Trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien and Racing Victoria both claimed victory in a latest ruling that will send the case back to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT), but will also assure that the trainers cannot be penalised for administration of cobalt. The decisions were handed down by Justices Maxwell, McLeish and Cavanough.
“The Tribunal found that the trainers had no knowledge of the administration of any prohibited substance to any of their horses,” Justice Maxwell said. “That finding was not challenged on this application. RVL’s grounds of appeal instead concerned the Tribunal’s interpretation of the Rules of Racing. On the Tribunal’s unchallenged findings of fact, the Court of Appeal said, the trainers had no knowledge that cobalt, or any substance other than those previously administered, was to be administered to their horses. Accordingly, they had not caused (the cobalt) to be administered to the horses. Those charges were correctly dismissed.”
O’Brien was adamant that this represented a clear victory for the conditioners.
“We’re very pleased that the three Supreme Court judges here today have reinforced Justice Garde’s decision that Mark and I at no stage attempted to breach the rules of racing and we can all move on, it is a shame that it had to go on for another nine months but it is all finished now,” O’Brien told Racing.com. “This is a win, it has always been about administration and once again we have been found to be completely innocent of administration.”
While unable to be charged for administration, Kavanagh and O’Brien could still face charges as it relates to presentation after the Court of Appeal affirmed that tests that showed cobalt levels above the permissible thresholds are admissible as evidence.
“Throughout this issue, our fundamental concern has been to take appropriate steps to protect the integrity of Victorian thoroughbred racing and to protect the welfare of horses. Where the Rules of Racing are breached, it is our job to take the appropriate action to enforce the rules,” said RV chief executive Giles Thompson in a release. “This decision reinforces that the action taken by Racing Victoria’s integrity services team was the right and appropriate action when tests showed excessive levels of cobalt in horses. While it is now up to VCAT to determine penalties, we welcome the decision of the Court of Appeal as an important endorsement of the actions of our integrity services team.