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The Aquanita decision has been handed down, finding all the accused guilty

Steve Bennett in Latest News 8 May 2018
  • Aquanita Eight found guilty
Trainer - Robert Smerdon

The ‘Aquanita Eight’ have been found guilty over the Aquanita race day treatments.

Trainers Robert Smerdon, Liam Birchley, Stuart Webb, Tony Vasil and Trent Pennuto, along with stable hands Greg and Denise Nelligan and Daniel Garland were found guilty under an Australian racing rule dealing with dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable practices.

The Victorian Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board (RAD) found that all eight were to some degree involved in a plan to insert sodium bicarbonate and tripart paste into horses on race day by-way-of ‘top-ups’ to gain what was thought to be an unfair advantage.

The Board Chairman, Judge John Bowman classified the case as one of the biggest he has seen.

“This matter, the Aquanita case, involves probably the biggest scandal and the most widespread investigation in the history of Australian racing” Judge Bowman said.

“This was a long running systematic conspiracy to try and obtain an unfair advantage in well over a hundred races over seven years.

“The Aquanita case represents one of the darkest and longest chapters in the history of Australian turf”.

Racing Victoria welcomed the news of a guilty verdict with Chief Executive Giles Thompson releasing a statement soon after the news was announced.

“We welcome the guilty verdicts against all eight licensed and registered persons involved in the Aquanita Case as we believe it sends a very strong signal to anyone who thinks they can undermine the integrity of the sport by actively breaching the Rules of Racing.

“It also is a ringing endorsement of the investigative work of our Integrity Services team who found these breaches and ran an exhaustive four-month investigation before laying charges against these eight people.

“Our primary objective is to uphold the integrity of the sport and to enforce the Rules of Racing to ensure that every horse is able to compete on a level playing field and we have continued to invest in better systems and capability to achieve this.

“We are committed to ensuring that the very small minority who seek to breach the Rules of Racing and undermine our sport are found, investigated and ultimately prosecuted. That is what our participants, our customers and the wider public expect us to do.

“I want to thank our Integrity Services team for their efforts and remind all the hard-working, passionate and committed participants who abide by the Rules of Racing that we won’t shy away from our role in protecting the integrity of the sport and the welfare of our horses so that they can compete on a level playing field.

“We will now read the RAD Board’s judgement in detail before finalising our submissions on penalties that we believe will accurately reflect today’s decision and the seriousness of the respective breaches of the Rules of Racing.”

The RAD will hear submissions on penalties in relation to the offences on Thursday and more than likely hand them down later that day.

The penalties could include disqualification and warning off to what the board described as the clearest breaches of racing rules.

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The Aquanita decision has been handed down, finding all the accused guilty

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