Trainer Liam Birchley is facing more scrutiny.
Trainer Liam Birchley is facing more scrutiny.

Late scratching puts heat back on trainer

LIAM Birchley, one of eight racing figures disqualified over the Aquanita doping scandal, is at the centre of a Racing Queensland probe into possible race-day treatment at Wednesday's Sunshine Coast meeting.

Training on a stay of proceedings pending an appeal to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal, Birchley was questioned by Racing Queensland stewards after Sailor Gerri was a late scratching.

Stewards ordered the withdrawal of Sailor Gerri from the last race of the day after taking advice from raceday officials, including a veterinary surgeon.


Stewards could not be satisfied Sailor Gerri, one of the favoured runners in the XXXX Gold Benchmark 70 Handicap (1200m), had not been treated on raceday and scratched the horse.

Birchley and a stablehand accompanying Sailor Gerri were questioned before stewards adjourned the inquiry until a date to be fixed to allow time for the analysis of urine, blood and nasal samples taken from the horse.

Birchley was disqualified in May 2018 for a year by the Racing Appeals and Disciplinary Board after being found guilty of involvement in the Aquanita scandal.


He was charged with dishonest, corrupt, fraudulent, improper or dishonourable practice in that he was party to the administration of alkalinising agents and/or medications to a horse or horses on a raceday.

The Queenslander is among a group of eight people to be disqualified.

Robert Smerdon was fined $90,000 and disqualified for life.

Stable employees Greg Nelligan and his wife Denise were also disqualified for life.

Trainers Stuart Webb (four years), Tony Vasil (three years) and Trent Pennuto (two years) along with strapper Danny Garland (one year) were also disqualified.

Vasil, Webb, Smerdon and Birchley are waiting the outcome of their appeals to VCAT.