Vic court upholds cobalt innocence ruling

Racing Victoria has lost a bid to resurrect charges against trainers Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh after the state’s highest court upheld a ruling that cleared them of administering cobalt.

Racing Victoria took the long-running case to the Court of Appeal, after the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal overturned O’Brien and Kavanagh’s respective four- and three-year disqualifications for administering cobalt.

The Court of Appeal on Friday upheld Racing Victoria’s appeal on a presentation charge but rejected an appeal over charges the trainers administered cobalt, which in high doses can enhance racehorses’ performance.

“The orders made by the tribunal dismissing the charges … should stand,” Court of Appeal president Justice Chris Maxwell said.

The case will be sent back to VCAT to determine a penalty for the presentation charges.

Outside court, O’Brien said the trainers had been exonerated of wrongdoing.

“Absolutely it’s a win,” he told reporters.

“This has always been about administration and once again we’ve been found to be completely innocent of administration.”

VCAT president Justice Greg Garde had concluded that while there was no doubt cobalt was administered to four O’Brien horses and one Kavanagh racehorse in late 2014, the trainers had no knowledge of it.

It was clear they were victims of veterinarian Tom Brennan and had no knowledge, inkling or suspicion that the vet intended to use the contents of a “vitamin complex” bottle in drips for their horses, the judge said in dismissing the charges in March.

The trainers say they never administered cobalt to the horses.

“That’s been the battleground here the whole way through,” O’Brien said.

“We’re very pleased that the three Supreme Court judges here today have reinforced Justice Garde’s decision that Mark and I, at no stage, had ever attempted to grease the rules of racing.

“And we can all move on.”

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