Newcastle trainer Ben Smith has been disqualified for four years and six months after having his potential penalty reduced on 10 charges relating to cobalt, raceday treatments, refusing to give evidence and providing false evidence to stewards.
Smith, who has been suspended since a Racing NSW stewards raid of his Newcastle Racecourse stables, vehicle and residence on September 11 last year, was found guilty on all charges last month and faced a penalty hearing on Tuesday.
The two-time group 1 winner, who pleaded not guilty to some charges, faced a disqualification in excess of 11 years if penalties were served cumulative but stewards found "partial concurrency" in the offences and determined a seven-year sentence.
They then handed down a two-and-a-half year discount based on Smith's "personal and professional circumstances at the time of the offending conduct, his clean record, the assistance he provided the stewards with some of the offences, and the effects a significant penalty will have upon him".
Smith's defence included a doctor's report about his battle with depression and anxiety, excessive use of prescription painkillers for a back problem and drinking.
He rose to prominence in 2018 when he scored group 1 wins with In Her Time and El Dorado Dreaming. Smith spoke about the pressures of being an up-and-coming trainer during the inquiry.
The disqualification was backdated to September 18, meaning Smith will be allowed to apply for a trainer's licence on March 18, 2023.
The determination comes after Smith's brother, Daniel, and stablehand Emma Bickley were disqualified for their role in the raceday treatments and for not appearing at a hearing. Bickley, who also gave false evidence, was banned for three years and six months. Daniel Smith was outed for 18 months.
Ben Smith's stables were raided after Iron Duke and Elaborate returned illegal levels of cobalt following wins. Other horses from his stable, including El Dorado Dreaming, also had elevated readings from tests conducted during the raid.
As well as charges relating to the raceday cobalt positives, Smith was guilty of giving false evidence about unregistered substances found in his vehicle and home during the raid and of refusing to give evidence about the supplier, Neil Costello.
The other charges related to administration of electrolyte paste on racedays, improper conduct in administering carcinogen formaldehyde and possession of unregistered substances.
In their findings, stewards were "not satisfied to the requisite standard that a special circumstance under LR108(2)(b) existed" at the time of raceday treatments. Rule LR108(2)(b) covers substantial reduction of culpability due to impaired mental functioning or duress.