On 7 December 2020, the VRT considered charges issued by the Harness Racing Victoria (HRV) Stewards against licensed trainer Cassandra O’Brien under Australian Harness Racing Rules (AHRR) 196A(1)(i) and 190(1).

Charge 1 was issued under AHRR 196A(1)(i), which states:

(1) A person shall not administer or cause to be administered to a horse any prohibited substance 

(i) for the purpose of affecting the performance or behaviour of a horse in a race or of preventing its starting in a race; or

Charge 2, in the alternative, was issued under AHRR 190(1), which states:

A horse shall be presented for a race free of prohibited substances

Both charges relate to a pre-race blood sample collected from the horse ‘Graceful Art’ prior to it competing in Race 4 at the Ouyen harness racing meeting on 22 March 2020. Racing Analytical Services Limited (RASL) reported that the sample contained alkalinising agents, a prohibited substance when evidenced by a total carbon dioxide (TCO2) concentration in excess of the allowable threshold. 

Ms O’Brien pleaded not guilty to Charge 1, and guilty to Charge 2 which was laid in the alternative.

After considering submissions from both parties in relation to Charge 1 at a hearing on 7 December 2021, the VRT reserved their decision.

On 23 April 2021, the VRT handed down its decision, finding that it was not comfortably satisfied that the elevated TCO2 level returned by ‘Graceful Art’ was the result of administration by, or caused by, Ms O’Brien and therefore dismissed the charge.

The full written decision of the VRT can be viewed here.


On 30 April 2021, the VRT considered submissions in relation to penalty on the alternative charge (Charge 2), to which Ms O’Brien pleaded guilty.

After considering submissions from Julian Dwyer, on behalf of Ms O’Brien and Andrew Cusumano, on behalf of the HRV Stewards, the VRT imposed a suspension of 12 months, of which 9 months was suspended for a period of 24 months.

The HRV Stewards have indicated that they will seek a review of this decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).


VRT Panel: Judge John Bowman and Maree Payne


The written decisions of the VRT can be found here.

(Please note that VRT Decisions will generally be published with 7-10 days of the date of hearing)