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Queensland’s integrity boss says the use of cobalt is not widespread in the state’s racing despite announcing nine irregularities to the illegal substance.

Wade Birch said on Friday samples from six harness racing horses and three thoroughbreds had returned elevated levels of cobalt.

The irregularities in the harness racing horses are from three stables while three stables accounted for the three elevated levels in thoroughbreds.

The names of trainers with irregularities will not be released unless a referee test of the B samples in Hong Kong or Sydney confirms higher than allowed levels.

Birch told a media conference that samples taken from Group One races at last year’s winter carnival and the recent Magic Millions day were clear.

“So as at today there are a total of nine samples – six harness from three trainers and three thoroughbred from three trainers – which have been deemed irregular,” Birch said.

“These samples will be split in accordance with state legislation. They will then be sent for referee analysis.

Birch said the three harness trainers had been notified of the irregularities, as had two of the thoroughbred trainers.

The third no longer holds a licence in Queensland and RQ has been unable to contact that trainer.

“The results of our analysis for cobalt are consistent with what we are seeing generally within this sport and others where a small amount of participants are experimenting with practices they believe will deliver an advantage,” Birch said.

He said the retrospective element of testing was now complete and testing for cobalt had been integrated into regular procedures.

Birch confirmed RQ would buy a machine capable of testing for inorganic trace metals, including cobalt.

“This will remove the need for the samples to be sent to Perth,” he said.

Racing Queensland has been storing samples since September 2013 after receiving intelligence regarding the use of cobalt.

A total of 290 samples were then taken up until June last year.

“Nine of those 290 were deemed to be outliers, that is (they) presented levels of cobalt higher than the estimated naturally-occurring levels,” Birch said.

“These samples were preserved at the Racing Science Centre in anticipation of the introduction of a national threshold.”

After the Australian Racing Board implemented the threshold on January 1, Racing Queensland’s Integrity Department was advised six of the nine samples were deemed to be irregular.

A further 43 samples were taken from feature races representing the remainder of the Brisbane winter carnival through to the Magic Millions earlier this month.

Three of those samples were screened as irregular.

Cobalt is a trace element which occurs naturally in horses but can be toxic in high levels.

Racing Victoria stewards are investigating elevated levels in horses prepared by prominent trainers Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh, and Danny O’Brien as well as horses from the country stable of Lee and Shannon Hope.

In NSW, Darren Smith is the subject of a stewards’ inquiry into high levels produced by several runners while Paul Murray is also under investigation.

Last week, South Australian authorities announced all samples in that state were clear.

 
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