So what’s the biggest story in racing this week? Winx coming to Melbourne for the Turnbull – without ear muffs? (That Craven Plate upgrade looks a bit shabby now or a lucrative target for a b-grader).

The proposed plain sailing $11b Tabcorp-Tatt’s merger getting a cold shoulder in the Federal Court and sent back to the Australian Competition Tribunal? Of course they had approved it in the first place until the Australian Consumer and Competition commission objected The reasons for this latest finding are embargoed but should make interesting reading.

No it’s cobalt again and some strange goings on in authority in New South Wales and Victoria then played out more than playfully on social media by some major players.

Why did Lindsay Park Racing – of course home to David and Ben Hayes and Tom Dabernig need to go to social media with this:

“Rumour mill going crazy. FACT: Lindsay Park DO NOT have a positive to cobalt, or any other medication in Vic/NSW or anywhere else #fakenews.

Who said they did? No-one directly but yes the rumour mill was running loudly suggesting  a Lindsay Park high profile recent Sydney winner had either an elevated or positive reading re cobalt.

This was fuelled by Racing NSW’s direct yet carefully worded release of Tuesday. Cobalt was the target and those using custom made feeds.

“Trainers are warned in respect to the use of some commercially available feeds that have been found to contain levels of cobalt above that specified on the labels.


“In particular, the analysis by two laboratories of feed samples taken from Barastoc Phar Lap Oats-Free Muesli Concentrated Feed manufactured on 23 March 2017 and 22 May 2017 have been found to contain levels of cobalt excessively above the disclosed analysis on the product label.


“Prior to feeding this product, trainers should satisfy themselves as to the level of cobalt contained in this product to ensure that horses presented to race are done so in accordance with the Rules of Racing.”


It named no-one though Lindsay Park outed themselves whilst another successful Warwick Farm based trainer was joined into the innuendo (and that’s all it is right now).


The simple fact of the RNSW missive was that obviously elevated cobalt readings have been found in some recent testing. So be careful trainers, especially if you have someone (allegedly) from America mixing up a special feed with vitamins and supplements mixed.

Racing Victoria reacted with a similar circular to trainers but refused to mention cobalt or a feed brand or batch.

Peter Moody, of course his stellar career black marked by cobalt,  fuelled the rumour mill through Wednesday. It started with “Any truth a leading Vic stable has COBALT positive in NSW there they have few runners compared to home state?”

He followed: “Feed the same for horses in both stables. Maybe RVL not testing for COBALT at moment. Couldn’t risk more positives.”

When the Lindsay Park denial appeared, Moody returned:  “Plenty denials. Don’t believe I mentioned any names. At least trainers are now receiving warnings. For the better.”

And this came off the back of his first Tweet  of the day re the RV notice: “Any questions to be asked here. You all hung me 3 years ago. Warnings late.”

When contacted by JustRacing  Moody was unrepentant. “This doesn’t give me my business back. I am only asking questions. I’ve never been called in over my tweets because I’ve never lied,” he said, and as an owner he is still subject to RV social media policy.

RV responded with a typically straight bat response as to the reasons for their notification to trainers.

“Racing Victoria can confirm that the Notice to Trainers around custom-made feeds and supplements issued by RV stewards on 18 September 2017 was sent after RV was alerted to an investigation being conducted by Racing New South Wales (RNSW) stewards.

“The notice was issued as an alert to all Victorian trainers and does not relate to any matters that are under investigation by RV stewards.

So if there were no issues to deal with in Victoria, why would RV go the extra step and notify trainers of their responsibilities?

“Given some of the matters raised by the RNSW investigation, RV felt it important and timely to remind all Victorian trainers of the need to ensure that they are aware of the constituents of any custom-made feeds or supplements they may currently be using or seeking to use.

“Failure to do so opens the possibility of a significant range of prohibited substances being detected within the horse upon sampling.”

They said they have conducted 10,000  tests since the introduction of the cobalt threshold without issue since the high profile cases “and RV stewards advise that there are no outstanding matters related to cobalt other than those that have already been publicly released.”

But the rumour mill was rife with questioning whether RV was testing for cobalt at all in the past six months while it had resurfaced in Sydney in the meantime.

Whether it was cobalt (not mentioned by RV) or any substance, Twitter was alive with the added burdens being placed on trainers.

“If manufacturers not listiung their ingredients properly, how is a trainer supposed to find out. Ask them? Independent testing” Bizzare” wrote one.

Kate Goodrich – you would be well aware off as her battles with RV after being bullied and wrongly removed from training at Kilmore – took to Twitter with a different tact: “So why won’t they do what HRV (Harness Racing) did and publish the levels of every test, only way to stop the speculation.”

Respected trainer Ron Quinton already at a loss to explain a positive to cobalt re Boss Lane after its Missile Stakes fourth last month was hit with another positive this week with Imanui (which finished fourth) returning a pre-race sample above the threshold.

“I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said in the Daily Telegraph. “I’m not into that sort of stuff and I have an unblemished record in over 24 years of training, and at this point in time, I probably can’t say anymore.”

Stewards then started analysis of feed and supplements taken from Quinton’s stable with some 35 out of competition samples taken. Was it possibly from the brand RNSW would announce at issue?

And then RNSW issued their notice to trainers as per the above.

The difference in RV’s response was that cobalt was not mentioned directly.

But custom made feeds and supplements were joint targets.

This also would seem at odds with RV’s long held position on high cobalt readings and how they are generated.

It then brought to life again the original comments of RV re how high levels of cobalt were achieved.

“I thought that feed supplements didn’t raise cobalt levels? Wasn’t that the original arguement. Obvious that RV have no idea,” wrote one on the Twitter discussion.

You might recall departed former RV chief vet Dr Brian Stewart had given evidence that there was a “next to zero” chance that contamination or a vitamin boost would push a horse’s cobalt level above the threshold (then 200 micrograms/litre  – “generous “  he regarded at the time– but since reduced to 100).

He went on to say in evidence at an appeal. “Once you get up to 200, it gets into the millions to one of that occurring naturally. Any reading this high would likely be the result of massive contamination or deliberate administration.”

Stewart was quoted at the time that even a heavy administration of available vitamin supplements would not push the level above 50 micrograms.

It was Stewart’s position on cobalt that led to drawing up RV’s go first cobalt rule.

“The fundamental science is overwhelming,” Stewart told a cobalt appeal at the time.

“There’s a mass of scientific evidence that would support its potential to have that effect,” said Stewart said whose belief was that it could act as a masking agent.

Now with warnings being issued to trainers – directly in NSW re cobalt, and indirectly re all indirectly in Victoria, Stewart’s words may come back into play and with possible serious ramifications.

At VCAT he admitted the regulator made a mistake in not warning the industry in 2014 that commonly-used products such as injectable vitamin supplement VAM could push cobalt levels over the threshold.

Asked if there should have been warnings, he said: “With the benefit of hindsight, yes.”

And now trainers are being lumbered (in Victoria at least) with advice that they now must be chemists to an extent, with feed manufacturers not listing active constituents or their concentration levels in feeds but it is the trainer’s responsibility to ensure they know what they are and what they are feeding.

So as we head into the heart of spring post footy and Winx comes to Melbourne and for history, again cobalt is alive and unfettered alongside the sport’s greatness.

And there is still no smoke signals coming out of the Victorian Supreme Court of Appeal on cobalt re Danny O’Brien and Mark Kavanagh – who were obviously watching on this week’s development with much interest and perhaps disgust.

Harness Racing Offers and Promotions

Stay up to date with the latest racing news
Follow our social accounts to get exclusive content and all the latest racing news!