Bans for Australian training duo in high-profile cobalt case

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Australian thoroughbred racehorse trainers Lee and Shannon Hope have each received bans over failed cobalt tests in three horses.

The state of Victoria’s Racing and Appeals Disciplinary Board yesterday handed down penalties to the pair, who train in partnership.

Lee Hope will serve a three-year suspension and Shannon Hope will serve a five-year suspension.

The pair each faced a series of charges arising from cobalt levels detected in Windy Citi Bear, Best Suggestion and Choose that were above the threshold set for the substance in urine.

The case went to a defended hearing, during which the Hopes challenged the cobalt threshold, arguing that the three horses must have exceeded it through the small amounts of cobalt in the many supplements they had received.

Following the hearing of evidence, the Hopes changed their pleas to guilty on three of the cobalt-related charges they faced. These related to the trainers administering, or causing to be administered, cobalt above the permitted threshold to the horses. Alternative charges in relation to each horse fell away as a result of the guilty pleas.

However, the charges admitted by the pair did not address any element of intention to affect the performance of the horses, but related only to administering cobalt, resulting inadvertently or unintentionally in their horses exceeding the permitted threshold.

Stewards continued to pursue the more serious cobalt-related counts the pair faced in relation to the three horses – administering cobalt for the purposes of affecting their performance in a race – to which they maintained their not-guilty pleas.

The disciplinary board, comprising Judge Russell Lewis, Brian Forrest and Geoff Ellis, last week found the pair guilty of the more serious charges.

The board said the disqualifications would commence at midnight on Tuesday, November 24, before which the pair may not start a horse in any race.

Windy Citi Bear, Best Suggestion and Choose are now disqualified from their respective races and the places amended accordingly.

Further, the board ordered that the trainers’ percentage of prizemoney held under order by Racing Victoria since August 3 this year be paid to the trainers within seven days.

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