ThoroughBred Racing

Darren Weir is back working with horses but training remains in limbo

Darren Weir is back working with horses but training remains in limbo

Darren Weir is back working with thoroughbreds but whether he returns to training them any time soon remains in limbo as Racing Victoria investigations continue.

Weir’s four-year disqualification, imposed by RV for the 2019 possession of three electrical devices (jiggers), expired on February 6 but an admission of their use at a Warrnambool court hearing in December, led to the integrity department reopening an inquiry.

But Weir is now unshackled by the terms of a disqualification and has replaced sheep and cattle that have financially sustained him during his time off.

He has about 30 thoroughbreds from long term clients and supporters at his Baringhup property between Ballarat and Bendigo.

He is also understood to be back riding and re-educating horses though he cannot be involved with preparing a horse for racing.

Horses are also agisting at his property.

But Weir will continue to sit out reapplying for a licence to train in his own right again or in any other form, while this latest RV integrity inquiry plays out.

RV confirmed that their inquiries into Weir are continuing.

“The stewards are conducting a thorough process in fairness to all parties,” a spokesman said. “Their inquiries are well progressed; however they are yet to conclude and we don’t intend to put a timeline on it.

“We don’t intend to elaborate on the specifics of the stewards’ inquiry at this time, other than to confirm that they have interviewed multiple persons.”

It is understood RV has again extensively interviewed Weir’s former staff from Ballarat and Warrnambool, as well as requested extra phone records for a two-month period around the times of the now confirmed use of the jigger at his Warrnambool stables in October 2018, where assistant trainer Jarrod McLean and stable hand Tyson Kermond were in attendance, they also both subsequently banned and fined.

It is also understood that the 15-minute video that was shown in the Warrnambool Magistrates Court on December 18 where Weir was captured on CCTV video using the “jigger on the horses Tosen Basil, Red Cardinal and Yogi” was subsequently shown to respective owners’ representatives as part of RV’s new inquiry.

Weir has retained an extremely low profile during his extended ban, making no public comment, though is known to retain his passion to work again training horses in some form and re-engaging in exercising this batch of horses is said to have assisted in helping mental health issues associated with the long running case.

 

Weir’s current work gives him no direct ability to prepare a horse to race.

Racing Victoria says: “A horse must be stabled at a licensed premises (racing stables) for a minimum of 28 days prior to competing in a race.”

“Mr Weir is not a disqualified person and thus is treated in the same manner as a member of the public,” they said

“Members of the public are permitted to handle horses prior to them entering racing stables.”

Weir is understood to have sought RV approval to handle thoroughbreds as an unlicensed person – permission approved as any member of the public can do so on private property.

Changes to Racing Victoria’s “fit and proper person” rules to include a clause in relation to animal welfare, are expected to form a major part of a future application, pending RV findings in this latest investigation and any possible associated penalties that may arise.

An application by Weir for any form of horseman’s licence would then need to be finally approved by the board of Racing Victoria.

Weir admitted to using the electrical device last December under three charges relating to animal cruelty (abuse) that led to a $36,000 fine but without a conviction.

Magistrate Franz Holzer said in the four years since the “isolated” offending, Weir (along with McLean and Kermond) sustained damage to his (their) reputations.

“People talk, and have talked,” Magistrate Holzer said.

“That’s a punishment each of these men will carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

Magistrate Holzer said there were “no ill-effects or health [impacts] to the three horses concerned – other than short-term pain”.

Weir’s lawyer, Ian Hill, QC, told the Warrnambool court his client was hoping to return to horse racing after his ban expired.

“He would like to get back to training eventually; of course, that’s up to Racing Victoria, that’s all he knows” he said, describing the actions that led to his fall as “out of character” for which he has paid a “heavy price”.

Weir the winner of 36 Group 1 races and almost 3200 winners over his career is said to have seen horses he trained subsequently win over $130m in prizemoney during his disqualification period, headlined by Nature Strip and Verry Elleegant.

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In other Racing Victoria integrity news, a Graduate Certificate targeted at stewards and integrity officials (across the tree codes of racing) has been developed by Victoria University and supported by the respective governing bodies who will fund the program.

The short course is targeted on training around steward’s investigations and evidence gathering as well as integrity, data management, and strategic planning.

Much of the push to improve education and training has been led in the wake of the maligned Richard Laming case via the VRIB chair Jack Forrest and independent Integrity Officer Sean Carroll.

“Ensuring staff, stewards and integrity officials can continually build expertise in this area through training and education, will reinforce and strengthen the industry’s commitment to integrity,” said Elizabeth Clarke from the Victorian Racing Integrity Board.