Cobalt case takes toll on Kavanagh

Being charged with a cobalt offence has left Melbourne Cup and Cox Plate-winning trainer Mark Kavanagh’s family and career “in tatters”.

Kavanagh has sold his home to keep his unprofitable training operation going and cover his legal costs as he fights a three-year cobalt disqualification.

“I sold it earlier this year to pay for the debts – the legal costs and to keep the business running,” Kavanagh told the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Kavanagh said his business had not been profitable since he was charged in January 2015 over the horse Magicool’s cobalt positive following an October 2014 race.

The number of horses on Kavanagh’s books has fallen from 125 to 25, while his staff has been reduced from 35-40 to about 10.

His always-patchy relationship with his eldest son, disqualified Sydney trainer Sam Kavanagh, is now non-existent.

Asked how his wife Isobel had coped, Kavanagh said: “She hasn’t.”

Kavanagh admitted he lied during a NSW inquiry, over his evidence that Flemington Equine Clinic vet Tom Brennan and its practice manager told the trainer they sent a bottle to Sam Kavanagh found to contain cobalt.

Kavanagh said he was confused at the time, in March 2015.

“My family was in tatters. My career was in tatters. My son was a mess and things were changing by the moment.,” he said on Thursday.

“Stories were going everywhere. Everybody had a different version and I was extremely confused.”

After being told a bottle of a substance called vitamin complex found in his Sydney stables contained highly concentrated cobalt, Sam Kavanagh informed NSW stewards in February 2015 that Brennan supplied the bottle.

But Brennan did not come clean until July last year, revealing he gave the vitamin complex to some racehorses in the Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien stables and sent it to Sam Kavanagh.

Kavanagh and O’Brien, who was disqualified for four years over four horses’ cobalt positives, continue to train under a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of the VCAT appeal.

After 23 days of evidence, closing submissions in the case will be heard on the Wednesday and Friday of Melbourne Cup week.

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