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HIGH-PROFILE AQUANITA RACING INQUIRY GETS UNDERWAY

WHAT IS THE CASE?

It has been called Australia’s largest racing inquiry, given the number of charges and people involved.

Racing Victoria stewards say most of the charges relate to the widespread and long-standing practice of alleged covert administration of bicarbonate to horses on race day, via “top-ups” delivered orally through a syringe.

The eight people who have been charged say texts referring to “top-ups” actually refer to topping up feed and water.

WHO HAS BEEN CHARGED?

The five trainers and three stable employees have been charged under an Australian racing rule dealing with dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice.

All are connected to the management company Aquanita Racing.

ROBERT SMERDON

* Multiple Group-One winning trainer

* Two charges – for being a party to alleged race day treatments of alkalinising agents and/or medications on 115 occasions between June 2010 and October 2017; and allegedly instructing stablehand Greg Nelligan to administer Vicks in the nose of a horse before a race

* Handed in his trainer’s licence in March

* Not participating in inquiry but has lawyer there

GREG NELLIGAN

* Smerdon’s former stablehand and float driver; also former employee of trainer Tony Vasil

* 10 charges – relate to alleged race day treatments on 123 occasions from 2010 to 2017; also charged with administering Vicks to horse; and three charges for laying horses while employed the trainer

* Not participating in inquiry

DENISE NELLIGAN

* Greg’s wife; also stablehand of Smerdon and former Vasil employee

* One charge – related to 13 occasions from 2011 to 2017

* Not participating in inquiry

TONY VASIL

* Group One-winning trainer

* Connected to Aquanita from 2004-5 to about 2012

* One charge – on seven occasions from 2010 to 2013

STUART WEBB

* Group One-winning trainer; Smerdon employee

* One charge – three occasions (two in 2010, one in 2017)

TRENT PENNUTO

* Former trainer

* Worked at Aquanita as Vasil’s foreman between 2008 and 2012

* One charge – four occasions from 2010 to 2011

LIAM BIRCHLEY

* Trainer; licensed in Queensland

* Trained under Aquanita banner for 10 years until about 2011

* One charge – three occasions (in 2011, 2012 and 2013)

DANIEL GARLAND

* Smerdon float driver

* One charge – two occasions (in 2011 and 2013)

HOW LONG WILL THE CASE LAST?

Originally tipped to last two weeks, the hearing before Victoria’s Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board is now expected to wrap up in a week.

 
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