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15 January 2015

Australian horse racing rocked by slew of positive tests

  • Horses trained by top names investigated
  • High levels of cobalt detected in samples

Turnbull Stakes at Flemington Racecourse

Australian thoroughbred racing has been rocked by a string of positive tests involving horses from stables of some of the country’s leading trainers.

Racing Victoria, the governing body of racing in Australia’s southern state of Victoria, has said that horses trained by Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien had returned samples of cobalt above the permitted threshold.

Although naturally occurring in horses, cobalt at elevated levels is performance-enhancing, stimulating red blood cell production, which allows horses to perform at peak level longer before the onset of fatigue.

Lidari, prepared by Melbourne-based Moody, the trainer of undefeated Australian sprinter Black Caviar, tested positive after finishing second in the 2,000-metre Turnbull Stakes at Flemington Racecourse in October, Racing Victoria said. The race is one of the country’s top events in Victoria’s annual Spring Carnival, which also includes the high-profile Melbourne Cup.

Kavanagh, who trained Shocking for victory in the 2009 Melbourne Cup, is also under scrutiny after gelding Magicool returned a positive urine sample following victory in the UCI Stakes at the same race meeting at Flemington. Three of O’Brien’s horses – Caravan Rolls On, Bondeiger and De Little Engine – had all tested positive for three separate races in November.

Racing Victoria chairman of stewards Terry Bailey said the cases were being investigated. “Our investigations will determine whether any or all of the trainers will be charged with a breach of the rules of racing. They have the presumption of innocence and are free to continue racing at this time,” Bailey said.

Kavanagh and Moody released statements saying they were surprised by the findings.

“This has come as a complete shock to me as I have always placed great emphasis on integrity and operating within the rules of racing,” Kavanagh said.

Moody said:

“I have no knowledge or understanding as to how this could occur and will work with the Racing Victoria Integrity Services Department to bring this matter to a conclusion as soon as possible.“

Trainers in Victoria face bans of up to three years if found to have deliberately doped their horses.