Darren Smith vows to fight on after guilty verdict

Saturday, July 28, 2018

FIGHT GOES ON: Trainer Darren Smith faces a long disqualification period. Picture: Jenny EvansNEWCASTLE trainer Darren Smith has been found guilty by Racing NSW stewards on 42 cobalt charges, but he will have to wait until March 20 to find out his penalty.

Smith was charged with 62 offences, but 20 relating to race-day swabs were deemed unnecessary by stewards.

It is expected Smith, who has eight previous offences for use of banned substances, will face a long disqualification which could end his career in racing.

Smith said he was determined to clear his name.

‘‘I really don’t have a lot to say and I will be guided by my lawyers,’’ Smith said. ‘‘We have to wait to see what [penalty] they give me, but I will be appealing and continuing to fight these charges to prove [myself] innocent.’’

Stewards have indicated that at the March 20 hearing they will also rule on whether the horses would be disqualified, as is usually the case, from the races where cobalt was found in their swabs.

Smith’s case has had a high profile, and chief steward Ray Murrihy decided to speak on the findings.

‘‘It is not the standard practice of the stewards to give detailed written reasons, nor is there any requirement to do so,’’ Murrihy said in a statement. ‘‘However, in this instance, it is the view of the stewards that they should deliver written reasons in respect of the more critical findings.’’

The statement said stewards had found cobalt was a prohibited substance ‘‘as it is an agent that is capable of causing either directly or indirectly an action or effect, or both an action and effect, on the blood system.’’

Murrihy addressed an argument from Smith’s counsel, Paul O’Sullivan, that without a threshold cobalt was not a prohibited substance.

‘‘The intent of the threshold is to recognise that cobalt naturally occurs within horses and elevated readings can result from horses being administered registered supplements in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines,’’ Murrihy said.

‘‘However, those issues do not arise in this case as Mr Smith has admitted that he was provided with a bottle by Mr Shannon Wonson that contained cobalt and he administered cobalt to horses in his stable.

‘‘In this respect, Mr Smith maintained that he administered cobalt to horses that were ‘poor eaters’ and that each of those horses detailed above, in which elevated levels of cobalt were detected, were poor eaters.

‘‘Mr Smith does not maintain that the elevated levels arose from administration of registered supplements in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines but has instead defended the charges on the basis that cobalt was not a prohibited substance until a threshold was introduced.

‘‘For the reasons outlined above, that construction is not supported by a proper analysis of the Australian Rules of Racing.’’

Wonson is a disqualified harness racing trainer.

Another cobalt hearing is in the wings, against Kembla Grange’s Paul Murray, but stewards have not set a date for that inquiry to resume.