Flemington-based trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O'Brien have been found guilty of racing horses with elevated levels of Cobalt. The Flemington-based trainers would now face suspensions of three years and asked to make submissions on their penalties in the New Year.
Danny O'Brien remarked he would soon make an appeal against the decision to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). O'Brien added we'll have the power of subpoena when we do get to VCAT and also added that we will have the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. We look forward to cross-examining Chief Steward Terry Bailey. The horse trainer also remarked there have been some real issues raised in our case and in Peter Moody's and the silence on those issues has been deafening from Racing Victoria.
O'Brien and Kavanagh are two of the biggest names in horse racing and have trained Cox Plate winners; Kavanagh with Maldivian in 2008 and O'Brien with Shamus Award in 2013. In October last year, Kavanagh was charged after his horse Magicool returned an elevated cobalt reading after conquering he UCI Stakes at Flemington. O'Brien was charged after four of his horses, Caravan Rolls On, Bondeiger, De Little Engine and Bullpit, recorded above-legal limits of cobalt in November and December last year. Both trainers faced multiple charges in relation to each horse and all charges carrying a maximum penalty of three years. Both trainers pleaded not guilty.
Tom Brennan is the veterinarian who provided cobalt to Kavanagh and O'Brien. Brennan has been found guilty by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board of administering cobalt to five horses.
Cobalt offers almost the same benefits as Erythropoietin (EPO), the banned blood boosting drug. It has the ability to stimulate an increase in the count of red blood cells to improve the endurance of a horse.
Racing commentator Max Presnell commented that the suspensions were a "a bloody terrible look" for horse racing. Presnell added this could well mean, if the stewards make the case stick, that this will end the career of these trainers - and they are high profile. The Racing commentator went on to addd that this is integrity gone berserk and it puts racing in a very poor light at a time when it needs all the help it can get.
Last year, a threshold for cobalt at 200 micrograms per liter of urine and began testing for the performance-enhancing substance was established by Racing Victoria.
In November, horse trainers Lee and Shannon Hope were banned for administering excess levels of cobalt to three horses last year. Shannon was banned for five years while his father was banned for three years after it was found that the pair was found guilty of administering the banned substance for the purpose of affecting races, by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board in Melbourne. The father-son duo were charged after three of their horses, Windy Citi Bear, Best Suggestion and Choose, returned readings of cobalt over the legal limit. The board heard three of the Hopes' horses returned readings of 510 micrograms, 440 micrograms and 290 micrograms last year.