Harness driver Blair Orange fined and suspended for positive breath test

Prominent harness driver Blair Orange has been fined $1050 and suspended from race driving for five meetings after failing a raceday breath test at the Central Otago trots on Saturday.

Orange had pleaded guilty to presenting himself to drive at the races with excessive alcohol in his system.

The penalty was delivered at Roxburgh on Monday by the Judicial Control Authority representatives, Paul Knowles (chairman) and Geoff Hall.

Orange returned a level of 334 micrograms of alcohol when he was tested by a racecourse inspector 45 minutes before he was due to drive in the third race at Omakau.

The level permitted for a reinsman is 100mcg.

He was automatically barred from race driving for the day.

Barry Kitto, the racecourse investigator who laid the charge against Orange, sought a suspension  of up to five weeks or a suspension and a fine.

The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine not exceeding $10,000 or a maximum suspension of 12 months.

Orange is the first harness reinsman charged after a breach of the rule.

He admitted the charge. He said he had been previously been tested and never failed.

He said he was not a regular drinker but had been drinking to 2am on Saturday morning.

He travelled to the meeting as a passenger in a car.

The breath alcohol limit for a vehicle driver is 250mcg.

Orange told that judiciary he had never been suspended in  his career as a reinsman which has yielded 1100  wins.

He said he needed to drive in races to support his family.

His suspension covers five race meetings between January 7 and 14.

It equates to 56 drives and takes into account that Orange was barred from driving at the Central Otago meeting on Saturday.

Racing Integrity Unit general manager Mike Godber said: “It’s in line with other penalties for this offence and [missing] 56 drives is a reasonable financial penalty.”

“It’s more a lesson learned as much as the money [fine] and time out.”

New Zealand Harness Racing Trainers and Drivers’ Association chairman Rob Lawson said: “It sounds a fair decision.

“People make mistakes and I’m sure Blair and other horsemen will learn from it.”

Orange’s penalty begins at the conclusion of the Wyndham meeting at Cromwell on Thursday and ends at midnight on January 14.

The JCA representatives  took into account penalties imposed on jockeys Terry Moseley, in 2009, and Ryan Bishop, in 2013, for similar offences and the need for consistency between the codes.

Bishop was suspended for 14 race meetings over five weeks in 2013 when his reading was 512mcg. He had been stood down at Riverton in 2008.  Moseley was suspended for nine riding days over a month when his reading was 214mcg at Riverton in 2009.

Orange was allowed to drive at Roxburgh on Monday and had success, winning with Celestial Arden and finishing a close second with Alvira Hest.

 – Stuff