IN THE NEWS: Racing NSW told about prohibited thoroughbred sales in 2018, emails reveal

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IN THE NEWS: On OCT 24, 2019

The regulator for horse racing in New South Wales was alerted to the sale of thoroughbreds for slaughter at an unapproved livestock auction as early as June 2018 but refused to rescue one horse or investigate further.

The ABC has obtained emails proving Racing NSW was told that thoroughbreds were being sold at an unapproved livestock auction, before the practice was exposed on 7.30 last week, and despite telling the program it had no prior knowledge.

The 7.30 story revealed hundreds of racehorses were being abused, mistreated and slaughtered at knackeries and abattoirs, in violation of racing industry rules and policies.

In 2017, Racing NSW introduced a rule strictly prohibiting owners, trainers and managers from either directly or indirectly sending horses to slaughterhouses and to unapproved livestock auctions.

But the 7.30 investigation revealed thoroughbreds were being sold to 'killbuyers' — slaughterhouses and their agents — and also sold off at an unapproved livestock auction in Camden, NSW.

Key points:

  • Racing NSW said last week it had never been told thoroughbreds were being sold at Camden Horse Sales, an auction not approved by the regulator
  • But former trainer Sandra Jorgensen said she reported to Racing NSW in mid-2018 the sale of a branded, one-eyed filly at Camden to a business run by a killbuyer
  • Racing NSW told Ms Jorgensen it could not act because the business is in Victoria, but there is a business with an almost identical name belonging to the owner of NSW knackery Burns Pet Foods

The ABC also named two NSW knackeries as having accepted multiple NSW-linked horses at their sites, many via the Camden Horse Sales.

Racing NSW repeatedly denied any knowledge of the Camden Horse Sales prior to the ABC bringing it to the regulator's attention in the days before the 7.30 story aired.

"Prior to the interview [with 7.30], Racing NSW was not aware that thoroughbreds were being sold at the facility," Racing NSW said in a written statement to the ABC.

"Now that Racing NSW is aware of this [Camden] venue, we have commenced working with the proprietor to ensure that no thoroughbred is sold to a knackery."

But the ABC has obtained emails from June 2018, written by Racing NSW, revealing the regulator was specifically told about a NSW thoroughbred being sold to a killbuyer at the Camden Horse Sales and ending up at a knackery.

Other documents obtained by the ABC also confirm Racing NSW stewards were told in 2018 about gallopers being sold to killbuyers at a second NSW livestock auction.

The sale and slaughter of racehorses is not illegal but it is against the regulator's rules of racing.

Emails reveal Camden Horse Sales was reported to Racing NSW in 2018

The ABC has obtained a series of emails sent between Racing NSW and ex-trainer turned horse rescuer Sandra Jorgensen.

The emails reveal Ms Jorgensen was at the Camden Horse Sales in June 2018, where she witnessed a clearly branded two-year-old thoroughbred filly with one eye being sold off to a killbuyer.

Ms Jorgensen told the ABC she took a photo of the filly inside the auction ring and wrote down her brandings.

"She was very distressed, it was heartbreaking," Ms Jorgensen said.

"She was clearly confused and struggling to see. It was absolutely shocking to watch.

"She was sold for around $275 to a killbuyer."

Ms Jorgensen said she approached the man who purchased the unnamed filly, who she believed to be a killbuyer operating under the business name Fitzgerald Pastoral Co.

She asked him if she could purchase the horse from him, but he refused to sell it to her.

Instead, Ms Jorgensen says the man told her the filly was going to his place "to be slaughtered".

A concerned Ms Jorgensen phoned Racing NSW to report the incident, and also sent an email alerting stewards to the unauthorised sale of an NSW racehorse.

The ABC has obtained the emails Ms Jorgensen sent to the regulator, setting out the facts:

"My advice to you was that this filly was bought by Fitzgerald Pastoral Company and that I spoke to the gentleman who bought her and he informed me that she was going to be slaughtered. I also offered to buy the filly off him, but he refused …

"I believe the wording under NSW Racing Rules LR114, confirms she is protected …

"Please advise if she is an 'eligible' horse under LR Rule 114 and whether you have purchased her from Fitzgerald Pastoral Company to protect her under this Rule or if she has been slaughtered."

