Trainer Birchley to appeal
QUEENSLAND trainer Liam Birchley's decision to appeal against the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board guilty finding could pave the way for Racing Victoria to subpoena others in the Aquanita inquiry to give evidence.
Birchley, who was found guilty of three counts of being party to the illegal race-day treatment, is one of eight racing identities who will face penalties on Thursday for doping offences.
But, even before sentencing, Birchley has indicated he will appeal.
If the matter proceeds to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, some of the others involved in the case could be compelled to appear.
Robert Smerdon and husband and wife Greg and Denise Nelligan did not participate in the explosive RAD Board hearing.
Tony Vasil, Stuart Web, Trent Pennuto and Danny Garland did not appear at the tribunal but were represented by lawyers.
Birchley was the only charged party to front the tribunal, providing evidence which was savaged by the board.
VCAT has the power of subpoena to compel the production of documents and the appearance of persons to give evidence if it is satisfied of their relevance to the case.
Birchley's lawyer Travis Schultz described the RAD Board finding against his client as "unfortunate and unexpected".
"We strongly believe the stewards did not have sufficient evidence to support their case and Mr Birchley continues to maintain the charges were unsubstantiated," Schultz said.
"He has worked in the industry for more than 35 years and the welfare of his horses has always been his highest priority.
"Throughout his long career, Mr Birchley has never been charged with use of any illegal substance or race day treatment of a horse under his care. His record is unblemished.
"My client has instructed me to continue to vigorously defend the charges and we look forward to lodging an appeal as soon as this hearing concludes."
Birchley was described by the RAD Board as "a non-paying customer" in relation to Greg Nelligan's "top-ups".
The Board said Birchley's credit was "destroyed in cross-examination" and not "a witness of truth."
Judge John Bowman and two colleagues dismissed arguments that a text message from Smerdon to Greg Nelligan that he would "need an extra one for Liam's" was ambiguous.
"When seen in the context of the many messages, we are comfortably satisfied that this particular message relates to the provision of a 'top-up' for one of Mr Birchley's runners," the ruling said.
"That this would occur without his knowledge or consent seems to us to be highly unlikely."