Aquanita appoints stand-in trainers
Sunlight has speed to overcome wide barrier, says Currie
Four trainers will take over responsibility for the preparing of Robert Smerdon and Stuart Webb’s teams after Aquanita Racing trainers and two employees stood down pending the hearing of 271 charges, predominantly surrounding alleged race day treatment.
Aquanita Racing directors took the step of informing Racing Victoria that its personnel — Robert Smerdon, Denise Nelligan, Stuart Webb and Daniel Garland — had agreed to stand down pending the upcoming hearing of charges by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board, likely to begin next month.
Robert Hickmott and Henry Dwyer join John Sadler and Nick Ryan, both part of the Aquanita operation, to pick up the slack from Monday when Smerdon and Webb have their licences suspended effective that day.
Tony Vasil, Liam Birchley, Trent Pennuto and Greg Nelligan have been asked to show why they should not be suspended pending the hearing of charges.
“After much consideration, being mindful of their responsibilities to staff and owners, and in the interests of racing, they (Smerdon and Webb) have decided to stand down from their training duties at Aquanita and within their respective businesses, effective Monday,” Peter Howell, chairman of Aquanita Racing, said yesterday. “Staff that have also had charges levied against them are also standing down.
“As well as contacting owners to advise them of this decision, we are in the process of allocating training responsibilities to Rob Hickmott, Henry Dwyer, John Sadler and Nick Ryan. With these multiple Group I-winning trainers, we have every confidence the horses trained by Robert and Stuart will receive outstanding training and care,” the statement read.
“As part of the transition, we will provide owners with options and advice regarding the most suitable trainer for their horse, with guidance from Robert and Stuart. The most important point is that every horse will receive outstanding care and training, irrespective of their trainer. We are aiming to have this transition completed by January 22.
“Those charged are entitled to … the presumption of innocence. It is for this reason we have decided it is fair and appropriate that they continue to be paid pending the outcome of future hearings or changes in circumstances.
“We have a clear responsibility to owners and staff to give our horses the best possible chance of success on the racetrack, which requires trainers to be fully focused on preparing horses for racing. Robert and Stuart’s decision allows them to focus on their response to the charges, while their horses continue to receive outstanding training.” Those stood After an initial disappointment, Sunlight has quickly shown everyone the talent her jockey Luke Currie knew she had.
Now the flying filly gets her chance to deliver on a big stage. Sunlight was beaten as favourite on debut in the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes in October in Melbourne but has since posted two emphatic wins at the Gold Coast to be favourite for today’s $2 million Magic Millions Classic (1200m) at the same track.
“I was disappointed in her run at Flemington. It was below what I expected of her,” Currie said.
“So what she’s done in her last couple is what I expected of her. Her Flemington run probably taught us a little bit and taught her a little bit as well.”
Currie is pleased trainer Tony McEvoy decided to run Sunlight last Saturday over 1100m when the filly powered away to win by 5½ lengths.
“I did think she needed it,” Currie said.
“She had had enough late but she still had a bit in hand.
“She got pressured mid-race, then kicked away and then idled down late. She passed the 1100m test with flying colours so I couldn’t see off that that she would have any problem running 1200 at this point.
“I know all races, and especially two-year-old races, things sometimes don’t go to plan and if she gets beaten, I still think she’s going to win a big race along the way.”
Sunlight will have to overcome a wide barrier but Currie is hopeful the filly has the natural speed to counter that.
“She showed brilliant speed last time and I thought the positive was Ef Troop has drawn wider than her.
“I think he will try to take up a forward spot and she can probably go across with him.’’ down are permitted to attend race meetings but will not participate in their normal activities as licensed or registered persons.
Trainer Trent Pennuto is serving a ban after being found guilty of AR 64G (Stomach Tubing) in August 2017.
Racing Victoria’s chief executive Giles Thompson welcomed Aquanita’s decision and “its continued co-operation” with the inquiry. “It’s vital that the integrity of Victorian thoroughbred racing is protected while we await the outcomes of the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board hearing of these charges,” Thompson said
“It is important to say that all of those charged by stewards on Tuesday have a presumption of innocence.”