NZ trainer busted for tubing and administering the deadly drug formalin

Sam Sherwood, reporting for STUFF, writes:

Details of a secret sting that caught disgraced harness racing trainer Jesse Alford injecting two horses with a prohibited substance have emerged at a hearing where integrity officials called for him to be banned from the sport for nine years.

On February 25 they caught him red-handed as he injected two horses, Johnny Nevits and Jimmy Cannon, with a substance, and attempted to tube one of them, two hours before they were due to race at the NZ Metropolitan Trotting Club meet at Addington Raceway.

According to the summary of facts, Alford injected Jimmy Cannon in the neck using a syringe filled with 10 millilitres of formalin, which contains about 10 per cent formaldehyde, while another person, whose name is suppressed, held the horse by [his] head collar.

Jimmy Cannon had eight podium finishes in 36 starts. The horse has since been put down.

Alford then tried to tube Johnny Nevits using a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and water – commonly known in the industry as a milkshake. However, the procedure was abandoned after the horse became “fractious” and the person assisting Alford said they didn’t feel comfortable.

Alford then injected Johnny Nevits with formalin. More on this story at »


Tubing (also called stomach tubing) is an illegal process that involves feeding a tube through a horse’s nose and down their throat and down into the stomach, and then pumping in a concentrated solution of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in water. It can be fatal if the tube is mistakenly inserted into the trachea and the solution is pumped into the lungs. This process is used to delay fatigue when racing.

It can be stressful to the horse, and potential side-effects include lacerations to the nasal cavity, throat and oesophagus, gastrointestinal upset, and diarrhoea. It can even be fatal if the tube is mistakenly inserted into the trachea and the solution is pumped into the lungs.

It’s little wonder Racing Australia has banned the use of “alkalising agents” such as milkshakes on race day, with potentially career-ending ramifications for trainers caught doing it, states The Conversation.


The administering of formalin is banned as it can affect a horse’s cardiovascular system. There’s more.

Regarding formalin, Jane Allin states:

“That’s formaldehyde gas dissolved in water. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, and formalin is used as an industrial disinfectant and as a preservative in embalming. It can kill you. Why would anyone use this on a horse?”

The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission states:

“The Commission has intelligence that enquiries have been made about the use of the chemical [formalin] to stop bleeding from the lung in racehorses or exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage (EIPH). It is also a potent carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).”

Fund for Horses Logo

Related Reading: “Put the baking soda back in the bottle: banned sodium bicarbonate ‘milkshakes’ don’t make racehorses faster,” THE CONVERSATION, Nov. 2020

Featured Image: Jesse Alford who tubed and injected racehorses he trained with formalin, a banned substance. CHRIS SKELTON/STUFF.

4 thoughts on “NZ trainer busted for tubing and administering the deadly drug formalin”

  1. “Why would anyone use this on a horse.” Look beyond competition motives to insurance motive. It is very possible that a horse that underperforming might have to die by design in order to collect insurance on – either mortality insurance or loss of use. I don’t know what the regs are in NZ about equine insurance but in the US one can insure competition or breeding horses for loss of use as well as mortality. Depending upon how an equine insurance policy is written, and the underwriting requirements of the insurer, if a vet euthanizes a horse in an emergency situation – such as irrecoverable colic or catastrophic injury – insurance adjusters often take the vet’s word for the euthanasia as necessary, not “convenient,” and pay out without investigating further, unless, of course, the authorities have become involved. Then the crime ramps up to potential insurance fraud.


  2. And just the other day here in Australia, the trainer Ms Kim Waugh was charged with animal cruelty.


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