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Racing Victoria wants trainers Lee and Shannon Hope banned for five years for cheating

Racing Victoria wants Lee and Shannon Hope banned for at least five years for cheating, although the father-and-son trainers hope to avoid career-ending cobalt disqualifications.

The Hopes face a minimum three-year ban after an appeal judge found them guilty of intentionally administering cobalt to three horses to affect their performance in 2014 races.

RV barrister Jeff Gleeson QC rejected the partnership’s request for a special circumstances exemption that would allow a shorter ban than the mandatory period as he pushed for a harsher penalty for both trainers of no less than five years.

Gleeson said after 50 and 28 years respectively in the industry, Lee and Shannon Hope decided to cheat by administering prohibited substances they thought would give their horses an advantage over the rest of the field.

“This is two trainers who deliberately and knowingly cheated and they deserve an appropriate sanction,” he told the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on Monday.

Gleeson said the situation was compounded by the sustained maintenance of a false and dishonest position that the trainers only gave their horses substances disclosed in their records.

Justice Greg Garde found both guilty over the deliberate and secret administration of cobalt on or shortly before race day, concluding Shannon Hope was well aware he was giving horses substances he should not and his father knew and did nothing to stop it.

The Hopes’ barrister Rahmin de Kretser said the trainers now faced mandatory minimum and career-ending disqualifications for their first breaches of the racing rules in a combined 70-plus years in the industry.

De Kretser argued a number of factors meant the judge should not impose the mandatory minimum disqualification.

He also argued for different penalties for the two trainers, saying Lee Hope had no firsthand involvement in the administration of cobalt to Windy Citi Bear, Best Suggestion and Choose.

It would be nearly impossible for the 67-year-old to return to the industry after a lengthy disqualification, he said.

De Kretser said the four-year legal case had cost the trainers hundreds of thousands of dollars and owners had been reluctant to send horses to their family-run stables amid the uncertainty.

Lee and Shannon Hope had known nothing else except racing for five and three decades respectively, he said.

“These are people who have lived and breathed this industry for many, many decades and frankly have no idea what the future holds for them once this disqualification period is imposed.”

Gleeson acknowledged a lengthy disqualification would have a significant impact on Lee Hope given he was in the twilight of his career and also on his son, but said a primary motivation for cheating must have been financial.

“It is a hollow plea from the Hopes to say that having been caught cheating, they are in special circumstances because the punishment will have a significant financial impact on them.”

Garde will announce the penalty at a later date.

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