The dismantling of Australia’s biggest racing operation is underway with Darren Weir’s glittering career in tatters over illegal devices known as jiggers found in his stable,
Weir will front Victoria’s Racing and Disciplinary Board on Wednesday, a week after stewards and officers from Victoria Police’s sport integrity unit raided his stables at Ballarat and Warrnambool.
After an 11-hour hearing with stewards behind closed doors on Monday, Weir will not contest the charges in the knowledge stewards will ask the Racing and Appeals Disciplinary Board to disqualify him for four years.
Last week, Weir had more than 600 horses on his books but by Tuesday afternoon that was down to 431 as owners move their stock elsewhere to continue their preparations.
Weir’s business manager Mick Leonard, who holds a trainer’s licence, has been approved as caretaker but only to oversee the trackwork and care of the horses, not to race them in his name.
A high-profile trainer is expected to be named soon to take over Weir’s Forest Lodge stable at Ballarat.
Not only must Weir must divest himself of all racing stock, he will also have to relinquish his shares in many horses which race in partnerships with Forest Lodge.
Weir’s assistant, licensed trainer Jarrod McLean, will fight a charge of possessing a jigger and will be allowed to train until a RAD Board hearing.
McLean cannot take any of the horses being transferred from Weir.
Stewards will not pursue charges against a third man, stable employee Tyson Kermond, who was arrested with Weir and McLean after last week’s raid.
In addition to the breaches relating to the jiggers, Weir and McLean were charged with failing to answer questions at the opening of a stewards’ inquiry on Thursday and conduct prejudicial to racing.
The purpose of a jigger is to shock a horse in training and then simulate the action on race day to make a horse think it is about to be shocked again.
Racing Victoria chairman Brian Kruger admits the governing body has a task to restore public confidence in the industry.
“There’s so many people that do great work in this industry so to have the sort of events unfold last week I get frustrated how that undermines a great industry,” Kruger told RSN927.
“I’ve moved on now to the point where I’m determined, and I know the rest of the board is equally determined, to restore the image of racing for those people who have been taking away bad impressions this week.”
Kruger said it was up to RV to communicate the positive stories behind racing including the great work behind the scenes with animal welfare and integrity.
Victoria’s racing minister, Martin Pakula, said the case against Weir demonstrated the strength of the integrity unit at RV.
“In terms of the way it has panned out, I really want to pay tribute to Racing Victoria, Jamie Stier and the integrity team,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“They have ensured both Mr Weir and Mr McLean get due process.
“They have had lengthy hearings and show cause matters and they have demonstrated once again, in terms of RV’s commitment to integrity, they will leave no stone unturned and they will pursue any licensed person regardless of their stature if they believe they have done the wrong thing.”