Newcastle trainer Darren Smith has been hit with a total of 61 charges by Racing NSW stewards, for elevated levels of the performance-enhancing substance cobalt in his horses.
Smith is the first Australian trainer to be charged in relation to cobalt use, while Melbourne trainers Peter Moody, Mark Kavanagh and Danny O’Brien have also had horses of theirs return positive tests to the banned drug.
Smith had 20 horses (11 of which were winners) return elevated cobalt readings between February and May last year (one of his horses also returned a positive out of competition test).
With four trainers (that we know of) having returned elevated cobalt readings in their horses, it’s impossible to have total confidence that the majority of racing is clean.
Also, why has it taken Racing NSW so long to lay charges against Smith if the offences date back almost a year?
As is the case in many other sports, the testing technology is often a step behind the users of performance-enhancing drugs.
Now Stewards are aware of the cobalt problem, trainers that want to gain an unfair advantage are probably already onto the next “undetectable” substance that can boost their horses.
And racing officials wonder why horse racing’s piece of the gambling pie keeps diminishing.
You don’t need to be Einstein to figure it out.
What is Cobalt?
Cobalt Chloride is a mineral that occurs naturally in horses at low levels, but it can produce an effect similar to the banned blood-boosting drug EPO when administered in larger quantities.
That means it can improve a horse’s stamina and endurance, allowing them to exert themselves at higher levels for longer.
As of January 1 this year, a threshold of 200 micrograms per litre of urine was imposed.