WHAT DO YOU THINK? SCROLL TO BELOW THIS STORY TO POST A COMMENT.
A JUMPS-race protester was arrested for refusing to stop filming a steeplechase race that involved a heavy fall at Sandown racecourse yesterday.
Elio Celotto, a campaign manager with Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses, had recorded Regal Heir and Half Moon Rising falling during the $100,000 Crisp Steeplechase.
Half Moon Rising had ploughed head-first into the Sandown turf after stumbling on one of the final hurdles, but survived.
Mr Celotto told the Weekly this morning that of the eight starters, only two horses finished the race.
He said he would seek legal advice over what he regarded as a wrongful arrest as part of a crackdown on his protest group.
For several years the group has been a fixture at Victorian jumps racing events, including yesterday’s annual Grand National Hurdle day at Sandown.
It has staged demonstrations, including a mock funeral protest, filmed race falls and held placards at various jumps meets, calling for a ban on jumps races.
Mr Celotto said he was told by police and track officials he was trespassing as he filmed from the top of his van in a car park ‘‘which is never used’’ outside the course.
‘‘I’ve been there more than 20 times before to film the track’s second-last jump.’’
He said he was told he was in breach of the track operator Melbourne Racing Club’s rules.
‘‘I think the racing club told the police to give us a hard time. It’s just an attempt to discourage us in the future and to pull me away from filming the second [jumps] race [of the day].
‘‘I will probably be back there. We’ve got a large pool of people prepared to help us.
‘‘It demonstrates how dangerous jumps racing is if they don’t want people to see the truth of it.’’
He demanded proof that the racecourse had ownership of the car park — a space he regarded as ‘‘arguably public land’’.
He said he was shown a council plan but wanted to see a deed of title that showed the land was privately owned. In the meantime, he continued filming the races.
Mr Celotto said he was locked in a Springvale police station cell for about 20 minutes and was let go without charge.
During this time, protesters moved their demonstration from Sandown to outside the station.
Acting Sergeant Hafiz Mayar, of Springvale police, said Mr Celotto could yet be charged with trespass, contravening a direction to ‘move on’ and failing to comply with a lawful direction by police to move his van.
Acting Sergeant Mayar said Mr Celotto had been filming on racecourse property and refused to come down when he was asked.
‘‘Police officers had to negotiate with him for 40 minutes because he refused to get down.
‘‘He was taken to the station and kept there so we could identify him. He was in and out of there immediately.’’
Five officers were posted at the racecourse yesterday, and had laid no further charges at what was a ‘‘very peaceful’’ protest, Acting Sergeant Mayar said.
Jake Norton, a spokesman for Melbourne Racing Club, said Mr Celotto was within the club’s premises — a disused area near the track’s perimeter.
Asked if the club had decided to take a stand against protesters yesterday, he said ‘‘it was the police, not simply the racing club, that were involved’’.
‘‘He wasn’t in the car park. He had ducked down a road and parked in an area alongside the track — you can’t get there when the premises is closed.
‘‘Thankfully it was a couple of impressive winners that managed to overshadow a fairly vocal demonstration outside the course earlier in the day.’’
Mr Norton said no horses or jockeys were injured during the day’s jumps events.