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ATC CEO Darren Pearce apologised as trials cancelled due to no ambulance

Australian Turf Club chief executive Darren Pearce has apologised for Monday's Warwick Farm barrier trials being cancelled when an ambulance wasn't on course and promised to compensate affected trainers and owners.

A communication breakdown between the club and Racing NSW and a lack of understanding of minimum safety standards led to stewards calling off the trials when a first-response vehicle with one paramedic was booked.   

Cancelled: Monday's barrier trials at Warwick Farm were cancelled with no ambulance available.
Cancelled: Monday's barrier trials at Warwick Farm were cancelled with no ambulance available. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

"The ATC has been in discussions with the NSW Ambulance Service for some time, and new arrangements were agreed on the understanding that these would not compromise access to immediate treatment or patient safety in any way," Pearce said.

"Unfortunately we didn't communicate and get agreement on the new arrangements as we should have, which led to [Monday's] reaction, and we apologise for that breakdown.

"In consultation with Racing NSW, we have now put in place procedures for a NSW Ambulance Service transport vehicle to be on course at all times during trials."

The ATC had renegotiated its contract with the ambulance service for 2016 after being approached by the service to find a way that trials could be covered more efficiently. The model determined was to use a first-response vehicle with one paramedic at Sydney trials, which fell well short of the requirements of Racing NSW, and where so possible an ambulance would be provided.

The Rosehill barrier trials last week were conducted under the new system but an ambulance was available on that occasion.

Stewards allowed the first of 12 trials to be conducted at Warwick Farm on Monday as they attempted to source an ambulance. However, in consultation with the jockeys it was decided the trials could not be continued when none were available, to frustration and fury of trainers and owners.   

Racing NSW chief Ray Murrihy said there was no option but to cancel the trials on Monday, which have be rescheduled to Thursday.

"It was a safety issue and it is disappointing that Racing NSW wasn't consulted when the club made a change this significant," Murrihy said. "We will not hold a race meeting or set of trials in NSW without there being an ambulance on site and that has been a long-standing policy [to have a transportable ambulance at trials]. It is a straight-out safety issue."

The safety issue is not only for jockeys but for all staff working at the trials. 

The agreement was quickly revised after Monday's trials were cancelled and will revert to the original policy of having ambulances for race meetings and trials, as is the case for every club in the state.   

Racing NSW and the ATC have already booked an ambulance for Tuesday's barrier trials, where several group 1 winners will start their autumn preparations. 

The club will compensate stables affected by the trials being called off.

Group 1 winner Rebel Dane, which was scheduled to trial at Warwick Farm, has been put into the Randwick trials on Tuesday after an application from trainer Gary Portelli.

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