always at least 1-1/2 lengths clear of his rivals, as required.
So he remains the winner - for now anyway.
It was just a run-of-the-mill thoroughbred meeting at Elwick on Sunday - but leading trainer Scott Brunton and his partner Tegan Keys found plenty to get excited about.
Their Seven Mile Beach operation won five of the seven races - Brunton scoring with Street Tough, Boris The Blade and Thunberg and Keys with Dunmining and Flourishing Future.
Street Tough's win in the Open Handicap was overdue as he had been costly to punters since his unlucky third behind Gee Gee Secondover and Mandela Effect in the Newmarket Handicap in November.
"It was well overdue and it was good to see him hit the line with a bit of zest again," Brunton said.
"He probably should have won the Newmarket and had no luck again on Launceston Cup day in the Royal Rambo so he was probably a pretty good thing on paper coming here today.
"But it was still good to see him get the job done."
Street Tough had been a beaten favourite at his three previous starts but that didn't stop punters backing up again.
He was $2.60 into $2.00 and shorter in places.
One of the two winners Brunton and Keys did not train was a former member of their stable.
Lucky Bucky was having his first start for Ken and Tanya Hanson when he fought on strongly to take out the Maiden Plate.
The four-year-old Wordsmith gelding began his career with John Luttrell and was only narrowly beaten in a Mowbray maiden in June last year.
After a spell, he resumed for Brunton at the start of this year but, after two runs when he showed speed before dropping out, he was on the move again.
Tanya Hanson said she had no real explanation for his improved effort on Sunday.
"I'd like to give you the magic potion but I really don't know," she said.
"He trialled really well over 700m at Longford on Tuesday and that's when we made the decision to run him.
"We thought 1100m might have suited him better than today's 1200m but he found plenty and it was a good, solid win."
The successful Adam Trinder/Wayne Roser combination picked up the other race, the Class 1 Handicap, with Black Magic Woman.
The three-year-old filly has now won two of her five starts and another of her runs was a second to the talented Sirene Stryker.
"She toughed it out really nicely after a good ride from Davy (Pires)," Roser said. Pires finished with a treble.
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