Racing NSW Stewards disqualified Sam Kavanagh on Monday for nine years and three-months and fined him $3,000 after being found guilty of 23 charges relating to the use of cobalt and race day treatments.
Kavanagh had been one of the most promising young trainers in Australia, stepping-out from the shadows of his Melbourne Cup-winning father Mark.
His training career began managing the Adelaide stables for his father after travelling to England in 2006 to work as an assistant to legendary trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam, but at just 25-years-old he branched out on his own.
In 2012 he set up his own stable at Morphettville with fiancé Kelly. His first runner was Bagman, who would also provide Kavanagh with his first feature win in the Matrice Stakes.
“We want to be a boutique stable, be really hands-on with our clients and offer something new,” Kavanagh said at the time, with just seven horses and no employed staff.
His first full season of training in 2012/13 proved fruitful, with 18 winners at a healthy strike rate of 20 per cent.
At the end of the season Kavanagh made the big decision to try and establish himself in Sydney, moving to his new base at Rosehill. After a tough start in Sydney, which Kavanagh said had left him wondering how he would survive in the game, it looked as the gamble of making the move was paying off for the young trainer.
When Midsummer Sun made it back-to-back wins in the Listed Gosford Cup on January 9 this year, the stable was in the middle of a hot-streak, but the reason behind the spate of victories would soon be uncovered.
On March 10 Kavanagh broke the news to the media before it was released by Racing NSW stewards that the Gosford Cup winner had tested positive to cobalt and caffeine.
“This has been a very tough time for me and my young family, but I intend to fully co-operate with stewards and hope for a speedy resolution to this matter “
Things quickly unravelled for Kavanagh however and he was stood down from training in May after a preliminary stewards’ investigation found that along with Midsummer Sun, two other stablemates had also received race-day treatment.
By the end of a lengthy investigation and the hearing into the findings, he was found guilty of 23 charges relating to the use of cobalt and race day treatments.
The investigation and Kavanagh’s admissions would also prove to be explosive, uncovering a trail to former harness racing identity, but more significantly to the Flemington Equine Clinic, which would have ramifications for cobalt cases in Victoria, of which his father Mark was implicated in.
After initial denials, veterinarian and co-owner of the Flemington Equine Clinic Dr Tom Brennan admitted that he supplied Kavanagh with bottles of ‘Vitamin Complex’ which contained cobalt.
Along with charges by Racing NSW, Brennan has also been charged by Racing Victoria. He had been employed by the stables of Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh to provide veterinary services to their respective stables.
Sam Kavanagh told the inquiry that he went outside the rules of racing to end a frustrating run second placings by his horses
Whether it was the pressure of preparing winners or just greed, the decision has put a halt to Kavanagh’s training career just three years after it began so encouragingly.
With the penalty backdated to May 20th when Kavanagh’s licence was suspended, the disqualification will expire on August 20 2024.