We’ve seen some pretty red hot races at Albion Park this year, not the least of which was Trista Dixon’s drive in the Group 2 Darrell Alexander Memorial Trot a week ago that saw her disqualified for (a very light) 12 months.
Well it seems that it happens in Victoria too, and if you need proof just take a look at what happened to the second favorite Miss Atomic Betty in Race 7 this afternoon at Warragul.
Oh dear oh dearie me!
Miss Atomic Betty is number 3, and it is driven – I use that word very loosely; hooked is a more accurate and appropriate term – by Greg Sugars, the 32-year-old scion of a multi-generational harness racing family who has driven more than 2200 winners during his 15 year career in the gig and currently sits second in the Victorian Drivers Premiership Table.
This boy can drive as well as anyone in the Wide Brown Land and better than most, don’t you worry about that.
Or he can when he tries anyway.
He wasn’t trying today.
Well not to win anyway.
These are the colours you are looking out for.
Miss Atomic Betty is the horse closest to the mobile barrier as the video starts.
Let me talk you through it.
The first lap and a half is ho hum.
Sugars ambles out but so does the rest of the field, and more by chance than design he lands Miss Atomic Betty in the one-one (the second horse one off the rail with cover behind the horse racing outside the leader), and there she stays as they dawdle through the early stages in a very slow lead time of 43.8 seconds and an equally pedestrian first quarter of 32.6 seconds.
Nothing much happens until the field reaches the back straight on the second (and last) lap of the race, when the horses are about 600 metres from the winning post.
The favorite Magical Delight, which has been sitting on Miss Atomic Betty’s back one out and two back in the run, pulls out three-wide and begins to go around the field.
Now given that the early part of the race has been paced slowly, 99 times out of 100 a driver with Sugars experience and skill will pull out in front of any horse about to come around him at this pivotal stage of proceedings.
He will do this because he knows that the horses in front of him are going to sprint home fast off a farcical early lope, and that if he gets trapped in a pocket by a horse coming around him he will be pushed back in the field and blocked for a run and it will become mathematically impossible for his horse to win unless Santa and his reindeer suddenly descend from the sky and Rudolph slips him a jet pack.
Sugars doesn’t pull out go. He just sits back in the cart and restrains Miss Atomic Betty so hard that he almost bloody strangles her.
They travel about 100 metres further and reach the end of the back straight and approach the point of the home turn.
The favorite has now gone around Miss Atomic Betty and Sugars has clear space to pull out onto its back and trail it around the straight so that it can then hook off its back and try to gun it down in the back straight.
All Sugars needs to do is ease his horse out three wide onto Magical Delight’s back.
It is an absolute no brainer, and in 99.9 races out of a hundred a reinsman – even a rank amateur having their first drive – will do exactly that.
He pulls back even harder on the reins and puts his horse under a throttle hold. In fact he restrains the horse so hard that he almost falls out of the cart.
It is one of the most blatant examples of cheating in harness racing you could ever have the misfortune to witness, more obvious even than Trista Dixon’s effort the other night, and as we all know that’s saying something.
They enter the straight.
Sugars – still almost choking his poor horse, allows the last placed horse to go around him and put him in a crazy pocket at the rear of the field.
The whole thing is bad enough already – shocking in fact – but from this point on it just descends into a circus act.
Sugars angles Miss Atomic Betty toward the outside, and there is so much room for her to hook to the outside in front of the horse in the all green and into clear running that you could drive a double-decker bus through it.
So what does Sugars do on the second favorite?
Hooks back to the inside of course.
The only place where there is no clear run for his horse.
Sugars could go through the middle – Hannibal could have driven his elephant through the gap – up behind the horse in the white and then steer inside it to be behind the leader, with a huge hope of then cutting up the inside and zooming to victory.
Any driver trying his hardest to win the race would do so.
Sugars doesn’t want to win this race.
Not on your life.
So he pretends that there is no run straight up the middle where Blind Freddy can see that that there is, and continues to restrain his horse back.
Gee his arms must have hurt after the race.
Not as much as the punters pockets and their faith in the integrity of harness racing got hurt though.
The pictures show you exactly what happened next, and as bad as it has all been for the past 600 metres the final still image is particularly damning, and should put the nail in the coffin of Sugars professional career forever, or at the very least for the next two or three years.
But guess what?
The stewards are in on the joke too.
They report that Miss Atomic Betty pulled hard, locked wheels and was held up.
Like f*ck it did!
You have eyes just like I have and you’ve just seen what happened.
Miss Atomic Betty didn’t pull hard – Greg Sugars pulled it.
The horse didn’t lock wheels, not at any stage.
If you want to check for yourself click on the three dots at the bottom right of the video and select 360 view.
You will have to play around with it a little bit to get the hang of it, but once you have you can manipulate the video so that you are watching it from above, and when you do please try and show me where Sugars locked wheels with another runner.
There is no chance that you will be able to, because it didn’t.
Try to show me where it was held up as well.
You won’t be able to because it wasn’t.
Something is rotten in the state of Victorian harness racing.
Something is very rotten indeed.