VIA: ADRIAN DUNN – @adriandunn2


MARK KAVANAGH and Danny O’Brien today both pleaded not guilty to all four cobalt charges brought against them by Racing Victoria stewards as the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board hearing began.

Veterinarian Dr Tom Brennan also pleaded not guilty to two charges and reserved his plea on a further two charges.

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The RAD Board, chaired by Judge Russell Lewis, heard from Jeff Gleeson QC, for Racing Victoria, that all the horses—Magicool, trained by Kavanagh, and four by O’Brien, Bondeiger, Bullpit, Caravan Rolls On and De Little Engine—had received an IV drip that contained 102.5 milligrams of cobalt.

Gleeson told the RAD Board that there had been “no study in the world” in which half that amount of cobalt had been administered to a horse. Gleeson said the threshold level set by Racing Victoria—200 micrograms per litre of urine—had been achieved (and exceeded) by the administration via the IV drips.

A milligram equals 1000 times a microgram, but the difference between input and output through the urine sample is due to the horse’s metabolism acting on the administered amount. “The last of the drips were given on the Thursday, and that’s why a large amount of cobalt would have washed out of the system.”

Gleeson said that Kavanagh and O’Brien and RV stewards had agreed on 22 statement of facts while Dr Brennan had agreed on 21.

“The real battleground deals with the proposition that the trainers and (Dr) Brennan say they didn’t know that the drips administered contained this significant amount of cobalt,” Gleeson said.

“The drips were prepared and administered by (Dr) Brennan or an assistant of Brennan. It was not a commercially available product and didn’t contain any product information. Brennan says he admits the drip contained a vitamin complex.

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“He says he can’t be sure or the stewards can’t prove that the cobalt in the drips caused the level. It leaves open the possibility that the trainers not only used the drip, but they also gave additional cobalt close to race day.”

Gleeson said the issue the stewards had with Kavanagh and O’Brien is did they “know, believe or suspect” the content of the drip being administered by Dr Brennan to their horses and did they cause or administer to each horse the cobalt for the purpose of affecting the performance of the horse in each race.

He said the evidence of Kavanagh and O’Brien had continually evolved and had “changed so many times it had become embarrassing. They are clinging valiantly to driftwood to keep them afloat.”

Gleeson said Dr Brennan had “discharged the driftwood” in really forthright evidence to RV stewards in July this year that came at a cost to him both personally and professionally.”

“The one thing of his story that he doesn’t change is that he didn’t know that cobalt was in the vitamin complex bottle”.

Damian Sheales, appearing for both Kavanagh and O’Brien, asked the RAD Board to provide him access to the bank and betting statements of Dr Brennan and another veterinarian Dr Adam Matthews. RV stewards have access to the information.


Sheales said both accounts, particularly the betting accounts, would prove insightful to whether Dr Brennan had backed the horses involved in the cobalt case.

Kavanagh’s charges relate to a post-race urine sample taken from his horse Magicool after it won the Listed UCI Stakes (1800 m) at Flemington on October 4, 2014.

The West Australian analytical laboratory, ChemCentre reported a cobalt level of 640 micrograms per litre of urine (with a 64 microgram measurement of uncertainty) with the Hong Kong Jockey Club Racing Laboratory reporting a level of 670.

Four horses trained by O’Brien—Caravan Rolls On, Bondeiger, De Little Engine and Bullpit—returned cobalt readings above the threshold.

Caravan Rolls recorded in a pre-race urine sample, before it ran eighth behind Signoff in the G3 Lexus Stakes (2500 m) at Flemington on November 1, 2014, a cobalt reading which ChemCentre detected at 350 micrograms (with a 35 microgram measurement of uncertainty) with the HKJCRL detecting a level of 380.

Bondeiger, in a pre-race urine sample, posted his cobalt reading after finishing second behind Preferment in the G1 Victoria Derby (2500 m) at Flemington on November 1, 2014. ChemCentre detected a cobalt reading of 330 micrograms per litre of urine (with a 33 microgram measurement of uncertainty) while the HKJCRL recorded a reading of 370.

De Little Engine, in a post-race urine sample after its win in a Benchmark 70 Handicap (2300 m) at Ballarat on November 22, 2014, returned an elevated cobalt reading. ChemCentre determined the cobalt level to be 550 (with a 55 microgram measurement of uncertainty) while the HKJCRL registered a reading of 580.

Bullpit, in a post-race urine sample after it won a BM70 Handicap (955 m) at Moonee Valley on December 19, 2014, returned a cobalt level detected by ChemCentre at 300 micrograms per litre of urine (with a 20 microgram measurement of uncertainty) while the HKJCRL registered a reading of 320.


The hearing continues.