RACING Victoria Limited bosses, reeling from the scandals that blighted the spring, have vowed to get tough and boot the cheats out of the industry.
They sharpened their claws on Monday by announcing initiatives to boost integrity and policing. RVL plans to toughen the rules that ban the administration of substances to horses on race day and will consider the introduction of minimum penalties for serious offences.
It will also beef up its surveillance staff, doubling the number of full-time integrity officers from two to four to increase its capacity to carry out investigations on trainers, jockeys and others who break the rules and damage the image of racing.
''There's a small number of people who do want to flout the rules and there is no place for them,'' new RVL chief executive Bernard Saundry said on Monday. ''If you do flout the rules and you get caught, you are not wanted in the industry.
''There is no room for cheats and we want anyone who does anything that compromises the integrity of our sport brought to account and penalised.''
RVL spends some $10 million a year on integrity-related services, but there will be more cash to boost these services if required.
''You can't put a price on integrity,'' RVL chairman Michael Duffy said.
RVL said its compliance assurance team conducted 117 raids during the spring carnival, leading to five stewards' inquiries. The two completed have resulted in Queensland trainer Nathan Schofield being banned for 12 months and leading Victorian handler Robert Smerdon fined $10,000.
Officials admitted that several trainers had voiced concerns about the possibility of some of their rivals treating horses on or close to race day, including the stomach-tubing of horses and the administration of alkalising agents that effectively enhance performance.
Trainers have been allowed to stomach-tube (drench) horses up to 24 hours before a race and administer alkalising agents up to midnight on the day of racing. Under new rules to be introduced early in 2013, that deadline will be put back to one clear day before race day for both procedures.
So a horse running at 3pm on a Saturday will not be able to be treated from midnight on Thursday.
Steward Brian Stewart said some trainers were ''pushing the envelope, even though they may not be outside the rules as they stand''. But he pledged tough treatment for anyone caught breaking the new rules.
''Administration cases will warrant a disqualification. There is a proportion of trainers who will push the envelope, so we are going to make it as difficult as possible,'' he said.
RVL will also review the introduction of minimum penalties for serious offences, although Duffy said this was a complex and lengthy procedure.
The Victorian body's position will be resolved in time for the Australian Racing Board meeting in January, which will feature a vote on national penalty reforms.