Racing NSW may struggle to make cobalt charges stick against trainer Darren Smith   Leave a comment

Racing NSW may struggle to make cobalt charges stick against trainer Darren Smith

July 14, 2015 – 5:55PM
Newcastle trainer Darren Smith.Newcastle trainer Darren Smith. Photo: Ryan Osland

Australia’s longest-running cobalt case involving Newcastle trainer Darren Smith looks set to become embroiled in scientific and legal argument after it was adjourned on Monday following a marathon six-hour hearing at the NSW RAD Board.

Smith is appealing a 15-year disqualification after being found guilty of 42 charges relating to cobalt.

In an extraordinary twist, Racing NSW barrister Phillip Boulton asked Judge David Armati to ignore the evidence of RNSW star witness Professor Paul Mills.

Mills has been the backbone of the case against Smith from the outset.

Mills was engaged by RNSW to write a dissertation as to why cobalt is a prohibitive substance even before Smith was charged. In Mills’ dissertation and evidence, he defined cobalt as a prohibitive substance when, in “supraphysiological​ levels”, it acted on the blood.

However many experts observing the case say that without a threshold, who determines when cobalt levels become excessive?

Smith was charged by Racing NSW stewards before a threshold was put in place.

In contrast, Racing Victoria’s chief stipe Terry Bailey has repeatedly said RV would not consider any cobalt charges prior to Victoria’s 200 mcg/L threshold, which was introduced on April 14 last year. A national threshold of 200 was adopted Australia-wide on January 1 this year.

The dilemma facing RNSW in defending its position against Smith is that, in the absence of a threshold, who determines the level at which cobalt becomes prohibitive because cobalt occurs at low levels in every horse?
This contradiction became evident on Monday when Mills, under cross-examination, said a normal horse would have cobalt levels of between five and 10. But when pressed by Smith’s barrister Matthew Sterling, Mills agreed that a level of 20 would be excessive.

This caused Boulton, RNSW’s lawyer, to state that “the legal opinion of RNSW contradicts what Mills says”.

This is not the first time that Smith’s legal team have argued the need for a threshold. The same case was put to the RNSW appeal panel in April. The panel rejected Smith’s appeal and legal argument in a judgment on April 22 and upheld that cobalt was a prohibitive substance.

The appeal panel said cobalt fell into this category because the rules of racing existed to protect the integrity of racing and to protect the health and well-being of horses involved in thoroughbred racing.

However, in that appeal, the expert evidence of Mills was accepted and relied upon.

Now, with RNSW asking for Mill’s evidence to be ignored, this throws a cat among the pigeons.

Also, this appeal is in front of an independent body, which might see it differently.

If RNSW fails, one can only imagine the magnitude of Smith’s potential damages claim as he has been refused horse nominations and acceptances, effectively destroying his training business from April last year.

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Posted July 15, 2015 by belesprit09 in Uncategorized

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