Heathcote demands stricter Qld enforcement

Leading Queensland trainer Robert Heathcote has demanded greater enforcement of racing's rules by the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission, citing widespread lack of confidence in the sport's integrity.

Heathcote told RSN927 on Monday that he, along with other Queensland-based trainers and industry participants, believes not enough pre-race drug testing is being performed by QRIC to identify breaches of race-day treatment rules, concerns first raised in a Racenet report on Sunday.

"In these last two or three months there's been so many race meetings with zero pre-race testing, I mean zero and the word has got out," Heathcote said.

"You have to understand the mechanics of cheating to a degree, particularly tubing a horse. Administering an alkalizing agent pre-race, once the horse has raced, the evidence is burnt off.

"At the end of the day we all know the fuel that drives the industry - it's wagering. I'm talking that age old saying, 'Money lost, nothing lost; confidence lost, everything lost'.

"And we are hearing across the board, not just from trainers, owners or industry participants, but from very, very long-serving members of the industry - from media personnel, even former stewards and dare I say, and I'm not going to say any names, but current stewards today, that are so frustrated with what's been going on.

"Every effort must be made, in our opinion, to restore confidence to us in the industry that there's far more pre-race testing and I'm talking about the $5000 maiden at Gatton right through to the Group race at Eagle Farm."

Heathcote also believes QRIC, which has overseen all three codes of Queensland racing since the live-baiting scandal in the greyhound racing industry in 2015, is structurally ill-equipped to process cases swiftly.

He says the three codes should be independently run and 'placed in the hands of experts with years and years of experience'.

"QRIC, even when they catch cheats, they're so tied up in the legal system with QCAT (Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal) and it goes on for months and months, in some cases years. There's so many cases on the backburner that it's just out of control," he said.

QRIC is led by Commissioner Ross Barnett, a former Deputy Commissioner of the Queensland Police Service who was appointed the first QRIC Commissioner in May 2016.

"This is an issue that needs to be addressed but quite simply like I said, I don't want this to be a personal slinging match against the Commissioner Ross Barnett," Heathcote said.

"If they can assure us that there's going to be maximum effort put in to TCO2 (bicarb) testing pre-race, right across the board from all racing venues … I'd just like to see racing as clean as it can possibly be and have confidence restored to us all."

Heathcote has trained 64 winners across Queensland this season, placing him fourth in the state trainers' premiership. He is also third in the Brisbane trainers' premiership with 45 winners with just over two months of the season remaining.