The careers of trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh, and vet Dr Tom Brennan, are in jeopardy after the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board handed down disqualification penalties on Wednesday.
O’Brien has been disqualified for four years, Kavanagh for three years and vet Brennan for five, though O’Brien and Kavanagh say they will lodge appeals with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT), enabling them to continue to train under a stay and ensuring the long-running cobalt saga still has a way to play out.
Both trainers emerged from the hearing room at Racing Victoria and spokesman O’Brien said they were unimpressed by RVL’s handling of the case.
“We are really pleased to get this part of the process behind us, obviously it has been a long 12 months and certainly some of the processes have been less than satisfactory,” he said.
“We’re on our way to VCAT to get a stay of proceedings, pending an appeal date.”
Dr Brennan left the hearing without making a comment.
David Moodie, the head of Racing Victoria, came out in full support of hisintegrity department, saying that he respected the verdict of the RAD Board.
“The integrity department headed by Terry Bailey, Dayle Brown and Brian Stewart have the full support and backing of RVL,” he said.
Moodie added that despite contrary reports, chief steward, Terry Bailey was on leave and would recommence work on the first of February.
Moodie was supported by his CEO, Bernard Saundry, who said “Racing Victoria is fully committed to enforcing the rules of racing and protecting the integrity of the sport”.
“As the parties to the hearings have a right to appeal, it would be inappropriate for Racing Victoria to comment any further.”
Kavanagh, O’Brien and Brennan had all been found guilty in December 2015 of administering cobalt to affect the performance of a horse in a race – the most serious drug charge in horse racing.
Disqualification means that a person cannot go onto a racecourse or associate with other licensed people including owners, trainers and jockeys, meaning the careers of these three individuals are effectively over if their appeals fail.
News of the VCAT appeal was not a surprise, as O’Brien publicly flagged an appeal after he was found guilty.
Given the mandatory three-year minimum disqualification for a cobalt doping conviction, an appeal was always likely.
However, the RAD board – comprised of legal figures and headed by Judge Russell Lewis, a former county court judge – was clinical in delivering the guilty findings and the resultant penalties.
The board said that after considering submissions, the following penalties would be appropriate.
“In relation to each of the horses trained by him, Danny O’Brien is disqualified for a period of three years, an aggregate of 12 years. Four months of the penalties imposed in relation to Bondeiger, De Little Engine and Bullpit are to be served cumulatively upon the penalty imposed in relation to Caravan Rolls On [three years] and upon each other. A total of four years disqualification.”
Kavanagh received three years on one charge, that of presenting his horse Magicool.
The board found trainers O’Brien and Kavanagh and vet Brennan guilty of doping to affect race performance, effectively saying that there is no room for that type of behaviour in racing.