By: Michael Lynch & Simone Fox Koob
Besieged trainer Darren Weir is facing a four-year disqualification and will not contest the charges against him after a marathon hearing on Monday night.
The show-cause hearing involving Weir and his Warrnambool foreman Jarrod McLean continued for more than 10 hours at Racing Victoria headquarters on Monday as both men and their lawyers argued their case as to why they should be able to keep training in the immediate future.
The duo arrived just after 1.30pm on Monday for what turned out to be a marathon session at Racing Victoria’s Epsom road base.
Racing Victoria issued a statement just after 1.15am to say the hearings had concluded and that Weir would not contest the three charges against him, including the charges relating to the use of “jiggers”, electronic devices to deliver an electronic shock to affect the performance of a horse.
Nor will he fight against the charge issued against him for conduct prejudicial to the image, interests or welfare of racing.
Stewards have asked Racing Victoria’s disciplinary board to determine the charges laid against Weir as soon as possible.
They will seek disqualification for Weir for a period of four years “given the severity of the charges”.
“Mr Weir was informed that this was the stewards’ position before he determined not to contest the charges,” a Racing Victoria statement said.
The plea means that Weir has effectively decided that this was a ban he was ready to accept rather than fight on in the hope of receiving a lesser penalty. He is subject to a set of conditions until the charges are determined.
He will not be permitted to nominate horses for any races or official trials. Any horses trained by him that have accepted to race will be withdrawn by order of the stewards. He will not be permitted to accept with any horses that he has nominated.
Any horse currently nominated for a race, but not accepted, must be transferred from Weir’s stable to another trainer with the approval of the stewards prior to acceptance time should the owners wish it to compete in the nominated race.
Weir must divest himself of any registered ownership interest in a registered horse, prior to that horse being permitted to accept for any race.
Several of the high-profile horses in the Weir yard that already have entries for major races during the autumn carnival have already been shifted to other stables and will therefore be able to contest races like Saturday’s group 1 Orr Stakes at Caulfield, the first group 1 contest of the year in Australia.
McLean, who is also a group 1-winning trainer with the team he operates independently of Weir, will continue fighting the charge against him of possession of an electric or electronic apparatus capable of affecting the performance of a horse and the charge of conduct prejudicial to the image, interests or welfare of racing.
A set of “significant conditions” have been imposed on McLean’s operations until the charges are finalised by the board, including a ban on receiving any horses to train that were in the care of Weir before January 30.
He will, however, be allowed to nominate and accept horses for races and official trials.
Charges against Tyson Kermond of failing to assist stewards will not be pursued.
Racing Victoria’s integrity chief Jamie Stier said the investigation was ongoing and stewards reserved the right to act if any new evidence comes to light.
“Darren Weir is facing serious charges of possessing three electrical apparatus and conduct prejudicial to the interests or image of racing. He has advised the stewards that he will not contest those charges which have drawn considerable negative publicity to the sport,” he said.
“To that end, stewards have requested that the [Racing Appeals and Disciplinary] Board expedite the hearing of Mr Weir’s charges at which point they will be seeking a four-year disqualification.
“Until such time as the RAD Board convenes to hear and determine Mr Weir’s charges, the stewards have imposed strict conditions on his licence that ensure he is not permitted to enter or race any horses as a trainer or owner.
Monday’s hearing was held before a panel of three, headed by chief steward Robert Cram along with deputy chairman of the stewards panel Rob Montgomery and Corie Waller, a senior steward.
The trainers were being represented by lawyers Patrick Wheelahan and Tony Hannebery.
During the procedure the duo was asked to argue why they should continue to be allowed to enter and run horses pending the outcome of the hearing, which began last Friday via telephone hook-up.
Three of the six charges laid at Weir’s door last week related to the use of “jiggers”, electronic devices to deliver an electronic shock to affect the performance of a horse.
Weir was sensationally arrested in a swoop by police at his Ballarat stables last Wednesday, but was later released without charge.
The jiggers, an unlicensed firearm and a small quantity of cocaine were found at the premises.