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Stablehand to appear at Aquanita appeals

The stablehand at the centre of the “Aquanita eight” doping scandal will give evidence during the appeals of four disqualified trainers.

Greg Nelligan has been subpoenaed to appear at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal as Robert Smerdon, Stuart Webb, Tony Vasil and Queensland trainer Liam Birchley fight their bans.

Racing Victoria barrister Jeff Gleeson QC on Wednesday said the four other disqualified people had been subpoenaed to give evidence: Nelligan and his wife Denise, trainer Trent Pennuto and stablehand Daniel Garland.

The Nelligans are expected to appear on Monday.

The Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board declared the long-running systematic conspiracy to cheat using “top-ups” of sodium bicarbonate to be the biggest scandal and one of the darkest chapters in Australian racing history.

It described Smerdon as the driving force behind the conspiracy along with Greg Nelligan, who it said seemed to have been the architect and to some extent the promoter of the top-ups scheme.

Nelligan was caught inserting a syringe into the Smerdon-trained Lovani’s mouth on Turnbull Stakes Day in October 2017, sparking the investigation.

Gleeson said the investigation revealed a widespread practice over seven years of giving horses bicarb top-ups on race day.

The stewards’ case relied on 1000 text messages among the 70,000 texts downloaded from Nelligan’s mobile phone.

Smerdon was disqualified for life and fined $90,000, Webb was banned for four years, Vasil for three years and Birchley for one year.

The Nelligans were disqualified for life, Pennuto for two years and Garland for one year.

All eight were associated with thoroughbred management company Aquanita Racing.

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