Trainers Lee and Shannon Hope both knew their horses were given supplements containing cobalt on race days and did it to enhance their performances, a tribunal has heard.
The Hopes have pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of administering a prohibited substance as they fight their cobalt disqualifications, blaming their feeding and supplementation regime for an inadvertent administration.
But Racing Victoria maintains the father-and-son training partners are guilty of administering cobalt to affect the performances of three horses in 2014 races.
RV barrister Jeff Gleeson QC said it was essentially a charge of cheating in the popular and important business of thoroughbred horse racing in Victoria.
Shannon Hope was in charge of the feeding and supplementation regime but Gleeson said his father was intimately involved in all aspects of training horses.
“There was no meaningful difference between the role the two of them played in the administration of supplements,” Gleeson told the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Monday.
RV contended the three horses – Windy Citi Bear, Best Suggestion and Choose – must have been given supplements two or three hours before they raced, before they were loaded on to floats.
Gleeson said Shannon Hope was responsible for loading the horses, but neither trainer had proffered an explanation about how it could be that Shannon knew and Lee did not.
“If your honour finds that there was race-day administration, the only available inference is that these two trainers both knew and intended to enhance the performance of these horses in that way,” he told Justice Greg Garde.
Gleeson said the case turned substantially on scientific evidence, but rejected the Hopes’ contention that bioaccumulation was responsible for the horses’ above-threshold cobalt readings.
During the appeal, Shannon Hope admitted he lied to the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board about checking labels on products the trainers used after Victoria introduced a cobalt threshold in April 2014.
Gleeson said it was difficult to identify a benign reason for the lies.
“If it’s the case he and his father went to the RAD Board mystified as to what caused these elevated readings, he would have gone in and told the truth.”
The RAD Board disqualified Shannon Hope for five years and his father for three years.
The defence will make its closing submissions on Monday afternoon, with Justice Garde expected to hand down his ruling at a later date.