Aquanita Racing is battling one of the biggest corruption and doping scandals in Australian racing history, yet the operation continues.
Neerim Lodge was the new name announced by chairman Peter Howell last week, but it appears as though nothing has changed despite the company coming under intense scrutiny over the past few months.
Many of the Aquanita Racing trainers have been stood down, including senior trainer Robert Smerdon, who was forced to find a new home for potential champion sprinter Nature Strip two weeks ago, but a closure of the business would seem like the only logical resolution until the issues are revolved.
That’s not the case, however, and one top trainer summed it up well.
“I should be so lucky, if I was stood down facing corruption charges my business would be gone, just finished,” they told the Sydney Morning Herald.
It is believed that more than 120 horses from Aquanita Racing are involved in the corruption and doping scandal, stretching back for almost 10 years.
Being charged of doping or corruption in Australian racing isn’t something you can sweep under the carpet. Trainers have served life bans and it even forced Peter Moody to retire, albeit controversially.
Aquanita trainers Robert Smerdon and Stuart Webb have already voluntarily stood down, which isn’t a good sign for the likes of Tony Vasil and Liam Birchley, who were given show cause notices and will face the stewards soon.
Somehow through the thick of this scandal, Neerim Lodge has come out the other side barely unscathed.
We’re sure the name change is an attempt to distance themselves from the Aquanita Racing brand, but there’s little chance those in power will simply turn the other cheek.
Aquanita chairman Howell and director Mike Symons have publicly stated that they knew nothing of the alleged corrupt practices.
“The Aquanita brand will be discontinued with the management services to be offered under a new name but integrity, transparency and compliance will continue to be paramount considerations in our operation,” Howell said in a press release.
There will be more to come from this ever-evolving story.