Champion trainer Darren Weir will fight for his career when he fronts Victorian stewards to show cause why he should not be suspended after being charged with offences relating to electronic devices, commonly known as jiggers, found in his stables.
Stewards opened the show cause hearing on Friday and withdrew all Weir-trained horses from race meetings over the weekend and those of Jarrod McLean, his assistant who is also a licensed trainer and charged with similar offences.
The hearing will reconvene at 2pm on Monday.
The two were also charged with failing to answer questions at the opening of a Racing Victoria stewards inquiry on Thursday, the day after they and officers from the Victoria Police sports integrity unit raided Weir’s stables at Ballarat and Warrnambool.
Until last week, Weir had more than 600 horses on his books with that number dwindling as owners begin transferring them to other trainers amid uncertainty over their autumn programs.
High-profile trainers including Chris Waller, David Hayes and the Lindsay Park team, Ciaron Maher, Kris Lees and Peter and Paul Snowden, are among those either welcoming or awaiting new arrivals.
With entries taken on Monday morning for races later in the week including Saturday’s Group One C F Orr Stakes at Caulfield, Weir and McLean will be allowed to nominate horses but if they are not successful at the show cause hearing, they will not run in their names.
“There’d have to be a transfer obviously,” RV head of integrity Jamie Stier said.
“Whilst its not definitely confirmed yet, the indications from the stewards are that transfer should take place prior to acceptance time if, and I stress if, Mr Weir and Mr McLean are in a position not to be listed as the horses’ trainers on race day.”
Stier said the finding of jiggers in a racing stable was serious.
“The stewards are concerned about the seriousness of the threat posed by Mr Weir’s and Mr McLean’s alleged possession of an electronic apparatus. This is a significant issue in terms of animal welfare and racing integrity,” he said.
A jigger is usually a small electrical device used in conjunction with a whip to try to stimulate a horse to run faster.
It is used in training and the action is then simulated on race day so the horse believes it is about to be shocked again.
Weir, a five-time Melbourne premier trainer and the winner of the 2015 Melbourne Cup with Prince Of Penzance, employs around 150 people in his stables with Stier saying RV had emailed them to offer support from the independent service Stableline to any staff who felt they needed it.
A third person, stable employee Tyson Kermond, has also been charged with failing to answer stewards’ questions at Thursday’s adjourned inquiry.
That inquiry will be heard by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board on a date yet to be confirmed.