By: Ray Thomas
RACING NSW hasn’t ruled out retesting frozen swab samples from recent Sydney big-race winners in the wake of the alleged doping scandal that has enveloped Victorian racing.
At least five Melbourne-based trainers and three stable staff are being investigated by Victorian stewards for a sophisticated and systemic doping cabal that stretches over eight years.
HAYES: MY HORSES WERE CLEAN
They have been charged with more than 200 counts of breaching multiple racing rules relating to illegal race-day treatment of performance-enhancing sodium bicarbonate.
Racing Victoria stewards claim the case against former Aquanita Racing trainers and staff involves mobile phone text messages which alleges the “tubing” of horses on race day.
There was even a suggestion Melbourne filly Mosheen’s win in the 2012 Vinery Stud Stakes at Rosehill Gardens could be under renewed suspicion.
The Daily Telegraph understand’s Mosheen’s TCO2 levels in that race were only slightly above the average for most thoroughbreds but well below the threshold of 36 millimoles per litre of plasma.
Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel said retesting of frozen swab samples will be considered after the revelations in the Aquanita Racing inquiry.
“We have the authority to store and retest frozen swab samples,’’ Van Gestel said. “The wins of Mosheen six years ago are potentially samples we could look at.’’
Racing NSW spent more than $7 million on world-best practice drug testing and integrity measures during the 2016-17 season to uphold punters confidence in the sport.
These procedures included the collection of more than 22,000 swab samples and another 2,500 out-of-competition samples which are then screened in a process tests for more than 10,000 banned substances.
“Racing NSW has a close working relationship with the Australian Racing Forensics Laboratory which provides us with a significant amount of intelligence in relation to samples we collect,’’ Van Gestel said.
“They might discover particular substances that are close to the legal threshold. We can then interview and conduct surveillance of those trainers that might be sailing close to wind.
“It gives us the opportunity to be proactive and to ensure horses are presented to races free of any banned substances.
“Every sample that is taken, both pre and post-race, is then tested for in excess of 10,000 prohibited substances including TCO2, anabolics and cobalt with every screen.
“There is no expense spared by Racing NSW, every sample that is collected goes through this screening process.’’
Van Gestel said Racing NSW stewards cast a wide net that would capture potential cheats.
This includes the Racing NSW Surveillance and Intelligence Unit which has been in operation for a number of years now and randomly raids NSW stables and racetracks.
“They do checks on stables, floats, stalls, race day gear, everything,’’ Van Gestel said. “We have installed new surveillance cameras on metropolitan racecourses in swabbing and stabling areas. Stewards inspect stables unannounced. We try to be unpredictable. We could inspect the same stable three times in one day for example.’’
Racing Victoria stewards are investigating trainers Robert Smerdon, Stuart Webb, Tony Vasil, Liam Birchley and Trent Penutto plus stable staff Greg and Denise Nelligan and Danny Garland for alleged wrongdoing.
Hall of Fame trainer David Hayes described revelations of systematic doping in Victorian racing as “horrific and devastating”.
“There’s always been rumours going on but to read them in extreme detail — it’s horrific,” Hayes said. “It’s really disappointing to have the cobalt saga and then the bicarbonate saga. It’s really disappointing that you’re doing your best and doing the right things while that’s been going on. It’s devastating.”
Hayes said any horse topped up with bicarbonate soda would certainly have an advantage.
“It helps horses run through the pain barrier as it delays the pain of the build-up of lactic acid,” he said.