Racing: O'Sullivan pleads guilty to cobalt charges

Horse trainer and former jockey Lance O'Sullivan will not lose his licence. Photo / Getty
Horse trainer and former jockey Lance O'Sullivan will not lose his licence. Photo / Getty

The man in charge of New Zealand's racing integrity says he is comfortable with champion horseman Lance O'Sullivan not losing his licence even after he had three horses disqualified on drug charges.

O'Sullivan and Andrew Scott, his training partner at Matamata's Wexford Stables, pleaded guilty at a hearing in Auckland today to presenting three horses to the races with cobalt readings over the acceptable limit of 200 micrograms per litre of urine.

One of those horses, Sound Proposition, ran third in the NZ Derby, later losing all stake money from that placing because of the cobalt positive.

But while positive swabs sometimes result in trainers being suspended or even disqualified that won't be the case when the Judicial Control Authority hands down its sentence on Friday week.

The Racing Integrity Unit has not sought a disqualification or suspension, instead asking for a fine of $20,000 per horse, or $60,000 total.

RIU general manager Mike Godber says while that may raise some eyebrows in racing circles he is comfortable with no loss of licence for the training partners.

"We conducted a lot of tests involving what the horses eat and drink and we found there were circumstances where they could raise the horses' cobalt level past the 200 limit," said Godber. "We can only work on what we can prove and their explanation that the cobalt could have got into the horses through other means was plausible.

"Which means they haven't been charged with administering anything to these horses but with presenting them to the races with cobalt in their system.

"That is a big difference so we are satisfied with fines, rather than loss of licence." That will come as a huge relief for O'Sullivan, the 12-times champion jockey turned trainer, and Scott, with the avoidance of loss of licence crucial in maintaining their business.

O'Sullivan, a recent inductee to the New Zealand Sports Hall Of Fame, has been reluctant to comment about the case but told the Herald "we are pleased and satisfied with the way we were treated. We were given a fair hearing and now we will await the JCA penalty. But I won't comment of what I think it should be."

The guilty plea and subsequent decision not to seek a suspension or disqualification comes on the same day the high-profile Peter Moody case played out in very similar fashion in Melbourne.

Moody, trainer of former sprinting champion Black Caviar, was cleared of administering cobalt to affect a horse's performance in a race. He was instead found guilty of a lesser administration offence that will likely result in a fine and/or much shorter ban.

That means he will most likely keep his licence as well, just months after rival trainers Mark Kavanagh and Danny O'Brien were handed stiff disqualifications for the more serious cobalt charge.

- NZ Herald

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