Horse trainer Darren Weir disqualified for four years
DARREN Weir has been disqualified for four years by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board, abruptly derailing the career of Australia's most successful trainer.
Weir, 48, did not contest four serious charges against him, stemming from the discovery of jiggers, or electronic apparatus, on his property last week.
Handing down the penalty, Judge John Bowman on behalf of deputy chairman Brian Forrest, said: "It is sad it has come to this. You are a 48-year-old man who has completed a rags to riches rise in the racing world.
"Until a week ago, you could be described as a leviathan trainer…with hundreds of horses, owners that number in the thousands with a staff of 150.
"You rose from the depths of the Mallee to be Australia's leading trainer.
"All of this makes your fall even sadder.
"Now you will be remembered for possessing instruments of cruelty and implements associated with a high level of cheating.
"This is clearly a significant breach of the rules."
The board imposed a "global penalty" of four years on the three jigger charges and another for conduct prejudicial.
But deputy chairman Josh Bornstein pushed for a five-year ban, arguing Weir should serve a 30-month ban for possessing jiggers and a further 30 months for conduct prejudicial.
The board ultimately landed on a four-year ban, which starts immediately.
Weir's barrister Patrick Wheelahan said the trainer pleaded no contest because he wanted a quick resolution to the charges rather than the matter dragging on and costing the industry millions of dollars.
The hearing was told three jiggers were found in the trainer's master bedroom at Ballarat.
Racing Victoria produced details of a Victoria Police search during a dawn raid on Weir's house and stables last week.
RV legal counsel Jeff Gleeson, QC, said three devices were uncovered in the house used by Weir in the Forest Lodge stables at Miners Rest.
Gleeson said the location of the devices was telling.
"The inference is inescapable," he said.
"Locating those devices in a master bedroom indicate a desire to conceal those items from stewards."
Gleeson said the use of jiggers to intimidate horses with an electric shock was cruel.
The practice, he said, puts "winning ahead of the welfare of horses."
Gleeson said the racing industry had been tarnished in the aftermath of the stable raid.
Weir had not offered any explanation over the presence of jiggers.
Weir, 48, did not contest four serious charges against him, three of them stemming from the discovery of jiggers.
He faced a fourth charge of conduct prejudicial to the interests of racing.
Two other charges of failing to give evidence and failing to comply with stewards' directions were dropped after Weir agreed on Monday not to contest the charges.
The hearing with a string of disclosures from Judge John Bowman.
Judge Bowman told a packed inquiry room both he and deputy chairman Josh Bornstein had previously raced horses with Weir.
Leonard will ultimately make way for a high-profile successor, possibly Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.
Co-accused Jarrod McLean will appear before the RAD Board on four charges relating to a jigger on his property at Yangery.
McLean has vowed to fight the charges, telling owners "police charges are pending but this process will take quite some time."
"I have fully co-operated with them and am confident that everything will be fine," he said.
"I look forward to training for many years to come."