By: Matthew Elkerton
RACING: Grafton horse trainer Gordon Yorke has been dealt another blow in an ongoing saga after one of his horses tested positive to “extreme” levels of cobalt at a race meeting in mid-2017.
A stewards inquiry was begun in October into findings from two official racing laboratories showing a positive cobalt detection in the Grafton trainer’s horse Follow Through which was presented for the Bidfood Class 1 Handicap on July 13 – Grafton Cup Day.
But after the trainer failed to show at an initial hearing into the matter on December 21 he was issued with a suspension of licence pursuant to NSW Racing rule AR 8(z).
The rule states stewards pursuant to the authority delegated by the Principal Racing Authority, if of the opinion that the continued participation of that person in racing might pose an unacceptable risk to, prejudice or undermine the image, interests or integrity of racing, may suspend any licence, registration, right, or privilege granted under these rules to that person.
“The inquiry was conducted in October, we have made several attempts to get (Yorke) into a hearing on the matter, but it has been to no avail as yet,” NSW Racing chief steward Marc Van Gestel said.
“It is on the basis of rule AR 8(z) that his licence will be suspended until the time when the charge is determined.”
Van Gestel said the 4000mg level of cobalt recorded in the horse – 40 times the legal limit and the biggest recorded dosage since Darren Smith was found guilty of 42 cobalt related charges in 2015 – was taken into consideration when handing out the suspension.
But Yorke believes he should not have to withstand the suspension after he supplied Racing NSW with a doctor’s certificate explaining he was not fit to face the hearing following a serious medical procedure.
Yorke had his ear surgically reattached after it was bitten half-off by one of his horses in a trackwork incident on December 4.
“My lawyer was the first to ask for a continuation, because he was on holidays when they determined the case had to be heard,” Yorke said.
“Then my doctor determined I was not fit to give testimony based on the medication I was taking at the time, but they didn’t feel the medical certificate was satisfactory enough.
“I feel like they are sending me into a gun fight and all I have been left with is a kitchen knife.”
Yorke appealed the suspension with the independent Racing NSW appeals board but was denied by the panel chaired by Richard Beasly SC.
While Yorke has maintained that he never administered the drug to his horse – and it is understood many around North Rivers racing are standing behind the embattled trainer – Van Gestel admitted the law is not in favour of the trainer.
“The law does not require stewards to find out who it was that administered the illicit substance,” he said.
“The rules are worded in a way that the trainer takes full responsibility as soon as he presents the horse.
“The onus here is on the trainer to ensure he is providing proper security, and adequate supervision of the horse before racing.”
The veteran trainer will now have his case heard in Racing NSW’s Sydney offices on January 15