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Five trainers and three stable employees, all connected to management company Aquanita Racing, administered race day treatments or “top-ups” of bi-carb and tripart paste tp horses for more than 100 races over seven years.

Sodium bicarbonate buffers the build-up of lactic acid so helps the horse run longer rather than faster.


Aquanita float driver Greg Nelligan was “caught red handed” inserting a syringe in Robert Smerdon-trained Lovani’s mouth on Turnbull Stakes Day last October.

Stewards downloaded more than 70,000 text messages from his mobile phone – about 1000 texts over seven years put in evidence.


ROBERT SMERDON – Banned for life

* Multiple Group-One winning trainer; Aquanita director and shareholder

* RAD Board said Smerdon was the driving force behind the conspiracy along with Nelligan


* Smerdon’s former stablehand and float driver; also former employee of trainer Tony Vasil

* RADB described Nelligan as architect and promoter of top-ups scheme

* Found guilty of administering illegal top-ups to horses on 123 occasions over seven years, almost always on race days and predominantly at metropolitan tracks


* Greg’s wife; also Smerdon stablehand and former Vasil employee

* Ultimately “blew the whistle” when confessed to stewards top-ups’ contents

* Relayed instructions, made at least some of the top-ups.

STUART WEBB – four years

* Group One-winning trainer; Smerdon employee

* Guilty over three occasions

TONY VASIL – three years

* Group One-winning trainer

* Guilty over seven occasions

TRENT PENNUTO – two years

* Former trainer; was Vasil’s foreman

* Guilty over four occasions

LIAM BIRCHLEY – one year

* Queensland trainer who was a “non-paying customer” of top-ups services

* Guilty over three occasions in Melbourne


* Employed by Smerdon or Aquanita as float driver

* Guilty over two occasions

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