Stewards rule in “Vitamin Complex” cobalt case in Australia

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winter-featuredAustralian thoroughbred trainer Sam Kavanagh faces disqualification over his use in horses of an expensive “Vitamin Complex” found to contain excessive levels of cobalt.

Kavanagh was charged with a series of  breaches under the Rules of Racing relating to cobalt.

Kavanagh was accused of 24 rule breaches in all. He was found not guilty of one, in which he was accused of giving caffeine to a horse, Midsummer Sun. He pleaded guilty to five others, and was found guilty of the remaining 18 by stewards.

The inquiry was launched by New South Wales racing authorities after a positive swab for caffeine was returned by Midsummer Sun when winning the Gosford Cup in January.

Investigators expanded their probe, resulting in a raft of charges against several individuals, including veterinarian Tom Brennan.

Much of the inquiry work by stewards centred on two bottles of an injectable “Vitamin Complex” which was found to contain excessive cobalt levels.

Cobalt is a naturally occurring substance found in very low levels in horses. Racing jurisdictions around the globe have imposed thresholds on its use in a bit to stem its use as a performance-enhancing substance.

Brennan, a partner at the Flemington Equine Clinic, was found guilty of 12 charges in relation to his conduct.

The clinic’s practice manager, Aaron Corby, was found guilty of one charge for attempting to persuade Kavanagh not to disclose to stewards that the supplier of the “Vitamin Complex” was Brennan and/or the Flemington Equine Clinic.

Michael O’Loughlin, listed as a licensed stablehand, was found guilty of four charges. Mitchell Butterfield was found guilty of five charges. John Camilleri admitted or was found guilty of a total of six of the seven charges he faced. He was found not guilty of the seventh count.

All parties have until September 10 to make submissions in respect of penalty.

New South Wales stewards, in a 36-page document, outlined the reasons for the findings.

Discussing the two 100ml bottles of “Vitamin Complex” at the centre of the case, the stewards found that they contained cobalt in concentrations about 175 times that found in registered veterinary injectable products for horses that contained cobalt and vitamin B12.

It found they were supplied by Brennan to Kavanagh for use in horses being trained. Brennan gave Kavanagh advice on dosage and frequency.

They found that Kavanagh, through his agents, delivered $A1000 for each bottle to Brennan in circumstances where a bottle of vitamins would cost less than $A50.

They also found that Brennan had approached another party about having the bottle tested to ascertain their contents, to be told it would cost between $A10,000 and $A100,000. He did not proceed with any analysis because of the cost, but did not request a test for cobalt, which would have cost around $A200.

Kavanagh administered doses of the “Vitamin Complex” to horses being trained by him and presented to race. He did not record its use, the stewards noted.

Each man asserted they did not know the “Vitamin Complex” contained cobalt, with Brennan saying he relied on assurances from another individual that it did not contain the substance. However, the stewards characterized his conduct at the time of supply as bordering on wilful blindness.

Read the stewards’ decision here

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