According to the emails, Ms Jorgensen also sent Racing NSW a screenshot of the filly's identification and registration in the Australian Stud Book.

Racing NSW responded that day, confirming it had passed the information on to its animal welfare and integrity unit.

But within 24 hours, Racing NSW wrote to Ms Jorgensen again, wholly dismissing her complaint.

The regulator told her Fitzgerald Pastoral Co was registered in Victoria and that Racing NSW would not be taking any further action due to "jurisdiction" issues:

"Just wanted to give you an update in regards to the filly.

"From the research we've done the company which has bought the horse is based in Victoria and unfortunately we do not have jurisdiction outside of NSW.

"We will always intervein (sic) when the person is licensed and based in NSW."

But the ABC can reveal there is a business "Fitzgeral Pastoral Co" in NSW and a "Fitzgerald Pastoral Company" registered in Victoria. The ABC is not suggesting that the company registered in Victoria is connected to the sale of the filly.

Company searches conducted by the ABC confirm there is a Fitzgeral Pastoral Co registered and based in Marsden Park, NSW.

The ABC can also reveal this Fitzgeral Pastoral Co, registered in NSW, belongs to Phillip Burns.

Mr Burns is the owner of Burns Pet Foods knackery in Western Sydney, one of the NSW facilities featured in the ABC's 7.30 investigation, where the one-eyed filly ended up.

"She wasn't slaughtered for at least 10 days after she arrived at Burns, and the racing industry did nothing," Ms Jorgensen said.

"It was such a terrible injustice to see this young yearling getting thrown out for dogmeat."

With Racing NSW refusing to conduct any further intelligence work or save the filly, Ms Jorgensen took matters into her own hands.

"I rang Phillip Burns and again asked if I could buy the filly, but he informed me she had already been 'processed'," she said.

Undeterred, Ms Jorgensen drove to Burns Pet Foods herself to try to rescue the filly again, taking photos and videos of the horse and the knackery's entrance.

"I drove out to his pet-food business and went into the shop where the public can buy pet food," Ms Jorgensen said.

"I eventually found the filly in a paddock at Burns knackery. She looked so hungry.

"I again asked if I could buy her but the man working there refused.

"He said horsemeat was the preferred food for greyhounds and that he'd been slaughtering horses at Burns for more than 10 years.

"He also said he had killed 'champions'."

The ABC contacted Mr Burns and asked him to confirm whether the filly had been slaughtered.

Mr Burns told the ABC the filly had been killed.

"Listen, you may not like it, but that horse, it's gone. It's gone," Mr Burns said.

"I'm going to leave that thought with you. It's no longer here. It's gone."

'Racing NSW have misled the public'

According to the national rules of racing, all horses must be registered at birth and lodged as retired even if they do not make it to the track.

Regarding NSW horses ending up at Burns Pet Foods and a second NSW knackery, last week the regulator publicly stated: "Racing NSW is not aware of any NSW domiciled thoroughbred recently retired that has been taken to either facility."

But according to the brandings of the two-year-old unnamed filly with one eye, it was bred in NSW and it was also taken to the Burns facility in Western Sydney in June 2018.

The emails obtained by the ABC prove that Racing NSW has provided incorrect statements to the public about its level of prior knowledge.

Ms Jorgensen has described Racing NSW's contrary statements as "an absolute joke".

She has also questioned how Racing NSW can publicly state it was unaware of thoroughbreds being sold at the Camden facility when her emails prove otherwise.

"They've misled the public, that's what they've done. They've betrayed the horses and misled the public and they must be held to account," she said.

"Heads need to roll."

The ABC requested an interview with the NSW Minister for Better Regulation, Kevin Anderson. The ABC is awaiting response.

The ABC also requested an interview with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Her office declined.

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