Richard Brosnan. Photo: Trish Dunell.
Respected northern horseman Richard Brosnan has been hit with a $19,200 fine for high cobalt levels, a punishment which he describes as huge on the verge of his retirement after a blemish-free 48 years’ training.
Judicial Control Authority penalty guidelines set an $8000 fine for first time cobalt offenders but with three horses involved - Bopper Jet, Grenado and Our Petite Lady - it multiplied the amount to $24,000 with a 20% discount for his impeccable record and prompt acknowledgement of responsibility.
Brosnan denied deliberately administering cobalt to the horses, who won races at Auckland in August and September last year and have now been disqualified.
But he admitted he had failed to recognise that supplements he was giving to the horses could give rise to prohibited levels of cobalt.
Brosnan said the only explanation for the high cobalt levels could be the Elevate B12 2000 Plus Selenium which he gave the horses after hard working them two days before their races. The product is designed to treat cobalt and selenium deficiency in sheep and cattle.
Bopper Jet returned a cobalt level of 136 micrograms per litre of urine and Grenado 128 mcg/l, just over the permitted threshold of 100.
The committee said it was struck by the very high level of 522 mcg/l returned by Our Petite Lady.
Brosnan said the mare had been given medication obtained from the Auckland Veterinary Clinic to prevent her from coming into season. The other two horses did not get it.
While the committee said it was not possible to demonstrate that Brosnan had administered cobalt, it put his level of culpability at the higher end because of items found at the stables.
The Racing Integrity Unit discovered four vials of cobalt chloride in the fridge, the cobalt level 18,000 mcg/kg, along with two syringes containing trace levels of cobalt.
But Brosnan said they were leftover items from 2012 when he had been advised by his vet to use the product as neighbours had been using chemical spraying on potatoes which were affecting the welfare and fitness of his horses.
Brosnan said the vet recommended using cobalt because it would pick up his horses but it had had a limited affect.
The original order was for 25 4ml vials. Each of the four vials remaining still contained the full 4mls.
Brosnan said he had forgotten about the cobalt and pointed out he would hardly have left the vials in his fridge where they could be easily found if he had wanted to cheat.
Nevertheless, despite having expired by several years, the committee found the items to be aggravating factors.
The committee said after much publicity about cobalt use in both the harness and thoroughbred code in recent years all licensed people should have been put on notice, alert to the risks of storing cobalt in their stables.
In August, 2017 the prohibited level had been reduced in harness racing from 200mcg/l to 100.
Brosnan acknowledged that he alone was at fault and said that was why he immediately accepted responsibility for the breaches.
A report from chief veterinary adviser Dr Andrew Grierson said it was unlikely the levels detected could have come about through the horses eating food which contained cobalt.
The committee, which also imposed $500 costs, said references and testimonials presented at the hearing from a number of industry participants detailing Brosnan’s lifelong integrity made for persuasive reading.
Brosnan, 69, said he had found the case extremely stressful after a clean record since he started training at the age of 21. “It has damaged my reputation at a time when I am about to retire. It is a huge punishment for me.’’