DAMNING veterinary evidence based on a photograph taken by a steward has cost Ballarat/Caulfield trainer Robert Smerdon $10,000.
Stewards found Smerdon guilty yesterday of negligence in allowing the horse Shewan to be treated on the day it was due to race.
The charge against Smerdon arose from a raid on his Caulfield stables on October 20, in which stewards found blood seeping from a puncture wound on Shewan’s neck.
Photographs of the wound tendered to the inquiry showed a 50mm trail of blood on the horse’s neck, which Smerdon said was the result of permitted treatment the horse received the previous day.
But Racing Victoria vet Dr Brian Stewart, who did not examine Shewan on the day, said it would be “almost impossible” for such seepage of blood from a healthy horse.
“It is extra, extra unlikely, almost impossible, unless the horse is affected by a coagulation defect,” Dr Stewart said.
“I can’t imagine a situation in a healthy horse where there is that amount of seepage.
“It is quite clear the blood was fresh.”
Smerdon told the inquiry he always had a vet on-hand to oversee the treatment of his horses and there had been no exception in Shewan’s case.
He maintained that the wound caused by the previous day’s injection had been disturbed and, as a result, had bled.
The stewards noted, however, that no mention of the treatment described by Smerdon appeared in the treatment book that all trainers are obliged to keep up to date.
The inquiry heard that blood samples taken from Shewan had shown no presence of prohibited substances.
Chief steward Terry Bailey described Smerdon’s negligence as twofold in that he allowed a treatment to be administered and had then intended running Shewan the same day.
He also admonished Smerdon for his attitude in the inquiry, in which he offered little under questioning.
“The stewards are somewhat perplexed by your lack of assistance to the inquiry,” Bailey said.
In handing down the fine, Bailey said Smerdon’s case differed from a similar case last week in which his panel disqualified Queensland trainer Nathan Schofield for 12 months.
In that case, which also resulted from a stable raid, Schofield had been caught holding a jug of water and equipment for “tubing” a horse on the day it was due to race.
Smerdon indicated he would consider an appeal.
“But they say you should never make a decision on race day,” he said.
Shewan had been due to run in the David Jones Cup on Caulfield Cup day.
The stewards’ race day inspection also turned up similar indications concerning the Smerdon-trained Mosheen, but the evidence was not considered strong enough to force her scratching.
Although based at Caulfield, Smerdon maintains stables in Ballarat and is part of the Aquanita Racing operation.