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Aquanita 8 knew they were cheating: QC

The five trainers and three stablehands charged in the Aquanita race day treatments inquiry all knew they were cheating, a tribunal has heard.

Racing Victoria stewards’ barrister Jeff Gleeson QC said float driver Greg Nelligan was caught in the act giving the Robert Smerdon-trained Lovani a “top-up” last October.

“It’s not often that the person alleged to be involved in dishonest, cheating conduct is caught with the smoking gun in his hand,” Gleeson told Victoria’s Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board on Thursday.

Gleeson said Nelligan’s wife Denise gave up the actual meaning of the code word – a “top-up” of sodium bicarbonate and tripart.

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Hundreds of text messages over seven years from Greg Nelligan’s phone revealed how widespread the practice was, Gleeson said.

Gleeson said stewards had a very strong case against the eight charged people who engaged in the practice of cheating.

“The participants knew they were cheating.”

Those involved say the term top-up referred to topping up horses’ feed or water.

Trainers Smerdon, Liam Birchley, Stuart Webb, Tony Vasil and Trent Pennuto and stable employees the Nelligans and Daniel Garland were charged under an Australian racing rule dealing with dishonest, corrupt or fraudulent, improper or dishonourable action.

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