The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board handed out some of the harshest penalties ever issued in Australian racing history when the eight employees of Aquanita were sentenced on Thursday.
Robert Smerdon and his long-time assistant and stable employee Greg Nelligan given life bans.
Stuart Webb was given a four-year ban while Tony Vasil received a three-year ban from the sport. Another trainer, Trent Pennuto, was handed a disqualification of two years.
Denise Nelligan, who alerted stewards to the contents of the pre-race treatments and is the wife of Greg Nelligan, was also given a life ban. Float driver Danny Garland received a one-year ban.
Queensland trainer Liam Birchley, the only one of the eight to appear during the hearing, was handed a one-year disqualification.
Just two days earlier in the Melbourne County Court, Judge John Bowman had been damning in his description of the group’s behaviour over the last eight years.
Trainer Robert Smerdon.
Bowman had declared that the Aquanita scandal was possibly the darkest moment in Australian racing history.
A life ban or disqualification is a career-ending blow that means they cannot go on to a racetrack, attend a race meeting, TAB, horse sales, racing agistment farms and stud farms, or socialise with racing people or live with a person who is currently a licensed person.
In a sudden move late on Tuesday afternoon, Birchley's legal counsel informed Racing Victoria that their client would be appealing the guilty verdict that the RAD Board issued.
None of the eight were at the Melbourne County Court on Thursday for sentencing.
Bowman said on Tuesday that the eight guilty former members of Aquanita had knowingly conspired to cheat and thanked senior counsel Jeff Gleeson for advising him to read the 1000 text messages that gave a clear insight into why hundreds of charges were laid by Racing Victoria stewards.
If Birchley does appeal to VCAT, it will mean that Racing Victoria will be able to subpoena the other seven accused.
If they fail to appear, they could face imprisonment.
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