Two of Victoria’s highest profile trainers have been found guilty of racing horses with elevated levels of the performance-enhancing substance cobalt.
Flemington-based trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien now face three-year suspensions and will make submissions on their penalties in the new year.
O’Brien said he would appeal against the decision to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
“When we do get to VCAT we’ll have the power of subpoena,” he said.
“We’ll also have to the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. We look forward to cross-examining Mr Bailey (Chief Steward Terry Bailey).
“There have been some real issues raised in our case and in Peter Moody’s. The silence on those issues has been deafening from RVL.”
Kavanagh and O’Brien are two of the biggest names in racing.
Both men have trained Cox Plate winners; Kavanagh with Maldivian in 2008 and O’Brien with Shamus Award in 2013.
O’Brien also won a Caulfield Cup in 2007 with Master O’Reilly.
The Kavanagh-trained Shocking won the 2009 Melbourne Cup.
Cobalt likened to EPO
Kavanagh was charged after his horse Magicool returned an elevated cobalt reading after winning the UCI Stakes at Flemington in October last year.
O’Brien was charged after four of his horses, Caravan Rolls On, Bondeiger, De Little Engine and Bullpit, also recorded above-legal cobalt limits in November and December last year.
Tom Brennan is the vet who provided cobalt to Kavanagh and O’Brien.
He has been found guilty by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board of administering cobalt to five horses.
Cobalt has been likened to the performance enhancing drug EPO because it can increase the number of red blood cells helping to improve a horse’s endurance.
Racing officials became concerned about the worldwide use of cobalt in 2013.
Last year Racing Victoria established a threshold for cobalt at 200 micrograms per litre of urine and began testing for the performance-enhancing substance.
Kavanagh and O’Brien faced multiple charges in relation to each horse, with all charges carrying a maximum penalty of three years.
They both pleaded not guilty.
Racing commentator Max Presnell told ABC News Radio the finding was “a bloody terrible look” for horse racing.
“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,” Mr Presnell said.
“It’s integrity gone berserk. It puts racing in a very poor light at a time when it needs all the help it can get.”
The famous trainer of undefeated sprinter Black Caviar, Peter Moody, is also facing cobalt-related charges.
His case has been adjourned until February.
Two other trainers, Lee and Shannon Hope, were found guilty of administering cobalt to their horses in November.
Lee Hope was banned for three years while his son Shannon was banned for five years.