22nd February 2018

Racing Minister critical after Lovani Inquiry texts suggest Melbourne Cup doping

Victoria’s Minister for Racing has criticised the leak of text message evidence relating to its inquiry into the race day doping of Lovani, after a series of text messages published by Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper suggested horses may have been doped at the 2015 Melbourne Cup. It is understood that the texts were retrieved from a mobile phone at the request of Racing Victoria’s Integrity Department, and indicate plans to ‘milkshake’ two Melbourne Cup horses in 2015, as well as up to six other horses in Cup Day support races.

A ‘milkshake’ refers to the practice of administrating alkalising agents, such as bicarbonate of soda, to horses on race days. It is understood that by using a ‘milkshake’, the lactic acid produced by the horse is neutralised, therefore preventing muscle fatigue and improving the horse’s performance. The administration of such ‘milkshakes’ using modified syringes formed the backbone of 271 issued issued against eight trainers by Racing Victoria in January.

“Today we see explosive new text message revelations and stories designed to do the maximum damage”, said Martin Pakula, Victoria’s Attorney General and Minister for Racing in an interview with Racing.com. “The fact is Racing Victoria has had these text messages for months, they are part of the brief of evidence, and they are the basis upon which people have been charged on the 9th of January. And they will be, no doubt, all gone through in great detail at the RAD [Racing Appeals & Disciplinary] Board on the 30th of April and in the days that follow. The fact that someone, who no doubt would if they were talking to you or me at the racetrack would call themselves a great lover of racing, has decided to put all these in the public domain two months ahead of that, for whatever reason I can’t possibly fathom, is infuriating. I’ve got to say as someone who is a lawyer as well, I’ve got no doubt that had RV done that [released the text messages] we would have all the people that have been charged and who are yet to have their hearing, complaining that RV had compromised their ability to run a defence of themselves.”

The text messages published are understood to involve trainer Robert Smerdon, his stable employee Greg Nelligan, and trainer Liam Birchley, all then employees of Aquanita Racing. The organisation, which has been one of Australia’s most successful racing stables for over 20 years, has recently changed its name to Neerim Lodge, Caulfield.

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