ALBURY’S richest horse race has been implicated in the doping inquiry launched by Racing Victoria authorities.
The Robert Smerdon-trained Verdant finished runner-up in the 2015 Gold Cup and the horse has been mentioned in alleged text messages published in a Melbourne newspaper receiving a “top-up” of bicarbonate soda _ an illegal raceday treatment.
The text to Smerdon from an Aquanita Racing employee on March 27, 2015 said: “Just arrived, both travelled good. Found good spot to TU”.
Stablemate So You Drink, who finished fourth in the Albury Guineas behind Brett Cavanough-trained Loved Up, was also mentioned.
Verdant, who raced in the Aquanita Racing colours in Albury, finished a half-length behind Gold Cup winner Kourkam and earned connections $34,000 prizemoney for second place.
Southern District Racing Association chief steward John Davidson was in charge on cup day three years ago.
But he referred all questions to Racing NSW chief steward Marc Van Gestel in Sydney.
He said a “brief” on the alleged scandal should arrive in Sydney early next week from Victoria authorities and their own investigations could start.
“If there is sufficient evidence to suggest there has been potential breaches of the rules of racing in NSW we will be pursuing those persons involved and asking them to attend an inquiry or investigation,” Mr Van Gestel said.
“We understand the brief if being sent to NSW and as soon as we receive that we will be in a position to commence our investigations in relation to it and what is relevant to NSW racing.”
Verdant was tested pre-race, but Mr Van Gestel said couldn’t comment on whether the swab taken was still in existence.
“We take about 22,000 samples a year and it’s not possible to freeze all of those,” he said.
“Generally speaking obviously group one and black-type races are frozen in addition to selected other races as well.”
Albury Racing Club chairman Mark Cronin declined to comment on the link to the Gold Cup carnival.
Smerdon has won the Gold Cup twice with Paddy O’Reilly being his recent winner in 2011 and Hofmeister four years earlier.
Post-race Verdant’s jockey Brendan Avdulla said: “He ran super, they’ve done a marvellous job getting him back to his best, and he went one better today”.
The Aquanita inquiry is not due to be heard at the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board until April 30.
This year’s Gold Cup carnival will be held on March 18 and 23.