9th January 2018

Charges laid in relation to Lovani Inquiry

Racing Victoria (RV) Stewards have today issued charges under the Australian Rules of Racing against the following licensed personnel:

• Mr Robert Smerdon (trainer)
• Mr Greg Nelligan (stable employee of Mr Smerdon and former employee of  Mr Vasil)
• Mrs Denise Nelligan (stable employee of Mr Smerdon and former employee of Mr Vasil)
• Mr Stuart Webb (trainer and employee of Mr Smerdon)
• Mr Daniel Garland (employee of Mr Smerdon)
• Mr Tony Vasil (trainer)
• Mr Trent Pennuto (trainer and former employee of Mr Vasil)
• Mr Liam Birchley (trainer)

The majority of charges relate to alleged raceday treatments of numerous horses. In the case of Mr Smerdon and Nelligan, the alleged raceday treatments number in excess of 100 and allegedly occurred in the period from 2010 to 2017.

Under the Rules of Racing, the Stewards have the power to stand down participants prior to any hearing. With these serious charges now laid, the Stewards are giving urgent consideration to the participants’ continued involvement in racing pending further legal advice. Each of the charges against the eight people identified above will be heard by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board on a date to be fixed.

Quotes attributable to Racing Victoria Chief Executive Officer, Giles Thompson

“Racing Victoria’s primary objective is to protect the integrity of the sport and to enforce the Australian Rules of Racing, ensuring both a level playing field for all and the health and welfare of all horses competing in Victoria thoroughbred races. These are very serious allegations and the Racing Victoria Integrity Services Department and our Stewards have worked swiftly to fully investigate these matters resulting in the laying of charges against eight people today.

“It is vital that in order to maintain a world-class thoroughbred racing industry that we have a world-class integrity regime that is strictly enforced. Where we have a breach of the rules, our Stewards and Integrity Services Department will take appropriate action to protect the integrity of the sport. Racing Victoria has invested heavily in improving our integrity systems in recent years, including more than $8 million in 2017 to significantly boost the capability and resources for our Integrity Department including our Compliance Assurance Team (CAT). This has seen an increase in the number of stable inspections and a greater ability to monitor on-course activity.

“This investigation began in October when a Compliance Assurance Team member observed the alleged raceday treatment of Lovani, prompting a wide-ranging investigation that has resulted in the laying of charges against eight people today for breaches of the Rules of Racing. We have continued to invest more in integrity services than other racing and sporting organisations and will continue to do so in the future to protect the integrity of our sport and ensure the sustainable future of an industry that supports more than 20,000 jobs.

“We have an outstanding integrity team that is committed to ensure a level playing field for all participants and customers and have worked tirelessly over recent weeks to finalise this matter as quickly as possible.” The full Stewards’ Report is available below.

Stewards’ Report – Lovani Inquiry

Racing Victoria (RV) Stewards have today issued charges under the Australian Rules of Racing against the following licensed personnel:

• Mr Robert Smerdon (trainer);
• Mr Greg Nelligan (stable employee of Mr Smerdon and former employee of Mr Vasil);
• Mrs Denise Nelligan (stable employee of Mr Smerdon and former employee of Mr Vasil);
• Mr Stuart Webb (trainer and employee of Mr Smerdon);
• Mr Daniel Garland (employee of Mr Smerdon);
• Mr Tony Vasil (trainer);
• Mr Trent Pennuto (trainer and former employee of Mr Vasil); and
• Mr Liam Birchley (trainer).

The inquiry remains on-going. The majority of the charges relate to an alleged practice whereby numerous horses were given raceday treatments. In the case of Messrs Smerdon and Nelligan, the particulars of those alleged raceday treatments number in excess of 100 and allegedly occurred in the period from 2010 to 2017.  One such particular is the alleged raceday treatment of Lovani on Saturday, 7 October 2017, when it was to race in the Paris Lane Handicap (Listed Race) over 1400 metres at Flemington Racecourse.  Lovani was subsequently withdrawn by order of the Stewards prior to the race.

Mr Robert Smerdon has been issued the following charges:

Charge One: AR 175(a) 

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(a) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 115 occasions during the period from 26 June 2010 to 7 October 2017, Mr Smerdon engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that he was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Charge Two: AR 178E(1)

AR 178E(1) … [N]o person without the permission of the Stewards may … cause to be administered any medication to a horse on race day prior to such horse running in a race.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 8 October 2010, Mr Smerdon instructed Mr Nelligan to administer Vicks to the nose of Disco Dan after saddling that gelding prior to running in Race 8 at Bendigo.

Mr Greg Nelligan has been issued the following charges:

Charge One: AR 175(a)

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(a) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 123 occasions during the period from 26 June 2010 to 7 October 2017, Mr Nelligan engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that he administered alkanilising agents and/or medications, and/or he was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Charge Two: AR 178A(1)(a) [Alternative to Charge 1]

AR 178A(1) No, person, unless he has first obtained the written permission of the Stewards, shall have in his possession on a racecourse where a race meeting is being conducted or in any motor vehicle, horse float or other mode of transport used for the purpose of conveying a horse or horses to and/or from a race meeting any prohibited substance or a syringe, needle, nasogastric tube or other instrument that could be used:

(a) to administer a prohibited substance to a horse[.]

