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Danny O’Brien (left) and Mark Kavanagh. 

Racing Victoria has been accused of a “cover up” as revelations emerge it plans to retest for cobalt levels in horses trained by Mark Kavanagh, Danny O’Brien, Lee and Shannon Hope. can exclusively reveal that last Friday, lawyers for RV sent formal notification to legal representatives for Kavanagh, O’Brien and the Hopes that said re-testing would be conducted on the samples of their horses for cobalt.

Kavanagh, O’Brien, Lee and Shannon Hope were all disqualified by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board for periods varying from three to five years after their horses tested positive to prohibited levels of cobalt in 2014. All four are challenging the finding at the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Paul Matters, an advocate for the Hopes, said RV had “covered up” the fact that laboratories where samples were initially sent – ChemCentre and Hong Kong Jockey Club laboratory – had not been accredited to test for cobalt, and this information was not provided to the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board where his clients and Kavanagh and O’Brien were prosecuted.

“We know there were senior people in RV who were aware of the problem with the testing way back in 2014,” Matters said.

“They (RV) were informed of that by Dr Terry Wan, the director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club racing laboratory. We know that because Dr Wan said that in his evidence.

“There has been a completely inappropriate submission of evidence, which is the original problem, but there is a cover up too. We are not going to give up on this and finally there is going to be some justice.”


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RV sent an email to Racing Analytical Services Laboratory on May 12 this year requesting the samples be re-tested. A further email from RV was sent to RASL on May 26, again asking for the re-testing to proceed.

What is Cobalt? Here’s everything you need to know

Matters said the revelation that RV asked for the samples to be re-tested is tantamount to acknowledgement that the laboratories were not accredited, and effectively implodes the cases against Kavanagh, O’Brien and his clients.

Matters said the email from Dr Wan is “really critical, as he says we didn’t have accreditation at the time”

RV, in documents seen by, says in light of the concern expressed by Kavanagh, O’Brien, and the Hopes about the laboratories not being accredited, it has requested the Racing Analytical Services Laboratory “undertake further analysis of the relevant samples in accordance with its current accreditation to test for for cobalt in equine urine.”

Matters said the evidence from Dr Wan, the director of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Racing Laboratory is that the laboratory was not accredited to test for cobalt in equine urine until after June 3, 2015.

Matters said the reason RV is asking to have the samples re-tested is that “they know that the original tests are inadmissible or if they were admitted they would have no scientific weight. There is no forensic credibility in those results.

“It creates an enormous problem for RV in the sense that the testing of the cobalt is the bedrock of the whole case,” Matters said. “Without an accreditation for the laboratory to do the test, they don’t have any evidence.

“The second point is it appears that people within RV were aware of that. The trainers were prosecuted and went before the RAD Board, but the RAD Board was not informed of the problem.

“We have been vindicated in a very important way by the announcement that RV now intends to try to re-test frozen urine samples from these horses. We say they would not be doing the re-testing unless what we have been saying – that the laboratories were not accredited at the time – has been correct.

“Those tests they relied upon do not have any evidentiary value.”

Matters said there is a view among some international laboratories that urine is unstable for testing for cobalt after being refrigerated for 12 months.

Samples from horses trained by Kavanagh, O’Brien and the Hopes were taken from between July 2014 and December 2014. Matters noted the urine from the aforementioned horses have been frozen now for a minimum of 18 months.

“We are going to challenge the attempt to re-test,” said Matters, who described the cobalt saga as a “shambles”, as the evidence present was “inadmissible”.

“Now, almost two years after the event there is an attempt to re-test,” Matters said.

Matters urged RV to abandon the proceedings before the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal, given the revelations.

“For the appeals to go ahead with the continuation of the bleeding of costs is totally irresponsible.”

The VCAT hearing is listed for August 1.