Harness racing driver Bennett acted 'through his trainers'

When the boss of harness racing called in a corrupt steward to confront him about race fixing, his employee allegedly told him: ''It's not like somebody's died.''

Harness Racing NSW chief executive Sam Nati also alleges the steward, Matthew Bentley, ''basically asked me, 'Why? Did you want to be in on it?' ''

Mr Nati was giving evidence on Wednesday at the trial of the leading harness driver Greg Bennett, who has pleaded not guilty to six counts of giving or offering a bribe.

Days before Mr Nati's encounter with Mr Bentley on August 8, 2011, someone firebombed the car of the then chairman of stewards, Bill Cable, who had been investigating corruption in the industry.

Mr Cable told the trial he had been investigating complaints about Mr Bentley and another corrupt steward, Paul O'Toole, and he had their phone records among other documents in the boot of his car when it burst into flames with ''a loud boom'' 10 metres from his bedroom about 11.30pm.

A murky underworld of horse doping and crooked officials are providing the backdrop for this case at Downing Centre courts.

But Mr Bennett's barrister, Charles Waterstreet, attempted to demonstrate that his client's name was not among a long roll call of allegedly corrupt figures mentioned by Mr Bentley and Mr O'Toole on that August 8, two years ago - the day both stewards were called in and, during separate meetings, told they could resign or be sacked.

Mr Nati agreed that Mr Bentley had described harness racing trainers as ''desperate'' and ''scum'' during that meeting. He also agreed with Mr Waterstreet that Mr Bentley had said Mr Bennett acted ''through his trainers''.

Also at those meetings was Reid Sanders, who had only started work on August 1, 2011, as HRNSW's new regulatory manager. ''An introduction to hell,'' Mr Waterstreet suggested.

Now the head of integrity and chairman of stewards, Mr Sanders described Greg Bennett as a ''very famous'' harness racing driver and as being ''akin'' to the star thoroughbred jockey Damien Oliver.

He confirmed the names of industry figures - identified in court only by their initials - who Mr Bentley and Mr O'Toole had named as corrupt. Mr Sanders agreed the pair had not mentioned Mr Bennett. Mr Cable also said an unnamed informant had not named Mr Bennett.

Mr Sanders said he asked Mr Bentley about the motive for his corruption. Was it for money or drugs? Mr Bentley had replied: ''None of those. I wear Armani suits. I've inherited $1.8 million. It's not about money.''

But Mr Nati said that Mr Bentley had said Mr Bennett was involved in corruption for trainers for whom he worked. ''Horses were allowed to compete, knowing they wouldn't be drug-tested,'' Mr Nati said.

An expert witness, Racing Victoria's head veterinarian Brian Stewart, explained how ''drenching'' before a race gave horses more stamina. This typically involved feeding them - via a tube through the noses to their stomachs - a ''milkshake'' of sodium bicarbonate, icing sugar and water.

The trial continues.

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