By: Matt Stewart
DE Little Engine’s owner Jeff Dimery will consider legal action against Racing Victoria if officials cannot explain why his horse was allowed to race after testing positive to cobalt.
Dimery, owner of Uluru Stud, said he was “disturbed’’ to learn RV’s lab arm Racing Integrity Services Limited had been informed on December 4 that his horse returned a positive test to cobalt.
Dimery on Monday left a message for RV chief executive Bernard Saundry to contact him regarding the issue.
“I want to understand what’s happened here. Then I’ll decide whether to call my lawyer,’’ he said.
The positive reading came from De Little Engine’s win at Ballarat on November 22 last year. He went on to win at Sandown on December 6 and Flemington on December 20, before running third in the Bagot Handicap at Flemington on New Year’s Day.
Stewards are required to inform trainers immediately they learn of a positive screen test, to protect punters, owners and bookmakers from the possibility a horse might compete while affected by an illegal drug.
At the time of De Little Engine’s winning streak authorities believed cobalt was performance enhancing and a health risk to the horse.
De Little Engine wasn’t drug tested after the Sandown and Flemington wins because he was too dehydrated to urinate.
Dimery said that if stewards had followed due process regarding informing trainers of cobalt positives “we wouldn’t be in this mess”.
O’Brien said that he been made aware of those positives he would never have run De Little Engine at Ballarat two days later — or Bullpit in December, who also tested positive — because he would have worked out the “vitamin’’ drips were the likely source.
Dimery said he and his stud farm had been damaged by the cobalt saga.
“Every time there’s a story on it seems to be our horse and our colours on the back page,’’ he said.
“Bad publicity like this is very damaging. Most in the racing industry know our colours and they are seen by many as being associated with alleged cheating.’’
Dimery said it seemed stewards had chosen an “ends justifies the means’’ strategy of eradicating cobalt from the racing industry.
He said he contacted chief steward Terry Bailey soon after he learned of O’Brien’s positive cobalt tests on January 14. “I asked him what was going on, whether there was anything I needed to know about and I’ve not heard from him since.’’
Racing Victoria was aware of six positive drug tests to cobalt when its chief steward Terry Bailey declared the 2014 spring carnival drug free and the “best’’ in a decade.