Stewards Lay Charges



Stewards have laid more than 250 charges, including 115 against trainer Robert Smerdon, relating to the alleged administration of alkalising agents to horses over a seven-year period.

The inquiry began with the alleged raceday treatment of the Smerdon-trained Lovani at Flemington in October last year and spread to other Aquanita Racing trainers.

Smerdon has been charged with being “a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day” on 115 occasions between June 2010 and October 2017.

Stuart Webb (three charges), Tony Vasil (seven charges), Liam Birchley (three charges) and Mornington trainer Trent Pennuto (four charges) were all embroiled in the investigation as the probe developed.

The trainers, along with employees Greg Nelligan, Denise Nelligan and Daniel Garland will also face charges relating to the inquiry, which Racing Victoria stewards said was ongoing.

The trainers have been charged with breaching AR 175(a), which states stewards can penalise, “any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing”.

The trainers were also charged with being a party to the administration of alkalising agents over various periods.

Greg Nelligan topped the charge count with 123. Stewards also laid alternative charges against him of having “a syringe, needle, nasogastric tube or other instrument that could be used” in his possession in a vehicle used to transport a horse to a race meeting after catching him with a “modified syringe” at Flemington in October last year.

Nelligan has also alternatively been charged with attempting or administering to administer sodium bicarbonate to Lovani at 3.08pm, 2½ hours before her scheduled race at Flemington.

Nelligan has also been charged with laying three horses under the care of a trainer for whom he worked, administering Vicks to the nose of a horse at Bendigo in 2012 and failing to comply with a stewards’ directive to hand over his mobile phone.

The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board will hear the cases on dates to be fixed.

Queensland-based trainer Birchley indicated on Tuesday he would defend himself against the charges but would make no other comment, on legal grounds.