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Champion horse trainer Darren Weir receives two-year ban for use of jigger on horses in 2018

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In short:

The Victorian Racing Tribunal has handed down its decision after trainer Darren Weir was accused of animal cruelty and dishonourable conduct.

The charges related to the use of an electrical device known as a “jigger” which delivers a shock to an animal to affect its performance.

What next?

The tribunal will determine at a later date whether the penalty imposed should be backdated to a date in 2019 or if it is to be served from today.

Melbourne-Cup-winning horse trainer Darren Weir has been disqualified from racing for another two years after using an electronic shock device known as a jigger on three horses.

The Victorian Racing Tribunal handed down its decision on Friday after hearings spanning five months, describing Weir’s behaviour as “abhorrent and deserving of condemnation”.

“This is behaviour the industry will not tolerate,” Judge John Bowman said.

Weir admitted to using the  banned electrical device on the horses at his Warrnambool stables in 2018, a week before the Melbourne Cup.

His former assistant trainer Jarrod McLean and stablehand Tyson Kermond have been penalised for assisting him.

Horse trainer Darren Weir

Darren Weir has already served a four-year ban for possession of the jigger.(ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

McLean received an 18-month suspension, while Kermond was slapped with a six-month suspension.

Weir previously received a four-year ban from the sport, expired in February last year, for possession of the jigger.

In April, he was cleared of allegations that the use of the jigger was to corrupt the outcome of the 2018 Melbourne Cup.

Today’s ban means Weir is unable to train horses in an official capacity, but the tribunal heard he had been undertaking pre-training activities.

During the previous hearing in March, a video was played showing horses on a treadmill with blinkers over their eyes.

They were hit with a plastic tube before Weir shocked them with the jigger.

The device was used on Red Cardinal seven times and Tosen Basil and Yogi nine times.

Stewards push for harsher penalty

Racing Victoria stewards pushed for a 10-year ban during a hearing on penalty submissions last month.

During a previous hearing on penalty submissions, prosecutor for Racing Victoria Albert Dinelli said Weir’s conduct jeopardised Racing Victoria’s “social licence”.

“Racing’s social licence depends on the reality and the perception that racehorses are not mistreated and that races are untainted by unfairness, dishonesty and contravention of the rules,” he said.

When pushing for a 10-year training ban for Weir, Mr Dinelli said the penalty for use of the jigger, animal cruelty and improper and dishonourable conduct charges should naturally be higher than the four years he received previously for possessing the jigger. 

“The stewards regard the charges as of the most serious nature in racing,” he said.

Darren Weir leaves Racing Victoria's headquarters after being questioned by officials In 2019.

Darren Weir leaving Racing Victoria’s headquarters in 2019.(ABC News)

The barrister for Kermond and McLean, Damian Sheales, had said Racing Victoria’s push for a 10-year ban was “nonsensical” and there was no precedent for it as a penalty.

Weir’s barrister Ian Hill KC said Weir had already suffered significant punishment, which had continued since the expiration of his ban last year. 

He said Weir had cooperated with Racing Victoria stewards’ request to not attend metropolitan race meets or yearling sales with owner and purchasers.

Mr Hill said Weir had suffered additional punishment through extensive media coverage and loss of his livelihood and identity. 

“We are often defined by our work and he has been,” he said.

“He has received accolades, great heights, but then on the other hand, it is something for which he has received condemnation. All that should be factored into your decision.”

Trainer Darren Weir with horse Prince of Penzance in 2015.

Trainer Darren Weir with horse Prince of Penzance in 2015.(ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky)

In handing down the penalty today, Judge Bowman said the tribunal accepted it had received a large number of “impressive character references” and that Weir was genuinely remorseful.

The tribunal heard Weir had been pre-training horses at his Maldon property Trevenson Park, which employed 35 staff and hosted about 130 horses, and had ambitions to return to training. 

Pre-training does not require a Racing Victoria licence. 

Pre-trainers are able to work with horses on private properties prior to racing, but horses must be in the care of a licensed trainer for a minimum of 28 days prior to any race, according to Racing Victoria rules. 

Weir, Kermond and McLean will return to the tribunal at a later date continued discussions on whether the bans imposed should be backdated to 2019 or to be served from today.



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