Joy for O'Brien and Kavanagh after convictions dismissed
Two of Australia’s leading trainers, Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien, have issued scathing attacks against Racing Victoria after the pair's appeals against cobalt convictions were sensationally upheld at a tribunal.
The ruling is the latest twist in a saga that has run for more than two years, engulfing some of the biggest names in Australian racing, and leaves Racing Victoria (RV) with serious questions to answer.
Kavanagh was handed a three-year ban by RV's racing appeals and disciplinary board, while O'Brien received four years after the pair were found guilty in December 2015 of administering cobalt to horses in their stables.
At a hearing of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in Melbourne on Friday, Justice Greg Garde found that RV, while correct in pursuing the cobalt charges against both trainers once positive tests for elevated cobalt levels were discovered, had not followed the rules of racing during the testing procedure, therefore leaving the results inadmissible.
The ruling sparked emotional scenes as the trainers hit out at what could be the end of an ordeal spanning 26 months.
O'Brien said: "Justice Garde has thrown a light on the behaviour of Racing Victoria, the breaches of the rules that they in fact have engineered throughout this process, and that's probably been the most disappointing thing. The bullying and vilification of both Mark and I, and our families, has been quite incredible."
There was no immediate indication as to whether the governing body will lodge an appeal of its own. Giles Thompson, acting chief executive of RV, said: "We will review the decision."