Racing Victoria launches 11th hour appeal to extend Laming’s ban

Racing Victoria has lodged an 11th hour VCAT appeal against horse trainer Richard Laming, seeking a 10-month ban for cobalt presentation.

On the 26th day of a 28-day appeal window, Racing Victoria counter-appealed the Cranbourne trainer, who is on a stay of proceedings after he challenged the severity of his three-month cobalt presentation suspension.

The counter-appeal comes three weeks after stomach-tubing charges against Laming and two of his staff were sensationally withdrawn from the Victorian Racing Tribunal, after a senior Racing Victoria steward’s conduct whilst giving evidence at the tribunal made the case untenable. The two cases are unrelated.

Richard Laming. Credit:Glen Watson

“Mr Laming lodged an appeal with VCAT against the severity of a three-month suspension handed to him by the Victorian Racing Tribunal last month after he pleaded guilty to presenting a horse to race with cobalt above the permitted threshold,” Racing Victoria spokesman Shaun Kelly told The Age.

“On the basis that the stewards requested a penalty of 10 months disqualification before the Victorian Racing Tribunal for that offence, they have lodged a counter-appeal so that VCAT considers the position of both parties in making its decision as to an appropriate penalty.”

Laming has a poor integrity record, which was factored into calculations when VRT chair judge John Bowman decided on a three-month penalty for cobalt presentation.

In 2010, Laming was disqualified for three years after EPO was detected in out-of-competition blood samples in two of his horses on three occasions.

Laming was also suspended for two months in 2018 after stewards observed a horse being administered a medication on race day with a nebuliser.

Then, on Melbourne Cup day 2019, stewards allegedly saw horse Jamaican Rain being stomach-tubed at Laming’s Cranbourne stables on race day morning.

Laming vigorously defended the charges, which were dropped on February 25 when a senior steward’s conduct whilst giving evidence made the case no longer tenable.

While Laming was hit with a three-month suspension on February 19 – after he pleaded guilty at the VRT to presenting Iam Ekstraordinary to a Ballarat race on May 23, 2018 with cobalt in its system – he has been training on a stay of proceedings after appealing the severity of the penalty.

Charges of deliberate administration of cobalt were dismissed by the VRT in October last year, after stewards accepted that a stable employee “had made an honest mistake in injecting the horse with cobalt on race day”.

“In the present case, there is no suggestion that Mr Laming authorised Ms [Amy] Mercer to administer the injection on race day,” Bowman wrote in his determination.

“The evidence is to the contrary. However dated it may have been, any general direction given to Ms Mercer was not to administer injections on race day.”

The VRT did, however, fine Laming $1000 on February 19 for failing to keep proper stable records while handing down a three-month suspension for presentation, taking into account Laming’s poor record.

The same day lawyers for Laming filed a VCAT appeal challenging the severity of the suspension, arguing the penalty is excessive for the crime.

But last week, on the final day of the 28-day appeal window, Racing Victoria filed a counter-appeal of its own in search of a larger penalty for the cobalt offences – three weeks after Laming’s stomach-tubing case was dropped.

The senior steward involved is currently on restricted duties pending a Racing Victoria review into their conduct, while the Victorian Racing Integrity Board is “considering the circumstances surrounding the withdrawal of charges” against Laming.

The state’s new Racing Integrity Commissioner Sean Carroll, who replaced Sal Perna a month ago, has also requested a briefing from Racing Victoria and “will undertake an examination” of what went wrong.

VCAT is yet to set a date to hear the appeals.

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