Aquanita ap­points stand-in train­ers

Sun­light has speed to over­come wide bar­rier, says Cur­rie

The Weekend Australian - - SPORT - BREN­DAN CORMICK TURF AAP

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.”

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