The emerging training career of Matt Cumani has hit a hurdle with the 36-year-old suspended for the rest of the season and fined $20,000 for failing to notify stewards for almost a month of a strangles infection in his Ballarat stables.
Cumani faced the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to two charges levelled against him by Racing Victoria stewards.
The first was for conduct prejudicial to the image, interests or welfare of racing.
The other was for failing to tell RV of the presence of strangles which is classified as a notifiable disease.
Stewards established Cumani knew one horse, Corrs, had tested positive to strangles by October 27 last year and had had veterinary advice regarding the presence of strangles in his stable on October 31 and November 18.
He had also been told by his vet in late October of his obligation to report the infection.
Stewards were told of the problem on November 23 after they had already received intelligence of a potential strangles case at Ballarat.
Cumani’s legal representative Joe Ferwerda told the hearing the trainer made a “grave error” in trying to manage the situation without informing stewards and acknowledged his contrition.
Judge John Bowman said he took into account Cumani’s guilty plea, his co-operation with stewards once they became involved and also “powerful references” by a number of well-known industry people.
Stable supporter, OTI Racing’s Terry Henderson was in attendance and provided a written reference supporting Cumani.
But Henderson was also forthright in acknowledging his disappointment.
“Mr Henderson expressed his disappointment and anger that you jeopardised your own training career and stable operation but also the operation of others,” Bowman said.
“I do not regard you as a person likely to offend again in this way or any other major way. But general deterrence is another matter.”
Cumani currently has 54 horses in work and employs more than 20 staff.
Once stewards became involved on November 24, Cumani’s three stables were quarantined until the following month along with the stable of neighbouring trainer James Wardeiner who had housed some of Cumani’s horses during the period in question.
Bowman said it was lucky the spread of infection wasn’t as bad as it could have been but said the potential had been there.
He said Cumani continued to train during the spring carnival, when he had his first Melbourne Cup runner, the OTI-owned import Grey Lion who was prepared out of the Werribee quarantine facility.
And while Cumani took measures to contain the disease it was “by no means complete”.
“You put your interests ahead of those of the stewards, trainers, and other racing establishments,” the judge said.
Cumani will weigh up a possible appeal against the severity of the penalty.
His suspension runs until August 1.
Have Your Say: Fair punishment or is it harsh? – Leave a comment below.