By: Matt Stewart
PETER Moody’s biggest owners remain staunch, saying they will not prematurely abandon the trainer as he faces cobalt charges that could ruin his career.
Moody said on Friday he had expected to be charged with presentation but not administration of a prohibited substance, regarding Lidari’s positive drug test to cobalt.
“To be charged with administration is extremely disappointing,’’ a devastated Moody said.
“Presentation, of course, because there is no doubt that for whatever reason I can’t explain how the horse tested over the threshold but administration is very disappointing and now it’s in the hands of the lawyers.’’
Sources close to Moody say he faces an “impossible’’ dilemma; fighting the charges could ruin him in legal fees and not fighting them would “make the world think he’d cheated’’.
Moody, a four-time Melbourne premiership winner and trainer of the legendary Black Caviar, will consult with his family before determining his course of action.
He faces up to three years disqualification — which would almost certainly prompt him to walk away from the sport — if found guilty of administering illegal levels of cobalt to Lidari before it ran second in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington last spring.
But Moody and fellow trainers Mark Kavanagh, Danny O’Brien and Lee and Shannon Hope would face a far lesser penalty, maybe even a fine, if found guilty of presentation.
One of Moody’s biggest owners, Racing Victoria chairman David Moodie, insisted he was not conflicted as industry “boss’’ and major supporter of Victoria’s most famous trainer.
Moody’s case will be heard before the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board at a date to be fixed.
It is likely the Hopes, O’Brien and Kavanagh hearings will come first and it is appearing increasingly likely they will coincide with the spring racing carnival.
Moodie races dozens of horses with Moody, including Moody’s most recent Group 1 winner, The Goodwood Handicap winner Flamberge.
“There is presumed innocence in all such cases and Peter must now face an inquiry,’’ Moodie said, adding he was “very comfortable’’ he did not face any conflict of interest, a view supported by RV’s integrity team.
Simon O’Donnell, whose OTI syndicate races Lidari, said OTI “would let the process run its course’’ before making any decision about OTI’s ongoing relationship with the trainer.
“There are obviously very serious charges and the whole thing is very new to us and to the industry,” O’Donnell said. “We’re learning more about cobalt all the time. We just have to sit back and see what happens.’’
RV chief steward Terry Bailey and colleague Dion Villella visited Moody at his Caulfield stables early on Friday to inform him he faced three charges relating to Lidari’s positive test to cobalt.
Bailey said Moody accepted the charges “in a professional manner’’ and said Moody’s explanation for the illegal level was tested by stewards and “don’t explain those levels’’.
“As I’ve said all along, all these cases have their own stories and Mr Moody had given us an explanation as to what may have caused it and we did some trials and tests on that substance that was being used and it just took longer than the others to complete,’’ Bailey said.
“He was using a powder that contained some cobalt for treatment for a horse’s hoofs, that trial test has been done and those results don’t explain these levels.”
Bailey said he believed there were only two possible explanations for illegal cobalt levels.
“The scenarios are either they’ve received large doses prior to raceday or received raceday treatment. That’s about where we’re at,” he said.
Bailey said the first step towards charges being heard by the RAD board would be directions hearings and he said he did not know when they would take place.
The concentration of cobalt detected in Lidari’s urine sample was 380 micrograms per litre after ran second in the Group 1 Turnbull Stakes at Flemington back in October — well in excess of the 200 microgram per litre threshold.
O’Brien (16 counts), Kavanagh (four) and Lee and Shannon Hope (nine) were charged last month with breaching the rules of racing after eight horses in their stables returned illegally high cobalt readings.
Moody has always claimed throughout the investigation that he has done “nothing untowards” and always took his horses to the races expecting to compete on a level playing field.
Moody has more than 250 horses on his books and works more than 100 horses a day from his Caulfield stables.
1. AR 175(h)(i) — that Moody administered, or caused to be administered, the prohibited substance cobalt for the purpose of affecting the performance of Lidari in the race;
2. AR 175(h)(ii) — that Moody administered, or caused to be administered, the prohibited substance cobalt which was detected in a sample taken from Lidari prior to or following its race;
3. AR 178 — that Moody brought Lidari to race with the prohibited substance cobalt in its system.
April 14, 2014: Cobalt threshold of 200 micrograms/litre of urine introduced in Victoria.
December 5, 2014: Trainers Lee and Shannon Hope told by stewards they have cobalt positive swabs from two horses. Then a third on January 8.
December 17, 2014: An Australia-wide 200 microgram threshold is introduced by the Australian Racing Board, in keeping with Victoria. Rule comes into effect January 1, 2015.
January 13, 2015: Peter Moody confirms Lidari returned illegal cobalt levels from his second placing in the Turnbull Stakes at Flemington the previous spring. The next day Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien reveal they also have illegal readings.
January 30, 2015: It is revealed there are nine retrospective cobalt positives in Queensland.
March 10, 2015: Mark Kavanagh’s son, Sam, told by stewards Mid Summer Sun tested positive to cobalt and caffeine.
June 2, 2015: In Queensland, trainer Glen Baker handed a two-year disqualification over a cobalt positive.
June 11, 2015: O’Brien, Mark Kavanagh and Flemington Equine head vet Tom Brennan issued with a total of 29 cobalt charges.
July 10, 2015: Peter Moody issued with three cobalt charges.
BOLT FROM THE BLUE
Cobalt — the mineral nutrient that has rocked Victorian racing.
What is cobalt?
A heavy metal salt, essential in the body to make red blood cells. Present in all animals, but at very low trace levels.
Is there a standard trace level in horses?
It can vary from region to region. It appears in soils and some areas can be cobalt deficient. Many studies have been conducted to establish “normal’’ levels in horses. The race-day threshold in Australia is 200 micrograms per litre of urine. A normal level would be under 50 micrograms.
What is the motivation to give a horse cobalt?
Similar to EPO in human athletes, at high levels it can assist in generating more red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body and thus allow a horse to perform at a peak level for longer without the onset of fatigue.
How would cobalt be administered to achieve this outcome?
Almost always via a syringe to the neck.
Where do you get it?
Readily available from wholesalers in Australia and around the world; no veterinarian prescription required.
How much does it cost?
A 25-gram vial of soluble cobalt chloride was yours yesterday via a US-domiciled website for US$16.70.
How long have racing authorities been testing for cobalt?
Victoria introduced the cobalt threshold rule in April. As at January 1, the threshold become into effect in all Australian states.
What next for Peter Moody, Danny O’Brien, Mark Kavanagh, Lee and Shannon Hope?
Charges would be heard by the independent Racing Appeals & Disciplinary (RAD) Board.
Maximum penalty is a three-year disqualification from training.