Janiak to blame for Target saga, not us - Stier

Murray Bell

Club rejects trainer's claims over late scratching

The Jockey Club last night vigorously defended its handling of Takeover Target's last-minute withdrawal from the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sprint in December after trainer Joe Janiak blamed the club for the drawn-out saga.

Janiak has pointed the finger at the Jockey Club for his decision to hold out on scratching Takeover Target until race day, saying the club should have given him more details about the champion sprinter's fluctuating hormone levels in the week before the race.

'All I can say is that after each test they told me that the levels were going down,' Janiak said, suggesting the club had been actively encouraging him to wait until the last minute.

Janiak was fined HK$200,000 at an inquiry last month for the last-ditch attempt at a US$1 million bonus if Takeover Target won the HK$12 million Hong Kong Sprint.

Jockey Club chief stipendiary steward Jamie Stier defended the integrity of the process, saying he had 'a number of conversations' with Janiak, beginning shortly after Takeover Target first swabbed positive to a banned anabolic in early November.

'Janiak was fully informed after each test, and right from the very first test, that there were some concerns,' Stier said. 'As race day drew closer, and prior to declarations, Janiak was clearly told it was most unlikely a sample would test clear [before the race].'

Stier denied levels of the steroid - 17-alpha-hydroxyprogesterone hexanoate - had been discussed with Janiak 'because this is not a threshold substance'.

'This is a prohibited substance and there is no requirement for us to accept a threshold level for it in any horse's system,' Stier said. 'The mere presence of any amount of this prohibited substance [in a horse's system] would be a problem and represent an offence if a trainer were to present it for race day competition.'

He said the club had 'gone to extraordinary lengths' to do the right thing, including making a public announcement so parties, including the fans, could be fully informed.

Stier also recalled two meetings he had with Janiak prior to the deadline for declarations for the four international races on December 10.

'In each of those meetings, it was pointed out to Janiak the analyst believed there was very little chance of the substance clearing Takeover Target's system by race day, and we wanted to make certain he fully understood if he did declare to run the horse, where that matter may then take him.'

With traces of the banned anabolic still in his system and no all-clear yet in sight, Takeover Target's career remains in limbo.

Janiak was at Moonee Valley on Wednesday to help launch the 2007 Global Sprint Challenge, a series that will begin tomorrow with the running of the Lightning Stakes, won last year by Takeover Target with Hong Kong's Cape Of Good Hope a brave third. Takeover Target has already been ruled out of the race.

Janiak told the Herald-Sun newspaper in Melbourne that an international assault for Takeover Target hinged on results of yet another blood test taken last Friday, with those results expected back in another week.

However, Janiak fears he will again test positive to the steroid he personally gave the horse in early October to 'help him cope with the trip from Japan to Hong Kong'.

'We are in limbo,' Janiak said. 'We can't race him until we know it's out of his system. I believe there was a good horse a couple of years ago . . . the same substance was in his system for six months.'

Takeover Target was already a runaway winner of the GSC even without participating in Hong Kong, but his absence robbed Janiak and son Ben of the US$1 million bonus to the winner of three Group One races within the series.

The Hong Kong Sprint was won by local sprinter Absolute Champion, in a course record time of 1:07.8 for the 1,200 metres. For the final insult to Janiak, the victory also saw Absolute Champion depose Takeover Target as the world's number one turf sprinter for 2006.