Freedman In Bicarb Inquiry

Sydney Morning Herald

Thursday February 22, 2001

Tony Bourke Source: The Age

Just days after returning to the Group 1 winners' ranks, trainer Lee Freedman faces an inquiry after one of his horses returned an elevated TCO2 (bicarbonate) level at Moonee Valley yesterday.

Stewards ordered the scratching of Tina's Crown, to be ridden by Damien Oliver and the pre-post favourite for the Acushla Marie Handicap, 2,040m, 20 minutes before the race after she failed two blood tests.

Chief steward Des Gleeson said the TCO2 levels in the blood tests taken from the mare were higher than the allowable concentration of 36.0 millimoles per litre.

After taking evidence from Freedman, the stewards adjourned their inquiry to a date to be fixed.

Gleeson said a sample of the tests would be sent to a ``referee" laboratory where it would be established if Tina Crown had returned a positive to TCO2, a prohibited substance in levels higher than 36mlm/l.

He said the findings should be available ``within a fortnight".

Urine samples were also taken from Tina's Crown after her withdrawal from yesterday's race.

Freedman, who left Moonee Valley immediately after speaking with the stewards, returned to his Caulfield stables to establish what had happened with Tina's Crown.

``Naturally I'm upset it has happened, but I'm very relaxed about it," he said.

Freedman, who returned to Melbourne late on Tuesday after attending the Adelaide yearling sales, said it might have been caused by a ``mix-up with the vet".

``I won't really know until I have a meeting with the vet, but we have hundreds of horses tested every month without any problems."

Cases involving elevated TCO2 levels, commonly called ``milkshakes", were prevalent in gallops and harness racing until new rules were introduced a few years ago.

It was feared the practice of ``drenching" horses with bicarbonate or saline solutions close to a race, which help aerate the blood, could be used to mask more sinister prohibited substances.

Horses naturally produce varying amounts of TCO2 and it was not until the 36 level was introduced Australia-wide in 1997 that trainers and vets became more careful with their drenching procedures.

The most controversial case concerning an allegedly elevated TCO2 level involved the Freedman-trained Encosta De Lago when it won the Group 2 Bill Stutt Stakes at Moonee Valley in 1996.

Encosta De Lago was allowed to start in the race despite showing a high level of TCO2 in a pre-race blood test.

A second test showed a lower level and a third ordered by the analyst and official vet also came up under the limit.

Stewards then allowed Encosta De Lago to start.

Gleeson, who had recently taken over as chief steward at the time, later warned Freedman about producing his horses at the races with high TCO2 levels.

In the most recent case involving elevated TCO2 levels, Caulfield trainer Jim Conlan was fined $10,000 over the pre-race blood test taken from Suraya at Moonee Valley on April 15 last year.

Trainer Anthony Downey was suspended for three months on a TCO2 charge concerning Good As Glimmer at Sandown in August, 1999.

This was reduced to two months on appeal.

Trainer Terry O'Sullivan also had a similar suspension concerning Clear Springs at Terang in April, 1999 reduced to two months on appeal.

York's horror fall Page 45

© 2001 Sydney Morning Herald

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