The particulars of the charge are:

At the Flemington racecourse on 7 October 2017, Mr Nelligan was in possession of an instrument that could be used to administer a prohibited substance to a horse, namely a modified syringe.

Charge Three: AR 178AA – Lovani [Alternative to Charge 1]

178AA (1) A person must not administer an alkalinising agent, in any manner, to a horse which is engaged to run in any race …:

(a) at any time on the day of the scheduled race … and prior to the start of such event; …

(2) Any person who:

(a)   administers any alkalinising agent; [and/or]

(b)   attempts to administer an alkalinising agent …

contrary to AR 1788A(1) commits an offence and may be penalised.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 7 October 2017 at or about 3:08pm, Mr Nelligan administered, alternatively attempted to administer, sodium bicarbonate, an alkalinising agent, to Lovani which was scheduled to run in Race 9, the Paris Lane Handicap, at 5:45pm at Flemington racecourse.

Charge Four: AR 178E(1) – Lovani [Alternative to Charge 1 and 3]

178E(1) … [N]o person without the permission of the Stewards may administer … any medication to a horse on race day prior to such horse running in a race.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 7 October 2017 at or about 3:08pm, Mr Nelligan administered, alternatively attempted to administer, sodium bicarbonate and Tripart, both of which are medications, to Lovani which was scheduled to run in Race 9, the Paris Lane Handicap, at 5:45pm at Flemington racecourse.

Charge Five: AR 175B(2) – Darney Gub

175B(2) Any person employed by a trainer in connection with the training or care of racehorses must not lay a horse under the control of the trainer for whom he is or was employed, while so employed …

The particulars of the charge are:

On 9 March 2015, Mr Nelligan, who was at all relevant times employed as a stablehand by Mr Robert Smerdon, a licensed trainer, bet $100 on Darney Gub in Race 6 at Moonee Valley to lose that race.

Charge Six: AR 175B(2) – Reldas

175B(2) Any person employed by a trainer in connection with the training or care of racehorses must not lay a horse under the control of the trainer for whom he is or was employed, while so employed …

The particulars of the charge are:

On 27 March 2015, Mr Nelligan, who was at all relevant times employed as a stablehand by Mr Robert Smerdon, a licensed trainer, bet $100 on Reldas in Race 2 at Moonee Valley to lose that race.

Charge Seven: AR 175B(2) – The Bowler

175B(2) Any person employed by a trainer in connection with the training or care of racehorses must not lay a horse under the control of the trainer for whom he is or was employed, while so employed …

The particulars of the charge are:

On 11 April 2015, Mr Nelligan, who was at all relevant times employed as a stablehand by Mr Robert Smerdon, a licensed trainer, bet $330 on The Bowler in Race 8 at Flemington to lose that race.

Charge Eight: AR 178E(1)

AR 178E(1) … [N]o person without the permission of the Stewards may … cause to be administered any medication to a horse on race day prior to such horse running in a race.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 8 October 2010, Mr Nelligan administered Vicks to the nose of Disco Dan after saddling that gelding prior to running in Race 8 at Bendigo.

Charge Nine: AR 175(p)

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(p)   Any person who fails to comply with any order, direction or requirement of the Stewards or any official.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 31 October 2017, during an inquiry, Mr Nelligan refused and failed to comply with the direction of the Stewards, directing him to produce his mobile telephone for the purpose of facilitating the imaging of his telephone.

Charge Ten: AR 175(f)

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(f)  Any person who refuses or fails to attend or give evidence at any investigation, inquiry or appeal when directed or requested by the Principal Racing Authority, or other person authorised by the Principal Racing Authority, to do so.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 31 October 2017, during an inquiry, Mr Nelligan refused and failed to give evidence in in relation to the on-course race day treatment of Lovani at Flemington on 7 October 2017.

Mrs Denise Nelligan has been issued the following charge:

Charge One: AR 175(a) 

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(b) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On 13 occasions during the period from 24 February 2011 to 25 February 2017 Mrs Nelligan engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that she was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Mr Stuart Webb has been issued the following charge:

Charge One: AR 175(a) 

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(a) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On three occasions, on 15 August 2010, 26 December 2010 and  28 April 2017, Mr Webb engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that he was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Mr Daniel Garland has been issued the following charge:

Charge One: AR 175(a) 

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(a) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On two occasions, on 3 November 2011 and 25 May 2013, Mr Garland engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that he was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Mr Tony Vasil has been issued the following charge:

Charge One: AR 175(a) 

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(a) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On seven occasions during the period from 26 December 2010 to 7 June 2013, Mr Vasil engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that he was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Mr Trent Pennuto has been issued the following charge:

Charge One: AR 175(a) 

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(a) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On four occasions during the period from 22 August 2010 to 9 December 2011, Mr Pennuto engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that he was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Mr Liam Birchley has been issued the following charge:

Charge One: AR 175(a) 

AR 175 The Principal Racing Authority (or the Stewards exercising powers delegated to them) may penalise:

(a) Any person who, in their opinion, has been guilty of any dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action or practice in connection with racing.

The particulars of the charge are:

On three occasions, on 3 November 2011, 6 November 2012 and 3 November 2015, Mr Birchley engaged in a practice that was dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable, in that he was a party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a race day.

Each of the charges against the eight people identified above will be heard by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary (RAD) Board on a date to be fixed.

• This media release was originally published by Racing Victoria on 9 January 2018. To access the original, please click here.

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