‘Honest mistake’ leads to stewards scratching Rob Heathcote quartet at Doomben

Rob Heathcote’s runners were sensationally scratched by stewards at Doomben but the Group 1-winning trainer says it was an honest mistake treating his horses with a banned product.

Group 1-winning trainer Rob Heathcote insists he made an honest mistake in treating his horses with a banned product which led to his runners being sensationally scratched by order of stewards at Doomben on Saturday.

There was high drama at Doomben just before the first race when Heathcote’s runners, including star three-year-olds Prince Of Boom and Startantes, were scratched after an earlier inspection of Heathcote’s Eagle Farm stables by integrity officials.

Heathcote admitted using a product called Hemoplex on his horses.

The multiple Group 1 winner said he had been using it for more than two decades, on the advice of his stable vet, but didn’t realize it had been banned for use in racing last May because it contained tiny amounts of cobalt.

“My horses were scratched today because I’ve been using a product for 25 years called Hemoplex which is a product used for horses for stress associated with racing, heavy work, restoring blood values, appetite maintenance and general good health in horses,” Heathcote told News Corp.

“I have used it on veterinary advice from my stable veterinarian, I wasn’t aware that as of May last year it was banned for usage in racing because it’s got a tiny amount of cobalt in it.

“The integrity team came into my stables and opened up the cupboard and saw bottles of Hemoplex.

“I’m bitterly disappointed for the connections of my runners today.”

It is understood integrity officials also conducted inspections of the stables of other Brisbane trainers before the races at Doomben on Saturday.

Many trainers used Hemoplex for years without incident prior to it being banned and without it producing a positive swab.

The brand description of the product reads “an injectable supplementary source of iron, vitamins, minerals and amino acids for horses”.

Heathcote said it was an inadvertent mistake and believed stewards should have allowed his horses to race at Doomben.

“I feel in this instance they should have allowed the horses to run,” Heathcote said.

“By all means take swab samples of the horses – because there is no advantage to it, it’s just a general health treatment.

“It’s a natural product.

“I believe the stewards would have had power to let my horses run today.

“I haven’t used Hemoplex on all my horses, only those that were deemed necessary on veterinary advice.”

The Queensland Racing Integrity Commission issued a statement on the matter at 2pm on Saturday.

“Queensland Racing Integrity Commission (QRIC) Stewards have commenced an inquiry following a report from the QRIC Integrity Investigative Team (IIT) regarding the alleged possession and administration of Hemoplex (containing cobalt salts) after a routine Race Day inspection at trainer Robert Heathcote’s stables this morning,” the statement said.

“The use of Hemoplex (containing cobalt salts) has been banned since 1 May 2021.

“Racing Australia’s view is that there is no place for injectable supplements containing cobalt salts in racing when there is no therapeutic rationale for their use.

“Stewards will allege that an examination of the stable’s treatment book indicated that Mr Heathcote’s runners set to race at Doomben today, Crymenotears, Prince of Boom, Startantes and Starvirgo had received an injection of a product containing cobalt salts on 16 April 2022.

“After taking initial evidence from the IIT officers and Mr Heathcote, stewards considered the matter and subsequently scratched all four runners from today’s Doomben Race meeting acting under AR254A (2).”

Samples have been taken from Heathcote’s runners which were scratched at Doomben and a stewards’ hearing will be held at a later date.

It has thrown the preparation of some of Heathcote’s top horses into turmoil on the eve of the winter carnival.

Originally published as ‘Honest mistake’ leads to stewards scratching Rob Heathcote quartet at Doomben

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